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MG MGB GT V8 Factory Originals Technical - Importing a Factory V8 to America

I'm looking for information on what is involved to import a factory MGB GT V8 to the US. The US Customs website ( has the basic information, but I'm interested in the experiences of those who may have done it or know someone who has.

I was able to get a ride in one during a visit to England in 1980 and the thought of owning a factory car has been with me ever since.

Rich Stinchcomb

Sorry you haven't gotten much of a response to your question - this section of the BBS is now predominantly populated with conversion car folks, so they don't have a lot of info on bringing a car into the US.

I am lucky enough to have a chrome bumper 1974 GT V-8 (Teal Blue 889G), however I am the fourth owner in the USA. The car was brought in around 1986 by a fellow in Denver, at that time the laws were a lot looser than they are now. He had to bring the car up to meet US FMVSS (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards) applicable to 1974 model year vehicles, but he was able to do all the modifications himself. He then had to submit a 25-page certification document with photos to US Customs, certifying that all the repairs were accomplished and the "non-compliant" parts he had removed from the car were destroyed. Here is a partial list of his modifications:

Added side marker lights
Added a dual-circuit master cylinder and servo from a late model MGB, including pedal box
Added collapsible steering column from a US-spec MGB
Added lighted rocker switches
Added padding to the dash
Installed a US-spec tempered windshield
Installed US-spec doors with side impact beams
Installed US-spec taillights

Some of these were simple "bolt-on" mods, others required some butchery to accomplish. It is interesting that at the time, Customs only required safety mods, no emission control system additions were required. After all this work was done, and Customs blessed the certification document, the owner received a certificate authorizing the import of the car, which I still have.

When I obtained the car, it had gone through several more owners, including a wheeler-dealer in Texas by the name of Gene Ponder. He by far did the worst butchery to the car, painting it in a non-standard blue and putting in an awful blue leather interior, and covering a huge rust problem with at least one gallon of bondo filler. All this was that it could sell at auction in 1991. It went through one additional owner here in California before I got the car.

I have just completed a 5-year ground-up restoration on the car, it is now rust free and has its original Teal Blue and Autumn Leaf colors.

I am in contact with 4 or 5 Factory V-8 owners around the US, and we believe there are not more than 15 cars in North America. Most of the cars came in during the 1970s and 1980s, when the grey market was easier to deal with. Of the 4 or 5 cars I have seen, some have no changes to meet US standards, others have some modifications like the door beams and side marker lights. It sort of depended on how persnickety the Customs officials were feeling that day!

Here's the problem with bringing a V-8 in to the US today. The regulations have tightened up, effectively banning the owner-importer from doing their own work on bringing the car into compliance. The car has to be taken to a licensed modification station for all the work. In addition, I believe that you have to post a bond equal to 1.5 times the car's estimated worth, to ensure that the modification work is accomplished. The most recent importation that I am aware of was done by Lyle York of Massachusetts. He found a pre-pre-production prototype GT V-8 bodyshell in the UK (with a body number lower than 101G), had it refurbished and built up as a LHD chrome bumper car, and brought it in around 1991. He described a Byzantine 6-month process to get the car into the US.

I have heard of a nebulous "25-year old exemption" that allows you to bring in a car more than 25 years old without any modifications, and the even more nebulous "One-time exemption", that allows each person to bring in one non-complying car during their lifetime. Both laws are, at best, apocryphal.

I wish I could give you more help, but I was able to find a car already here in the US. And during the restoration, I was also able to reverse all the "butchery" done to my car in the name of protecting us from ourselves. Only the door beams, windscreen, and side marker lights remain, all else is original Factory V-8.

Good luck,
Paul Kile

Paul Kile

<<I have heard of a nebulous "25-year old exemption" that allows you to bring in a car more than 25 years old without any modifications>>

Paul, we have a member in our club that has been bringing Rovers & Minis over from England. He assures me that if it is over 25 years old it is no problem.

I have toyed with the idea of bringing an original MGB/GT V8 over, but it was much cheaper to drop a Buick 215 in the MGB that I already have. :)

Rich, the club member I speak of is David Gage. You can contact him thru his Rover business, The Thatched Roof Garage.

I don't know what he would charge to bring a car over for you, but I do know he knows how to do it.


I applaud your efforts to return the car closer to original. My personal preference is a car in original condition. Are all these factory V8 cars here in the US right-hand drive?

I don't mind bringing a factory V8 to US-spec when the fix is a bolt-on/snap-on part is used, but the idea of drilling the fenders for those side marker lights is a problem. That in my mind messes up the original specification of the car and it is difficult to reverse.

Destroying the non US spec parts is disturbing. Perhaps the bolt-on work could be done in the UK and the parts shipped over to the US later. Not that I would replace the parts, just in case I have to return the car to UK :)

I would go so far to install side markers (non MG?) if they could be attached close to the tail/head lights and secured to the fender without modification to the fender. Any ideas?

Anyway this is a dream for now, I mentioned this importing idea to my wife and she was actually receptive to it. We are thinking of buying the car in England, touring the country in it for two weeks, then shipping it back as our souvenir.

Heck, I'd even consider selling my PT Cruiser.


I've sent a note to David Gage. If it's ok with him, I'll post his suggestions.

Thanks to all
Rich Stinchcomb
Rich Stinchcomb

>>>>I applaud your efforts to return the car closer to original.
Loud applause then, as I have seen Paul's car and it is not just 'closer' to original, it IS original. Period.
There were 2 LHD pre-production V8s, including Lyle's, and then there were a grand total of 7 LHD production cars, all sold to Europe (from David Knowles V8 book, p 112). Seems like this 25 year rule is worth exploring - could it apply only in certain states ?


If possible, could you email me a picture of your car? Sounds like a very nice example of a factory V8.

Rich Stinchcomb

>I have heard of a nebulous "25-year old exemption" >that allows you to bring in a car more than 25 years >old without any modifications, and the even more >nebulous "One-time exemption", that allows each >person to bring in one non-complying car during their >lifetime. Both laws are, at best, apocryphal.

Paul, the "one-time exemption" isn't really apocryphal, although I don't know whether it is still available. A few years ago I brought back a 1978 Mercedes 280SL from Germany under this exact exemption. All I had to do was change the speedo to MPH. The DOT inspector liked the Euro headlights so much he let me keep 'em on there! The car has no cat, and it has almost none of the safefy stuff that a US car would have (and boy, without a cat or being emissions-tuned, that car flies!). I only mention this because there may still be a way to avail oneself of this exemption and get a factory V8 over here.


There may be a real possibility of importing a V8 to the US without too much trouble. David Gage offers this advice:

If a vehicle is 25 years old (date of manufacture minus import date) then it does not have to meet EPA and DOT regulations. Less than 25 years it does have to be brought into compliance. I don't know what that entails as it is different for each vehicle. Attached is a link to the Customs page regarding vehicle importation. David


This thread was discussed between 11/12/2001 and 14/12/2001

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