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31 Posts
You have a LOT of work / $$$ ahead of you.

Check this link:

(luckily the 96 coupe is on the list)

Also go here:

This company is one of the VERY BEST in the auto import business in getting the car up to U.S. specs and making it legal.

Of course, I hear you can legally import any car w/o any "u.s. federalization" if you export it within one year, not sure about that, but, may be an angle.

Also, if you use one of the "special permits" for importing (such as "show vehicle") you can get it in to the country without too much trouble, you just cannot drive it more than a couple of thousand miles a year. There are also race/off road permits...

anyway, this should get you going, I'm no expert, best to speak with Wallace Labs if you are serious - they are in Houston, TX.


Been there, done that, and it was a fight every step of the way.

DOT is real touchy about importing Non-US Lambo's. Honestly, I don't know why. Also keep in mind that they could even deny your request for import all together. Then you are really stuck...

Import/Conversion rule. The best way to go if you can get everything approved but can be costly. You may have to have all glass, lights, bodywork, etc changed or modified to meet all the US specs. This can also be very time consuming. My estimated conversion cost from Wallace Labs started around $ 15,000 US and could take up to 5 months. You also have to obtain an insurance bond on the car for a couple years incase something happens. Ultimately, DOT could require a crashtest of the car after conversion. At the end you get a Non-US Car with the DOT/EPA blessing to do with as you see fit.

Import/Export rule. Technically, you bring the car in for a period of time(less than 365 days) and then export it (for more than 1 day). You can do that, but you'll be doing all kinds of paperwork everytime. Not fun if you live far from the Canadian border. Mexico will not allow you to import a "used car" so you can't go that way. There is always the possibility of getting the import/export denied. Just keep that in mind.

Show Car Rule. You must justify to DOT why this car is "special". First or Last of a series, historically or technologically significant, etc are some of the criteria. It will be difficult to get the Diablo approved by this method.

All of the above cases require you to submit various forms, pictures, etc to gain their blessing. Then you go over to EPA & US Customs and run the gauntlet with them. More paperwork, pictures, justifications, etc. At any time along the way, your request could be denied and have to immediately export the car out of country.

One other approach is to import "assemblies of used car parts". Remove the engine and transmission and you no longer have a car but "used car parts" instead. Import as parts, pay duties to Customs, and rebuild the car "from scratch". Your car is here, but will forever be a grey market car. You may have problems titling/registering the car if your state requires DOT/EPA paperwork for registration. You might be able apply for a "Kit Car" title, but then you will forever wear 2 Scarlet Letters for this transgression.

Best Method:

Call up Dick Merritt at DOT and discuss your situation with him (Sorry I don't have his number anymore but he is easy to reach at DOT). He is a good guy, and can offer the best advice on what can be done, etc.

Hope this helps...

Good Luck...

Premium Member
541 Posts
Here's a clip of an article written by Richard John Pietschmann I read in Departures magazine four years ago. It pretty much says what Don posted. This article is for "Show and Display" exemption only.

"To Show and Display

August 13, 1999 was a red-letter day for American lovers and collectors of exotic European motorcars like the McLaren F1. That was the date they received an unexpected gift from an unusual source: The Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued its new, relaxed rules for the importation of cars of "historical or technological significance" for "show or display," such as the F1, the Jaguar XJ220, BMW Z1, Porsche 959 and GT1, Mercedes-Benz CLK-GTR, and the Bugatti EB110. "It opens up the U.S. for more cars," comments Dick Fritz, whose Amerispec Corp., based in Danbury, Connecticut, specializes in legalizing such so-called gray-market cars. "We'll have less to do on each car, but more of them to do."

Virtually all of the safety roadblocks to bringing in such rare cars were eliminated. Previously, every single automobile less than 25 years old had to satisfy current DOT safety rules before it could be certified to remain in the country. That meant costly and time-consuming additions and alterations such as air bags, seat belts, bumpers, door reinforcements, third brake lights, and reflectors, costing thousands of dollars and often taking months to complete. Such changes ruined the essential look of many cars, at least in the eyes of purist collectors, leading some of them to attempt alterations that would bring the car back as close to the European original as possible as soon as they took possession. Legal? Not really. And certainly not in the spirit of the DOT rules. However, while bringing a qualifying imported automobile up to speed on safety matters no longer involves such cost and trouble, it doesn't mean the bureaucratic tangle was entirely eliminated. Each car still must pass EPA muster for emissions, hardly a cakewalk when it comes to high-powered cars. And the NHTSA rules for qualifying such "show or display" cars are stringent—as well as, on occasion, elusive—the application process is demanding, and lastly, the penalties for noncompliance are stiff.

First of all, NHTSA regulations make it virtually impossible for a car to qualify under the new rules if the manufacturer is still producing the same make and model, or has ever sold a car of the same make, model, and year in the U.S. And any car will find particularly tough sledding if more than 500 of the same make and model were produced. If a car survives these initial tests, the owner must still prove to the satisfaction of the NHTSA committee that his car is valuable in terms of technology or history. The NHTSA publication"How to Import A Motor Vehicle for Show or Display" (consult the Web site: specifies that the car must either have advanced technology "of an unusual nature, not commonly found in motor vehicles manufactured in the same time period" or a singular history. That latter qualifier is defined as "one of a kind," or "the first or last vehicle of a particular model," but it also includes a car proved to have been owned by a person of "historical significance." If the committee certifies the car, further rules apply. The car cannot be driven more than 2,500 miles per year if it is registered for use on public roads, and the owner must have an insurance policy stating this. The owner must also keep a log showing mileage and use, and must agree to DOT inspections of the odometer and log. The car cannot be sold, leased or transferred without NHTSA approval. And if the owner is found to have disregarded these rules, fines of up to $1,100 per violation and even seizure are specified. It takes time, too. The first letters of approval were finally being received more than six months after the new rules had been issued. Among the first certifications: a Jaguar XJ220 and a McLaren F1. "

119 Posts
Many cars made today comply with all international standards. They are all very similar and the auto manufacturer usually just makes a single car that complies with all the rules.

I actually spoke with the Ferrari importer (FNA) about the Enzo. He said that Canada has the most stringent rules. The enzo meets all countries specs. There are no differences between cars delivered in other countries except maybe the instrument cluster - MPH vs KPH for e.g..

Most likely, other than taxes, there is no change necessary with the car. Importation should be simple.

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