Mercedes CLK-GTR Roadster
This page is for plain talk on the ins and outs of the Show or Display import exemption.

Show or Display allows you to import certain - historically or technologically significant vehicles that were never offered for sale in the US.

What does that mean exactly?
  • Less than 500 made
    • This is a pretty hard number, if there were more than 500 don't expect the application to be approved. 
  • Technological significance - You must identify (be specific) the technology, engineering, and construction features of the vehicle that are advanced and of an unusual nature not commonly found in motor vehicles manufactured in the same time period. 
  • Porsche 959 turbocharger and intercooler
    • Porsche 959 has a great case for technological significance  Variable torque split all wheel drive, twin sequential/parallel turbocharging, run-flat tires, flat bottom, 200 mph, carbon/kevlar construction. Not very many cars in 1987-1988 had these advanced technologies. 
  • Historical significance - You must identify the historical significance of the vehicle. If a person of historical significance owned the vehicle, you must submit proof that this person owned the vehicle. If the vehicle was the first or last vehicle of a particular model, you must establish this through the manufacturer’s documentation.
    • Enzo #400 - Pope John Paul II is a good example of a historically significant car. Last Enzo made, for a relatively well known person. 

Is the vehicle on the list of approved vehicles? Look for it here.

So the car you want to import, more than 500 were made, and does not have technological or historical significance, then it probably landed or will land on the list of vehicles not approved for import under show or display.

The last Show or Display Determination of a Vehicle Type Application that I turned in, took about 14 months to get approval.  Do not purchase a vehicle, or try and import any vehicle until you have approval from the NHTSA. It could cost you a lot of money to have the vehicle shipped back to its point of origin.


Nissan Skyline GT-R undergoing EPA FTP testing
Show or Display does not exempt you from EPA requirements. If the vehicle is less than 21 years old, then it would need to be brought into compliance with all EPA requirements.  An EPA form 3520-1 would need to be filled out, along with the HS-7, and the approval from the NHTSA.


Show or Display does not exempt you from California requirements, if you plan on registering your vehicle in California. If its 1976 and newer and runs on gasoline, it would have to be smog tested. If its diesel powered and newer than 1997 it would need to be smog tested. As of April 1, 2005, the 30 year rolling smog exemption was repealed. 1976 and newer vehicles are now required to have smog check inspections for biennial registration renewals, change of ownership transactions and initial registration in California.

If a vehicle is foreign manufactured, and older than 1967, then it is considered an uncontrolled vehicle. Vehicles that were manufactured before emission control regulations took effect are called uncontrolled vehicles. Aftermarket parts regulations and anti-tampering laws do not apply to these vehicles.

Smog Check FAQ's

Over 25 Years Old

Toyota Landcruiser
Vehicles over 25 years old are Department of Transportation(DOT) exempt from meeting federal motor vehicle safety standards(FMVSS).  Over 21 years old are Environmental Protection Agency(EPA) exempt.  To meet California smog exemption requirements, the car must be older than 1976. This does not make cars newer than 1976 impossible to import to California, but there are extra requirements, and testing.

Email me if you need help importing vehicles.

Other Cars

Nissan Silvia S15
What about if the vehicle doesn't meet Show or Display requirements, isn't over 25 years old, and you still want to import it the US?

Read this about illegally imported cars.
These posts about seized imported cars.

After you have read that information, you can find out more about importing those types of vehicles here and here.

Ford Falcon from Australia

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