In summary, the Nissan Skyline GT-R is prohibited from being imported into the US since it does not adhere to the 1988 Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act. The Skyline was not designed with the necessary safety elements to abide by the applicable traffic safety regulations.
A vehicle is exempt from these rules once it reaches the age of 25, at which point it is allowed to be imported and used on American roads.
With California being likely the most noteworthy exception in terms of particular states where you would have difficulties importing due to tougher emissions control legislation, this means that vehicles like the R32 GTR (the original “Godzilla”) can be imported into the USA.
By 2024, you should be able to start importing the R34 GTR. The oldest versions of the R33 GTR are also starting to become legal for import and compliance (provided there are no additional changes to legislation by then, or further tightening of emissions and environmental rules which is always a risk in the current climate).
To be on the safe side, there are no laws that prevent you from importing a Nissan Skyline as a “show piece” that isn’t allowed to be driven on the road but instead sits in your garage. However, we have heard stories of people looking to buy and store Nissan Skylines with a view to registering and complying them once they turn 25 years old in the hopes of increasing value. While it is likely not a bad idea, there is always a chance that the government could modify import regulations, leaving you with a depreciating burden rather than an asset that depreciates over time. Although it’s unlikely, it’s nevertheless important to remark.
We would be interested in hearing from you if you are aware of any other legitimate ways to buy a Skyline GTR in the United States. Please comment down below!
Can I bring the Nissan Skyline into the US legally?
First things first, we want to set the record straight and say that several Skyline models offered in the US, mostly under the ‘Infiniti’ brand, are in a whole different league.
You’ve probably heard the untrue allegations that the later-model Nissan Skyline R33 and R34 GT-Rs are currently prohibited from entering the US.
The most frequently cited responses include “Because they’re right-hand drive” and “Because they’re moving so quickly the Police can’t catch them.”
If a vaping Honda owner offers either defense at the neighborhood meet, politely leave the room and give them the link to this article.
First off, the R32’s legalization in the US demonstrates that right-hand drive vehicles are not prohibited there.
Even the US Postal Service has frequently used RHD vehicles, despite the fact that they are by no means ubiquitous, mostly for the ease of access to the curb.
The US import restrictions are completely to blame for the Nissan Skyline’s unlawful importation for usage on public roads for two very straightforward reasons.
The History of the 25-Year Import Rule Is More Complex Than You Think
Every year around this time, auto aficionados celebrate the 25-year-old vehicles they may now legally import to the United States. This infamous “25 year import rule” is the reason vehicles like the Renault Avantime, R34 Nissan Skyline, or S15 Nissan Silvia are still illegal to import. This is not how it always was. Many people could import foreign cars decades ago and have their “gray market” vehicles federalized. But it’s possible that your assumptions about this law are incorrect, so let’s get started.
In the winter of 1988, the Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act of 1988, which effectively outlawed the import of automobiles under 25 years old that didn’t adhere to American safety and emissions requirements, became law. This restriction still has a hold on the automobile industry today, preventing enthusiasts from purchasing vehicles that are too peculiar, too intriguing, or too specialized to ever be sold in this nation.
You could spend days getting lost learning the different reasons the federal government doesn’t want you to bring a car here that does not comply with our Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards or Environmental Protection Agency regulations, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s page on vehicle importation.
Those who have attempted to break the law have frequently discovered their autos at the receiving end of a crusher. The government is adept at capturing footage of those vehicles being destroyed.
If you read any of my stories from last year, you are surely aware that I had to import a car not once, but twice. And all of this comes after I had purchased one of the few imports from the gray market allowed under the 25-year restriction. Since then, I find it impossible to look at a Japanese or European car listed for sale online without wondering how things came to be this way.
However, there’s more to it than that. Some enthusiasts and even some websites blame Mercedes-Benz and a desire for profit.
Examining the Automotive Gray Market in More Detail
Nissan did not create their Skylines with the US market in mind. The creator of the Skylines, Naganori Ito, was imitating his instructor Shinichiro Sakurai. His task was to design a vehicle that would compete favorably with Porsche in the Japan Grand Prix.
The Skylines’ literal father was this Nissan 2000 GT. It was therefore predicted that when the 2000 GT showed its teeth at the track, everybody would be looking at the 2000 GT’s offspring.
Everyone wanted one after seeing how well it worked. The gray market became relevant at this point.
The gray market first gained popularity during World War II when soldiers fell in love with European automobiles and discovered that importing and maintaining the vehicles to meet US regulations was less expensive than purchasing the automobiles in the US.
People were able to import automobiles from the 1960s to the 1980s as long as they complied with US safety regulations. Gray market importers initially performed a fantastic job of importing cars and modifying them to meet the necessary American standards.
While the majority of gray market importers were legitimate, some discovered legal loopholes and began casually breaking the rules. At that time, illicit exotic vehicles, including the Skyline, were all over the streets.
In spite of the fact that they complied with US safety and pollution regulations, this is what encouraged automakers to pressure Congress into passing the legislation that forbade the import of automobiles from the gray market.
