I am a fan of social media car forums and lately been reading a lot on the Skyline GT-R and how certain importers based in the United States can obtain legal R32 GT-Rs and sell them for a hefty cost of $20 – $30K. With the recent 25 year ban on illegal imported cars, the United States has been very strict on which cars can be purchased legally. As of late August 2014, the 1989 Nissan Skyline R32 GT-R was all the hype on the internet for car enthusiasts. I can honestly say I was one of those people who thought, “Now that they are legal, maybe its time for a project car!” What’s not to love about the R32?! It has a big cult following not just in Japan but all over the world because of its power, handling, sleek design and, of course, exclusivity. With its impressive 2.6-liter twin-turbo, inline-six engine, its good for 276 hp and and 266 lb-ft of torque driven to all four wheels. Plus, it has the advantage of four-wheel steering, making it more nimble and tractable.
The problem one faces with owning a Skyline in the United States is the legality of doing so. Usually, these cars are recognized as “gray market” as they are obtained by channels other than those which are authorized via the Federal Government.
I read a lot of enthusiasts attempted to circumvent the import restrictions by having the vehicle imported as parts, then reassembled and registered as show cars and driven like every day commuters. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t like this, and the violation of import laws is policed pretty heavily. As a result, the boy racer dreams only last a short period of time by way of confiscation, steep fines and possibly time in jail.
2014 officially marks the first year you can import the 1989 R32 GT-R and not end up with an empty garage and or imprisonment. So what exactly is involved in the process, in a nutshell?
1. Source the vehicle and finalize purchase to obtain complete ownership.
2. Liaison with a RI (Registered Importer) that is listed on the NHTSA’s (National Highway Transportation Safety Administration) official RI list as well as a ICI (Independent Commercial Importer), both of which can be found on the NHTSA’s import information website.
Under federal law, the import and modification for FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards) of non-conforming vehicles newer then 25 years of age must be conducted by a authorized RI and is subject to inspection upon completion.
The Code of Federal Regulations, Title 49, part 591.5(i)
No person shall import a motor vehicle or item of motor vehicle equipment into the United States unless, at the time it is offered for importation, its importer files a declaration, in duplicate, which declares one of the following:
(i)(1) The vehicle is 25 or more years old.”
3. To satisfy the regulations set by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), non-conforming vehicles newer then 21 years of age must be modified and completed by a ICI.
The RI assigned to conduct the importing of the vehicle would have to notify the NHTSA upon it’s completion and then its at the NHTSA’s discretion to inspect the vehicle prior to release to the owner or reserve the right to conduct a inspection at a later time, this is commonly known as a “Bond Release” which essentially is a release statement from the NHTSA to the RI and owner stating that they have reviewed the submitted package for said vehicle and that they acknowledge its completion and meeting FMVSS. Subsequently, the EPA also delivers a document to further approve its conformance (if applicable). At this point the RI can release the vehicle to the owner and the owner can then apply for a title in their respective state.
The process can be involved but is definitely achievable as long as you have all necessary documents. You’ll likely want to find an importer or broker who can assist you in finding the vehicle here or overseas. I hear Rivsu Imports has the highest success rate on finding your dream import car. You can find more information here. If it’s already legally imported and the substantial customs paperwork has been completed, you’re good to register the vehicle. If your car is still overseas, the process is longer and involves de-registration, shipping and all relevant paperwork.
The cost of a 1989 R32 GT-R in good condition (with miles that can range from 50k to 180k) is anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000, and that doesn’t include the charges from the importer/broker and shipping costs from an international freight forwarder, both several thousand dollars. If you’re this dedicated, you’ll also want to factor in the price of GT-R parts, which are substantially more than other cars from the same year. Sellers know you’ll pay a premium for your parts as there are little to swap with from other generations especially here in the United States. It might be easier to pick up a stock Nissan 240SX and swap for a RB26 engine. That might be my next project once I’m done with the STi. I still have ways to go with her…