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  #1  
Old 08-15-2001, 04:48 PM
Kevin McIntire
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Grey Market Cars

I would like to buy a 97 or 98 SL500 in Germany in the next few months. What are the problems with doing this. How much paper work is needed to bring the car into the USA. This seems like a good idea to me. Anybody out there done this before?
Kevin
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  #2  
Old 08-15-2001, 04:54 PM
Ali Al-Chalabi's Avatar
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You can do a search here on grey market cars and see the previous discussions that have been done on this topic.

If you manage to get the car into the US, then you would have problems trying to find a mechanic to work on it. Also, you will probably not be able to ever resell it either. Overall, I do not think it would be worth the long term hassle.

Also, you have to modify the car to pass emissions testing and state inspections.
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  #3  
Old 08-15-2001, 05:27 PM
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grey market cars

Be very careful of buying cars in other countries that are '76 and newer.It is not easy to import these cars.Also once here,they are not worth as much as U.S. cars.here is a site that will have some info for you:
http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov/cars/rules/import/
before buying,I would suggest finding out all that is required first.
Good Luck!
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  #4  
Old 08-15-2001, 05:31 PM
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Kevin,

Contact www.gwagen.com or some other shop that specializes in federalizing nonUS spec cars. It takes a lot more than just paperwork. It's not cheap, it's not easy and it's not even fun. it was until about 1985. These days, it's generally not worth the effort if there is a US version of the car.

If you know how to get around this situation, check ebay. You can usually find a car stuck in customs waiting for the crusher. I heard there was a late model S600 going for less than $30K because it didn't have the right paperwork and had to be destroyed.

Sixto
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  #5  
Old 08-15-2001, 05:48 PM
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I have a friend of mine who has brought several Mercedes and BMWs into the US. It is VERY expensive, and very time consuming. It takes at least 9 months to get the "upgrades" done, and it can cost from $10-20K to have them done. He brought in a BMW 850i and by the time he had it in hand, the prices had gone down to the point he could have bought a US spec car for less money!
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  #6  
Old 08-15-2001, 06:50 PM
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Thumbs down Big trouble

There are a host of legal problems bringing in a "gray market" car. It must meet US safety and emissions specs before you can get it on the road. From the exhaust system to headlights, you are in essence rebuilding the car. Much better to do a European delivery of a US spec car if the objective is to save some money.
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  #7  
Old 08-15-2001, 07:17 PM
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I heard of a lady that had an old gray market car that failed the safety inspection. She couldn't drive it in the US and had it crunched. This "unsafe" car took several wacks of the car cruncher before it was finally dispached.
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  #8  
Old 08-15-2001, 07:27 PM
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Yeah, I wonder about that. Are we to conclude that the DOT is qualified to advice MB on how to make a safer car?

Sixto
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... short of getting smacked by a W140 or a truck, I'm pretty safe
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  #9  
Old 08-15-2001, 08:16 PM
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Hey Kevin- LISTEN man to the logistics shared in response to your post,,,,but DO what your mind & spirit is telling you to do since you'll be the one living with the decision and machine. It very well could be a labor of love that no one will understand except you, if you find the correct deal on a perfect monster AMG, Brabus, Koenig, etc. and have the resources and contacts to pull this off.

As with any big undertaking requiring significant $$$ and energy, its always easier to do your homework thoroughly prior to plunging in and be in the "know"....but it CAN be done, we've all seen grey market MBs for sale here in the US (older ones have the tell tale velour interior).

Only you will be relishing the consequences and/or joys.

Last year, we all saw what appeared to be a real Hammer Coupe mint condition and low miles in bright red for auction on ebay. It was a steal at ~$40k +/-, but I don't think that it sold since there was no smog and had that whole albatross thing hanging on its head....I even recall one forum member discussing picking it up, then purchasing & registering another twin coupe in the US, then parading the Hammer on US soil using the twin's id/ papers/ registration.

good luck and let us know what you make happen
-fad
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  #10  
Old 08-16-2001, 05:31 PM
Stevegman
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Thumbs down Avoid any Gray Market car at all costs.

I have a gray market car and it’s really great when everything works. I had an intermittent electrical problem and the dealer said he would “pass” on the car because it is not necessarily wired as the US model, it could be expensive and take a lot of parts and people don’t want to pay. (They would do standard parts changes, like timing chain.) The independents will do it by the hour but there is no guarantee. You could spend $5000 and not have it fixed. It took me 14 months and 100 hours to learn the electrical system and track down the problems then test and replace the bad parts. I have turned into an amateur mechanic, not by choice, but by force.

