Go ahead, give your husband a Euro-spec supercar for Christmas

People still discuss what most think is an urban legend – Bill Gates trying to import a Porsche 959, only to have it stuck in customs for years.  Guess what, everyone?  The story is true.

Don’t go looking for a dusty 959 on the docks of California, though.  It’s not there anymore.  Bill Gates, along with collectors and enthusiasts across the country managed to get legislation passed in 1998 permitting certain non-US-spec cars into the United States under what the DOT and NHTSA call the “Show or Display” registration.

Essentially, any car issued a registration under Show or Display can be brought into the country legally, provided it is used only for a shows, demonstrations or racing event.  It cannot be used on open public roads for normal transport.

And not just any car is allowed.  The car must have significant technical or historical value.  Unfortunately, these are fuzzy lines, so like the Classic Car Club of America, which designates an eight-cylinder Auburn a “Full Classic”, but shuns more expensive Buicks and Chryslers, the DOT is picking and choosing.  One might also say that a car’s historical or technical significance might be somewhat related to the political influence of the person trying to import the vehicle!

Keep in mind that most states will issue a title and registration to pretty much any car made prior to January 1st, 1968.  After which, the car is supposed to have smog equipment, so some states get very touchy.  The next big date is January 1, 1975, when a lack of crash safety certification is the deal killer. 

So here’s the official list of cars from the NHTSA, starting with vehicles already approved.  If you’re thinking of bringing in one of these cars, you still need to submit an application for Show or Display with the Feds.

Make Model Model Year
Aston Martin DB7 Zagato Coupe 2003
Aston Martin Vanquish Zagato 2004
Aston Martin Vantage LeMans 1999 – 2000
Audi Sport Quattro 1984
Australian Ford Falcon XC Bathurst Cobra 1978
BMW Hossack K100RS Prototype M/C 1984
BMW Z1 1988 – 1991
Bugatti EB110 1992 – 1995
Ferrari Enzo #400 (Pope John Paul II) 2005
Ford RS200 Evolution 1985 – 1986
Ford Sierra Cosworth RS 500 1986
Gruter & Gut (GG) Duetto Sidecar M/C 1997
Italdesign Aztec 1988
Jaguar XJ220 1992 – 1994
Lamborghini Diablo GT 1999
Lotus Opel Omega (LHD) 1990-1992
Maserati MC 12 2004 – 2005
McLaren F-1 1993 – 1998
Mercedes Benz 560 SEL Ex-Gorbachev armored 1991
Mercedes Benz AMG CLK-DTM Coupe 2005
Mercedes Benz CLK DTM AMG Cabriolet 2006
Mercedes Benz CLK-GTR Coupe 1998 – 1999
Mercedes Benz CLK-GTR Roadster 2002
MGTF 80th Anniversary  Limited Edition (RHD/UK) 2004
Peugeot 205 Turbo 16 1984 – 1985
Porsche 911 Carrera 4S (last made) 1998
Porsche 959 1987 – 1988
Porsche 993 Carrera RS 1996
Porsche GT1Strasseversion 1997
Porsche GT1 1998
RMA Amphi-Ranger 2800 SR 1985-1995
Rover Mini Cooper S (last 50 made) 2000


VEHICLES DETERMINED NOT ELIGIBLE FOR IMPORTATION

FOR SHOW OR DISPLAY

Based on the information presented, the vehicles identified below have been determined ineligible for importation for Show or Display.  

Make Model Model Year
Audi Avant RS2 1995
Bancroft Roadster 1993
BMW M3 Sport Evolution III 1990
Daimler-Chrysler Smart Car 2000
Hesketh V1000 1980 – 1983
Jaguar XJ 220 S (race car) 1993
Land Rover Defender 130 2000 – 2001
Lotus 340 R 2000
Lotus Elise S1 1996 – 2001
Morgan LeMans ’62 Prototype 2002
Nissan Figaro 1990 – 1991
Nissan Skyline GTS-T 1995
Pegaso Z-103 1991
Porsche 959 S (race car) 1989
Porsche Carrera 4 Lightweight (race car) 1990
Rover Mini Cooper 1995, 1998 – 2000
Rover Mini Cooper RSP / LE 1990
Trabant 601-S 1981
Trabant P601 1989
Triumph Bonneville M/C 1981
Volkswagen Beetle (Old Style) 2000
Volkswagen Beetle (Ultimate Edition) 2003

More information on Show or Display is available at http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/import/

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3 Responses to Go ahead, give your husband a Euro-spec supercar for Christmas

  1. Actually, the EPA has a rolling 25-year exemption, so pre-1983 cars are about to become legal, and the DOT has a 20-year rolling safety exemption. 959s are only four years away from being importable without modifications, or any fees beyond import duties.

  2. Thanks for the information, David. You are absolutely correct regarding the federal import regulations. Hopefully in the time it takes for the McLaren F1 to meet the 20-year mark, I will have won a lottery jackpot large enough to afford one.

    State regulations vary. Some, like California (and Washington, which has a law that essentially says “whatever California does, we do too!”) often make it hard to actually gain a title and registration for post ’68/’75 non-certified cars. Knowing more than the people at the State licensing departments can improve the chances of a successful import and registration.

  3. Thanks for the information, I never knew this so has helped a lot. Cheers

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