Every car owner has their own particular taste. Whether they prefer muscle cars to tuners, newer or older models, the list goes on. However, there is a rare breed of automobile that is sure to satisfy any enthusiast and that is the Nissan Skyline. Made popular by The Fast and The Furious franchise, Skylines are extremely sought after in America because of their well-rounded track records and nearly unbreakable engines. These beautiful cars are expensive and difficult to import, so even catching a glimpse of one is a rare treat (“Godzilla Lands”).
Being the dream car of many teenage boys and grown men alike, the Skyline comes at a price. Montu Motors is a reputable business that deals with the business end of importing foreign cars, taking away the headache and dealing with the legal jargon required. On their website a 1990 Skyline GT-R is listed for $27,000, interestingly enough, the 1989 GT-R raises to $28,500. Keep in mind that these prices do not include importing fees, that’s talking thousands more.
Some may ask why anyone would want a car so old.
The answer is simple, America has little regulations pertaining to the maintenance of cars, whereas Japan keeps their cars well maintained for years and years of drivability (Furchgott). Another reason for importing an older car is the fact that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and other government associates have deemed it illegal to import foreign cars unless they are 25 years old or older, so going newer isn’t in the cards unless the buyer chooses to take drastic measures to make the car legal by American standards or go the illegal route (“25 Year Rule”).
A few not-so-reputable car dealers have taken to those illegal measures, however. The dealers can do this a couple ways, by importing the Skylines to Canada and driving them through the US border; they can dismantle the car and have it shipped over to America in pieces, put it back together and register the car as a “kit car” at the tag office; or the car may enter the country through some other unknown tactics. They will then sell their illegal vehicle to an unsuspecting customer who has no idea of the car’s legal status.
Whether the car has a Bond Release (a stamp of approval from the NHTSA) or not is the last thing on a buyer’s mind once they take it for a test drive (Greg). Police have been targeting all foreign cars, but Skylines specifically and catching owners off guard at traffic stops asking them for the car’s paper work (“Philippines”). The average car owner would simply hand off the vehicle’s registration, but if the average Joe doesn’t hand over a Bond Release their car will be hauled off and sold at a police auction. These cars are expensive enough, but to obtain one and then have it ripped away because of someone else’s illicit activities would just be heart breaking.
Adding insult to injury, there is no possible way to get a seized car back if it came into the United States under the radar. Greg from NICO Club quoted an affidavit stating, “If a vehicle is not on the list, it cannot be lawfully imported…even if efforts can be made after importation to bring it into compliance…that vehicle would not have been legally imported and would have violated Customs and Border Protection.” In short, private citizens are being punished solely for their ignorance of the law. These measures are extreme and not fair to buyers who were only trying to buy their dream car.
The ones who should be punished are the dealers who knowingly brought in the cars under illegal circumstances in the first place. Even if the car owner has to shell out even more money bringing the windshield up to code and working on the emissions, there should be a way for the owner to either keep their Skyline or at least be reimbursed for their purchase (Furchgott). The authorities should be seizing the profit made by the car dealers and giving it back to its rightful owner. The only difficult task to bring a car up to American standards would be finding a company to do crash testing since this is not regulatory in Japan.
A company called Motorex did use a company to conduct crash testing on a specific year of Skyline, but not everyone has resources like this at their disposal (Greg). Perhaps Greg is right when he sarcastically says, “I suppose it’s our fault for not being duty experts on cars with steering wheels on the wrong side.”
No one should be punished for another’s wrong doing. Car enthusiasts everywhere need to band together and fight back. The laws are far too strict on immigrant cars and if the community came together with a proposal to open the metaphorical border, not only would many people’s dream car become obtainable, but taxpayer money could go to something more important than the seizure of these beloved racecars, perhaps like the actual immigration issue going on in America.
As Greg states in his article, “It is more clear than ever that the goal is “To get them off the road”, as stated by the Resident Agent in Charge of a local ICE [United States Immigrations and Customs Enforcement] office in North Carolina.” But why? Some may argue that the government just wants to keep citizens safe, but these agencies barely give buyers a chance to make their cars safe by their standards.
All any car owner who attends car meets and shows wants is for their car to be unique. The point is to be able to own any immigrant car, not just Skylines. The effort it takes to import a car shows a certain amount of commitment to the hobby and the owner gets a lot of respect from the car community (Furchgott). If someone has the funds to purchase a car overseas and jump through all the necessary hoops, why shouldn’t they be able to bring it into America just because it isn’t 25 years old? Even if someone buys their car legally, there is no telling what measures law enforcement will take to get rid of it. No one should have to live in fear of the police taking away a prized possession for such trivial reasons.