Why don't more gearheads import cars?

jibduh

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I might be hitting the wrong search terms since I feel like this would be a more common question... (did hit hanvonaxion's comment for the AU though)

I saw a Diahatsu HiJet kei-truck today which reminded me of a conversation with CrazyRussian540 about how cheap a clean eunos roadster from Japan (what, with their disincentivizing of 'old' car ownership and all) would be; if it's identical to the US market version or older than 25 years, why not?

Even if it's on the non-conforming list (http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/import/), rework shouldn't be That bad, right?

Roll-on-roll-off shipping for something from japan shouldn't be more than $1-1.5K (from the first google hit) and even if you wanted an importer to handle all of it, it shouldn't be more than a couple grand...

Why don't more people do it, what part of the puzzle am I missing (I'm guessing quite a bit...)?
 

CAPT_Howdy

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I think the key factor is cost. Taking your Eunos Roadster into account, there is a 1994 model for sale for just under $1700. Add shipping for even $1000 - which I think is a bit low, but we'll go with that for now - and have a car for $2700. Now there's the cost of making it legal. That depends on which state you live in - for California, the engine and entire exhaust system would need to be replaced, plus all the electronic engine management controls to be street legal, even if the car is over 25 years old it would still need to pass California emissions. Other states may be more lax, but even if you didn't have to do anything to the car you'd still be looking at close to $3000.

That amount of money would get you a decent US spec car with no hassles whatsoever with registration, not to mention how much of a pain in the arse it would be to drive a RHD car in a LHD country and convert Km/H to MPH in your head.

If you got something like a Skyline, it'd be even worse - as far as money and hassles go. Where would you take it if it needed to be serviced? I somehow doubt that your local Nissan dealer has anybody there who's an expert on the RB26DETT engine in a R32.
 

Anesthesia

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Very popular over here. Most of the interesting cars you'll see over the weekend are jap imports. Though base model skylines, soarers and imprezas are so common you don't pay attention to them anymore.
 

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And even for some of the cars that are on the non-conforming list, you're looking at an out-the-door price of as much as $50K or more, sometimes not including the car, to get it imported, modified and fully legal here. You are required to import through a registered importer and those people don't work cheap.

Don't like it? Complain to Mercedes, they got the Congress to pass a law fucking over personal importation because people were importing stuff they didn't want to sell in the US and they were pissed that they weren't getting the profits.
 
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jibduh

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There you all go, crushing my dreams!

CAPT, I thought 25 yr old cars were emissions exempt, not in CA? Wouldn't removing the engine/drivetrain just turn it into a kit car (as far as importing goes)? Now you're raining on my fall back of an MK1 escort or waiting for a cappuccino to come of age!

I pulled roro pricing http://ro-ro.internationalshippingusa.com/Home.aspx, though there may be some hidden fees in there before any importer comes into play.

I was really hoping you guys would regale me with stories about the loopholes in getting them imported and fun times with insurance.

Spectre, Now you're just scaring me. I knew to pin the blame on Mercedes, but didn't think the rework would ever be anywhere near that absurd.

Maybe I just need to move over near Anesthesia...
 

Spectre

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It's typical US government stupidity. They extended the prior standard they used for firearms to cars (which is why I keep telling people that you need to stand up and tell the government NO on more regulations there - because they ALWAYS trickle down.) The firearms standard that the US Government has used for decades with regard to importation of firearms is 'once a machine gun, always a machine gun'; if a firearm was once fully automatic even if the weapon were converted to not be a machine gun and modified so it could never ever be a machine gun again, it could not be imported because at one time it was a machine gun.

The automotive standard they used once the Mercedes Law was passed is 'once a car, always a car' - if it was *ever* an assembled car with an assigned VIN number, it's *always* a car. Even if it doesn't have a powertrain or suspension, it's 'still an assembled car' to the US government.

Stupid, no? But that's the Goobermint for ya.

CA used to have a rolling 25 year exemption. Then they realized they were depriving themselves of much needed revenue and decided that somehow your 1977 Corvette was destroying their precious Gaia, so they ended that. Now it's a hard locked 74-and-before exception and anything after that STILL has to meet emissions standards.
 

jibduh

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It seems like this has been covered, and the the automated 'similar threads' does a better search job than I...

I hadn't draw the connection between firearms and automotive legislation (on a tangential side thought: a plinker with a composite 'body kit' with speed holes does not an assault make.), but the thought of those directives cascading down is a little scary. Especially as, being enthusiasts, there isn't a strong lobby to represent us (MB doesn't count). One more reason to avoid California. It's a depressing thought that those rules have been changed like that.
 

CAPT_Howdy

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But it's not just California. I used California as an example because that was the state I was most familiar with - having spent 20 years there.

