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Captain Cadillac

Original Poster:

2,926 posts

75 months

[news] 
Tuesday 28th August 2012 quote quote all
I've been dying for a TVR myself, and have seen some flat-out dangerous advice in this forum.

Here's the basics of what it takes to bring a car into the USA or Canada.

CANADA: Anything 15 years of age or older is free to import. Anything younger cannot be imported, excepting specified US Market vehicles.

USA:

1) ANYTHING that's 25 years old or older (by build date) can be imported without any DOT or EPA clearance issues whatsoever. In fact, EPA is 21 years, but DOT is 25.

That being said, the state in which the car is registered may still require a safety and/or emissions test, so bear in mind that a 1987 Euro spec 560SEC may not pass a tailpipe test as it probably won't have a catalytic converter.

2) ANY VEHICLE that is less than 25 years old MUST be federalized with ONLY ONE exception, that is if it's approved under show and display. Any vehicle approved under show and display still has to meet EPA requirements if it's less than 21 years old. Generally for the DOT to approve a car for show and display it has to meet very specific requirements.

A) it's a historically significant *_specific_* car such as the Pope's Enzo, and I did see that Gorbachev's Mercedes Limo was approved.

B) it's a very limited production car. I'm surprised that the Lotus Omega was approved, it's usually cars like the Bugatti EB110, Porsche 959 and XJ220 that have been approved. A limited production TVR might be approved, a Cerbera? Highly doubtful.

If the vehicle does not fall under the Show and Display exemption, one will likely need to be imported, modified to meet us standards, including dual airbags on 98+ vehicles, labeling, DOT lamps, tires and seat belts, etc and then crash tested by an approved lab. If it fails, start over and try again.

Once that's done, and all of this has to be done via a registered importer willing to petition the DOT, the car can then be imported and modified to meet US standards.

Oh, it still has to be EPA legal, including an OBD2 (similar to EOBD) engine management system if it's a 1996 or newer vehicle.

Vehicles that are "substantially similar" to those already federalized can be imported somewhat easier, this is why you'll often see European market Ferraris and some BMWs etc here. As a reference a number of Euro-Spec E34 M5s have come over including a decent number of tourings, and a few 525iT AWDs.

Oh, if the car is RHD this does NOT apply, so forget about importing a RHD Porsche as "substantially similar".

Failing this, the car cannot legally be imported.

Tourists are exempted for a year. Foreign governments are exempted (this is why I have seen an Alfa 159 on US State Dept plates in NYC).

Vehicles can be imported as Rae cars but they'd darn well better be actual race cars. There is also a time limit for this.

NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE MAY TELL YOU THERE IS NO LEGAL WAY AROUND THIS. NONE WHATSOEVER!

Are there TVRs in America with US titles and license plates and insurance? I'm sure there are. There's plenty of illegally imported cars in this country with State issued titles and registrations. Go to the big Thursday night meet when the JDM kids show up and you'll see JDM cars with New Jersey plates and registrations, all illegally imported and titled.

Does that mean that US Customs can and will find them, seize them and crush them? Why yes it does. Right now they have a serious hard on for skylines. nd a number have been seized, I've also known of Lotus Elise's being seized in the 90s that were illegally imported.

Furthermore it's a federal crime. If you're here on a green card you probably don't want to be committing a federal felony.

Are these laws absolutely draconian? Yes, IMO they are. They are absolutely bullst. But they are there and until they are changed they are reality. If you want to direct your anger, direct it towards Mercedes-Benz USA who lobbied for them in the late 1980s.

Loach1

351 posts

29 months

[news] 
Tuesday 28th August 2012 quote quote all
Thanks for a good summary of vehicle import regulations.

I think it is worth mentioning that you can legally import 80% of any car quite legally, providing it is less engine and transmission, and non-FMVSS approved parts are removed. How these parts are combined with parts from other donor cars appears to be up to the constructor of the vehicle. Providing you don't simply reinstall the factory parts, I can't find anything that states that this method is illegal.

Am I missing something?

geeman237

154 posts

73 months

[news] 
Tuesday 28th August 2012 quote quote all
Good call Captain Cadillac, I would agree with you all the way. I too would like to bring in (legally) a TVR Griffith or Cerbera, but in reality, it won't be able to happen for a few more years yet :-) Show and Display really would be the best angle to try, and I think some of the beaurocrats that approve entry are decent petrol heads, but I doubt a TVR would be approved.

