The Reverse Mercedes Law


As anyone with more than a passing interest in cars, I often find myself looking at strange and interesting things that lurk within auction sites. I look at them and despair, for I know I’ll never be able to touch them, let alone purchase them. I know most of car-nut America hates the draconian 25-year import ban on vehicles, but have they ever considered that it could be worse? Much, much much worse. To demonstrate my point, allow me to wax lyrical about this simply majestic 1976 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight hardtop.

Manufactured at a time when General Motors was undertaking the single biggest and most expensive lineup revision in history. The one that brought us the much shorter, lighter and efficient B-Bodies. This 1976 Model is the B-Body every environmentalist loves to hate. It’s big and unapologetic. Its 455 Rocket V8 generates just 190 horsepower in its neutered state. I’m going to hazard a guess that whatever fuel economy improvements you got by doing that were unceremoniously killed off once you put those horses to pull its 5000+ lb. heft around.

And none of that matters one single tiniest little bit because…well look at it, it’s a magnificent example of a bygone era. It’s endearing in its massiveness, the last hurrah of both America thinking they knew better than to compromise and making exactly what they wanted. In normal cars at least.


The interior is a particular source of Joy for me, thankfully it seems manufacturers have seen it fit to offer colors other than grey and beige. You can get red on a Fusion, but only if you spec a black car. Could a dealer custom order you in red/red if you give them a large enough check? I digress, this triple blue is just the ticket to crush the logical side of the brain into submission and have the creative one produce images of piloting it through a road with a little sunset and a little Bob Seger on the stereo.

With the auction sitting at $8,500 you have to admit it’s a stonking deal, pound for pound. If it were up to me it’d be at this very moment on a very large container and I’d be on the import yard, salivating all over the import documents. But I wouldn’t be writing this article if it were that easy right?


Honduras absolutely and positively does not have a car culture, it’s something that will need an article all on its own at a later date but the upshot is that the overlap between feasibility and desire is a very slim one indeed. To top it all off congress, in that congress struggle to make it like they’re actually achieving something, decided one day to say “Hey, I know what we could do! Let’s ban absolutely all imports if they’re older than ten years old. Let’s give 13 years to pickups, just to be sure.”

Hear that? That’s the sound car fans make when they clench in absolute terror. Say what you want about the Mercedes law, but at least as time goes up the number of desirable cars increases. I’m stuck with whatever thing can make the cut, which if you think about it makes it a really lackluster list. Also think of all the things I’m missing.








Fat Chance


No way Jose.


But of course you can! The boat will be there in a couple of weeks.

The logic and reasoning behind the law was the following “People import old beaten to crap cars because they’re cheap. But they’re dangerous and unsafe, so we have to ban them.” Sound logic, but that means we can still import new beaten to crap cars from the America because they’re cheap, and we have to ban them. Later provisions were made to ban anything with a wrecked title. Salvage titles remain fair game. I can’t help but think manufacturers had something to do with this. After all, salvage cars that are being repaired need parts and servicing right?

In any case, there is something very hush-hush and spoken around about “classic imports”. That would make sense right, make it like a 15 year no-import ban between cars 10-25 years old. Only problem is that nobody has any idea if that actually is a thing. No one at the DEI (sort of like the IRS and DMV rolled into one) would give me a straight answer. Some said no, some said maybe but they weren’t sure what you could import and what you couldn’t. Around the few car people around, they aren’t that sure either. They just imported the car and hoped a nice man from the DEI wouldn’t show up to their door with a bulldozer and a smile like the nice people fighting terrorism in the U.S by destroying Land Rover Defenders.


Will it work if I try to import the Ninety-Eight? Or that E-body turbo New Yorker (Shut up, I like them!) or will I be forced to crush it or worse, never make it through customs. It’s not like I can just pay the right people off like the stereotype commonly leads you to believe. Despite common opinion, the port authority and customs are actually quite well operated, if perhaps a bit bureaucratic in their handling. But really that comes with the territory.

It would really be a case of jumping in blind with a ton of money and a very nice car in the middle of it all. So if I really want my strange vehicle nobody in their right mind would buy for daily transportation over random silver/black appliance #815-14-41. I’d have to either jump countries, not for lack of trying, or play by the rules. I have a couple of years until the Crown Vic or the Cadillac STS become illegal.