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We have in interesting rule here in the U.S. for importing cars. Significant cars that are more than 25 years old can be legally imported. This year, one significant car made that list, one that’s familiar to anyone who’s seen any of the ”Fast and Furious” films: the Nissan R34 Skyline. But, just because you can import a Nissan R34 and drive it here, should you?

There are a number of companies that import special cars from Asia. For years we’ve seen 8th-generation R32 cars and 9th-generation R33 Skyline cars on the streets. To American eyes, they don’t look like anything super special, maybe like a unique Japanese sports car. But, to those of us who grew up playing “Gran Turismo Sport” or “Need for Speed,” those cars’ four taillights are simply iconic.

Those cars made it here thanks to the NHTSA’s 25-year rule that says you can lawfully import a car, whether it meets safety standards or not, if it’s older than 25 years old. The Skyline is now 25 years old, but only first year 1998-made cars. It’s a pretty simple rule, but importing and registering a JDM, or Japanese Domestic Market car, in the U.S. is pretty complicated. The 25-year rule is different from the Show or Display rule, which lists a very specific few cars that can be imported.

How much is an R34 Skyline?

A silver 1999 Skyline GTR parked
A 1999 Nissan Skyline GTR can be imported next year | Bring a Trailer

Since these cars are rare, prices are all over the place. These cars turned 25 in January, and only early cars made in 1998 (for the 199 model year) are available for import. That means that only a few have been sold. At Bring a Trailer a grand total of two have sold this year and prices range from about $138,000 to $179,000. But, even at Bring a Trailer, these cars were international sales, not U.S. sales.

Late last year a 1999 Skyline GR-R V-Spec car did sell with a U.S. Show and Display title for a record-breaking $310,000. That means that it can be driven in the U.S., but only up to 2,500 miles a year. That’s a substantial amount more than the early 1990s R32 Skylines that sell on the regular for around $50,000.

For $138,000, the owner got a clean, mostly unmodified, but it is a V-Spec car, which means it has some extra go-fast goodies an looks like Paul Walker’s famous Skyline. The second car was much cleaner and came with the Super HICAS all-wheel steering system, a NISMO body kit, and a lot of goodies. It only had 45 kilometers on the clock or about 28,000 miles.

Is the R34 Skyline a good car?

A blue modified Nissan Skyline GTR
You can now import the R34 Nissan Skyline GTR | Bring a Trailer

The R34 Skyline was the end of an era for the car. Production ended in 2002 and the next generation of car was a re-worked version of the familiar Infiniti G35, but with more-powerful engines. The R34 is the last “true” Skyline, according to purists and it still had the famous straight six-cylinder RB26DETT motor that had a claimed 276 horsepower, but in reality made more than 400.

But Skylines are, well, weird when imported. Reports say that in general they’re as reliable as any Nissan from the era, which means better than average. But most have been botched up with lowered suspensions, hot-rod parts on the motor, and non-stock wheels and trim. These are 25-year-old cars that, in Japan, are treated like we treat old Camaros or Mustangs here. So, they’ve been driven hard and likely owned by owners who didn’t intend to keep them.

But, if you find a good one, they can be a good buy that will draw attention at your local cars and coffee. Just don’t expect to use the McDonald’s drive-thru in a right-hand drive car.


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