Then as I keep thinking about it, it hits me! There are so many niche segments in the automotive world that anybody can find the perfect car for them. Now, I don't know what kind of car would be perfect for a rich, junk food-eating leper but I'm sure there's one out there. As for the enthusiasts in the United States, we have a plethora of options but Europe and Japan still tempt us with forbidden fruit.
Recently, I've been doing a good deal of research on Nissan Skyline GTRs from the 90s. They are the cream of the crop for imported JDM hardware. I'm not ashamed to say that I am indeed a fanboy of Godzilla. I've wanted one ever since I was a child and that was before the Fast and the Furious franchise put the car into mainstream media. The only hold up to not owning one at this very moment is the fact that Nissan never imported the car (or a similar model) to the US. A few companies like Motorex and Kaizo have tried to come to the aid of the enthusiast and import these cars with varying success and levels of legality. However, they have since been closed by "The Man" and cars have been seized not only from the companies but also from owners who have already taken delivery and paid these companies.
|Seized Nissan Skyline GTR on autonewspaper.com|
With the Feds in the know about the whole Skyline importation business, I figured importing a car, any foreign car, legally sounds like the most prudent course of action. The place to start is the NHTSA's list of eligible non-conforming vehicles. If a car isn't on this list, it can't be imported for normal street use. There are other loopholes like "off-road use" and "show and display" cars but we're enthusiasts and want to be able to drive our dream car whenever we want. The list is populated with a lot of boring cars and most of the interesting ones already have US equivalents. That's what I kept thinking until I noticed this:
I'll give you a minute to collect yourselves...
Previous to finding this buried treasure, I thought the closest thing to a Cossie in the US was the Merkur XR4Ti which seems like a distant cousin who was plagued with asthma. Granted, the Merkur has similar looks to the Escort but it's missing that crucial piece of the puzzle that is so coveted by enthusiasts...performance. While the XR4Ti (try to keep saying that while telling an anecdote) packs 145 horsepower out of its 2.3 liter turbo four, the Ford can brag about its 227 horsepower, smaller 2.0 liter turbocharged four-pot, and sub-3000 pound curb weight. That 227 horsepower makes its way to the pavement via a WRC-like all-wheel drive system unlike the XR's rear-wheel drive. Add in the pedigree of a homologated race special and we have a rolling piece of history that any enthusiast would love to just catch a glimpse of.
Now, I'm not about to claim that I know everything about importing one of these gems but here is the little bit that I have uncovered. The government works in coordination with a few specifically chosen Registered Importers, or RIs. These guys are allowed to bring the car over and legalize it with proper emissions and crash paraphernalia. You should be able to find a list of these shops with a Google search. What I don't know is who's in charge of shipping the car, the cost of everything, or what kinds of documentation is needed.
Ya, I know. That's not much to work with but it's a place to start. As for myself, I'm going to wait and pray that the Skyline can somehow make it into this country. Much like that leper, I'd give an arm and a leg for one.