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25-year rules from Dept of Transportation.

Here is what DOT sends out to others looking to import Defenders...


With regard to your question relating to importing a vintage Land Rover Defender; The principal vehicle importation law that is administered by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that a vehicle that is at least 25 years old based on its production date (not model year) may be imported without regard to whether it complies with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS).  See 49 U.S. Code (U.S.C.) Section 30112(b)(9).  Of course, a vehicle that is entirely original will qualify under this exemption and it is clearly better to import the original vehicle and make repairs in the United States so that the identity and age of the vehicle are not in question. This is amplified below. 

 NHTSA and U.S. Customs will assess the vehicle at the time of importation.  Vehicles that have undergone extensive restoration may no longer be considered 25 years old, but newly manufactured.  A vehicle so rebuilt or re-manufactured may not be eligible for importation under Section 30112(b)(9) because the actual identity of the vehicle cannot be determined with certainty.

 NHTSA does not generally regulate rebuilding or re-manufacturing of used motor vehicles.  However, if the rebuilding or remanufacturing involves sufficient manufacturing operations and new parts, the vehicle may be considered newly manufactured. This would mean that the vehicle would be required to meet all applicable FMVSS in effect at the time of rebuilding (re-manufacture), to be certified as conforming to those FMVSS. Because of the variety of fact situations involved, the agency has found it difficult to establish a general requirement, and it provides opinions on a case-by-case basis.  However, agency legal interpretative letters generally state that when a new body, engine, transmission, and many other new or remanufactured parts, the completed vehicle is considered to be a “new” motor vehicle rendering it ineligible for importation under Section 30112(b)(9). See for example, the attached interpretative letter to Mr. Harland.

 You should also be aware that U.S. Customs administers 19 U.S.C. § 1627a, which makes it a violation to import a self-propelled vehicle from which a VIN was, among other things, removed, obliterated, tampered with, or altered. Under this statute, such a vehicle that is presented for importation is subject to seizure and the importer is subject to civil penalties.  I would therefore recommend that you do not attempt to import any vehicle with a missing or re-affixed vehicle commission plate that contained the VIN or where the VIN frame stamping has been altered or obliterated by galvanization or other methods. A vehicle with a VIN stamped into the frame by someone other than the manufacturer will likely not be admissible under this statute.

 We hope this is helpful.

June 21, 2013