E-Bay Motors in the "Other Makes" section often lists some questionable cars that are interesting to read about for fun.

I feel reasonably qualified to comment on this as I did import my car when I moved here in 2004, but it was over 25 years old, so I know that element of the process.

In your last paragraph you quoted. "Are these laws absolutely draconian? Yes, IMO they are. They are absolutely bullsh*t. But they are there and until they are changed they are reality. If you want to direct your anger, direct it towards Mercedes-Benz USA who lobbied for them in the late 1980s."

To add to the draconian insult, I do wonder, when I see some of these car shows on TV and their creations of mixing old and new cars/parts, what the implciations are towards regard to DoT regulations etc and then there is the titling of Cobra replica's as 1965 etc. Although I think in some states kit cars or home built cars have to go through some sort of safety approval.

OK rant over ;-)......next.....

Loach1

351 posts

29 months

[news] 
Tuesday 28th August 2012 quote quote all
geeman, I believe a lot of States have similar 'specially constructed vehicle' registration laws since they have adopted legislation that was sponsored by SEMA.

Depending on the State, emissions may be waived completely, or based on the donor vehicle. CA does something a bit different, based on an annual quota of vehicles. The vehicle must have DOT approved glass, seat belts, brake hoses, brake fluid, tires, rims, lights and reflectors. Maybe some stuff I am forgetting.

If the car is a replica, then it can be titled as such, for example '1965 AC Cobra Replica'. It doesn't have to be though, because it might not be like any other vehicle. You could title is as anything you want, as long as it identifies the vehicle as specially constructed.

In the case of a TVR mated with, say, a Range Rover, it would be foolish to title it as a TVR because it isn't really a TVR. TVRs don't have EPA approved engines and cannot be legally registered. In this case it is a Range Rover with a special tubular chassis and a used TVR body. As long as the FMVSS-covered parts are OK, and you have receipts for everything to prove nothing was stolen or imported illegally, you are good to go.

I'm not an expert at all, but so far nobody has come forward to point out where I am wrong.

Captain Cadillac

Original Poster:

2,926 posts

75 months

[news] 
Wednesday 29th August 2012 quote quote all
Loach1 said:
Thanks for a good summary of vehicle import regulations.

I think it is worth mentioning that you can legally import 80% of any car quite legally, providing it is less engine and transmission, and non-FMVSS approved parts are removed. How these parts are combined with parts from other donor cars appears to be up to the constructor of the vehicle. Providing you don't simply reinstall the factory parts, I can't find anything that states that this method is illegal.

Am I missing something?
Yes you can. But since it wasn't imported as a car you can't legally turn it into a car. Legally a "kit car" has to have an MSO and legally a kit car frame has to be brand new. That's how the Nobles were getting in, the frames had MSOs and they were sold as kit cars, although even that is questionable I've been told.

Someone was doing this with skylines, importing shells and issuing them VINs and MSOs. Cars were seized, people got arrested.

If I legally could I'd sell the Murcie in a heartbeat and have a TVR but I'm not about to do that and have it seized and crushed frown

There's a grey area with some of this, im also into traditional hot rods and lots of them are actually replicas (Brookville makes an incredible 32 Ford body and American Stamping makes perfect 32 Ford frame parts) but I understand that you can get MSOs for some of those parts or since everything is new you can apply for a VIN from the state and get an assigned VIN and title as long as major parts are new and as long as you can document everything. But this varies from state to state.

I live in New Jersey, without an MSO for a frame there's really no way to register a kit car or a home built car. Now, in some states? Go for it.

Edited by Captain Cadillac on Wednesday 29th August 09:50

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Loach1

351 posts

29 months

[news] 
Wednesday 29th August 2012 quote quote all
Captain Cadillac said:
Yes you can. But since it wasn't imported as a car you can't legally turn it into a car. Legally a "kit car" has to have an MSO and legally a kit car frame has to be brand new. That's how the Nobles were getting in, the frames had MSOs and they were sold as kit cars, although even that is questionable I've been told.

Someone was doing this with skylines, importing shells and issuing them VINs and MSOs. Cars were seized, people got arrested.