In short, the Skyline became unlawful since it didn’t adhere to the safety standards and laws that the Motor Vehicle Safety Compliance Act of 1988 established.
It’s interesting to note that the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) gave amnesty for imported vehicles older than 25 years after the statute was passed. This means that the R32 and R33 Skylines can be lawfully imported, but not the R34 until 2024.
Why Can’t I Drive a Nissan Skyline GT-R in the United States?
One of Nissan’s masterpieces is the Skyline GT-R. We shouldn’t be shocked that it has developed a cult following all over the world given its unparalleled power, handling, and design. The Skyline GT-R is regarded as one of the all-time greatest drifting vehicles and has won numerous awards.
Unfortunately, the Skyline GT-R cannot be fully appreciated in the American market. For the following reasons, the car is not certified for sale in the US:
- It’s a luxury car on the gray market with features that violate US safety and emissions regulations.
- All of the vehicles are right-hand drive. None are made to US standards.
- Although Skyline GT-R spare parts are unavailable in the US, you might look into the brand-new NISMO Heritage Parts program. As of December 1, 2017, some new GT-R parts are being marketed in Japan.
- It is faster than US police cars due to its speed.
Having said that, bringing a Skyline GT-R into the US is not absolutely difficult. (See the poster we created to celebrate the GT-R.)
Was the GT-R R34 prohibited because it was too quick?
HotCars says that the R34’s illegality is due to a commonly held misconception.
The terrifying two-door coupe had a 2.6-liter twin-turbocharged engine that was capable of producing 300 horsepower and 266 lb.-ft of torque. Additionally, some enthusiasts claim that it handles better than any sports vehicle in history.
Because of its exceptional performance, the Skyline GT-R R34 was allegedly prohibited because American police cars could not keep up with it.
The fact that this Nissan has a top speed of 200 mph and could easily outrun most police officers is true, but it is not the reason it is forbidden in the United States.
Nissan never intended for its Skyline GT-R series cars to be sold in the United States because the Japanese automaker was unsure at the time of how American sports car fans would react to an import.
The American FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards) laws and emissions testing were not taken into consideration when it was constructed. Owning one is still prohibited for this reason.
Is bringing in a Nissan Skyline against the law?
The NHTSA gave import automobiles older than 25 years of age amnesty in 1998. So even though it doesn’t comply with requirements, you can now import any Nissan Skyline that was manufactured in 1995 or earlier.
Is importing a Skyline R34 permitted?
There is a widespread misperception that R34 GT-Rs are prohibited in the United States. That’s accurate for the most part, although there are some outliers. Federal legislation states that these vehicles cannot be imported until they are 25 years old, and this restriction includes the month of manufacturing.
Why are Japanese auto imports prohibited?
You probably already know that some Japanese cars were never sold in the United States if you reside here. You are undoubtedly also aware that it is difficult to import them due to legislation from the 1980s that stipulates that foreign-made vehicles must be 25 years old or older in order to be admitted to the United States legally.
The R35 is not a Skyline, why?
One of the most renowned Japanese performance cars of all time is the Nissan Skyline GT-R.
The “Godzilla” (see here why the Skyline GT-R is called as Godzilla) has come to represent strength and performance throughout the course of several different generations.
The Nissan Skyline GT-R has become one of the most coveted names in Japanese performance driving despite being illegal in the United States at the time (see our article on why Nissan Skylines are illegal in the United States).
You probably already know that Nissan stopped producing the R34 Skyline generation in 2002 (for more information, see our buying guide for the R34 GT-R).
The skyline actually kept going after that and is still going today, but it is now what is known as the “New Generation Skyline,” which is very different from the past skylines. The new Skyline is more well-known in America as a line of Infiniti vehicles, including the Infiniti G35:
This New Generation Skyline was mainly focused on giving a premium touring car experience and never included a GT-R variant.
Due to the overwhelming demand from auto enthusiasts, the R35 GT-R was debuted in 2007 and is still in production today.
Indeed, the R34 GT-R was the Nissan Skyline GT-R R34, to give an example.
What makes the Nissan GT-R of today the Nissan Skyline GT-R R35? After all, any car sporting those distinctive taillights must be a Skyline!
The reason the R35 GT-R is not a Skyline is rather straightforward, in case you’re wondering.
Earlier GT-Rs (such as the R32, R33, and R34) were built on the Skyline platform of that generation.
Consider the R32 GT-R, which was offered in a variety of trim levels and engine/gearbox combinations, including as a sedan.
Nissan used that generation’s Skyline base to build the R32 GT-R (the original “Godzilla”), turning everything up to 11.
There is no platform overlap with the existing Skyline (known in America as the Infiniti Q50). The R35 GT-R is a “standalone” vehicle, as opposed to the previous generations of GT-Rs, which were all the pinnacle of the applicable Skyline platform.
Although the R35 GT-R is essentially the spiritual successor to previous Skyline GT-Rs, Nissan opted not to utilize the Skyline brand due to the distinctive platform.