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Old 10-17-2001, 11:21 AM
Registered User
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Columbus, Ohio, USA
Posts: 72
Gray Market Diesels

Well, I can see from the "300D with manual transmission" thread that there seem to be a number of interested in gray market diesels.

Can anyone definitively tell us what has happened that makes bringing one in today impossible?

I realize that the exchange rate between the DM and $US are not as great as they were in late 1984 (4.2DM=1USD), so buying a diesel in Germany and having it shipped would definitely be more expensive than buying a similar body style in the States without the diesel.

I am curious to see if the process has changed any. Here is how I brought my diesel in 1985.

I purchased the car used from a private party to avoid having to pay new car German taxes. I have a bill of sale, written in German, stating date of purchase, addresses of seller and my mother's cousin who bought the car, VIN, and sale price.

I paid $645 for shipping to Wilmington, DE - this was shipping + 1.3% insurance + $20 to pick the car up and deliver to Frankfurt from Urloffen
by David L. Thomas, from Spedition
Frankenallee 260 600 Frankfurt/Main
-49 069 7380043 Telex 416803

I had the car converted by Champagne Imports for $5000
2294 N. Penn Road
Hatfield, PA 19440
(215) 822-6852 - owners Joe and Greg Marino
They did: DOT (door,bumpers,lights,speedo,key,seat) $1700
EPA (diesel) $2500
Bond $500 (to bring in non compliant car to take to a shop)
Pick-up in Wilmington $100

For the EPA work, they followed Form OMB No. 2000-02

Duty (customs) =2.6% , NJ state sales tax 6%

NJ Motor Vehicles:
137 E. State St, 2nd floor (609) 292-4595
A Mrs. Carroll was the most helpful who stated I needed a Fahrzeugbrief (German Title), bill of sale (continuity), pencil tracing of VIN, Bill of Lading, Original customs entry, and form MHV L07 and LS240.

I thought this information might be of help to those who have more time to follow up on the present state of importing. I have no idea if these people or procedures still work.

Perhaps there may be a small group of us who would all like to get together and purchase vehicles and bring them in to the states? My '84 is getting a little tired and I would love to do the same thing I did last time.

Any thoughts???
'06 E320 CDI 51K miles
'02 VW Jetta GLS TDi 120k miles
'99 Ford E350 7.3L Powerstroke 200k miles -sold
'84 Euro 300D 5 spd manual 317k miles - sold
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Old 10-17-2001, 12:59 PM
Posts: n/a
Hi Jeff

I know that it is probably impossible to bring a car over here that is over ten years old. If possible, it is definately not cost effective.

Cost of car + shipping + $6000 federilization + taxes and duties.

This may be ok on a 95 S600 or MAYBE a 91 560SEL.. but certianly not any 123.

You turn a $3000 300D into a $10000 300D.. and what more do you have? A 5 speed and no turbo? Granted I love your car, but I cant justify that price.

If you are talking about a newer diesel like a CDI or something.. im not sure they can be federalized in this country...

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Old 10-17-2001, 01:22 PM
Posts: n/a
6000 USD for federalization ? You need DOT seats and keys? What we can't have those dangerous European seats and keys . Maybe they're too modern for DOT like the headlights! I hate DOT with a passion and I don't even live in the USA.

Even though we have our own car regulations in Canada, they are almost identical to DOT regulations. The only difference on say a Canadian and American '84 300D Turbo is the speedometer! We have a law that lets you imported any car from any country without doing any conversion work if it is 15 years or older (counted by date of manufacture not model year). This makes importing old Benz's like W123's from Europe quite cheap.
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Old 10-17-2001, 04:19 PM
sixto's Avatar
smoke gets in your eyes
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: SF Bay Area
Posts: 20,436
How are the keys and seats different?

What exactly did they do for the EPA that cost $2500?

91 300SE
81 300SD
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Old 10-17-2001, 10:57 PM
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Old Lyme, Connecticut
Posts: 3,596

I have looked into this a little recently as I was trying to see if there is a way to get a CDI over here. I brought a half dozen or so cars, and one manual transmission 300D, over in the early 80's. My last car was my 190E 2.3-16 in 1986.

The old procedures have been superceded by new ones that were intended to require more investment by the conversion outfit to earn a license from the EPA and DOT to perform the conversions. That made them less involved in each car so it save the Government money. But the investment was pretty high, requiring EPA testing over a period of time, and I believe some testing of the mechanical fixes for the DOT.

I never did anything to any seats or keys, but the bumper mods and the door side beam additions could run some money, depending on how you did them. There was a huge assmbly of photos to compile in a report to demonstrate the changes were installed on each car and that they would do the job. So the charge of $2500 for the DOT mods was not out of the ordinary.

