Nissan Skyline R34: The Insane MotoRex Importer Scandal

Have you ever wondered why the Nissan Skyline R34 had such a tumultuous time in the U.S.? There were many restrictions on importing vehicles back when Nissan Skyline R34 GTR was immensely popular, thanks to people like Paul Walker. Cars like the Skyline were not made here and had to be imported through a complicated process. But what’s the scandal here?

The story of MotoRex and the Nissan Skyline

Nissan Skyline R34, Nissan Skyline GTR-34
Nissan Skyline R34, Nissan Skyline GTR-34 | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection page about importing, cars that were less than 25 years old from the date of manufacture were subject to different rules. This made importing popular vehicles like the Nissan Skyline R34 GTR, Skyline R33, and others impossible to get into the country. This is where the importer MotoRex comes in.

In 1999, MotoRex owner Hiro Nanahoshi was importing the cars and attempting to get the vehicles up to U.S. standards. That meant windshields, crash tests, smog testing, etc. According to an old Super Street article written by Richard Chang, these are the specifics of the crash tests.

“In the front crash test report to the D.O.T., filed on November 17, 1998, the R33 Nissan Skyline [GTS – note- Sam] used in the test is referred to as a 1999 A.I. Craft GTR 2 Door.”

Richard Chang | Super Street Magazine

The tests included front, rear, and side-impact ratings. These ratings were then sent to the D.O.T. for approval to J.K. Technologies in Baltimore, Maryland. J.K. Technologies was another importer that focused on legalizing European cars.

Modifying the Skyline for the U.S. streets

In the process, the companies adjusted the Skyline’s door bar. MotoRex did other modifications once the car landed in the country as well. By the time 1999 rolled around, the first Skyline was tested by the government and passed. “MotoRex received E.P.A. approval by installing three additional catalytic converters to each Skyline,” Chang explained.

After that, one final smog test remained, the IM240. One guy named Sean Morris was working with Motorec on side-impact crash testing and commented on the issue. He noted MotoRex received the first bond release from the D.O.T. for the car on November 15, 1999. After that, the MotoRex name was everywhere in the car scene.

Morris explained that even though the business was blowing up in the community, the business model didn’t make sense. The company would bring in some Nissan Skyline R34, R32, and Skyline R33 models, which cost under $50,000. The process of importing and legalizing the car was around $16,000, but that didn’t go very far. At some points, only three cars a month would come through.

The beggining of the end for this importer

Once the vehicles arrived, it was still a slow process. After a few years, Nanahoshi seemed over the pressure. Cars started to pile up in the warehouse and didn’t go anywhere. One customer went to pick up the vehicle, and Nanahoshi had no idea where it was. The D.O.T. hadn’t sent the paperwork back yet, and the car was MIA. As this started to happen more and more, people started alerting the D.O.T. and even the police.

MotoRex started releasing cars without permission from the D.O.T. Some people knew about it and took the risk, but others had no idea. By the time 2005 rolled around, things were further falling apart. The D.O.T told MotoRex the registered importer status was at risk, but Nanahoshi didn’t care by then.

“On November 28, 2005, the D.O.T. [NHTSA OMVC] tentatively rescinded the import eligibility of all Skylines, except those of the ‘96-’99 model years.”

Richard Chang | Super Street Magazine

Once the investigation began, the D.O.T. found 17 Skylines that did not have the proper modifications to drive on the streets. MotMotoRexorex had the opportunity to comply, but that didn’t happen. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) revoked MotoRex’s registration on February 15, 2006. MotMotoRexorex owed money to people and had made a lot of enemies. The Skyline story doesn’t end there, but the story of Motorex being a legit importer does.

Some Skylines are old enough to come into the U.S. without such strict rules these days. Though these are still popular vehicles, you see Nissan Skylines and Nissan GT-Rs on the road fairly regularly, without the help of MotoRex.

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