If I legally could I'd sell the Murcie in a heartbeat and have a TVR but I'm not about to do that and have it seized and crushed frown
I didn't mention 'kit car' on purpose. Those are a different animal in some states. I'm talking about a homebrew car that is made up of parts from more than one car, or some specially made parts. The important thing there is to prove legal ownership of the parts, so keep all receipts. There are no stipulations about old/new parts, or proportion of the car from a donor, etc. etc. It is quite flexible in fact. The biggest problem I see in NJ is that it will have to pass an emission test. I don't know how they determine which year that it must conform to - the engine's original year, or the construction year?

I have read about Skylines and some have been seized, people arrested. There were a lot of people trying to make money from the popularity of the Skylines, and some broke the law getting them here. I believe Kaizo Unibodies did it right. I don't know of a Kaizo that has been seized. Someone was importing them, installing the drivetrains and selling them as vehicles, but they got caught. That made them a vehicle manufacturer, which is not legal unless they meet all regulations. The hobbyist can do this for themselves without the threat of the car being seized.

Again, I don't believe using a TVR running gear and body for a custom car build breaks any laws. It might be a challenge registering it in some States, but that is just because the process is difficult anyway, not because it has TVR parts.

I'm not trying to argue with anyone, but I just don't see any real obstacles. Cost is my biggest concern(!)

geeman237

154 posts

73 months

[news] 
Wednesday 29th August 2012 quote quote all
Maybe I am not following this right, but here is a thought based on some of the comments. So TVR is now defunct, but I understand there is something of a dedicated cottage industry in the UK and around Blackpool with former workers etc still working on TVRs. Are there some small company's out there that can make and supply a brand new TVR chassis to original specs without a VIN but with one of these MSO's and have it legally shipped to the US? Then, could you ship over as many US FMVSS, DoT, etc compliant NOS or used TVR parts, and maybe have a used body stripped, repaired in primer shipped too. Then, in the US, source say a suitable LS engine and transmission and build a TVR 'replica'? Would that be legal for NJ? A very expensive and time consuming process, and you would not have 100% TVR DNA, but close enough?

Just thinking out loud (and maybe very stupidly)...

Loach1

351 posts

29 months

[news] 
Wednesday 29th August 2012 quote quote all
Good thinking, geeman, you have described one way. A specially constructed vehicle does not (by any definition that I am aware of), need any new parts. You can recycle a chassis, a body, whatever you want. Just make sure it has an EPA certified engine so you keep the air nice and clean. There are chassis manufacturers in the UK, and prices aren't too bad. Shipping can be crippling though, unless you have good contacts. The best way to move a car across the Atlantic is on a Ro-Ro ship, but then you won't get it past customs. Unless... You import a 15 year old car into Canada on a Ro-Ro, then strip the stuff you can't have, and bring it home. Then take your donor car and combine the parts however you wish until your creation is safe enough to be inspected. Keep your receipts, including the one for the parts that your partner in Canada sold you. Titling varies by State, but you might be able to register it as the donor vehicle?

Captain Cadillac

Original Poster:

2,926 posts

75 months

[news] 
Friday 31st August 2012 quote quote all
Guys,

Google "Kaizo Skyline seized".

A revinned shell is not a kit car and they are aware of this. You can check the show and display lost at nhtsa.dot.gov but last I looked nearly every TVR had been denied under show and display.

Loach1

351 posts

29 months

[news] 
Friday 31st August 2012 quote quote all
I think I'm going to regret bringing up the Skylines. I suspect the main reason they were seized is because they had non-certified engines fitted, along with non-DOT marked lights, etc. If they were registered using the Kaizo VIN, or as a 'Skyline', it made them very easy to track down. Once found, if they violated the Clean Air Act, they would be seized. I don't think Kaizo did anything wrong though?

Back to the TVR parts being combined with another donor vehicle to build a Specially Constructed Vehicle.... This is not a kit car, not a re-VINed body and not an illegally imported vehicle. This is the same scenario as a Superformance Cobra. Parts do not have to be new, but some parts must be DOT approved and the engine must be EPA certified. This looks pretty easy with a TVR, especially with the revised tail lights that have separate lenses. A Range Rover or Land Rover engine will slip right in, albeit without much get up and go. The absence of an MSO doesn't matter - it's a home-grown car made from used parts, so all you need is proof of ownership of the parts. You are the manufacturer.

