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SpeedAddict502
SpeedAddict502 New Reader
5/31/23 1:32 a.m.

Where are you at in Norcal?  I moved to Reno not too long ago.  I've been to Sonoma in the M3 Wagon but not the other two yet!  Cant wait to though.

BigD
BigD HalfDork
5/31/23 11:51 a.m.
SpeedAddict502 said:

Where are you at in Norcal?  I moved to Reno not too long ago.  I've been to Sonoma in the M3 Wagon but not the other two yet!  Cant wait to though.

I'm about an hour out of SF in East Bay

SpeedAddict502
SpeedAddict502 New Reader
5/31/23 1:46 p.m.

Cool deal, would love to see the car sometime!

BigD
BigD HalfDork
5/31/23 1:53 p.m.
SpeedAddict502 said:

Cool deal, would love to see the car sometime!

Sure thing! Hopefully at the track but if you're in the area, ping me on IG I'll give you a guided tour: https://www.instagram.com/juggernaut_tech/

BigD
BigD HalfDork
6/6/23 5:31 p.m.

Alright, so one of the most frustrating days of my life was in the making for months. We moved from the Toronto area to the SF Bay area in '22, having sold and bought a house over summer and the move was slated for early September. Work was paying for the move including shipping one car but the E30 and the trailer would have to stay behind. I also left my 5.7 Sequoia with a friend, intending to come back and tow the rig.

This was also in the peak of airline disasters, where it was almost a certainty that your luggage wouldn't make it. This is particularly vexing as we have 2 corgis that we were considering taking on the flight. So my parents agreed to host them until I returned and they would join me on the trek.

I had worried about the tow for a long time, trying to get my ducks in order in terms of timing, the route, the hotels - Toyota has the most generous precious metals in their cats and the 5.7 has 4 giant ones. I was worried about getting stuck in the middle of the prairies with straight pipes ahead of the firewall plus limp mode. The timing was also needing to be carefully picked as we had a 3 year and freshly minted 8 month old at the time and it was a major dick move to leave my wife alone with them for any length of time, so I wanted to absolutely minimize it, and span a time when someone like her aunts a few towns over could come help.

A big rig company running friend then asked me about my tire age and I realized I hadn't changed them since I bought the trailer in '11. He said it would be a bad time for a blowout. So I asked a friend to pick up a set of steelies with tires on them from Princess Auto for me (Cambodian Harbor Freight). I'd install them the morning of the drive.

I worried about everything that would happen after crossing the border. This was a zero in my mind, I'd crossed with the racecar many times before, they take a peek inside the trailer and send me on my way. I ASSumed that it was no different than having a fridge in the trailer, just some personal property I'm taking with me to my new home.

I picked the time, it was going to be over a weekend in October, and flew back. I saw that nothing had improved with Air Communism, as they had to find me a new plane, saying the original one broke. Then after we landed, it took over an hour to wait for the gate to be available. I spent a great evening with a friend, picked up my truck in the morning and got the dogs from my parents. I hooked up the trailer and swapped the wheels.

I normally prefer to cross at Niagara, especially right at the falls, the Rainbow bridge crossing, as those dudes are super chill. They imported my BRZ when everyone else said it's illegal, which it technically was - the rules state that cars of a certain newness have to have OEM installed TPMS, including any retrofits. I got an aftermarket system installed and no one would accept it but the Rainbow guys are like, meh berkeley it. But the most direct route was through Detroit and I was in a time crunch. A friend who is a roadie would later tell me that Detroit are known as being the most rude and incompetent bunch of berkeleying shiny happy people in all of CBP, and they will send the buses with gear a long way to avoid crossing there. But in my mind this was a very trivial thing. Hell, when I took the car to PRI I went through Detroit and I don't think they even looked in the trailer.

It's a 5 hour drive so I got started bright and early. Got there in good time, with plenty of reserve to get to my first hotel just past Chicago. The guard asks me the usual questions, I say I'm just finishing my move, taking my dogs and racecar to my new home in California. I don't remember now but I think she DID ask if I am importing the car and I said no it's just a racecar. Which may have been the reason for why I was about to be treated how I was.

She gives me the yellow slip and I pull over. They come at me kind of hard, tell me to take the dogs out and put them into these cages they have next to the search area. The poor Corgos were terrified so I asked if I can just hold them. They said fine and started searching the car. I still didn't think anything of it but I was annoyed at the stupid charade eating into my day as I had a lot of driving to do. They finished searching the car, let me put the dogs back in and told me to go inside.

I go inside, and they whisk me away to a side room which I later realized was for people suspected of berkeleyery because everyone else who was placed there with me seemed in serious trouble. I got a hint of this when I started bitching about it to my wife on the phone and got yelled at for having the phone out. A poor woman in the room begged to use the bathroom and the shiny happy person with the hat and command presence told her no.

