Mr. John Harland
HarLand Rover Restorations
6-8 Mary St.
Cleveland TS18 4AN
Dear Mr. Harland:
We are responding to your request for an interpretation, addressed to Taylor Vinson of this Office, which we received on September 2, 1999.
We understand that the U.S. Customs Service will not allow entry into the United States of four Land Rover motor vehicles pursuant to the declaration that "the vehicle is 25 or more years old." You assert that these Land Rovers are restorations of vehicles that are more than 25 years old, and should be allowed entry under this declaration without the need to comply with the Federal motor vehicle safety standards. We note that such an entry is permitted by 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301, specifically by sec. 30112(b)(9).
Although you describe your modifications as "restorations," the question that we must decide is whether you are, in fact, restoring a motor vehicle that is 25 or more years old, or whether your operations go beyond restoration and must be regarded as assembling or manufacturing a motor vehicle; if the latter, then the vehicles can be imported only if they comply with Federal motor vehicle safety standards that apply to them on the date of their assembly or manufacture.
There is no definition of "restoration" in Chapter 301. This word is defined by the Random House Compact Unabridged Dictionary (Special Second Edition, 1996) as "3. A return of something to a former, original, normal, or unimpaired condition." We believe that this is a generally accepted use of the word, especially as it pertains to the restoration of motor vehicles.
You have listed the items retained from the original vehicle, noting that "some were repaired, some were modified to accept accessories, all were stripped and refinished to as new condition." Original items retained are: "rear bodies, rear side panels with windows, all floors, side T-frames, bulkhead assembly, side rear doors (modified to accept modern door locks), front, top and side fenders, seat frames and cushions (retrimmed), seatbase with all bracketing, rear door (complete), all sill panels, transmission tunnel assembly" and "numerous smaller components; wiper motor assembly, fuel tanks and filler assemblies, heater assembly, steering rods, bumpers, headlight assemblies, hinges, brackets for body mount, crossmembers, various interior and exterior bracketry." You also retain "original VIN plates."
Other items of equipment are used, and come from Land Rovers whose ages are not specified as being over 25 years old. These are: "frames, axle casings, engine core units (on three vehicles), bonnets (on three), fender flares, radiator front panels (on three), steering boxes (to switch to safer LHD)."
Finally, there are the equipment items that are new and have not been used before: "signal light assemblies, stereo and speakers, batteries, electric window kits, air-conditioning kits (NAS kits approved for use in the US), mudflaps, side runners, winches (on two), bull bars (on two), skid plates, wheels and tires, springs and shock absorber kits, driving lights (on three), seatbelt shoulder harnesses, engine rebuilding parts, axle and steering rebuilding parts, wiring harness for interior, carpeting and soundproofing kits."
After reviewing these facts, we have concluded that your operations do not result in a return of these motor vehicles "to a former, original, normal, or unimpaired condition" within the meaning of the definition of "restoration." There are significant differences between the vehicles that come to you and those that leave you. The original vehicles were equipped with RHD (right hand drive) which you have converted to LHD (left hand drive). You appear to have added air-conditioning intended specifically for use in the United States, electric windows, and stereos and speakers, none of which were original equipment on the Land Rovers. For these reasons, we cannot accept your assertion that you are merely restoring Land Rovers that are 25 or more years old.
Instead, we have concluded that you are a "manufacturer" within the meaning of 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301. In pertinent part, a "manufacturer" is a person "manufacturing or assembling motor vehicles" (49 U.S.C. 30102(a)(5)(A)). The extent of disassembly of the original vehicle, the substitution of equipment not used in the original vehicle such as the engine and frame, and reassembly with certain items of new equipment is "manufacturing or assembling" within the meaning of the definition of "manufacturer." It follows from this that we regard the date of manufacture of your Land Rovers as the date that you complete the operations you have described in your letter. In short, though the original Land Rover may have been manufactured in 1974 or earlier, the vehicles refused entry into the United States are considered to have been manufactured in 1999.
This conclusion also means that these (and future) Land Rovers cannot be entered into the United States unless and until they conform and are certified as conforming to current Federal motor vehicle safety standards that apply to multipurpose passenger vehicles. You cite an agency interpretation stating that a vehicle that is produced from a chassis which has already been sold to the public is not considered a new vehicle and is not subject to Federal safety standards and certification requirements. This interpretation does not apply to your fact situation, and we do not need to decide whether the Land Rovers you manufacture in 1999 employing a used chassis are or are not "used" vehicles. Under Chapter 301, no motor vehicle less than 25 years old, whether new or used, can be imported into the United States unless it conforms, and is certified as conforming, to the Federal safety standards that were in effect at the time it was manufactured (49 U.S.C. 30112(a)).
As the United States is a market of interest to you, the agency's Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance will be pleased to provide you with guidance on the requirements of Chapter 301 and other Federal regulations that apply. You may write its Director, Ms. Marilynne Jacobs, for assistance.
Frank Seales, Jr.