Importation of vehicles from overseas – some clarity.


Over the last few months there has been a lot of confusion on the importation of vehicles from Europe to North America, the USA in particular.


For many years Defenders particularly from the UK, have been imported with fraudulent VIN numbers (Vehicle Identification Number)

These vehicles are relatively ‘modern’, mostly 300 Tdi which are not 25 years old, but having 25+ year old VIN numbers on, as the vehicles are in looks, almost the same.


However these activities have now been found out by the US customs and are now very hot on importation of Defenders.


There is a special department in Washington that processes all Land Rover imports.


At the dockside up to 30 photos are taken of all vehicles and are the submitted to this department, who will verify the vehicle is, as the VIN describes.


This is most important as ANY variation from the original VIN decode is classed as a modification and thus not allowed into the country.


There is a good VIN decoder on this page called Clifton bit tricky to find but on a button on the left there is CalVIN. The button is the fourth down and marked LR VIN


There are sever consequences for vehicles having fraudulent VIN numbers. They cannot be exported from the port back to the port of origin as they are fraudulent vehicles and thus cannot be admitted into any country. The only option is destruction.


If for example you decide to bring in a 2011 Defender with 25 year old VIN plates on, it is very clear that these are NOT legal vehicles and even with the best paperwork are considered heavily modified and not eligible. Natural tell tales are the more sophisticated injection systems and body computers, which were not around 25 years ago and vehicles with only a few hundred miles on them


A common trick is to buy a vehicle from a UK specialist who says it is a rebuilt 25 year old truck retrofitted with a newer body – in the UK the chassis or frame is the car – not the body.

To make this more convincing the body is lifted and he rolling chassis removed. The original VIN number on the front of the chassis is removed, then the chassis is blasted and galvanized and then the 25 year old VIN is stamped on to make the job look convincing – as this is not going on the UK roads then there are no consequences for the workshop involved.


However if you do buy a legitimate, 25 year old vehicle and it has had some engine modification, you are given the right to re-export the vehicle to a country where engine modifications are accepted.


The main reason is the engine modification does not meet EPA rules; however it is still not clear that a UK spec 25 year old Defender that was originally right hand drive and converted to left hand drive is admissible by their rules as it is ‘modified’. Sounds crazy but the VIN decode is key to this.


I have imported vehicles from US ports into Canada since this crackdown, that have had engine swaps, which is OK in the UK, but do not tie to the original VIN. EVEN THOUGH the UK V5C states the engine number and size/fuel type is correct, the US EPA will refuse.


The US customs exploit the EPA regulations that will not allow an engine newer than 23 years old to be used in a vehicle unless it meets EPA standards and is thus on the EPA register. Also equally important is you are not allowed to import engines newer than 23 years old. Again be careful with this as Rover engines do not have dates on them – just age ranges of manufacture.


NO Defender engine apart from the original injection V8’s have been EPA approved, and even going to the trouble of fitting a V8 to the vehicle does not guarantee entry, as it MUST be stated on the VIN that it was an original V8 vehicle. The VIN cannot be modified by any authority.


Recently a customer in the US imported a totally legitimate Defender 90 that was 25 years old into the US.

Unfortunately the original TD or turbo diesel engine was replaced with a 200 Tdi Discovery engine which is quite a common thing to do in the UK.

However, this was not allowed into the US as it was modified and was not on the original VIN.

They do not care if the engine was smoking or knocking like there was no tomorrow, the fact remains, the 200 Tdi was produced from 1989 to 1994 and there are no age related number on the engine, so they look at the engine and state it is a 200 Tdi Discovery engine (they are not that stupid) and state the engine from its last year of production can be no more than 20 years old and thus is ineligible for entry. (2014  - 1994 = 20)


Interestingly in this case, the on the bill of laden the VIN was noted AND the engine number – but this is the funny thing – they wrote the PART number of a replacement engine – NOT the actual engine number, so it seems so me they have a photo of what the original engine SHOULD be on file according to the VIN, and then compare it photos provided by customs


I hope this clears things up a bit.


Canada customs are not so heavy handed – we have no EPA and vehicles can be modified, but they are wise to the fact that VIN swapping does take place and will not allow newer vehicles into the country.


The vehicles that do sneak into Canada are hot potatoes and in the event of an accident can be classed as fraudulent vehicles and insurance can be null and void.


We import totally original trucks with all the new parts needed and rebuild them from ground up with photos to prove it, and pass government inspections.

Naturally our trucks are not cheap as the costs or parts and labour are high, but you are getting a modified original vehicle.


How I can help


I can help in some cases - If the vehicle can be moved out of port to Canada, then I can arrange all Canadian customs importation paperwork fast as I know dock fees are $85 US per day, and in some cases arrange transport, however as the vehicle has to be shipped in bond, then this gets very expensive to arranged from Canada and a US trucking company would be cheaper. At current rates (May 2014) it is approximately $2,300.00 US for an Insured Bonded carrier to get a vehicle from the port of New Jersey to Sherbrooke Quebec. This does not include Importation paperwork, taxes or duties as these depend on the value of the vehicle in question.


I have unloading facilities here.


If a vehicle requires an original engine fitting then I can do this for you OR if the US customs allow, remove the existing engine for you and re import it back into the US, engine free, so you can source an engine there.


You can keep your vehicle here for a month until you decide what to do - if you wish to make a donation then you are more than welcome!


Please note - I will not buy vehicles I do not want!  I specialize in high end 110's and do not want patched up frames and dodgy conversions/modifications/accessories.


If you are looking for a way out and not lose all your money then I can advertise the vehicle here in Canada and sell on your behalf - naturally the vehicle will have to be here and officially imported and licenced, but will remain your property, and any monies earned will be passed on to you less my expenses.


Things to consider before sending to Canada