The Show or Display Import Law for Dummies Part 3.1: The Red(tape)line
Maindrian Pace and Kip Raine had their Eleanor, Richard Hammond had his Oliver (no relation to yours truly), and I have my Astrid...and you as well, you lucky guy you, have found your own little four-wheeled version of amore! Well, assuming that sexy heartbreaker is a Show or Display-eligible car like a Midnight Purple 2 R34 Skyline you may now be wondering exactly how you go about getting the Feds to grant her a green card so that you can both enjoy a new wonderful life together in The Land of the Free (TM).
Just like most epic stories of dealing with the US Government it starts with a little piece of paper, specifically this one:
That link will take you to a fillable version of the application you have to submit to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA for short) in order for them to decide if your particular vehicle meets their standards to be let into the country to play with all the cool kids.
Some of the application is common sense but much of it can be confusing if you've never had to do it before – which you probably haven't, just like 99.9% of the US population - so to try and help everyone out I'll walk you through everything and give some tips.
It will also be a big help to you if you go to this other link and read the instructions NHTSA themselves have provided for prospective applicants:
So, on to the application. The first part - “1. Applicant” should be pretty straightforward. It just asks for your name, mailing address, phone, and email address. This part should need no further explanation unless you're the type who's proud of being able to count all the way up to “Potato!” - in that case, please do us all a favor and surrender your drivers license before you poke your eyes out with it.
Oh, by the way, make sure you give a good email address. Unlike olden times when our cave-dwelling ancestors still used that ancient technology called “letters”, the NHTSA no longer physically sends you your approval or any other correspondence in the mail. If they have questions or they've approved your car they'll be getting in touch with you through the magic of the internet instead.
“2. Vehicle Identification” should also be fairly easy assuming you've bought a car already. If your R34 still exists only in the realm of nocturnal imaginings then this'll probably be a lot harder. Anyway, if you do have a Midnight Purple 2 or M-Spec Nur R34 at the ready then you start with the year – 1999 for an MP2, 2002 for an M-Spec. “Make” is simple – that would be Nissan of course. “Model” is a bit trickier. If you have an MP2 don't be tempted to just put “R34 GT-R V-Spec” or even “R34 GT-R Midnight Purple 2”. Remember that on the Show or Display approval list the Midnight Purple 2 is identified as the “Skyline R34 GT-R V-Spec Early Model Limited Edition” so that's what you should put down. Yes, the NHTSA knows the MP2 is that same car but this is the government we're dealing with so you have to make sure you stick to the terminology they use for best results. For an M-Spec Nur you would put “Skyline GT-R M-Spec Nur”.
R34s don't have a VIN per se but the serial number on your chassis plate serves that purpose so you put BNR34-whatever on there. Well, you don't LITERALLY put “BNR34-whatever” – you need to put your car's actual serial number on there. If you don't have an R34 to import though and just want to send an application to NHTSA as an act of protest against the tyranny of the 25-year import rule then have at it with the BNR34-whatever-ness.
“Engine” can be a little confusing. Since it just says “Engine” you'd be excused for thinking you need to put the engine type such as “I6 gasoline” or “RB26DETT”. If you read the instructions though it actually asks for “engine number” therefore they want your engine's serial number, not just what type of engine the car has. For the date of manufacture they just need the month and year. You generally won't be able to get an exact date to the day from the manufacturer and NHTSA gets that. Current odometer reading should be self-explanatory.
On to “3. Where vehicle will be stored in the United States”. If you plan on keeping the car at your house then you just put your home address here but many people who import through Show or Display are car collectors with several cars and therefore may have a separate storage unit, garage, warehouse, museum, or supervillain lair inside a volcano they'll be tossing the car into so that's why this portion is included on the application. I'm glad the NHTSA didn't raise any eyebrows about my secret hideout being on 169 Evilsville Boulevard cor. J. Epstein Ave., just outside Las Vegas.
|Image credit: Buddy Loans|
On a side note, if you want a supervillain lair like mine be sure you get good financing because the costs can be enormous! Head to this link if you want more information on your own Gru-worthy Minion mansion.
“4. On-road Use” is usually the first part that can be really confusing. If you're just importing the car to put on a pedestal in your living room and never drive it to troll for honeys then feel free to check off “No”. If you're a normal gearhead though who can't imagine importing a car just to gawk at like it's a gigantic and much more smelly Jackson Pollock then you'll want to check the blank for “Yes, sir, I do want to awe other drivers with my swag ride!” The section where it asks you for an Independent Commercial Importer can be the confusing part though. ICIs are the “Registered Importers” I mentioned in Part 1 of this guide who convert cars to meet EPA standards if they're less than 21 years old. If you're importing an M-Spec Nur before 2023 then you'll need to hire one of them to write down in that blank space – plus have a couple of suitcases full of cash. There are two ICIs known to have prior experience with R34s – JK Technologies on the East Coast that handled the Motorex and Rivsu cars, and G&K Automotive on the West Coast that handled Toprank's vehicles. If you're a fellow Midnight Purple 2 owner on the other hand, join me in writing “Over 21 years old, EPA exempt” in that blank space then do the Dance of Joy as you've saved yourself tens of thousand of dollars and a year or two of waiting. Use that money for some celebratory hookers and blow instead – or maybe just blow what with the epidemic and all.
“5. Basis For Application:” is relatively easy since it's multiple choice – like those high school exams you used to go “eeney-meenie-miney-moe” on. You have three choices here – the vehicle is of technological significance, it's of historical significance, or it's of exceptional significance. The only real wrong answer here is the third one since neither the MP2 or M-Spec Nur had more than 500 examples made. Technological significance is obvious given the amount of hi-tech wizardry in the R34 for its time while historical significance is easy to see if you read Part 2 of this series. Either way you don't have to justify your choice really to NHTSA since the original petitioners did that for us. I checked off both historical and technological on my application and it went through just fine.
Well, that's a lot to digest already and it's made this post quite long so I'll stop here for now and we'll pick this up with part 6 of the application next week - that section alone takes an entire article to thoroughly explain properly so prep your peepers for another lengthy read! Drive safe and see you then!