The Golf Rallye is reasonably easy to import compared to such cars as say a Nissan Skyline or an Opel Vectra, this is because as I am sure you all are aware the Golf Rallye shares many attributes with the standard Mk II Golf already in the states. This is extremely helpful, I will go into that a little later.
Just know and be ready for some amount of time to pass before you well receive your car, my personal experience has lasted just over 2 years, that’s just my experience others may be quicker or longer, I am due to receive my car in about 1-2 months
This whole process stars before you ever leave Europe (or any country you wish to import a car from) some important things to remember are:
You must have a contract with an Importer in place before shipping as most if not all shipping companies will ever put you car on the boat.
I used a company called TRANSCAR ( 0800TRANSCAR) for shipping my car, they were very professional and it only took my car about 2 months from them picking it up at my doorstep (in Germany) to delivery to my importer in Texas, I will cover the Contracts with RIs a little later on.
You must use an importing Company that is a Registered Importer (RI) there is a laundry list of them, HOWEVER not all of them can legally import cars (and make them road legal.
For importing a privately owned vehicle the RI must also be an Independent Commercial Importer (ICI) the few companies that are both RIs and ICIs are licensed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and U.S. Customs.
This is important unless you want the FBI and US Customs knocking on your front door with a tow truck, set of wrist irons, and a plasma cutter, with which believe me, they will cut your baby into tiny pieces and put you in prison.
(Information current as of July 6, 2009) to find the most up to date list of RIs and ICIs you will need to visit http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov
make sure you are at the home page, On the left hand side below the search block you will see a drag down menu labeled “information on … “open it and go all the way to the bottom and it will say “vehicle importation regulations” THAT IS YOUR BREAD AND BUTTER!!! READ ALL OF IT!!!
RHD vs. LHD? one thing to remember is that the NHTSA does not like to allow RHD vehicles into the US, they will but only if they accept that there is a valid reason to, example: the Golf Rallye (had mine been RHD I still could have imported it because there is no equivalent that was produced or sold in the states).
HOWEVER they would “most likely” disapprove entrance to say a Mk II GTI 16v RHD, due to the simple fact that a “similar” version of the same car was either produced or sold in the us and has already passed federal safety testing.
This is just a general rule of thumb, there are exceptions to every rule and you would have to contact NHTSA for the official ruling. My advices… save yourself the money and headache. Strip your Mk II down and ship all your cool kid parts over and just buy a used LHD GTI(motor shipping included it would still be cheaper)
Once you have deemed that your car is worth this kind of time and trouble… you need to know the price you will pay for your decision.
Shipping your car, I do apologize as I can’t really help you with this part of the equation. I am currently serving in the U.S. Army and I was authorized to ship a personal vehicle at government expense when I left Germany (I was stationed there for 4 years and had deployed to Iraq twice. I figure they owed it to me right?) So the Army picked up that bill for me.
The Customs Lot, now that your car is stateside it is locked in a U.S. Customs lot (this is the important part) only an RI is authorized to receive foreign vehicles that DO NOT conform to NHTSA standards from a U.S. customs holding facility, the important part about picking a quality Importer is that (aside from getting royally screwed) if the car sits at customs for to long there are additional holding fees and that can get downright pornographic.
Back to the contract, there are going to be a set of fees due to the U.S. Government when bringing in a vehicle from another country.
One thing you need to make sure of, and this is also a mark of a good importer is that when your importer drafts up your contact for altering your vehicle, they will include all the port fees, customs bonds, tariffs and taxes that must be paid in order to bring your vehicle into the country.
If they do not mention these fees at all or are unaware of such fees when you are discussing the import process then I would highly recommend finding a different company, regardless of how good of a deal you think you are getting.
There is also a petition process once your importer receives the vehicle, they will have to take a bunch of pictures and write a bunch of statements, they will send all of this off to the NHTSA for review once everything is accepted they can begin work on your car.
***This important because you are going to want to have your Importer check the list of vehicles allowed to be converted***
before you spend all that time and money on shipping. (Luckily there has already been at least one 1989 Golf Rallye imported on record so I did not have to worry about the complete petition process)
Another Point about the contract, keep in mind that most importers require at least half the cost of the total contract before the car ever ships to the states (and you need that contract letter to get you car on the boat)
After your car is out of purgatory (customs) then thing begin to get a little less tense. And you feel like you are getting somewhere. Do not be fooled you still have a long ways to go.