My point was that each state has their own laws as to making a vehicle legal for their roads. And that the federal laws do not supercede those. So even if you are allowed to bring a car into the US under the 25 year exemption, you still would face plenty of hurdles certifying it at the state level.
 

Spectre

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It seems like this has been covered, and the the automated 'similar threads' does a better search job than I...

I hadn't draw the connection between firearms and automotive legislation (on a tangential side thought: a plinker with a composite 'body kit' with speed holes does not an assault make.), but the thought of those directives cascading down is a little scary. Especially as, being enthusiasts, there isn't a strong lobby to represent us (MB doesn't count). One more reason to avoid California. It's a depressing thought that those rules have been changed like that.
The government works off of precedents when at all possible unless directed otherwise. Since most of the 'object control' precedents out there are firearms, guess where the government goes when it decides it needs precedents to control a new category of objects? When they decided to control R-12 and related refrigerants, they introduced a certification process that has more than a little resemblance to the Federal Firearms Licensing process. Further, the import ban on vans from outside North America looks surprisingly like the 1968 'sporting purposes only' ban on imported pistols - requires specific features, specifies a certain size, etc., etc.

CA has done the "now it's illegal, now it's legal, now it's illegal" dance with other things, too - there was the SKS rifle that they screwed people over on, but now they're doing the same thing with car catalysts. Used to be that you *had* to buy the original equipment catalytic converter ($$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$) when the one on your car failed. Then when the Feds realized this reg was stupid and relaxed it to allow universal fit cats, CA kept their own regs for a few more years before relaxing them for the same reason. Then CA got pissy and changed their minds - now you have to use a cat con that is specifically certified by their own authority for your specific year and model of car. Even if there was a model identical to yours save for the badge with a certified cat but your version isn't listed on the certification (which isn't a cheap process per model), you can't legally use it in CA.

If the company that made your car doesn't offer the cat any more, or has gone out of business and there's no certified aftermarket version, why, that's just too bad - perhaps you should buy one of these new Gaia-safe green cars... Not terribly dissimilar to what CA did previously to rifle owners. (Though people found ways to get around that eventually as that was horribly written; the cat con rule is far less poorly written and has no loopholes that anyone can see.)
 
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jibduh

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This is a whole lot more insight into the crystal clarity of our legal system than I had been expecting. I had thought CA was called out because of the CARB. It does make sense that other states would have less stringent, but still obtuse policies that just don't necessarily make the news. (I really truly believed that the 25 year 'rule' was a real free card as long as you scraped the dirt out from under your fingernails/wheelarches)

The transfer of precedent does make sense, I heard it first from a friend going through law school: a rational argument isn't worth anything, unless someone else did it first and you can point out their case.

I guess before now, I would have said "Thankfully, I live in Michigan", where it seems those issues are significantly more lax. But from the sounds of it, I might just be sticking my head into the sand till a bill comes by and kicks me in the ass.
 

Spectre

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No, CARB is being called out because it takes stupid to an extreme, but what everyone is trying to point out as the real problem is that first you have to get past the monumental stupidity of the Federal import regs, then you may have to deal with even dumber state statutes.

CARB's stupidity cannot be overstated. They actually now require you to use CARB-certified ignition coils and fuel hose. Can't use generic stuff, gotta be CARB approved.
 

jibduh

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...CARB-certified ignition coils...
Now you're just poking at my bruise. :lol: That'd be the death knell for my 405 as I finally pulled the part and did some research, finding out that the part's OEM is now defunct. (you'd think it would be a more dramatic pyre, wouldn't you?).

I would (almost) understand the fuel hose if they were certifying a baseline material spec, but that wouldn't be any more than reading an MSDS. The ignition coil I take offense at. Especially as little more than a solid state ...lump of wire, anyone with the spec should be able to make one.
 

Spectre

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Now you're just poking at my bruise. :lol: That'd be the death knell for my 405 as I finally pulled the part and did some research, finding out that the part's OEM is now defunct. (you'd think it would be a more dramatic pyre, wouldn't you?).

I would (almost) understand the fuel hose if they were certifying a baseline material spec, but that wouldn't be any more than reading an MSDS. The ignition coil I take offense at. Especially as little more than a solid state ...lump of wire, anyone with the spec should be able to make one.
No, really.

http://apps.msdignition.com/coil_blaster_1_8200_8202_8223.htm

Note "CARB Approved."


You must use an approved coil in CA. Even though it's no different than any other universal coil, it must be CARB approved or your car is illegal.
 
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Spectre

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Sadly, that's based on some real warning stickers CA was going to make dealers install on cars.
 
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jibduh

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I thought cigarette packets were getting bad...

"I am worried about my health. ...Ah, that's too much work. Maybe I should let someone else take care of that for me."
 

jibduh

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EVERYTHING is known to cause cancer in the state of California.

Therefore, the logical conclusion is: if you go to California, you're getting cancer.
 
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