Article by:Greg Childs and Matthew Moody – NICOclub.com – 03.07.2008
So, You Want a Nissan Skyline in America
With the release of the 2009 GTR in the US, interest in Nissan’s supercar has reached an all-time high. As with any seemingly unobtainable object of fanboy desire, the Skyline has generated countless debates and arguments with most misinformation and speculation centering on the importation process. Ads on forums, ebay and AutoTrader touting “legalized” and “registered” cars serve only to encourage false hope. For every rational discussion that ensues, there are ten more propagation’s of rumor, falsehoods, and wishful thinking. So, we have decided to delve into legal briefs, interview the experts and create a compilation of the best knowledge on the topic for your consideration. What better place to find a thorough, well-researched and accurate synopsis on the process for purchasing a Skyline in the US than on the largest and most comprehensive online resource for Nissan enthusiasts on the web?
In the tuner world, everyone knows about the Nissan Skyline, specifically the GT-R variant.For those who have heard of the Skyline but are unaware of its history, the Skyline was first produced as a luxury sedan by Prince Motors in 1957 and became a Nissan product when Prince merged with Nissan in 1966.However, prior to the merger, Prince Motors had already begun racing the Skyline starting with a 1964 model that finished 2nd through 6th places in the Japanese Grand Prix.The first GT-R version of the Skyline was released as a sedan in 1969 (PGC-10) with a coupe version following in 1971 (KPGC-10).The next generation of GT-R was produced in 1972 but only lasted through the 1973 model year.While Skylines were produced for subsequent years, the GT-R trim level was not offered again until the R32 release in 1989.
In 1989, Nissan re-released the R32 GT-R model which was immediately nicknamed “Godzilla” via the Australian press, as it was a “Monster from Japan”.The GT-R continued as a top-performance package through the R34 generation which ran until 2001. Prior to the announced release of the R35 GT-R, a Nissan GT-R style supercar has never been released for sale within the United States.
Owning a Skyline
As previously mentioned, the Skyline has a cult following in the United States.From a pricing perspective, they draw a premium and anyone looking to purchase a Skyline that is already in the US will be spending a good bit of change. The problem one faces with owning a Skyline in the US 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, as detailed below.
Skyline and the US Federal Government
Vehicles imported into the United States that are less than 25 years old must comply with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) regulations and they must be imported via a Registered Importer (RI). If vehicles are imported that do not meet FMVSS regulations, they must be brought up to compliance by the RI within 120 days of entry into the US. NHTSA also limits the models of vehicles that are eligible for importation into the United States.
NHTSA states, “to be imported free of restriction, a motor vehicle less than 25 years old must be originally manufactured to comply with all applicable FMVSS and bear a label certifying such compliance that is permanently affixed by the vehicle’s original manufacturer.”. Skylines, sadly, do NOT meet that criteria.
What does the above mean?First off, the NHTSA had originally determined that the 1990-1999 versions of the RHD Nissan GTS and GT-R Skyline were eligible for importation (R32, R33, R34 generations) as long as a HS-7 declaration is made.At the time it enters the US, the clock starts ticking and the car must be brought up to code via the RI within the 120 days allowed.Hey, this sounds simple!
Not so fast.The question that must be posed is:What is required to bring the vehicle up to FMVSS standards?That’s a hard one to answer as only a few people really know. Many so-called “importers” CLAIM to know, but won’t divulge their information under the guise of “protecting their business interests” which isa convenient way to skirt the question.In reality they have no clue as to the process needed for Federal legalization and simply dump the burden on their customers.
In comes the saga of Motorex. Motorex was a RI that was in business from 1998 to 2002 after which time they closed shop. Motorex took the initiative to work with the Federal Government in order to determine what is needed to bring an imported Skyline “up to code” to be legal within the US. As part of this process, they worked with JK Technologies to import numerous R33’s, at their expense, for crash testing in order to determine the modifications needed. As a consequence, Motorex claimed a proprietary interest in the modifications which are now covered by a confidentiality grant. Not only did this give Motorex a corner on the market for legal Skylines, it also allowed them to command a premium price for each legalized car.In effect, other RI’s do not have access to the information gained via the crash tests performed nor the modifications needed, thus they will not be able to get Skylines to meet FMVSS requirements.
While making loads of money, Motorex also made loads of enemies.In yet another interesting twist, it was alleged that Motorex didn’t actually comply with all crash test requirements for the R32 and R34. The US Department of Transportation, in response, officially rescinded importation eligibility for both the R32 and R34 Skylines, therefore only 96-98 R33 Skylines were still eligible to be imported.However, since that date, Motorex encountered a flurry of additional legal challenges, ultimately closing its doors.As a result, there is currently no information available (confidential nor public) to legalize R32’s nor R34’s.
UPDATE: On March 13, 2008, the NHTSA added addendums to the rules as they apply to the crash tested R33’s.The previously mentioned Confidentiality Agreement with Motorex/J.K. Motorsports has expired, thus the steps required to legally modify R33’s has been released.The only information not included in the disclosure concerns EPA required OBD modifications. Full disclosure is available for review:NHTSA-update.pdf