Am I a bit slow? I can't see a problem with it...

RJDM3

1,441 posts

93 months

[news] 
Friday 31st August 2012 quote quote all
Loach1 said:
Back to the TVR parts being combined with another donor vehicle to build a Specially Constructed Vehicle.... This is not a kit car, not a re-VINed body and not an illegally imported vehicle. This is the same scenario as a Superformance Cobra. Parts do not have to be new, but some parts must be DOT approved and the engine must be EPA certified. This looks pretty easy with a TVR, especially with the revised tail lights that have separate lenses. A Range Rover or Land Rover engine will slip right in, albeit without much get up and go. The absence of an MSO doesn't matter - it's a home-grown car made from used parts, so all you need is proof of ownership of the parts. You are the manufacturer.

Am I a bit slow? I can't see a problem with it...
No your not slow and you are correct.

But most of the other things posted on here are correct also, however there is much missunderstood information out there and its also clear that the OP does not have a in depth knowledge




Captain Cadillac

Original Poster:

2,926 posts

75 months

[news] 
Saturday 1st September 2012 quote quote all
RJDM3 said:
No your not slow and you are correct.

But most of the other things posted on here are correct also, however there is much missunderstood information out there and its also clear that the OP does not have a in depth knowledge
If there's a legal way to import a TVR without doing the following, I'm in:

Find a Registered Importer willing to tackle the project. JK Technologies MIGHT be willing IF you have the money. Wallace in Texas is another that, again, MIGHT.

Import one via a NHTSA approved Registered Importer for the purpose of modifying the car to comply with all FMVSS and crash testing it. This shouldn't cost much more than $150,000.

Converting a 1996 or newer TVR to be OBD2 compliant. This can't cost Much more than $50,000 I'd think.

Retrofit FMVSS compliant dual air bags for 98+ newer TVRs or at least a drivers airbag for a 1989 or newer TVR (well, you could use motorized seatbelts like Jaguar did from 89-92 on the XJ40s sold here). That's gotta be cheap, right? A DOT/NHTSA compliant airbag system?

TVRs aren't on the governments radar like Skylines are, but people have tried to bring them in legally and failed, so I'd imagine they are keeping an eye open for them.

As far as importing one as a kit car, remember the following:

Previously produced cars are not kit cars. Kit cars are new cars sold as a manufacturer as a kit. This is why we can own Caterhams here, they are legitimate kit cars.

Importing a disassembled car and then reassembling it is a very big no-no, again, federal crime.

Can you get one in and get it titled and registered? Yes you can. You can also go 90 down the Jersey Turnpike, smoke crack, beat your wife, cheat on your taxes, embezzle money, etc. the ability to do something does not make it legal. The key difference is state vs federal.

Federal: responsible for federal vehicle safety and emissions standards and the legality of vehicles imported into this country.

State: responsible for issuing registrations, license plates, running emissions testing if deemed necessary, issuing drivers licenses, etc.

The states have no authority, and for quite a few of them, don't give a hoot if your car is legally here or not. The Feds don't give a hoot if your car ever gets registered or titled, they're worried about their own thing.

These are the only ways to legally drive a TVR in America:

1) Buy one of the "Wedge" or earlier TVRs that were legally sold here up until about 1988 if memory serves.

2) Import a 1987 or older TVR.

3) want one bad enough that you'll pay to have the car federalized. This could cost as much as an Enzo.

4) give petitioning the government for show and display another shot. But remember that if it's a 1996 or newer car it will still have to be OBD2 compliant, the EPA could care less what NHTSA/DOT says you can or can't do.

Any other way, you're breaking the law and could end up in trouble with the EPA or NHTSA/DOT or both. Your car could be seized, you could be arrested.

Kit car? Sure, assuming Nikolai revives TVR and starts selling kit cars.

You can legally buy a Noble or a Caterham here because they are legally imported as kit cars, since TVR is defunct I see no way to legally bring one in as a kit car.

As a side note I've imported quite a large number of grey market cars, through registered importers as well as a great many 25+ year old cars. It is a process but as long as the car is on the admissibility list it can be done.

A TVR simply can't.

