The Show or Display Import Law for Dummies Part 2: Dude, Where's My R34?
Yeah, don't we all wish.
The first thing you have to know about importing an R34 through Show or Display is that there are only two types currently on the approval list. If you read Part 1 of this guide you'll already know about the first one – the 1999 Midnight Purple 2 V-spec.
Let's talk a little about what makes the MP2 special - the most obvious reason being that special paint. There have been three different variations of Midnight Purple used on the Skyline so far starting with the original Midnight Purple – paint code LP2 - that debuted on the R33 in 1995. Unlike the two later versions of Midnight Purple used on the R34 the original wasn't confined to just one limited set of cars. From the start of R33 GT-R production in 1995 to the end in 1998 you could get an R33 in Midnight Purple as one of the color options. In fact, around 15 percent of all R33 GT-Rs – about 2500 in total, including some of the rare Autech 4-door models – were painted in LP2 so it's not really a rare color for the 33.
For the R34 Nissan would change tack and instead of offering Midnight Purple as part of the regular color choices it would only be available from the factory in two limited runs in two separate years - because nothing says special than making sure only a few lucky bastards can have one.
|Image credit: GTR-Registry.com|
To mark the debut of the new GT-R generation in 1999 Nissan offered 300 cars in Midnight Purple 2 – paint code LV4. While the original Midnight Purple was a pretty regular dark metallic purple, LV4 had more “flip” to it and in bright sunlight it can look blue while turning almost black in darker lighting. The run was advertised as being limited to 300 cars but Nissan instead ended up making 282 in V-Spec trim and another 64 regular GT-Rs. Other than the paint the MP2 cars were identical to other R34s of similar trim level but being a special edition for the first year of a brand-new GT-R model they were highly sought after. The entire run sold out in less than 2 weeks.
|Image credit: GTR-Registry.com|
The following year Nissan would offer Midnight Purple 3 – paint code LX0 – which was a bit lighter and more blue than LV4. Even fewer were sold at only 199 examples in total with 133 of those being V-specs.
I don't know if the DOT is willing to reveal the specific rationale behind any particular car's acceptance onto the Show or Display approval list but we can take a logical guess that the 1999 Midnight Purple 2 V-Spec was accepted when it was petitioned in 2007 because it was a limited-production special edition for the first year of the R34 GT-R, which was a technological marvel for mass-market production cars when it debuted. The fact that the approval list labels the MP2 as the “R34 Early Model Limited Edition” hints that its first year status was a key factor to getting the DOT's blessing. As I mentioned in the video from Part 1 the weird naming on the Show or Display list led to a certain level of confusion because Nissan didn't refer to any R34 officially as an "Early Model Limited Edition". It was only many years later that someone other than the original petitioner figured out that the R34 the listing referred to was the Midnight Purple 2.
Although the MP3 cars are even rarer, the fact that they're second year models with nothing other than the paint to differentiate them from other R34s makes the possibility of them being approved for Show or Display import considerably less likely if anyone were to make the attempt.
Year of manufacture and limited numbers are again the key factors for the only other R34 on the Show or Display approval list – the 2002 M-Spec Nur.
While the Midnight Purple 2 marked the debut of the R34 GT-R, the M-Spec Nur and its sister the V-Spec II Nur marked the end for that generation.
|Image credit: Tennen-Gas|
The V-Spec II trim level was introduced in 2000 and gave the R34 a stiffer suspension, a carbon fibre hood with a NACA duct, and new interior trim and upholstery colors. The M-Spec followed in 2001 and went for more comfort by spec'ing softer dampers and leather upholstery with heated seats but they retained the standard GT-R's aluminum hood. The M in M-spec incidentally stood for Kazutoshi Mizuno, the chief engineer for the GT-R at the time. Apparently he preferred to roll more baller than what the regular R34 GT-R offered I guess.
The Nur editions of both the V-Spec II and M-Spec were limited editions in 2002 that swapped in an improved Nur (short for Nurburgring) version of the RB26 motor. The turbos were larger with steel instead of ceramic turbine blades and the engine block was the stouter N1 version. Nissan brought the bling by decking the new engine out in gold covers instead of the regular red, and the chassis plate was also gold instead of the silver that later-model non-Nur R34s had (early R34s had blue plates like the R32 and R33).
