A beginner’s guide to the world of weird and wonderful Japanese import cars

Enlarge / Warning: Reading this article may send you into a portal that involves a lot of Craigslist browsing, research into Japanese auto brokers, and increased familiarity with foreign-language parts websites. (credit: Aurich Lawson)

Did you grow up playing Gran Turismo, marveling over the weird and wonderful Japanese market (JDM) cars that never made it to these shores? If you, too, always wanted to drive JDM exotica like a Nissan Skyline, Toyota Century, or Mazda Cosmo, prepare yourself for good news.

H.R.2628, the “Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act of 1988,” has long been a thorn for automotive enthusiasts in the USA. This is the official reason why, after you discovered those cars in Gran Turismo, you couldn’t actually buy one. Known as the ‘25 Year Rule,’ H.R.2628 essentially requires auto enthusiasts to wait 25 years to the month from when a vehicle was first manufactured before it can be legally imported if the vehicle wasn’t originally meant for sale in the US market.

Take something like the Nissan Skyline mentioned above. The company never offered it for sale in the US, which means Paul Walker’s famous R34 Skyline GT-R in 2 Fast 2 Furious isn’t legal for import. The R34 was first manufactured in 1999, placing the earliest year for importing under H.R. 2628 at 2024. Sure, there are various places in the US that will smuggle vehicles newer than 25 years into the country and play the “state legal” game (where they act like state legality somehow overrides federal law), but this isn’t true. At any time, a Nissan Skyline-importer can be caught and have their car taken away with zero recourse.

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Features – Ars Technica

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