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javadog javadog is offline
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Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Tulsa, OK
Posts: 18,450
First off, any car can be legally imported without federaliztion after 25 years. This won't necessarily directly aply to your situation, as it sounds from your description that the car has been in the US most of its life, but it should lessen your fears of it being legal. I'd wager that finding a car like this is pretty low on the enforcement priority list, if it wasn't converted correctly.

There are many cars out there that were not converted or partially converted (ie. DOT but not EPA,) either because they flew under the radar, or one of the previous owners took advantage of some of the loopholes that have existed in the laws from time to time. Having said that, once they are registered in a state, there doesn't seem to be much of a way to track the car subsequently. I don't feel that there is a great deal of scrutiny applied to these cars now. Read into that what you will.

As for compliance, the DOT was mainly concerned about a few things. They were:

door impact beams
lighting
bumpers
labeling
imperial instruments

The door impact beams were typically added as two pieces of tubing, one end bolted to each door jamb (front and rear) and then welded in the center. They don't exactly replicate what the factory did and are typically poorly done or missing altogether.

The glass typically already had DOT labeling and this fact was documented.

The lights were changed to US spec lights.

Sometimes the bumpers had their crush tubes changed to the US spec "shock" type. Most didn't.

The various labels were installed. The US had different requirements for many labels. For example, the euro cars relied on international symbols for things like the headlight switch while the US liked to see a word LIGHTS. The US also wanted serial number/production labels on the A pillar and left door jamb. None of this was particularily difficult. The speedometers (and sometimes other gauges) were changed out to get rid of the metric labels and convert them to usage where we measure speed in mph. This also presented a nice opportunity to eliminate any mileage that the cars accumulated while in Europe. A typical deal was for a car to be driven for a few years, then sold. The new owner would then convert the car and ship it across the pond. Lots of miles were lost here. A turbo is somewhat less likely to have suffered this abuse than an SC, as more of those cars were imported as new cars. This is one area that you really have to watch.

As for the EPA, you had to pass an emissions test. This was a little harder, but not impossible. The main difference was the fact that US cars had a catalytic converter and O2 sensor feedback to the fuel system for keeping the mixture where the cat liked it. You could change out all of the parts necessary to make one engine mostly like another but I suspect this was seldom done. They might have stuffed a cat onto the car and tweaked the mixture and hoped for the best. Short term, this was do-able. A great many cars were imported at a time when there was a one time exemption from meeting the EPA rules, so they just complied with those and skipped the EPA stuff. Later Carreras were available in Europe with an O2 sensor and cat and those are easy to convert.

The cars are also easy to "un-convert" so I suspect that was the fate of a lot of them. Many were legalized using photos and documentation from other cars.

At this point, many years down the line, the subsequent use of the car would be more important to me, at least for a car that has been here for twenty years or more. If a car spent 20 years in Europe and was recently imported, I'd wouldn't likely look at it. They can get used hard over there and put away wet.

If a car is said to be converted, get the paperwork that went with it. It usually fillls a three ring binder. You can also check with the government to see if they have the serial number on file showing a particular car was legally imported. Do a Google search and you can find phone numbers for both the EPA and DOT. If you have access to detailed photos of the car, I can usually tell you what has been done to it.

You need to get a thorough PPI. Most inspections I have done on a prospective purchase take a whole day. If you have any detailed questions, feel free to email me. I've been down this road many times. I also have a lot of cars insured with Leland West, so I can answer those questions too.

JR
Old 06-13-2007, 02:18 PM
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