Show or Display

The "Show or Display" rule is a statutory amendment to the United States Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) that allows certain privately imported automobiles to be exempted, if the vehicle in question is deemed to meet a standard of "historical or technological significance".

The amendment, which became law on August 13, 1999,[1] is intended to apply to vehicles that could not feasibly be brought into compliance with the FMVSS, including requirements for destructive testing  and that do not have a similar make or model certified for sale in the United States market. Applications are managed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and may allow limited use on public roads (2,500 miles annually).[2]

Because of the expense and effort required to import a vehicle with this exemption, the approved vehicle list is mainly limited to high-value sports and touring cars.[3]


The approval for "Show or Display" import is granted if the prospective importer is able to show historical or technological significance of the vehicle in question, and if the vehicle was produced in limited numbers (with 500 being used as a threshold value.) Import approval is granted on a combination of make, model, and production-year; thus, there is no need to re-apply for approved vehicles when further examples are imported in the future. Because the manufacturer of a "Show or Display" vehicle does not necessarily endorse its export to the US, such automobiles may be considered grey market cars.

NHTSA originally proposed an annual mileage limitation of 500 on-road miles, and also required that a certified mileage statement be submitted annually during the first five years after import. During a comment period on the wording of the statute in May 1999, the Special Vehicles Coalition recommended that the figure be increased to 2,500 miles (a figure already in use by the insurance industry as a threshold to describe a limited-use vehicle.) The Coalition also recommended the elimination of the annual mileage statement requirement, as such a statement would not accurately reflect on-road mileage for vehicles that are also used off public roads. Both recommendations were incorporated into the final wording of the statute, though NHTSA retains the right to inspect an imported vehicle for the purpose of verifying mileage.

Citing unspecified concerns about public safety, NHTSA reserves the right to approve a vehicle for "Show or Display" import, but disallow it from being registered for use on public roads. The administration also reserves the right, at the time of import, to place any other arbitrary restrictions or limitations on the use of an imported vehicle. Regardless of "Show or Display" approval, imported vehicles must also meet the import restrictions defined by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

NHTSA does not require FMVSS compliance for any imported vehicles that are above a certain age, currently 25 years.

Notable examples

Microsoft founder Bill Gates bought a Porsche 959 before the model had Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency approval. The car was stored for 13 years by the Customs Service at the Port of San Francisco, until the Show or Display rule came into force.[4][5][1]

Vehicles eligible

As of February 2017, these are the only cars that have been approved for import under the Show or Display exception.[6] Some of these models have since passed the 25 year mark, meaning that both they and even the less-limited versions of the same car (i.e., the non-Nismo Nissan Skyline R32) are exempt from import restrictions anyway.

Make Model Model Year
Aston MartinDB7 Zagato Coupe2003
Aston MartinLagonda Taraf2016
Aston MartinOne-772011
Aston MartinV12 Zagato2012–2013
Aston MartinVanquish Zagato2004
Aston MartinVantage LeMans1999–2000
AudiSport Quattro1984
Australian FordFalcon XC Bathurst Cobra1978
BMWHossack K100RS Prototype M/C1984
BMWM3 Sport Evolution (UK Version)1990
FerrariEnzo #400 (Pope John Paul II)2005
FordRS200 Evolution1985–1986
FordSierra Cosworth RS 5001986
Gruter & Gut (GG)Duetto Sidecar M/C1997
LamborghiniDiablo GT1999
Land RoverRange Rover Vogue 25th Anniversary Final Edition1995
LotusEvora GTE F1 Limited Edition2011
LotusCarlton (LHD)1990–1992
MaseratiGhibli Open Cup1996–1997
MazdaEunos JCES Cosmo Series II1994–1995
Mercedes-Benz190E 2.5-16 Evolution II1990
Mercedes-Benz560 SEL ex-Gorbachev Armored1991
Mercedes-BenzAMG CLK-DTM Coupe2005
Mercedes-BenzCLK DTM AMG Cabriolet2006
Mercedes-BenzCLK-GTR Coupe1998–1999
Mercedes-BenzCLK-GTR Roadster2002
Mercedes-BenzG-500 Cabriolet Final Edition 2002011, 2013
Mercedes-BenzMercedes-Benz G63 AMG 6x62013
Mercedes-BenzMcLaren SLR 722S2009
Mercedes-BenzSLR McLaren Stirling Moss2009
MG TF80th Anniversary Limited Edition (RHD/UK)2004
NissanNismo R32 Skyline GT-R (VINs BNR32-100000 through BNR32-100562)1990
NissanR34 Skyline GT-R M-Spec Nür2002
NissanSkyline GTR R34 V-SPEC Early Model Limited Edition1999
OullimSpirra S2011
Peugeot205 Turbo 161984–1985
Porsche911 Carrera 4S (Last Made)1998
Porsche911 GT3 RS2004
Porsche911 Sport Classic2010
Porsche964 Turbo Flat-Nose X831994
Porsche964 Turbo S Leichtbau1993
Porsche968 Turbo S1993
Porsche993 Carrera RS GT21995–1996
PorscheGT1 Strasseversion1997
Rimac AutomobiliConcept One2016
RMAAmphi-Ranger 2800 SR1985–1995
RoverMini Cooper S (Last 50 made)2000
SubaruImpreza 22B STi1998
SubaruVersion-L Alcyone SVX 4WS1992


  1. Display of Speed: Under the "Show or Display exemption, Americans can now import previously forbidden exotics", January 7, 2001,
  2. "Federal Register, Vol. 64, No. 134, Rules and Regulations" (PDF). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
  3. "Vehicles determined eligible for importation for show or display" (PDF). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved 2012-01-16.
  4. Stephan Wilkinson (2005). The Gold-Plated Porsche. Guilford, Connecticut: The Lyons Press. pp. 21–2. ISBN 1-59228-792-1.
  5. "How To Import A Motor Vehicle For Show Or Display". National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 2003-07-07.
  6. "Eligible Show or Display Vehicles". National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. February 21, 2017. Retrieved July 23, 2017.
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