Importing a Formerly Euro Spec. Canadian Vehicle to the US
What is a Canadian Euro spec. BMW?
It is a car that was built to European standards that a private person or company imported to Canada. This car was originally not built to Canadian standards. Transport Canada allows for the importation of older cars into Canada without much modification. Essentially any car that is 15 years or older can be imported and subsequently registered for use on public highways. American laws allow for similar importation of cars that are 25 years or older.
How can I be sure what kind of car I am getting?
Canadian specification vehicles have a circular CMVSS sticker on the A-pillar near the VIN tag or on the VIN tag. It is about the size of a quarter and is black and white in colour. If the car does not have this sticker it is likely a Euro. spec. car. A sample CMVSS and Canadian VIN stickers appears below.
More significantly, all European cars tenth VIN digit is always a zero, "0". North American cars use this digit to identify the year of production of a car. European cars have a VIN plate riveted somewhere inside the engine bay. Below is an example of a European VIN plate.
What we call a Euro spec. 286 hp. e36 M3, built in limited quantities for the Canadian market, is actually a fully Canadian compliant car, as evidenced by it's CMVSS and VIN tags.
Does a Canadianized Euro spec. BMW meet DOT, FMVSS and EPA standards?
Generally speaking, No. In Ontario, the province to which we import our European cars, we are permitted to put European spec. cars on the road by submitting them to regular Ministry of Transportation safety tests and smog tests. If the car passes these tests, it can be registered as a regular car in Ontario. Older European cars, such as these BMW's imported to Canada, may not have side impact beams (like the e30 and e28 chassis). These cars will have smaller non-DOT compliant bumpers. They will only have speedometers graduated in km/h. A lot of them will not have bumper marker lights, third high mount brake lights, or day time running lights. They will be equipped with E-code headlights. It will not have a VIN on the dash or the A-pillar. After a car is 15 years old, the Canadian government does not care if such cars meet standards that were imposed on cars built for Canadian standards in the same year of production.
So how does the importation process differ from that of a European vehicle that did not come from Canada?
In actuality, it does not. For reference please see the section titled Importing a European car to the U.S.
Canadian registered vehicles that originally came from Europe, are subject to the same Federalization requirements as vehicles that came directly from Europe. They have to be Federalized. Some states allow the registration of vehicles from Canada without first checking to see if they are Federally compliant. In this case, your state will not ask for Federalization paperwork which would include proof of DOT, EPA and FMVSS compliance and proof of import duty being paid. This happens because registration of vehicles is handled on a state level, while safety requirements are handled by the U.S. federal government. If you import a vehicle as a race car you can bypass the Federalization requirements. If you subsequently register it as a road car in your state, you are breaking the law. Please check with the requirements of your individual state DMV.
What if I try to import it as a race car?
That might work. How creative do you feel? See if you can muddle your way past this set of requirements: http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/rules/import/Racing/Racing.html