Vehicles Manufactured Before 1989 Option

This option is covered by Regulation 17 of the Motor Vehicle Standards Regulations 1989.

The purpose of the option

This option allows for the importation of road vehicles not fitted with identification plates if they were manufactured before 1 January 1989. This option caters for the importation of older vehicles including enthusiast, classic or historic motor vehicles that are destined for restoration and hobby use in car clubs. The option permits the importation of vehicles which do not comply with current Australian vehicle standards, and are therefore outside normal certification arrangements.

However, State and Territory registration requirements will generally require the vehicle(s) to comply with the standards that applied at the date the vehicle was originally manufactured. Further details should be obtained from the relevant State or Territory registration authority. Heavy vehicles may have different requirements, please contact the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) for further information.

What is the date of manufacture?

The date of manufacture is the date the vehicle was first driven or moved from the manufacturer's production line or production facility, after the vehicle's body shell and powertrain assemblies were joined. This is equivalent to the concept of the build date (as developed and used by Australia's automotive industry). To qualify for this option, the date of manufacture must be before 1 January 1989.

If parts of a vehicle with a date of manufacture before 1 January 1989 have been assembled into another vehicle, the date of manufacture is taken to be the date on which this new vehicle was first driven. If this conversion (into a different automotive product, such as a replica car, a drag racing car or a hot rod) happened after 1 January 1989, the vehicle does not qualify under this option.

List of Considerations

In making the assessment, the Department recognises that older enthusiast vehicles may have had improvements and/or restorations made throughout the life of the vehicle and therefore may not be in original specification. If the restorations/modifications are within the original specification of the make and model the vehicle will usually be considered to remain an older vehicle. The use of newly manufactured components generally will not alter this assessment.

However, vehicles that have had extensive modifications performed after 1 January 1989 that significantly change the original specification and/or performance of the vehicle will not be able to be imported under the pre-1989 import option. These vehicles are considered remanufactured vehicles.

The considerations listed below are evaluated when a vehicle is assessed for eligibility as a pre-89 vehicle. The assessment is based on a combination of both the extent of any modifications to the vehicle and the effect those modifications have on the performance and design of the vehicle.

Please note that notarised statements and/or Statutory Declarations from either the buyer or seller regarding the date certain modifications took place are not sufficient to demonstrate the date without further supporting documentation.

Failure to provide sufficient information to complete a full assessment may result in assessment delays. Please see requirements below for information required.

If you are considering purchasing a modified pre-89 vehicle to import into Australia, please consider the information below and undertake the self-assessment before purchasing the vehicle.

Has the vehicle been converted from left to right hand drive?
Notes: A left to right hand drive conversion is considered a major modification even though the function and performance of the vehicle will remain the same.
Has the body of the vehicle been significantly modified?
Notes: Body modifications such those listed below are considered significant modifications:
  • Chopped roofs
  • Rear wheel tubs that require modification to the chassis
  • Full body kits
  • Replacement of the front or rear panels with a cowl
  • Extension of the body for limousine use
  • Conversion from one vehicle type to another (e.g. sedan to coupe, coupe into a convertible, wagon to utility)
  • Replacement of the original body with a new/replacement body

Minor period type modifications such as flaring of guards to accommodate wider wheels are not generally considered to be significant modifications.

Has the chassis of the vehicle been significantly modified?
Notes: Chassis modifications such those listed below are considered significant modifications:
  • Addition of roll cages
  • Relocation of suspension location points for geometry changes or to allow for larger section tyres
  • Installation of aftermarket front or rear subframe(s) or cradle(s)
  • Modification of the chassis to accommodate routing of performance exhaust systems
  • Enlargement of transmission tunnels to accommodate non-standard transmissions

Addition of brackets for purposes such as a location for anti-roll bars and panhard rods are not generally considered significant modifications.

Does the vehicle have the original engine (or an engine that was an option in this model vehicle)?
Notes: Engine changes and/or modifications such those listed below are considered significant modifications:
  • Addition or upgrade of turbochargers or superchargers (where the installation is not a factory option)
  • Addition of nitrous oxide injection systems
  • Engine changes to non-standard or non-optional engines
  • Modified engines where the sum of modifications (internal components, induction and exhaust) would significantly increase the output of the standard installation engine
  • The engine type was not available before 1989

Newly manufactured (crate engines) are not generally considered to be post-1989 manufacture on the condition that the above conditions do not apply.

