Lotus Elan

Importing +2 into USA - impact of chassis replacement

PostPost by: ukinne66 » Tue Mar 03, 2015 4:49 pm

I am looking for a +2 to replace (after 30 years) the one I sold when I moved to the USA . While I have been looking at a couple that have turned up for sale in the US, I am not averse to importing one myself for the right car. However, after studying the import rules I am a little hung up on the 25 year rule and the interpretation of "original configuration". I understand from some Land Rover acquaintances that this has caused issues for some early Series Landies which have received galvanized chassis.

My question:
If the car has received a chassis replacement is a no-go?
If Yes, does the date of or the type of replacement chassis matter?
For example If the car has received a galvanized Lotus chassis is it OK, but a galvanized Spyder not? or if it received the "upgraded" Spyder is it a no?

Or is this one of those issues that is just never asked?

Thanks very much for taking the time to respond - my googling skills have found some good answers on generalities ... that lead me to ask the question, but nothing on its applicability to the Plus 2.

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PostPost by: danielmo » Tue Mar 03, 2015 6:11 pm


In my experience importing at least four Lotuses across the Canadian border to the US, the only thing they checked was the VIN plate against the paperwork. That doesn't mean they won't check it, but it is very unlikely. There is no reason to mention that the car had a chassis replacement unless it is documented on the "title" or other provincial paperwork. If the chassis is galvanized or a Spyder, it could just be an "old" one that was refurbished. Seriously, most of the guys working the border aren't old enough to know what should or shouldn't be there, let alone what the car is.

Bring the car across yourself and do an informal entry. It's easy and shouldn't take more than about 60-90 minutes depending on what is going on at the crossing. I had to wait for one while some people were taken inside for bringing forbidden fruit across the border. It's easy and painless. Bring a credit card to pay for the duty, which in my experience has been 2.5% of the sales price.
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PostPost by: LotusArchives » Tue Mar 03, 2015 7:29 pm

I do not know or understand the rules, so you should check with the border authorities. I suspect the only time a replacement chassis could cause a issue is if they insist that the chassis has the same number stamped into it as the VIN plate?
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PostPost by: ukinne66 » Tue Mar 03, 2015 8:52 pm

Very helpful ... I think that the Land Rover guys got into problems because "they" were bringing in newer cars with old VIN plates attached.
Appreciate the information.
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PostPost by: snowyelan » Wed Mar 04, 2015 2:24 am

The land rover issue as I understand it was usually due to people trying to bring in a defender under series vin #'s. I owned a series/defender project for a while. The temptation with the rovers is to put defender running gear under a series body as they were built like lego for a long period and the modern running gear with a classic body was appealing. I eventually decided the potential (insurance) risk with this type of project wasn't worth the reward and sold off the bits. I would suggest looking at a different vehicle for comparison to this type of issue as land rovers are a unique issue that the authorities seem to have caught on to....
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PostPost by: mbell » Wed Mar 04, 2015 3:51 am

I think you'll be fine. They never made a +2 after 73/74 so car has to be over 25 years old. A full spyder car might be a bit questionable but a plus 2 with replacement subframe (aka chassis) should be fine.

I have a UK model but didn't import it my self.

Only really the land rover and mini where there are issues. Which is around cars that are newer than 25 having older identities put on them so they can be imported under the 25 year rule.
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PostPost by: stugilmour » Wed Mar 04, 2015 6:04 am

Welcome Nick.

To add to the above (apologies if this is obvious to you; not sure if you owned the Plus 2 for 30 years or owned one 30 years ago :) )...

  • The VIN is attached / associated with the body.
  • The chassis member is a subframe :wink: .
  • The VIN should not change with a chassis replacement, but rather remain with the body. At least that is how my chassis change was handled here.
  • On my Plus 2 the VIN is on the VIN plate and on a tag by the crashpad / windshield. That is all the Border dudes will probably care about.
  • At least with my car, the Spyder assigned chassis number does not appear anywhere on the registration documents or databases. I guess it is about as relevant to our regulators as the radio serial number. :)

I have seen a number of threads discussing arcane registration issues over the pond. Seems the system there has a long memory, and the VIN assignment can get screwed up if the chassis replacement is not handled correctly and the VIN revised. I expect this occurs due to more rigorous inspection procedures when a restored car is brought back into service and because they track the vehicle and registration through it's entire life rather than assigning a new plate to each owner. Maybe make sure the registration documents and VIN tags all match with the candidate car prior to purchase. I don't understand the details, but appears the registry can provide a very complete vehicle history with any irregularities noted, so perhaps get this from the seller?

HTH Sure our GB friends can better describe the history report they use to clarify the VIN.

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PostPost by: cal44 » Wed Mar 04, 2015 7:58 pm

Here in the States they don't give a hoot about the frame/sub frame. It is the Vin tag on the dash or door jam and tag in the engine compartment the authorities verify.

If the frame/sub frame was an issue then American muscle cars without vin stamped engines/transmission would be in a world of hurt as many had the last five or six numbers stamped on the blocks heads and transmission cases.

The crap the poor British citizen puts up with from their government when it comes to motor vehicles is mind numbing.
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PostPost by: pharriso » Wed Mar 04, 2015 8:52 pm

I imported my Sprint into the US last year from Canada; Customs checked the VIN number plates under the hood & in the door opening, that was it. They will not even understand that there is a separate chassis (subframe), so don't go there.
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