Why Is The Nissan Skyline Illegal In The United States?

Did you know that not all Nissan Skylines are illegal to import into the US? We’ll be crushing the fake news and bringing you the facts in this guide.

Here, you can click on a particular section within this article, otherwise, scroll down as we cover all of the details when it comes to importing a Nissan Skyline into the US.

As you’ve probably been able to tell, we’re HUGE fans of the Nissan Skyline here at Drifted.

We’ve already published numerous Skyline guides, and we’ve been noticing that there’s a lot of confusion surrounding their current legal status in America.

Our fans have frequently been asking us for the truth and clarification on the matter.

So, for that reason, we’ve decided to write an entire guide, bringing you all of the fascinating facts and answering the all-too-common question; ‘Why are Nissan Skylines illegal in the US?’

We initially mentioned the subject, and also gave some clarification, in our Paul Walker Skyline article, since the F&F franchise undoubtedly helped the Skyline’s rise to become a cult classic in the US.

The star of the Fast and the Furious was undoubtedly one of the biggest R34 GT-R fans in the US and was also lucky enough to have owned and driven several of them, including the legendary Mine’s R34 GT-R, in Japan.

But, what if you’re not looking to head to Japan to get your Godzilla fix? What’s stopping you from importing your own and becoming a local hero on the streets or the track?

We’ve got some good news for you! Any car that’s over 25 years old can bypass the ridiculous US legal system.

This means that you can entirely legally import and own a Nissan Skyline R31, or R32 GT-R into the US right now (unless you’re in California, which brings its own typical complications).

At the time of this article going live, you can also legally import yourself any Nissan Skyline R33 GT-R that was registered pre-1995.

However, if you’re looking to import a Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R, you’re going to have to hold out a little longer, which we’ll explain next.

First up, we’d like to clear the air and explain that there are some Skyline models sold on the US market, mostly under the ‘Infiniti‘ brand, which are in an entirely different league.

We’ll be focusing on the much-loved cult classic JDM-spec Nissan Skylines in this guide.

You’ve probably heard the rumors floating around with BS reasoning as to why the later-model Nissan Skyline R33 and R34 GT-R’s are currently illegal to import into the US.

Some of the more popular answers we’ve heard are “Because they’re right-hand drive,” or “Because they’re so fast the Police can’t catch them.”

If you hear either justification from a vaping Honda owner at the local meet, calmly walk away from the conversation and hand them a link to this article

Firstly, right-hand drive cars are not illegal in the US, and since the R32 is now US-legal, that clears up that fact.

Although they certainly aren’t common, even the US Postal Service has frequently used RHD cars, mainly for convenience, as they allow for ease-of-access to the curb.

There are two plain-and-simple reasons as to why the Nissan Skyline is illegal to import for road use, and it’s entirely down to the US import laws.

Any car sold in the US needs to meet a long list of US Federal compliance specifications.

To meet these specifications, you need to submit several cars to a private crash-testing company for them to assess and analyze the vehicle in numerous different safety crash scenarios. They also need to meet NHTSA, DOT, and EPA requirements.

90’s JDM cars aren’t known for their structural integrity, and they certainly don’t have most of the safety features that you’d expect from even the most basic ‘poverty-spec’ cars on the market in the present day.

So, what’s the problem? Why hasn’t anyone done this?

Well, for example, if you wanted to import an R34 GT-R, you’d need to submit four R34 GT-R’s for crash testing and allow them to be destroyed, just to be later told that they don’t meet the safety requirements.

We don’t personally find that proposition hugely tempting!

However, this has been done previously, by a company called ‘Motorex,’ which we’ll take a more in-depth look at later in this guide. But, for now, we’ll just say that they went on to ruin any chances of anyone being able to do this.

Why didn’t Nissan pay for the testing?

Since the cost of testing can sometimes be huge, with some significant changes being made to the design of the car and the chassis to pass scrutineering, it simply wasn’t worthwhile for Nissan to do so.

Given that they’d already created such an incredible car, which was already legal in Japan, and also accepted in most countries across the world, the chances of it being profitable once it had been re-designed for the US market were slim.

Not to mention that they would potentially have to make the car worse in the process, in a similar scenario to the Nissan Silvia 240SX, which didn’t come with the SR20DET that the rest of the world was gifted.

Although it probably could have passed the much-less critical testing back in the 90s, there were still complications with converting the car to left-hand-drive, since the turbochargers and plumbing were in the same location that they’d need to use for the steering column.

Simply put, it would have been a lot of work, and since the Skyline didn’t have a broad appeal to the mass-market, Nissan simply decided it wasn’t worth the time and effort.

Although we don’t have any doubts that this is true, we find the reasoning that it would most likely fail emissions testing rather amusing when compared to some of the ridiculous road-legal cars and trucks in the US.

But I’ve already seen Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R’s in the US?

There could be several reasons for that, mostly through loopholes in the law, or potentially illegal activity. We’ll explore these options later in this guide.

If you’ve jumped past the previous section, and you’re hoping that we’ll be able to give you the convenient and straightforward answer of something along the lines of ‘use an import company!’ It’s a little more complicated than that!

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