Now the fun begins, now you get to work hand in hand with your importer trying to explain to them why you are importing this piece of junk and what parts will fit this car that have the little DOT logo on them.
See, even good importers have most likely never seen a Rallye. Most are use to Ferrari, lambos, expensive crap.
What makes it more difficult at least for the Rallye? well we all know what happens when you walk into a VW Dealer and start rambling on about viscous couplers, syncro and even worse, don’t even mention the “R” word in the states.
They will have your arse escorted of the property and if they have it their way put in a padded room! So long story short, you have to work with your importer to help them get the job done more efficiently (and also so it wont cost you an arm and a leg).
When all of your parts have been sourced and ordered you can sit back and relax just a little, next is the DOT certification, once all the safety issues have been converted to US spec. (this includes many of things such as: seatbelts, in some cases window glass, turn signals, brake lights, headlights, bumpers *for some makes and models of cars*, ALSO your Speedo must have MPH on it, ect, ect.) then your imported will submit more photos and documentation.
Once everything is approved and your car passes safety specs it’s on to Environmental testing.
The EPA is the convening authority on all emissions certifications for the U.S. this means that your importer (with your help . . . cuz your are a good little dubber) will need to figure out what sort of emissions parts your car either already has so they can figure out what need to be added to conform to the laws and regulations.
in the case of my Rallye all we had to do was have an O2 sensor and a CAT added (and a nice little 63mm dual outlet cat back system . . . just for good measure you know), This is where my project is at currently, The DOT is done, the exhaust System is mounted and they will be fitting the CAT at some point during this next week.
Now all that’s left to do is the Emission testing, maybe a little timing, some high octane petrol, and a couple desperate prayers and my car should be to me soon.
After the testing is complete they take some photos, submit some reports (you know the drill) and they get the nice little stickers from the EPA noting that my car is legal to license in the US. YAY!
I will continue to keep everyone updated as much as possible.
Below I have included the most current list of RIs and ICI from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
If anyone has further questions feel free to ask, IF my Importer or I don’t know the answer, I will try and point you in a helpful direction and let you know that I’m not sure about the answer to your question.
THIS IS NOT AN INVITATION FOR EVERYONE TO ADD THEIR 2 CENTS WORTH. IF YOU DISAGREE WITH THE INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT ME OR A MODERATOR, DON’T JUST POST YOUR OPINION BECAUSE YOU HAD A BUDDY ONCE IMPORT A CAR TO CANADA FROM SWEDEN, IF YOU FEEL THERE IS AN ERROR PLEASE BRING IT UP BUT DON’T TRASH THE THREAD SO OTHERS GET CONFUSED Thank you!
PLEASE NOTE THAT THE FIRST LIST THAT FOLLOWS IS THE CURRENT (RIs) THAT ARE REGISTERED WITH THE NHTSA TO PREFORM DOT AND SAFETY MODIFICATIONS AND CERTIFICATIONS. THE SECOND LIST ARE THE (RIs) THAT ARE ALSO (ICIs) AND ARE REGISTERED WITH THE EPA TO PERFORM EMISSIONS MODIFICATIONS, TESTING AND CERTIFICATIONS. This data was current as of 6 July 2009.
Thanks for reading and if you were wondering I used Wallace Environmental Testing Laboratories. They have been wonderful to work with and I highly recommend them to any on looking to import a car. their Information is listed below.
VEHICLE IMPORTATION GUIDELINES (Vehicles Manufactured for Sale in a Country Other than Canada)
December 5, 2008
The following provides information concerning the importation of a passenger car, truck, trailer, motorcycle, bus, or multi-purpose passenger vehicle (MPV) that was not originally manufactured to comply with U.S. or Canadian safety standards.
Importers of motor vehicles must file an HS-7 Declaration form (available at ports of entry or at http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/import) at the time a vehicle is imported to identify the basis for the vehicle’s entry into the United Sates.
As a general rule, a motor vehicle less than 25 years old must comply with all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSS) to be imported on a permanent basis.
Vehicles (other than motorcycles) manufactured to comply with the FMVSS will have a certification label affixed by the original manufacturer in the area of the driver-side door.
Motorcycles will have the label close to the intersection of the steering post and the handlebars.
