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post #1 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-17-2011, 02:54 AM Thread Starter
 
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Idea for importing Smart Roadster into the USA

I have been looking for the past few years at how I could import a Smart Roadster and I think I have a idea I would like some input on.

So here it is:

Find a Roadster for sale in Mexico. Find a trusted person to purchase it and then drive it over the border to you (pay the person for their time and travel as well as cover gas. I assume with the gas mileage of the Roadster that this will be cheaper then having it shipped up here.

Next, set about removing certain parts of the car to turn it into a kit car, or similar classification of vehicle for registration & EPA classification.

Register the Roadster as a Kit or Reconstructed vehicle and possibly start replacing parts that were changed to bring the car back to factory specs.

So tell me what you think. I do understand that finding a person to bring it up here could be an issue, but I am wondering more about the rest of the process.

So tell me what you got.

Thanks.
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post #2 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-17-2011, 04:14 AM
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If you know some one in Mexico and can use their address, IT is easier to register and plate the car in Mexico. Renew the plates by mail, and drive it here. The kit car scheme is illegal. That loop hole has been closed.
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post #3 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-17-2011, 07:35 AM
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Look in the Smart Roadster section, there is a pretty long thread about importing a roadster with lots of info about what you can and can't do anymore.

Here is the latest about importing a "kit car"

3. The production, sale and importation of automotive bodies alone (i.e., no chassis, engine or transmission) are not regulated by EPA since such units are not considered "motor vehicles" under the Clean Air Act. EPA form 3520-1 is not required for imported automotive bodies. A motor vehicle from which the engine has been removed is still a motor vehicle and is not considered a body.

4. The production, sale and importation of vehicle parts (engines, transmissions, chassis, vehicle bodies, etc.) are not regulated by EPA because parts are not considered motor vehicles under the Clean Air Act. However if the parts constitute a disassembled vehicle or an approximate disassembled vehicle, the combination is considered a motor vehicle under the Clean Air Act. Any attempt to use this policy to circumvent the Clean Air Act or the Imports regulations will be considered a violation of the Clean Air Act and will be strictly enforced. An example of such circumvention is:
  • A kit car maker who also provides the engine and transmission before or after production/importation of the body/chassis.
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post #4 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-17-2011, 08:40 AM Thread Starter
 
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I've been through the thread about importing a smart roadster. From what I could see, there was no real conclusion. The idea of a kit car in that thread was impossible because they were under the condition of shipping/importing the car. I am thinking of just letting the person drive over the border as many people do.

So think of it this way. Someone drives it up here and leaves it here. You now have the car. You now have it with you to do whatever modifications are needed to bring it into compliance with whatever is needed.
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post #5 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-17-2011, 09:00 AM
 
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A college mate of mine imports aluminum 427 Cobra bodies, but won't install the engines for US customers, though they can install them by themselves.

With a motorcycle you CAN assemble a bike from parts, but not so with a car (it doesn't have to make sense).

There are some states that are pretty easy to register cars that are unofficially imported. Additionally, some states will register a car if it has already been registered [or even titled] in another state first (the assumption is that the first time it was registered the registrar would have provided all of the paperwork); so, there are some non-conforming cars out there, just not so many.

Additionally, I think you car would always be under threat of confiscation by the Feds, though, as I've stated previously, they probably have better things to do than run down the [very] odd non-compliant car.
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post #6 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-17-2011, 09:12 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 53lain View Post
I've been through the thread about importing a smart roadster. From what I could see, there was no real conclusion. The idea of a kit car in that thread was impossible because they were under the condition of shipping/importing the car. I am thinking of just letting the person drive over the border as many people do.

So think of it this way. Someone drives it up here and leaves it here. You now have the car. You now have it with you to do whatever modifications are needed to bring it into compliance with whatever is needed.

Technically you can't do that either. You have to be a federally-approved importer to modify cars into compliance. Furthermore, the particular car has to be approved for importation -- you can't just pick any car than then bring it into compliance. That's one reason it took 3-4 years to get the Gen I smarted into the country (and part of the reason that they cost so much to import).

Typically, importers are bringing in Foreign market cars that ARE sold in the US (so the things that have to be modified to bring them in compliance are known). If the car was NEVER sold in the US in any version, it's WAY harder to do legally.

Probably the easiest way as stated is either to get a 15 year old example out of Canadia, or a car from Mexico. Once the car is 25 years old, you re-import it legally into the US (there are no restrictions on cars 25 years old or older, like my 1963 FIAT 500!).
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post #7 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-17-2011, 09:14 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 53lain View Post
I've been through the thread about importing a smart roadster. From what I could see, there was no real conclusion. The idea of a kit car in that thread was impossible because they were under the condition of shipping/importing the car. I am thinking of just letting the person drive over the border as many people do.

So think of it this way. Someone drives it up here and leaves it here. You now have the car. You now have it with you to do whatever modifications are needed to bring it into compliance with whatever is needed.
There IS a conclusion -- you can't do it legally until the car is 25 years old -- it's just that simple.
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post #8 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-17-2011, 09:23 AM
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When you go across the border (so I have been told) with a car, the officials look at the documentation and decide if it will enter the country or not. The only way around this is if it is going to company that retrofits cars to U.S. specs. If a car comes into the country (again, I have been told) it is recorded and is expected to leave the country too. If it is totaled, it still has to leave the country.

In Minnesota, we do not have emissions testing. But you still need the 'meets us emissions standards' sticker to get it across the border.

Have to agree with Kennyrayandersen on this one.
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post #9 of 18 (permalink) Old 03-17-2011, 10:57 AM
 
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The exception is that if you are a Canadian, or a Mexican, you can drive your non-compliant car across the border; but, you aren't supposed to sell it -- you are supposed to drive it back to the country from which you came. Technically, you have to take it back out of the country after 1 year (I think -- I would have to confirm), or show proof that the car has been destroyed.

It's not like some non-compliant cars don't get in. First, I'm not sure how they do it. I brought in a FIAT 500, and someone from the Feds actually went and inspected the car to make sure that it was, in fact, a 1963 FIAT. If it weren't the car would have been seized by the Feds and it would have been ugly on several levels. In my case there weren't any shenanigans, so it came right on through. Additionally, so states require very little documentation and in one case the local municipality was actually encouraging licensing little Kei-class trucks! go figure. So there are tow things. There are the federal regulations AND the state regulations. You could get a non-compliant car into the country and still not get it licenses to drive if your state wasn't one of the lax ones. And, even if your state gave you a license to drive, the car would still be subject to seizure by the feds.

Having said that, if you got plates on your car and don't make a big deal of it (like posting on an open forum that you've succeeded in snookering the feds), you'll probably be fine. Still, the rarer the car, the more likely it would be that you might get found out, if you know what I mean. Plus, you may have extreme difficulty getting insurance etc. so that you could drive it (even assuming you live in an easy-to-register state).

I'm actually considering to buy a Honda Beat, and leaving it in Canada for 5-6 years and then bringing it in. I'm not really into messing with the feds and putting my cars/money at risk.

Last edited by kennyrayandersen; 03-17-2011 at 11:10 AM.
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post #10 of 18 (permalink) Old 01-05-2015, 02:52 AM
 
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Lets also address the 800lb gorilla in the room. What to do about insurance?
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