Can you help with importing a classic car? I am planning to import my Buick Skylark (1978) from Egypt to Cincinnati, OH in the USA. I found that it’s mandated by the US customs that “the classic car should be in its original condition.” My question is based on your experience, what is exactly meant by original condition? I have attached some photos for my car and as you see it needs a lot of work: I am planning to repaint it, renew the interior and change the wheels, replace some rusty parts under the hood and add some features like A/C and new radio. Does any of this work change the car condition from being original?
This car has matching numbers, has the original engine, transmission, driveshaft axles and differential. I have contacted US customs many times , but I couldn’t get a strict answer. Your help will be greatly appreciated!
I am likely your best source, since I imported a 1983 Ford Sierra from the U.K. a few years ago. Vehicles older than 25 years old are imported with no restrictions: Box #1 on NHTSA form HS-7 (download here) makes that clear. After scouring two pages on NHTSA’s website, I see no “originality” clause or language to that effect, nor in form HS-7. But do not take my word for it, contact NHTSA directly, not U.S. Customs.
Your Skylark indeed looks original (see that GM A/C compressor in the slideshow below?) so I doubt anything on the Buick would raise concerns with a customs agent. I don’t see a problem here, but I highly recommend you get help from an NHTSA-registered importer (download the list here) to make this easier.
It’s worth paying a registered shipper to lower your stress levels, as you will need your full attention to get the State of Ohio to issue a title for it. Follow all the steps here before applying for a title: Ohio’s need for a bill of sale is irrelevant, but you might need to prove you have owned the Buick for an extended period of time. Please expect to make multiple trips to state government offices before you can successfully apply for an Ohio title.
But a final note: Your car is the Skylark based on the front-wheel-drive GM X-body. This was in production from 1979 to 1985, so you cannot have a 1978 Buick Skylark. Furthermore, this is not the famous Iranian-made, Chevy Nova-based Buick Skylark from that special time in U.S. history when America wasn’t totally at odds with Iran. This document mentions engines not available on your car, suggesting your car wasn’t the older version made in Iran. While my digression isn’t necessarily relevant, please ensure you put the correct vehicle information on all documents—especially form HS-7—before you proceed!
That said, as a fan of 1980s Buicks, I absolutely adore your car and wish you the best in your journey. I hope to one day see photos of your Skylark in the great city of Cincinnati and I would love to be a part of your future restoration story!