Nissan Throwback Thursday

Illegal Imports: Keep Your Car From the Crusher

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A Land Rover Defender met an unfortunate and premature demise in Baltimore earlier this year. Kevin Rector of The Baltimore Sun broke the story which instantly went viral via Jalopnik. Agents of the Department of Customs & Border Protection publicly crushed the confiscated vehicle to make an example of grey market imports.  According to our friends at Car & Driver, over 20 Defenders have been seized by customs agents at various ports along the east coast. As the laws stand, any car younger than 25 years old that is imported outside of official auto manufacturer channels is subject to search and seizure by Customs & Border Patrol.

(Source: / James Tourtellotte)
(Source: / James Tourtellotte)

Our laws are meant to protect American car companies from cheap imports and protect American drivers against cars that haven’t been tested and inspected to meet federal highway safety standards. A recent example that enthusiasts won’t forget has been the crackdown on Nissan Skyline models made popular by our friend Paul Walker in his “Fast & Furious” series of documentary films. In the case of Japanese auto importer Motorex, the importer chose to go through the legal process of crash testing the Skyline in hopes of having it exempted from the ban.

Now that that Uncle Sam has seized as many Skylines as he could find, the Land Rover’s model looks to be the next target.

Hiring a crash test firm, Motorex jumped through all the hoops necessary to legalize a foreign car, and found that with a few small modifications, they would be compliant with all FMVSS standards. Crash testing is, understandably, very expensive, so they only tested the 1996 to 1998 R33 model.  Unfortunately the process was so expensive that Motorex was forced to close their doors. The FHTSA granted the R33 Skyline a stay of execution, but this brought up the popularity of other imported Skylines, namely the R32 and R34 models. Customs agents have seized many of these models, often raiding import shops in full Kevlar with weapons drawn.  After further review, the NHTSA rescinded its decision and granted citizenship to only R33 models that were brought up to code by Motorex. If you can locate one for sale, get ready to pay a hefty sum for it. Now that that Uncle Sam has seized as many Skylines as he could find, the Land Rover’s model looks to be the next target.

(Skylines that were pulled from an auction and crushed.)

In the case of the Defender, Land Rover sold them in the US until 1997, but used ones are in high demand due to their rugged construction and worldwide aftermarket support.

Check out what they are going for on our site: Land Rover Defenders for sale at

Considering Land Rover is still building them, finding great low mileage examples is easy in England and Commonwealth nations. Some shady US importers have resorted to swapping the VIN plates and artificially aging them to fool customs agents, and these are why they are made examples of.

It may seem tempting and profitable to purchase a car in a foreign market with hopes of being a hero, but there are many proper import channels available, and I don’t want my tax dollars paying for the crushing of your car.

(Sources: Jalopnik, Car & Driver, The Baltimore Sun)