Author Topic: Importing Coach Convertible  (Read 2636 times)

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Offline Ardeeque

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Importing Coach Convertible
« on: June 28, 2015, 02:54:13 PM »
Has anyone imported a coach convertible from the United States under the pre-1989 scheme? (By a coach convertible I mean a car which has been converted from a coupe into a convertible by one of the coach building companies.) 

When the American manufacturers ceased building convertibles in the 1970's a number of these conversions were carried out to cater for those who wanted an open car.  The manufacturer approved the conversions and the cars were sold as new vehicles through authorised dealers and carried a full manufacturer's warranty.  (I expect there were some backyard conversions as well.)

In importing a car to Australia, I am aware that the rules relating to vehicles which have been changed from the original specifications may well apply to coach convertibles.  Of course, it could be argued that as the conversion was approved by the manufacturer and the car sold as a new vehicle with full warranty through an authorised dealer, it conformed to manufacturer's specifications. Moreover, as there was only a small demand for convertibles, it was uneconomical for the manufacturer to tool up to produce them, so the work was contracted out to coach building companies, as was the case, I believe, with ambulances, hearses and stretch limousines.

Whether that argument would get up when applying for an import licence is open to question and it would still have to be established that the conversion was carried out when the car was new, or at least prior to 1989.  This could be difficult in the case of a car approaching 40 years of age.

I am trying to find out whether I'm likely to encounter a lot of drama in importing and subsequently registering one of these cars.  If anyone  has had any experience in this regard, I would appreciate your comments.  Thank you. 

Offline Bruce Reynolds

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Re: Importing Coach Convertible
« Reply #1 on: June 28, 2015, 03:26:02 PM »
If it is one of the recognised Conversion Suppliers, then I don't think you will have a problem, as these manufacturers didn't bother to convert cars that were past the latest model year, as they would be tooled-up for the current model.

All you would need to do is have the relevant paper-trail from the year of manufacture, and apply tor the Permit to Import.   This can be done, and should be done before the car goes into a container, as you will need it for the Exporting, and Importing Agent.

Even though there may be no information available from the initial Converting firm, there will be a lot of anecdotal evidence, plus, a phone call to the Federal Department of Road Safety in Canberra will save you a lot of time.   They are the people that will be supplying the Permit.

Bruce. :devil:
Bruce Reynolds, Lindisfarne, TASMANIA
'72 Eldorado Convertible (LHD)
'70 Ranchero Squire (RHD)
'74 Chris Craft Gull Wing (SH)
(Past President Modified Chapter)

Offline Doug Lemon

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Re: Importing Coach Convertible
« Reply #2 on: June 28, 2015, 05:46:47 PM »
 If it were me, I would say nothing. Just call it a convertible Cadillac . A phone call to Canberra can only but confuse the issue. It's no different to importing a hearse or ambulance which are totally modified cars from the original Cadillac. I have imported approx. 15 cars without incident (2 hearse 1 ambulance).
Doug  in Sydney NSW
1954 Series 60 Sedan

1969 Superior Ambulance

Offline Bruce Reynolds

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Re: Importing Coach Convertible
« Reply #3 on: June 28, 2015, 07:36:17 PM »
I agree with you Doug, but the latest changes to the Importation, regarding modified vehicles is hitting hard.

Bruce. :devil:
Bruce Reynolds, Lindisfarne, TASMANIA
'72 Eldorado Convertible (LHD)
'70 Ranchero Squire (RHD)
'74 Chris Craft Gull Wing (SH)
(Past President Modified Chapter)

Offline Ardeeque

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Re: Importing Coach Convertible
« Reply #4 on: June 30, 2015, 10:14:08 AM »
Bruce and Doug - Many thanks for your replies.  I previously rang the Dept. of Road Safety in Canberra and the outcome of the conversation was what I expected.  I was told that they couldn't advise me one way or the other; any application to import the car would be determined on its merits and that I had to buy the car or pay a deposit on it before making the application. It was further suggested that I pay the deposit on condition that the Vendor of the car refund it to me in the event of my import application being rejected.

I can just imagine the reaction of a Vendor if I suggested that I pay a couple of thousand dollars deposit on the condition that he holds the car for five or six weeks while someone in a government department decides whether I can import the car to Australia, refuse all other offers to purchase the car in the meantime and then refund the deposit to me if I am denied permission to import the car.  I doubt if the Vendor could stop laughing long enough to tell me that a visit by me to the local head feeler was long overdue.  The reaction would be even worse if I tried that stunt on an auction house.

