Losses and Lessons: Defender owner defenseless against EPA, DHS

VEHICLE: 1985 Land Rover Defender

WHAT WENT WRONG: Things aren’t always as they seem – and that can turn out to be pretty costly sometimes, as the owner of a “classic” Land Rover Defender found out. In the U.S., all automobiles manufactured within the last 25 years must meet strict safety and emission standards established by the Environmental Protection Agency through crash and engine testing. Since the automobile in question was purported to be a nearly 30-year-old 1985 Defender, EPA rules didn’t seem to apply. But nearly a year after buying his Land Rover, the owner received a knock on his door, and the vehicle was seized by Department of Homeland Security agents who claimed the VIN had been altered to conceal the true year of manufacture. According to the owner, the agents claimed the Defender was actually a much newer model, one not compliant with EPA guidelines. Numerous media outlets reported that a federal warrant listed more than 60 illegally imported Land Rover 90s, 110s and Defenders across the country, and approximately 40 of those vehicles were seized on the same day.

DAMAGE/LOSS: While the owner has appealed the seizure, he doesn’t have any additional paperwork that would help to prove that the Defender was manufactured in 1985. With little recourse and no idea where his vehicle was taken, it appears both the Land Rover and the money that he paid for it are gone.

LESSON: Do your homework. If you’re considering purchasing a car from overseas, familiarize yourself with state and federal regulations, and always match your paperwork to the VIN number on the car. Still not sure? Contact the EPA at (202) 272-0167 or www.epa.gov. Better to be safe than sorry.

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