The Nurs were available in a variety of colors, unlike most limited edition GT-Rs like the Nismo R32, the N1s, and the Midnight Purple cars. While the black, silver, and white colors on none-Nur GT-Rs were also available for selection, the M-Specs got two exclusive hues: Silica Brass EY0 which could be had on a regular M-Spec too, and Millenium Jade JW0, a color exclusive to the two Nur versions. Interestingly the R34's iconic Bayside Blue TV2 wasn't available for the M-Spec but could be had on the V-Spec II.
Only 718 V-Spec II Nurs were made versus 285 of the M-Specs. With this info we can again take an educated guess as to why the M-Spec Nur was granted approval for Show or Display in 2017: the M-Spec Nur was a limited edition model with unique improvements for the final year of the R34 and they only made 285 of them, well below the cutoff of 500 that the DOT generally sticks to as a yardstick for rarity. Although the V-Spec II Nur is also very significant the fact they made over 700 of them would right away make it a lot more difficult to get approved.
Now that I've given you all that information on the R34s that are eligible for Show or Display import it's time for the bad news, which you may already be figuring out on your own after what you've read. R34 GT-Rs are rare cars to begin with since only around 11,500 were ever made. That might sound like a lot but to put it into perspective exotic car specialist Lamborghini made a total of 14,022 Gallardos during that model's production run, and even in the midst of the COVID sales slump Nissan USA still managed to sell 19,845 Rogues just in the month of June 2020 alone.
Out of that eleven thousand you're now talking about finding one of only 567 that can be imported to Eagleland.
Odds like that also mean higher prices if you do manage to find one. A major side effect of the United States finally opening up to mass importation of the RB26 generations of GT-R is that prices have skyrocketed. All three generations have seen huge spikes in pricing but the R34 has been the one that's most affected. The combination of being the rarest of the three AND being the most desired naturally has driven the market to levels of insane only seen in bath salt-loving Florida.
That means that prices for even fairly run-of-the-mill R34s are already high but if you find one of these two special editions that are US-legal then the price is even steeper. Midnight Purple 2 R34s were in the $80K range already 3 years ago but last year when I bought mine the range had risen to $90-120K. Now that word is more widespread about their importable status some are trading around 150 thousand.
Prices for the M-Spec Nur are even more dear because of its status as the last year of the R34 and having that special engine. Two hundred thousand and up is now the rarified air that low mileage examples of the M-Spec Nur are to be found in with less cossetted examples starting in the low 100K region. Pretty crazy when you consider that the ultimate factory R34 special – the Z-Tune – was priced at “just” $154,000 when they were released in 2005. Of course, nowadays a Z-tune's value hovers around the half million dollar mark or higher as befits a car they made only 19 of.
Speaking of the Z-tune, you might be wondering why it's not on the Show or Display approval list when it's so rare and historically significant AND technologically significant. Simple. It's never been petitioned for inclusion. If someone were to put in the effort the Z-tune would certainly be a shoo-in. I know if I won the lottery tomorrow I'd be looking for one and pelting the DOT with paperwork as soon as I snagged it.
I realize learning the rarity and high-price of these Show or Display eligible R34s may have put a big damper on any thoughts you may have had of owning one now rather than starting in 2024 but don't fret, there's still hope. If you do have the cash, finding an MP2 or M-Spec Nur is difficult but not impossible – as I can attest to since I found four over the 3 years or so I was looking. The first from Japan I passed on because the mileage was atrociously high – that one ended up as one of the three Rivsu imported years ago. The second was a shop car that I unfortunately didn't have the connections yet to seriously get my hands on. The third was the car I bought from Canada and the fourth was another one in Japan that an importer offered but was a little bit too modified for my liking – and the price was too close to the one I did end up buying. In short, if you look hard enough they're out there.
If the budget isn't there for these rare R34s then patience is your best friend. More common examples are significantly cheaper and are only a few years away from also being legal to enter. If you have a deep-seated love for the R34 though the best time to buy one is yesterday. Even with the economic upheaval of COVID R34 GT-R auction prices have remained stout so if you must have one, it's best to get one ASAP. Once the first ones hit 25 years old all bets are off – at that point you might have to live in one and forego proper housing the way prices are headed.
Now let's assume you got lucky like I did and found a unicorn to adopt. Next installment in this series I'll try and walk you through the red tape you have to contend with on the way to making her well and truly yours in the US of A. Until then, drive safe!
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