Does the vehicle have the original transmission (or a transmission that was optional in this model vehicle)?
Notes: Gearbox changes such those listed below are considered significant modifications:
  • Replacement of a gearbox that was not available as an option
  • Replacement of a gearbox type that was not available before 1989

Gearbox internal changes are not generally considered a significant modification.

Does the vehicle have the original front suspension?
Notes: Front suspension changes such those listed below are considered significant modifications:
  • Installation of aftermarket suspension systems (e.g. fabricated location members or wishbones)
  • Installation of a suspension system that was not standard on that model vehicle
  • Installation of major suspension components from a different vehicle type
  • Changing or modifying wheel hubs to accommodate components

Changes to springs, shock absorbers, anti-roll bars (or installation where none were originally installed) are not generally considered significant modifications.

Does the vehicle have the original steering system?
Notes: Steering changes such those listed below are considered significant modifications:
  • Conversion from a steering box type (e.g. recirculating ball, worm and peg) to rack and pinion

Changes to steering column (e.g. Addition of a collapsible steering column element) or addition of power assisted steering are not generally considered significant modifications.

Does the vehicle have the original rear suspension?
Notes: Rear suspension changes such those listed below are considered significant modifications:
  • Installation of aftermarket suspension systems (location members)
  • Conversion from one functional type to another (e.g. leaf springs to four or five link live axle)
  • Installation of a suspension system that was not standard or optional on that model vehicle
  • Installation of major suspension components from a different vehicle type
  • Changing or modifying wheel hubs to accommodate components

Changes to springs, shock absorbers, anti-roll bars (or installation where none was originally installed) are not generally considered significant modifications.

Does the vehicle have the original rear axle (or an axle that was optional in this model of vehicle)?
Notes: Rear axles/final drives changes such those listed below are considered significant modifications:
  • Aftermarket final drive axles housings
  • Non-standard or non-optional rear axles
  • Installation of a rear axle/final drive from a different vehicle type

Changes to final drive ratio or installation of new-manufacture rear axle assemblies (to original design) are not generally considered significant modifications.

Does the vehicle have the original braking system (or a braking system that was available as an option in this model vehicle)?
Notes: Braking system changes such those listed below are considered significant modifications:
  • Installation of a braking system (front and/or rear brakes) that was not standard or optional on that model vehicle
  • Changes from drum to disc type braking
  • Installation of an aftermarket braking system (front and/or rear)
  • Dimensional increase of active braking components (disc or drum)
  • Installation of braking components from a different vehicle type
  • Changing or modifying wheel hubs to accommodate components

Installation of a brake booster/s (where none was fitted originally) or pressure limiting valves, grooved or drilled discs are not generally considered significant modifications.

How to apply

To apply for a Vehicle Import Approval under the Vehicles Manufactured Before 1989 option, you will need to provide the following documents to support your application.

  • A purchase document for the vehicle in your name (a purchase document can be a pro-forma invoice, receipt for a deposit or full payment.)
  • Details which help us to assess the vehicle, including:
    • Details of the pre-1989 vehicle such as the manufacturer's specifications, brochures, diagrams and photographs of the vehicle.
    • Registration papers where these are available (registration papers are an accurate source to verify the make, model and Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) or chassis number for the vehicle).
    • The specification of the vehicle you are importing (including details regarding the engine size, transmission type, axles, suspension details, braking and steering systems and overall dimensions).

A recent photo of the vehicle (in its current condition), including both sides, the front and rear of the vehicle, the interior, and the engine bay.

Where modifications have been made to a vehicle you will also need to provide:

  • details of the modification(s) including supporting evidence that documents the date(s) the work was undertaken, component(s) installed and the person(s) or businesses that completed the work.
  • clear high definition, colour photos of the vehicle, in a well-lit area, displaying the:
    • entire underside of the vehicle on a hoist including front and rear bumper, engine, exhaust, transmission, tail shaft, differential, front and rear suspension components, and front and rear brakes with the wheels off
    • engine, engine bay and engine number
    • chassis number and chassis modification(s).

These documents are in addition to the documents required when you register on the portal.

Refer to the How to apply page for further information.

Additional roadworthy requirements may be applicable, please contact the relevant state/territory registration authority or the NHVR for further information.

The information provided on this page should be used as guidance material only for importing a vehicle into Australia. Please familiarise yourself with the relevant legislation prior to lodging an application.

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Last Updated: 27 November, 2017