To make importation easier, when purchasing abroad a vehicle certified to the U.S. standards, a buyer should have the seller verify in the sales contract that the label is attached and present this document at the time of importation.
A vehicle without a certification label cannot be imported as a conforming vehicle.
In this case, the importer must contract with a Registered Importer (RI) to modify the vehicle and post a DOT Conformance Bond in an amount equivalent to one and a half times the vehicle’s dutiable value.
This bond is in addition to the normal Customs entry bond. Copies of the DOT Conformance Bond and the contract with an RI must be attached to the HS-7 form.
Under the contract, the RI will modify the vehicle and certify that it conforms to all applicable FMVSS.
Before an RI can modify a vehicle, NHTSA must have determined that the vehicle is eligible for importation based on its capability of being modified to conform to all applicable FMVSS.
If no determination has been made, the RI must petition NHTSA to determine whether the vehicle is eligible for importation.
If the petitioned vehicle is not similar to one sold in the U.S. then this process can become very complex and costly.
A list of vehicles that have been determined eligible for importation can be found on NHTSA’s web site at http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/rules/import.
Since the cost of modifying a nonconforming vehicle, or the time required to bring it into conformance, may affect the decision to purchase a vehicle abroad, we strongly recommend discussing these matters with an RI before buying and shipping a vehicle to the U.S.
For federal regulations concerning vehicle emissions, contact the Environmental Protection Agency, Certification and Compliance Division – Imports Program, 2000 Traverwood, Ann Arbor, MI 48105, (734) 214-4100, or visit the EPA website at http://www.epa.gov/otaq/imports/.
Information concerning duty or other Customs matters can be obtained from U.S. Customs and Border Protection by calling that agency at 877-CBP-5511 or visit the Customs and Border Protection website at http://www.cbp.gov.
For information regarding titling, registration, or operation of a properly imported vehicle in a specific State, we advise you to contact the Department of Motor Vehicles or other appropriate agency in that State.
RIs who conform vehicles manufactured for sale in countries other than Canada are listed below.
An RI is an independent business and may be selective in terms of the work it performs. This agency does not endorse or recommend any of the listed RIs, nor does it represent or guarantee your satisfaction with any work or service these RIs perform.
REGISTERED IMPORTERS WHO CONFORM VEHICLES
MANUFACTURED FOR SALE IN COUNTRIES OTHER THAN CANADA as of December 5, 2008
Registered Importer Address Phone Fax
AMERICAN AUTO DREAM 1760 MONROVIA AVE SUITE C-12, COSTA MESA, CA 92627
email@example.com 949-515-8056 949-515-8035
AUTO BOUTIQUE, LTD.
660 BAKER ST SUITE 405-V, COSTA MESA, CA 92626 714-668-0235
*G & K AUTOMOTIVE * 2530 SOUTH BIRCH ST, SANTA ANA, CA 92707
firstname.lastname@example.org 714-545-9503 714-545-7667
*AUTOMOBILE CONCEPTS * 13329 NE 17TH AVE, NORTH MIAMI, FL 33181
email@example.com 305-893-1950 305-893-9097
RED TOP AUTO SALES, INC.
1934 B DANA DRIVE, FORT MYERS, FL 33907 239-334-4468
EXPORT AUTO SALES
454 CHICOPEE ST, CHICOPEE, MA 01013
*J.K. TECHNOLOGIES * 3500 SWEET AIR ST, BALTIMORE, MD 21211
firstname.lastname@example.org 410-366-6332 410-366-7655
*US SPECS *
121 NORTHWAY DRIVE, HAVRE DE GRACE, MD 21078 email@example.com 443-502-2331
33495 WOODWARD AVE., BIRMINGHAM, MI 48009
U.S. DRIVE RIGHT
P.O. BOX 429, SPRING ARBOR, MI 49283 888-632-5936
AUTOSPORT DESIGN 631-425-1555
203 WEST HILLS RD, HUNTINGTON STATION, NY 11746
2056 NW ALOCLEK DRIVE, SUITE 305, HILLSBORO, OR 97124 503-533-5972
MILWAUKEE MOTORCYCLE IMPORTS (MOTORCYCLES AND SCOOTERS ONLY) 3144 SOUTH 47TH ST, MILWAUKEE, WI 53219
firstname.lastname@example.org 414-321-9607 414-321-9608
* Registered with DOT and EPA (http://www.epa.gov/otaq/imports/icilist.pdf
July 3, 2008
The following is a list of Independent Commercial Importers (ICIs) who may currently hold valid certificate of conformity from EPA as of the date of this list (it is up to the importer to verify if an ICI is a current certificate holder).