Loach1

351 posts

29 months

[news] 
Saturday 1st September 2012 quote quote all
Captain Cadillac said:
If there's a legal way to import a TVR without doing the following, I'm in.
There isn't.

But.... You can import TVR parts and build your own car from them. It must have an EPA certified engine, and all of the FMVSS items need to be addressed for a specially constructed vehicle. It is no longer a TVR, but quite close to the real thing, and AFAIK, 100% legal.


geeman237

154 posts

73 months

[news] 
Saturday 1st September 2012 quote quote all
Hmmmm
http://www.wirewheel.com/1998-TVR-GRIFFITH-500-BLA...

Could the conversation go something like this...

"Hi, I am calling about the Griffith, can you tell me how it was imported and do you have the paperwork for the legal importation please? Who was the Registered Imported?"


Loach1

351 posts

29 months

[news] 
Saturday 1st September 2012 quote quote all
Lovely car, but they are upfront about the lack of registration. See the comment about offroad use only. My guess is this is either a foreign owned car that has outstayed its welcome and may have been reported as destroyed? Or it could have been brought in as a track car. Usually track cars have to look less roadworthy though, so I think the first possibility is more likely. Nice toy for the weekend track events though!

Captain Cadillac

Original Poster:

2,926 posts

75 months

[news] 
Saturday 1st September 2012 quote quote all
Loach1 said:
There isn't.

But.... You can import TVR parts and build your own car from them. It must have an EPA certified engine, and all of the FMVSS items need to be addressed for a specially constructed vehicle. It is no longer a TVR, but quite close to the real thing, and AFAIK, 100% legal.
I don't think that you can... People have tried this with JDM stuff and been caught. They have been closing loopholes recently.

Read this:

http://www.epa.gov/oms/imports/kitcar.htm

Captain Cadillac

Original Poster:

2,926 posts

75 months

[news] 
Saturday 1st September 2012 quote quote all
Loach1 said:
Lovely car, but they are upfront about the lack of registration. See the comment about offroad use only. My guess is this is either a foreign owned car that has outstayed its welcome and may have been reported as destroyed? Or it could have been brought in as a track car. Usually track cars have to look less roadworthy though, so I think the first possibility is more likely. Nice toy for the weekend track events though!
It may have been shipped over in a container and just not gotten caught. I tried that once about 10 years ago, I bought a Sapphire Cosworth in Europe, put it in a container and figured I could just drive it around on a dealer plate. Remember, dealers can use dealer plates in America on cars that they're just driving around.

Well I got caught and had to ship it back to Belgium. Cost me a small fortune. But not everyone gets caught.

Wouldn't surprise me if the Feds seized that. Will they? Probably not. Could they? Yup.

bergxu

197 posts

45 months

[news] 
Tuesday 20th November 2012 quote quote all
Yeah, funny that we can't experience the "American dream" of driving whatever our free will desires because the greenie EPA government droids think that if we bring a few TVRs over here, we'll completely rot out the ozone...

Slow M

2,091 posts

94 months

[news] 
Wednesday 21st November 2012 quote quote all
bergxu said:
Yeah, funny that we can't experience the "American dream" of driving whatever our free will desires because the greenie EPA government droids think that if we bring a few TVRs over here, we'll completely rot out the ozone...
Where is the "American dream" noted as relating to driving whatever we please? Did I miss it on my re-read of the American Constitution? I'll try to think of your phat Rolls Can 'ardly, when I pollute California LEGALLY, IN MY '75 smogmobile. Read life's rule book and stop whining. The EPA is not nearly powerful enough. Damn right they're green. That's their charter.

CAUTION! ENGAGE BRAIN BEFORE OPERATING KEYBOARD.

Best,
B.

so called

4,737 posts

97 months

[news] 
Thursday 22nd November 2012 quote quote all
[quote=Captain Cadillac]
B) it's a very limited production car. I'm surprised that the Lotus Omega was approved, it's usually cars like the Bugatti EB110, Porsche 959 and XJ220 that have been approved. A limited production TVR might be approved, a Cerbera? Highly doubtful. [quote]

On this basis, surely a Mk 2 Tuscan or Convertible or Sagaris are rare enough.
Depending what data you use, there were only about 83 Tuscan Convertible built.
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