The EPA changes for a Diesel were pretty innocuous at the time, essentially a test as there were next to no mods made at the time, other than perhaps installing an EGR system. Today I think they would be more involved as the sulphur content of US Diesel is too high for the Euro emissions equipment this car is delivered with to last here, and it would not pass an emissions test without the catalyst and trap oxydizer installed.

I would love to pursue this, but think it will be a lot less financially enticing. I have heard there is a "once in a lifetime" exemption you can apply for if the car has some historical or other special value. It still isn't clear that the Diesel would be a good choice if the fuel here will kill the exhaust system components. Jim
1986 Euro 190E 2.3-16 (291,000 miles),
1998 E300D TurboDiesel, 231,000 miles -purchased with 45,000,
1988 300E 5-speed 252,000 miles,
1983 240D 4-speed, purchased w/136,000, now with 222,000 miles.
2009 ML320CDI Bluetec, 89,000 miles

1971 220D (250,000 miles plus, sold to father-in-law),
1975 240D (245,000 miles - died of body rot),
1991 350SD (176,560 miles, weakest Benz I have owned),
1999 C230 Sport (45,400 miles),
1982 240D (321,000 miles, put to sleep)
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Old 10-18-2001, 07:07 AM
Registered User
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Columbus, Ohio, USA
Posts: 72

As Jim mentioned, the EPA work was to install a EGR recycle valve to make it look just like the US models. As for the seats, they were supposed to have "reinforced" backs and the keys I frankly couldn't tell you why they had to be changed. To be honest, I don't think they were changed....

'06 E320 CDI 51K miles
'02 VW Jetta GLS TDi 120k miles
'99 Ford E350 7.3L Powerstroke 200k miles -sold
'84 Euro 300D 5 spd manual 317k miles - sold
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Old 10-18-2001, 08:19 AM
Registered Diesel Burner
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Northern Virginia
Posts: 2,911

Does it have anything to do with double-sided vs. single-sided keys?

Americans are too stupid to line up the key in one direction, so the law was changed to force a key design that works regardless of how you insert the key........

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Old 10-18-2001, 08:39 AM
Posts: n/a
How about bringing one in through Canada or Mexico? Remember NAFTA? just a thought.
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Old 10-18-2001, 10:46 AM
Registered User
Join Date: May 2001
Location: Michigan
Posts: 1,373
Hey Jeff:

Interesting thread. As I have a gray market 85TD, I was wondering if you had a chance to drive your car prior to the EGR stuff being done on it.
My previous (original) owner said his never had the pickup following the PA emissions hassle.
How does yours perform now? Have you had a chance to compare it with others with reference to acceleration and top end?


'84 300DT 298k (Aubrey's)
'99.5 Jetta TDI IV 251k (Julie's)
'97 Jetta TDI 127k (Amber's)
'97 Jetta TDI 186k (Matt's)
'96 Passat TDI 237k (Don's
'84 300D 211k Mint (Arne- Undergoing Greasecar Conversion)

'82 240D 229k (Matt's - Converted-300DT w/ 4 speed
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Old 10-18-2001, 03:25 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Columbus, Ohio, USA
Posts: 72
Diesel Don,

I didn't get to drive it before the EGR was installed, but I pass state emissions with the EGR disconnected from vacuum. The car definitely has much better performance without being hooked up.

The car still runs fantastic. Top speed sustainable for me has always been around 107. I have not driven any other 300D's for any length of time although I am thinking of picking up an 84 300SD.

'06 E320 CDI 51K miles
'02 VW Jetta GLS TDi 120k miles
'99 Ford E350 7.3L Powerstroke 200k miles -sold
'84 Euro 300D 5 spd manual 317k miles - sold
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Old 10-18-2001, 08:34 PM
Posts: n/a
Hey folks,

Don't you think that it would be possible to buy in, or ship to Mexico, then title & register it there. I doubt that they have the kind of wacky import laws we do.

Now for the hitch, use a fowardable PO box, such as a "Mail Boxes Etc", that way you would get your renewal notices.

As for insurance, I would think that you would still use your local guy, even if it was a renewable temp policy.

You would just tell your nosey neighbors that, this is the car that you usually keep down at your villa in Baja California.

Here in the metro NY/ NJ area, its not all that uncommon to see a car with out of country plates.

What do ya's think???

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Old 10-18-2001, 10:47 PM
Registered User
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: oregon
Posts: 2,013
MR W123 . Do you what the procedure would be to bring one of those older than 15 year MB's from Canada to the U.S.?
William Rogers.....
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