Essay : Importing your MG into the USA

We get asked this question a lot here at AROnline – can you import an MGR into the USA if it’s less than 25 years old…

According to Richard Truett, it’s eminently possible – just make sure you do it properly…

Beating the system…

Fancy importing a TF Anniversary into the USA? Read on…

THE 1987-91 Rover 825/827 was the last car that Rover Group certified for sale in the United States. The facelifted, airbag-equipped 1992 model was queued up and ready, but because of poor sales and a recession, Rover killed the Sterling brand, and never again would a new Rover or MG come Stateside.

That certification means everything if you want to import a car into the USA. The tag on the door jamb gives the date of manufacture and says the car meets all federal safety standards. Without that tag, the US Customs agents won’t let a car into the USA, and indeed many cars have been seized at docks and later destroyed because they are not legal in the USA.

However, I have learned that it is possible, and indeed legal, to import two MG Rover vehicles even though they may not meet all the US Government’s crash and emissions standards. Because of multi-billionaire Bill Gates, the 2004 MG TF 80th Anniversary Edition RHD UK market car can come into the USA. So can one of the last 50 old-style Mini Coopers.

Gates, of course, did not have anything to do with legalizing these cars for the USA. Nope. The story starts years earlier when the Microsoft CEO wanted to import a rare, high-performance Porsche 959, and the Feds said no. Saying no to someone like Gates usually just means a slight delay is in order while new rules are fashioned to make the man happy. And that’s exactly what happened when the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration came up with the Show and Display rule for importing vehicles that have great historical importance.

Years of lobbying and arm twisting got the Feds to create a new category for historical vehicles that can be imported for limited use in the USA. The requirements are very strict. Production can total no more than 500. Once in the USA, the vehicle cannot be driven more than 2500 miles per year. It can only be taken to shows and displays. The owner must keep a log book detailing everywhere the vehicle is driven. The vehicle must be available for inspection by the Feds at any time. And the vehicle can’t be sold unless the new owner agrees to the same restrictions.

To get a vehicle on the list, a letter has to be written to the Administrator of the NHTSA laying out the case for why a vehicle should be on the Show and Display List. Someone did that with the final Mini Cooper and 2004 MG TF LE and it gained approval for importation.

Here’s a link

It seems a good case could be made for at least one other Rover vehicle, the final version of the 75.

You need one of these… unless…

Keith Adams


  1. The list on the link seems fairly limited. I rpesume this only applies to vehicles less than 25 years old? I only ask as we know of loads of old Minis, Fords etc but there is a car on the list stating MY 1978, which is 33 years ago.

  2. Fortunately for us Canadians the MGF situation is somewhat better. Now that the MGF is 15 years old, we can import them into Canada and to date about ten cars have made the trip across the pond.
    Almost everyone loves the looks of the car and a recurring comment is how modern it looks. Our proximity to the USA means that MGF’s are also finding their way to car shows in the States where it is equally well received, but to the dismay of Americans they must wait another nine years unless their laws change in the meantime.

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