There was one other question which I put to the Dept. of Road Safety and that was why do I have to purchase a particular car before seeking import approval.  I fail to see why blanket approval cannot be given to import any car of a particular make, type and year model which conforms to original manufacturer's specifications, rather than a specific car.  For example I have been trying to buy a 1976 Cadillac Fleetwood Limousine and as far as I know, all 1976 Cadillac Limousines are the same (provided they conform to original specifications) apart from the colour and the options fitted to the car, such as cruise control, sun roof etc. which have no bearing on safety issues.  But I have to nominate a specific car and buy it before seeking an import licence.  I can understand the government's concerns regarding modified vehicles, but why do these restrictions apply to cars in their original condition?  Why not issue a blanket import licence covering all cars of a particular make and model providing they are unmodified? Admittedly, some cars are fitted with different engines and transmissions for a given year model, but what is the problem so long as they are standard equipment? 

The answer I was given was that they want to be certain that I go ahead with the importation once an import licence is issued, but I can't figure out what difference it makes whether I go ahead and import the car or not.  This is just another restrictive covenant imposed upon us.  There could be all sorts of valid reasons why I could decide not to proceed with the purchase of the car and compensate the Vendor accordingly. One example would be if the bottom fell out of the A$ before I finalised payment or another could be a sudden change in the law increasing import taxes. People sometimes find it cheaper to buy their way out of business arrangements rather than fulfil them if circumstances change unexpectedly. 

Getting back to the coach convertible, which, (dare I say) is a Lincoln. By all reports it is in immaculate condition and they want an immaculate price for it. So let us assume I buy it for US$32,000 or about A$41,000 (which is far too much, but immaculate ones are like rocking horse manure) and find that I am denied an import licence. I wouldn't shoot myself dead, but I might think about it.  I have to admit I don't know which way to jump here.

Offline Bruce Reynolds

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Re: Importing Coach Convertible
« Reply #5 on: June 30, 2015, 11:13:14 AM »
The Import Licence is more than a licence to import a particular vehicle.   It is an authorisation for the State Registration Authorities that the particular vehicle can be registered in the State of residense of the person applying.

I wouldn't be surprised if during the application process, the vehicle in question isn't being checked against the Stolen Vehicle Lists world-wide, as there are a number of vehicles stopped on the USA side for being stolen, many years ago, and don't leave the country.

When ringing the Department of Road Safety, their answers will always be in the general terms, but they should be helpful.

I have imported a few cars, and other stuff over the years, and the biggest problem I had was with a boat trailer.   They weren't concerned about the boat sitting on the trailer, but the trailer itself.

Bruce. :devil:
Bruce Reynolds, Lindisfarne, TASMANIA
'72 Eldorado Convertible (LHD)
'70 Ranchero Squire (RHD)
'74 Chris Craft Gull Wing (SH)
(Past President Modified Chapter)

Offline Doug Lemon

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Re: Importing Coach Convertible
« Reply #6 on: June 30, 2015, 01:38:49 PM »
Again,,,if it were me I would just go full steam ahead. These people don't know about after market variations etc.  they are more concerned with things like cobra kit cars etc. you are reading far too much into it.
And I have had an import approval issued yet never shipped the vehicle. No big deal.
Doug  in Sydney NSW
1954 Series 60 Sedan

1969 Superior Ambulance

Offline Ardeeque

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Re: Importing Coach Convertible
« Reply #7 on: June 30, 2015, 07:39:18 PM »
Perhaps I am being over-cautious, but I have always been that way when dealing with government departments, and most times with good reason.  There are a lot of decent people in the public service whose job it is to administer the law as it stands, but they have a disconcerting habit of advancing many reasons why you can't do something, rather than the other way round.  I still think the requirement to nominate and actually buy a specific car when applying for an import licence, rather than obtaining a blanket licence, is a real lousy deal.  But since it is the only one presently on offer, we may as well learn to live with it.

If I can get the price down a bit, I'll probably buy this car, assuming it hasn't yet been sold.  After all, it's only money, so what the hell.  At least if I come unstuck I'll be providing work for a car crusher.

I had a conversation with a friend in the United States who seems to be well informed on things automotive.  He told me that the status of a coach convertible is determined by who paid for the conversion work.  If someone orders a new convertible and the dealer organises the conversion and pays the coach building company and then invoices the customer, the conversion is deemed to be a dealer option and the car conforms to its manufacturer's specifications. On the other hand, if the customer buys a new hard-top coupe from a dealer, takes it to the same coach builder for conversion and pays for the work himself, then the work is considered to be an after-market conversion and the car is non-standard. Whether this is true or not, I don't know.