Importing a Car for Show or Display

Importing a Car for Show or Display

Trade Talk Blog


here are a few reasons you might want to import a car for show or display in the United States. Perhaps the car is a rare or unique model that is not available in the U.S. Maybe the car is a classic or vintage model that is no longer being manufactured. Or maybe the car is from a foreign country and has a unique style or technology that makes it interesting. Whatever the reason, importing a car for show and display allows American car enthusiasts to view and appreciate it in person.

Before you import a car for show or display, it’s important to do your research and plan ahead. In this article, we’ll go through everything you need to know. We’ll also provide a list of the car models that are admissible in the United States under the Show and Display Rule.

What is the Show and Display Rule?

The Show and Display Rule is a regulation that allows certain imported cars to be shown and displayed in the United States without being registered or certified for road use. The rule allows car enthusiasts to show their cars at events and in private collections, and to drive them on closed courses for testing and demonstration purposes.

In order to meet the Show and Display Rule, you must import your car for the specific purpose of exhibition and display. The car cannot be driven on public roads (unless it is insured and certified to with a maximum of 2,500 miles per year), and it must be stored in a secure location when not in use.

If you wish to import a vehicle for show or display, you must apply to NHTSA for permission to do so and establish that the vehicle is of such historical or technological significance that it is in the public interest to show or display the vehicle in the United States even though it would be difficult or impossible to bring the vehicle into compliance with the Federal motor vehicle safety standards.

What does Bill Gates have to do with the Show and Display Rule?

Bill Gates is one of the wealthiest men in the world. Better known as the co-founder of Microsoft, he’s worth over US$107 billion and is one of the most influential people on Earth. He’s also a car enthusiast, owning some of the rarest, most expensive cars in existence. But he doesn’t just drive them around. He also imports them into the United States for show and display purposes.

Back in the 90s, the Show and Display rule didn’t exist. And when Gates first imported a Porsche 959, it was held at customs at the Port of San Francisco for over 13 years. The Porsche simply did not fulfil safety and emission requirements. That’s when he lobbied Congress to allow rare vehicles into the U.S. Thanks to his efforts, the rule was finally enacted in 1998 to allow collectors to bring vehicles into the country that are not street legal.

What are the requirements to import a car under the Show and Display Rule?

You will need to submit the Application for Permission to Import a Motor Vehicle for Show and Display that requires the following data:

  1. Information about the applicant (owner): name, address, phone number, FAX number, and email address
  2. Vehicle identification: make, model, year, VIN or chassis number, engine number, date of manufacture, and mileage (current odometer reading).
  3. Where the vehicle will be stored in the U.S.: address, city, state, and ZIP code.
  4. A statement of whether your car will be used on public roads: and, if yes, you must identify the Independent Commercial Importer (ICI) that will modify the vehicle so that it conforms with the EPA’s requirements.
  5. Basis of application: whether your vehicle is of technological significance, historical significance, or exceptional significance (if total production exceeds 500).
  6. Attachments:
    • Photographs of the car: front, back, sides, interior, and odometer
    • Production Verification: a document from the manufacturer or recognized historical source identifying the total production
    • Insurance policy limiting the vehicle to 2,500 miles in any 12-month period
    • Documentation to support technological or historical significance

Identifying your car’s technological significance or historical significance

Certain motor vehicles that are deemed to be of unusual historical or technological significance can be imported for purposes of show or display. As part of the documentation required to import a car under the Show and Display Rule, you must identify whether it has either technological significance or historical significance.

For 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 period.

For 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 is the first or last vehicle of a particular model, you must establish this through the manufacturer’s documentation or, if this is not available, through a recognized historical source. If the vehicle is “one of a kind,” you must establish this also.

When can I use my Show and Display car on the road?

A vehicle eligible for Show or Display may receive approval from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to be driven on the highway. The odometer must not register more than 2,500 miles in a 12-month period. NHTSA approval of limited on-road use is to allow the vehicle to be driven to and from nearby displays of similar automobiles.

Another reason permission is granted is to maintain the vehicle’s engine, braking, lighting, and other dynamic systems in good working order. The vehicle is still required to meet EPA requirements. If the original engine in the vehicle will be replaced with a non-original engine to meet EPA requirements, it must be identified in your application since it may impact on the historical or technological significance of the vehicle.

What cars are not eligible for the Show and Display Rule?

Your car will not be eligible for Show and Display under three circumstances:

  1. If more than five hundred vehicles of the same model were produced,
  2. If a version of the vehicle was originally manufactured for sale in the U.S. and certified as complying with all applicable FMVSS, or
  3. If the vehicle has been determined eligible for importation based on its capability of being modified to comply with all applicable FMVSS.

What cars can I import for Show and Display?

The following is a list of all cars eligible for import under the Show and Display Rule. The list was last updated on April 14, 2022.

Car Make Car Model
Aston MartinDB7 Zagato Coupe
Aston MartinLagonda Taraf
Aston MartinOne-77
Aston MartinV12 Zagato
Aston MartinVanquish Zagato Roadster
Aston MartinVantage Le Mans
BentleyMulliner Bacalar
FerrariEnzo #400 (Pope John Paul II)
FerrariMonza SP1 and SP2
Gordon Murray AutomotiveT.50
KoenigseggOne:1 Sports Car
LamborghiniDiablo GT
Land RoverDefender Celebration Autobiography
Land RoverDefender Celebration Heritage
LotusEvora GTE F1 Limited Edition
LotusExige Cup 430 Final Edition
MaseratiGhibli Cup 2-Dr Coupe
MaseratiMC 12
Mercedes-BenzCLK DTM AMG
Mercedes-BenzCLK-GTR Coupe and Roadster
Mercedes-BenzCLK-GTR Roadster
Mercedes-BenzG 500 Cabriolet Final Edition 200
Mercedes-BenzG63 AMG 6×6
Mercedes-BenzMaybach G650 Landaulet
Mercedes-BenzMcLaren SLR 722S
Mercedes-BenzSLR McLaren Stirling Moss
MGTF 80th Anniversary Limited Edition (RHD/UK)
MorganPlus 8 Speedster/Roadster 50th Anniversary Edition
MorganPlus 8 GTR
NissanSkyline R34 GT-R M-Spec Nur
NissanSkyline R34 GT-R V-Spec Early Model Limited Edition (Midnight Purple II)
NobleM600 Carbon Sport
OullimSpirra S
Porsche911 Carrera 4S (993) (Last Made)
Porsche911 GT3 RS (996)
Porsche911 Sport Classic (997)
Porsche911 Carrera GT2 (993)
Porsche911 GT1 Strassenversion (993)
Porsche911 Turbo with XLC Option Package
Porsche911 Turbo S
Rimac AutomobiliConcept One
RMAAmphi-Ranger 2800 SR
RoverMini Cooper S (Last 50 Made)
SubaruImpreza 22B STi
ToyotaRAV4-EV (SWB Prototype)


Do you want to import a car into the United States for Show or Display? Contact one of our Trade Experts today to learn more and get your importation process started.


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