I bought this really cool looking ’85 500SL with complete AMG appearance package. But now that the springs and shocks are questionable no one can tell me what replacements will fit. Not the dealer, any parts supplier, not MBUSA or anyone I can find. Even my posts on this website go unanswered. No one knows what specs to use. Sure, I can find something that will fit but it won’t be to spec and could be a problem. Bilstein sells only 1 shock for the car but it may not be the one AMG used as they made lots of short run specials. If the shock bottoms out instead of the pad or spring, you break the shock body. These are often short run specials. IF it’s a US model, I am sure MBUSA would make it available. If you import it yourself they will disavow any responsibility for the car.

If you want to spend your free time and money trying to run around the system and hunting down specialists to work in the dark without the proper information, have at it but as much as I love the car, I wouldn’t do it again for anything.

Steve
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  #11  
Old 08-16-2001, 05:47 PM
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great story Steve- -

all the more reason to take in every tidbit of significant detail possible, then decide on the logistical & emotional committment ..."before" leaping....keeps buyer's remorse in check (but not the buyer beware).

-fad
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  #12  
Old 08-16-2001, 06:40 PM
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Wow, I am impressed with the uniformly poor experiences everyone has had with their grey market cars. My experience with something like 6 of them sofar has been great.

I only imported cars that had support for the mechanicals and body from a US version of each. When I could, I selected cars with the US emission system installed as an option, which became available in the last half of the 80's. I brought in 5 W123 chassis cars and one W201 car. All have run with little or no trouble over 150,000 miles. I know because all but two went to relatives and the other two were sold locally.

Anything can and will go wrong given an opportunity, and grey market cars surely offer more opportunities. The first thing you need to do is be selective about the vehicle you import, and try to find one as similar as possible to its US equivalent. I would not recommend a specially tuned (engine and suspension mods) vehicle unless you are wealthy. But that is true even if the tuning specialist has a domestic facility or has an affiliation with the factory. Mercedes parts are more expensive because they are not made in the same quantities as Ford or Chevy parts are, and they sometimes have extra features. This is much more so with AMG or Koenig or other tuning house products.

So, if you import a car outside the manufacturer's protocol, be prepared to become very familiar with the vehicle, get a good manual and try to get microfiche or CD's for parts, and service and maintenance routines. Also be ready to substitue US model parts as in some cases these parts (cooling system sensors and the like) are different only in the guts, and they perform better in our climates. You will be surprised how few parts are actually different (like filters, shocks, brake pads and such "consumables").

The big motivation to buy from the grey market in the early 80's came from the extraordinarily strong dollar making a European version of the car about 70% the cost of the "equivalent" car in the dealer's showroom. If you could take a car with fewer amenities, like no electric seats, a manually controlled airconditioner, and MB-tex interior upholstery, the car could be yours for less than 60%. There were a number of places making a business of converting the cars, and it generally took about 90 days to get the approvals you needed to register the car legally.

If someone let a perfectly good car get crushed because they did not know how to federalize the vehicle, I wish they had called me first. While it is work, a lot of cars were successfully converted by regular guys, not Einsteins.

With all that said, I would be reluctant to attempt it today, just because the payoff is not there anymore. I would love have a 2001 C270CDI, or an E320CDI, but that would violate the logic of only buying something that is supported in some way here.

Good Luck, Jim
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Own:
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

Owned:
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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  #13  
Old 08-16-2001, 06:55 PM
sixto's Avatar
smoke gets in your eyes
 
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Jim wrote:
> So, if you import a car outside the manufacturer's protocol, be
> prepared to become very familiar with the vehicle, get a good
> manual and try to get microfiche or CD's for parts, and service
> and maintenance routines.

Consider that for the most part it's only in the US that factory service manuals are available to the public. After market publications are available, but generally not for the newer high-end models such as the R129.

Sixto
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  #14  
Old 08-16-2001, 09:01 PM
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I was very methodical and got the dealer in Germany to provide me with microfiche and shop manuals for the cars I imported. They were always "out of date" by a year or so, but it was a very useful tool over the years. I would advise anyone intending to bring in a car to get as much documentation and technical data as they can, and convince your self the car is supported, along with the engine and transmission in a version sold in this country. As I noted earlier, it is rare for things that are routinely replaced to be unique on a US or other market model. Jim
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Own:
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

Owned:
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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  #15  
Old 08-17-2001, 11:23 AM
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yal yal is offline
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Well said JimSmith. I have had a good experience with mine too and I am very happy with it. The trick is to not get a car that is rare even in Europe , I mean come on! As you said it is amazing how many parts on these cars are available here. I would say at least 98% of mine is. The 2% I can always obtain from a supplier. If someone is trying to get a car like a CDI, that has only set foot in the USA as a platform model at the Detriot motor show, or an AMG Hammer or something, then they deserve to be hassled, sorry.

It is more work if you intend to get a grey mkt. The newer the car the less advantage you are getting over a US buyer. Take all the advice you have heard above into consideration. Just be smart, and be aware. Come to think of it isn't this how you should be anyway when you go and buy a car?
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