This certificate allows the ICI to import certain nonconforming vehicles into the United States until December 31, 2009. THE MAKES OR MODELS THAT AN ICI CAN IMPORT ARE LIMITED. You should contact the ICI to determine if he/she is qualified to import your particular vehicle.
Automobile Concepts, Inc. 13329-13333 N.E. 17 Avenue
N. Miami, FL 33181 Rep: Ramez Wahab Phone: (305) 893-1950 Fax: (305) 893-9097 Email: email@example.com (BMW, Ferrari, Mercedes and Porsche only)
G & K Automotive Conversion, Inc.2530 S. Birch Street Santa Ana, CA 92707 Phone (714) 545-9503 Fax: (714) 545-7667 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sunshine Car Import, L.C. 4206 Fowler St. Fort Myers, FL 33901 Rep: Klaus Plonsky Phone: (239) 278-1020 Fax: (239) 278-3700 Email: email@example.com
Compliance & Research Services Inc.
1701 W. Front St.
Plainfield, NJ 07063
Rep: Bob DePalma
Phone: (908) 561-1824
Fax: (908) 755-5893
J.K. Technologies, L.L.C. 3500 Sweet Air StreetBaltimore, MD 21211 Rep: Jonathan Weisheit Phone: (410) 366-6332 Fax: (410) 366-7655 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Northern California Diagnostic Laboratories, Inc. 2748 Jefferson Street Napa, CA 84558-4936 Rep: Mike Spencer-SmithPhone: (707) 258-1753 Fax: (707) 258-1611 Email: email@example.com
US SPECS 121 Northway Drive Havre de Grace, MD 21078 Contact: Carl Brinegar Phone: (443) 502-2331 Fax: (443) 502-2331 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wallace Environmental Testing Laboratories 2140 Wirtcrest Houston, TX 77055 Rep: Les Weaver Phone: (713) 956-7705 Fax: (713) 956-0104
EPA DOES NOT ENDORSE OR RECOMMEND ANY PARTICULAR ICI ON THIS LIST. EPA cautions that an ICI’s capability to bring a vehicle into conformity with U.S. emission requirement does not guarantee that in individual cases the work will be properly performed.
Test documentation for an individual vehicle and other information concerning the quality of modifications will be carefully scrutinized to determine whether such vehicle meets all applicable EPA requirements under the imports regulations.
Well, here is the meat of it, My importer called me last week and said ” we have tried to lean out the engine as much as possible and its way overloaded on fuel”. So now that the new exhaust is on and the O2 sensor hooked up, now its running way to rich to pass the EPA testing. I’m having them check the size of the G60 pulley to see if it is running over stock pulley and then they are going to open the ECU to confirm if it has been chipped before. (like I said before, I’m still learning the ins and outs of this car. it was mangled before i bought it and i have the soul searching task of nursing it back to health)
I have a spare Digi 1 G60 ECU here, (I think?)
As standard it should run 0.5 CO2 without any problems
Wow, you are a braver man that I.
G&K is the RI originally responsible for federalizing the 1st Rallye, I do believe.
They tried to get permission from VW to bring in a Golf Country for me years ago… apparently petitioning the mfr. is the 1st step towards gaining an exemption number for whatever vehicle you are trying to import. VW said “no”. 
HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAH It keeps getting better. SO I now know that I have a burnt valve in the #4 CL. This was dumping raw petrol into my spanking new CAT. YAY! (sigh) Also unbeknownst to me for that last 3 years that i have been waiting for this to all be finished. I am now being informed that my car WILL have to run on a 4 wheel Dyno before the EPA signs off on it. FURTHERMORE. this mean that my nasty little broken front transfer case will need to be fixed prior to me getting my car back.. SO! lets sum some thing up here. I’m looking at a $1300 head job for parts und labor, due to a complete head rebuild (i haven’t asked to much about it but I’m pretty sure I’m being screwed). Second, now the task of taking my time and working on the syncro system myself is now gone. (sigh again) Oh well. This project is going to take much more time I’m sure. I will continue to keep you all updated as i source new/rebuilt parts and get closer to bringing the old girl home… someday