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!
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.
An in-depth examination of the automotive gray market
Nissan did not create the Skylines for the American market. Designer of the Skylines Naganori Ito was following in the footsteps of his instructor Shinichiro Sakurai. His task was to design a car that, in the Japan Grand Prix, could compete with Porsche.
The Skylines were literally born from this Nissan 2000 GT. Therefore, it was predicted that people would start looking at the 2000 GT’s offspring when it barbed its fangs at the track.
After seeing how nicely it worked, everyone wanted one. The gray market then started to function.
When soldiers fell in love with European automobiles during World War II, they discovered that importing and maintaining the vehicles to meet US regulations was less expensive than purchasing the automobiles in the US. This is when the gray market first gained traction.
From the 1960s until the 1980s, anyone could import a car as long as it met US safety regulations. When cars were first imported and modified to meet the necessary American standards, gray market importers performed a fantastic job.
While the majority of gray market imports were legitimate businesses, some discovered legal loopholes and began willfully breaking the law. Exotic and illegal vehicles, like the Skyline, were then all over the streets.
The legislation that forbade the import of cars from the gray market, regardless of whether they complied with US safety and emissions regulations, was passed by Congress as a result of pressure from the auto industry.
In the end, the Skyline became unlawful since it didn’t follow the safety and legal requirements established by the Motor Vehicle Safety Compliance Act of 1988.
It’s interesting to note that ten years after the act was passed, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) gave imported cars older than 25 years of age amnesty. This means that the R32 and R33 Skylines are permissible to import, but the R34 is not, at least not until 2024.