Mr. Roger Williams
3140 S. Tropical Trail
Merritt Island, FL 32952
Dear Mr. Williams:
This is in reply to your letter of December 13, 2001, to Taylor Vinson of this Office, with whom you had spoken previously.
As we understand it, you wish to buy a Land Rover, in England, that was manufactured between 1967 and 1975. You would remove the old body and place a new body on the "unrestored" chassis, retaining the original "drive line and engine." The "new" body could be from a new 2001 or 2002 Land Rover, or from a used or salvage Land Rover. We understand that you would then import the Land Rover into the United States. You stated that the vehicle would be imported for your personal use and that you are "not a vehicle business." You are interested in knowing how the laws that we administer would affect your plan.
The Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) that we administer apply to any motor vehicle manufactured on or after January 1, 1968. However, under 49 U.S.C. 30112(b)(9), a person may import into the United States "a motor vehicle that is at least 25 years old" without the need to conform it to the applicable FMVSS, i.e., those in effect at the time of its manufacture. Thus, any Land Rover manufactured between 1967 and 1975 is "at least 25 years old," and eligible for importation under this exclusion.
The question is whether the addition of a new or newer used body on the existing 1967-75 chassis affects the exclusion afforded by Section 30112(b)(9). Under a long-standing line of interpretations of this agency, the substitution of a new body on a used chassis alone does not result in the creation of a "new" motor vehicle subject to the FMVSS, assuming that the vehicle continues to be titled and registered with its original model year. Thus, under the scheme you outline, the 1967-75 Land Rover with a different body and unmodified chassis could be imported without the need to conform it to the FMVSS.
We contrast this with the situation where refurbishment of a 1967-75 chassis occurs before importation. The substitution of new chassis parts for the original ones may reach a point where, in combination with the newer vehicle body, the overall vehicle itself could be regarded as newly manufactured, rather than one manufactured in 1967-75. In this event, the 25-year exclusion would no longer allow the vehicle to be imported free of the obligation to meet U.S. safety requirements. In a similar situation, we advised John Harland on September 29, 1999, that his extensive rebuilding of 1974 Land Rovers using both new parts and parts from other used Land Rovers would result in the creation of "new" motor vehicles subject to contemporary FMVSS and which could not be imported as vehicles "at least 25 years old."
You have also asked "may the existing engine and transmission be excluded from shipment to have it rebuilt in the U.K. and shipped at a later date?" A vehicle without an engine and transmission is considered to be an assemblage of parts. Some FMVSS apply to individual parts as well as to motor vehicles. Those individual components that are subject to the FMVSS must conform in order to be imported. For multipurpose passenger vehicles such as the Land Rover, these components are brake hoses, lighting equipment, brake hoses, tires, rims, glazing, and seat belt assemblies. There are no FMVSS that apply to engines and transmissions, and these items of equipment could be rebuilt and imported at a later date. Please note, however, that the completed vehicle would be required to comply with state and local requirements for registration.
I hope that this answers your questions.
Acting Chief Counsel