  • TWO HOURS later, they take me out and say ok you can go, these officers will help you turn around.
  • Excuse me?
  • You have no import paperwork for the car, so you're going back. 
  • It's a racecar what paperwork
  • Do you have a letter from the manufacturer stating that it was built for racing?
  • No, it wasn't.
  • Then it must be imported.
  • But maybe if...
  • I DON'T CARE, IT'S NOT COMING IN, NOT TODAY, NOT THROUGH DETROIT, GOOD BYE.

I was in a daze walking back to the rig, and realized I didn't have the keys. They said you have them. No I berkeleying don't. They had to put out a berkeleying APB based on my description of the asshat who took my keys for the search, the guy went on break or something with my keys. They found him, I went to lock everything back up and a half dozen of the pricks were fanboying around the trailer asking me about the car, I pretend I didn't hear anything. If I opened my mouth at that point I'd probably spend even longer in the room.

On my way back I started scrambling for options. A friend recommended an exporter in Toronto, maybe let him handle all this. I called him and he said you're screwed. First of all you went to Detroit, mistake 1, then you told them you're taking the car to your house, which is mistake 2. That's because he says I could tell you to cross and tell them that you're going to a race and they MAY let you through but now that you're in the system as having tried this, that excuse is SOL. He also told me that there was a crazy S2000 built in Toronto some years ago, I know the car, by Andrew Wojtezko, and he tried to sell it to the US and couldn't for the reason the Detroit people gave me - as far as the NHTSA is concerned, once a streetcar, forever a streetcar, end of story.

Except it's not.

Sorry, digressing. Starving, sleep deprived and still irrationally angry, I decided to try to use the race excuse at Niagara. I got there by end of day. They pulled me over and the same chill dudes, said, so uhhh what happened in Detroit buddy? I said they insisted on me importing the car but I'm just going to a ... they interrupted me and said YEAH SO YOU THOUGHT YOU'D TRY YOUR LUCK HERE HUH?? He also reminded me that he could revoke my work permit for this, which would be vexing as my family, home and work are now in the country I'd be refused entry to. He chilled out and told me listen I'm also a racer but you can't do this, you need a bond - I do it when I get work done in Canada.

I called my trucker friend who has a large property near the border and he agreed to store the trailer/car for me until whenever. I said thank you that I'd drop it off and head on my way - as far as I was concerned I still had to make it to Chicago. I couldn't fly back as I had the dogs with me now, at minimum they had to get delivered. He called me a little later and said sorry I was busy but I had to talk you down, I know that tone of voice, I've heard it many times before and you're about to make a bad day worse. He convinced me to stay the night and go in the morning, having rebooked hotels. 

After a night of angry venting I left in the morning. I crossed in Sarnia as it was similarly direct but not Detroit. He did a few laps around the previous day's shenanigans but let me go.

I got to my hotel and being bored, started googling what I could do if anything at all. I found options like disassembling the car and importing as parts. That could work, but I may have to build an engine in the US because when I lived in Vancouver I remembered guys getting busted for trying that with JDM cars. The CBP would come over and say heyyy you imported a 97 Supra rolling chassis and then a 97 Supra engine... I think those add up to a car? Here's a giant fine, now send it back or destroy it.

Again out of boredom I just started reading the import form top to bottom and THE FIRST berkeleyING OPTION says, if your car is >25 years old it is exempt. I was close to punching holes in the wall. Those morons were 1 checkbox away from letting me have my car with me.

This wasn't quite true though. The remaining question was the EPA. They also had various clauses I could use, like cars over 21 years old are exempt from the clean air act, cars with unregulated fuels are as well (for cars 91 or older, that includes Ethanol). But at this point I had ZERO interest in having any doubt and I wanted to contact them to confirm. My friend who deals with the EPA for work told me not to. Once the car is in the US, the only way this would matter is if I tried to register the car, otherwise no one would be the wiser. But if you contact the EPA you may voluntarily place yourself on a E36 M3list.

But I couldn't not do it and emailed their import guy, giving as little personal info as possible. He said none of those clauses would apply, as they describe a car that is unmodified. The moment you change what fuel it used, what engine it had, modify the emissions equipment whatever that was, those exemptions are off the table. E36 M3.

They did have an interesting option though. Unlike the NHTSA, the EPA racecar exemption sounded downright reasonable for something a gov't bureaucrat would write. It basically says that you need to explain to us why your car can never be reasonably used on the road again, through modifications such as removal of features that make it usable on the road for the sake of racing. This suddenly made the insanity of Das Hammer a major asset.

My friend warned me again that this might be a fishing expidition, as they have limited resources and this subjective request can just be a way for them to make you self-incriminate and ban the car from ever coming in. I rolled the dice. Wrote up an essay with detailed photos (I have plenty thanks to things like this thread). And then...

Das Hammer is officially a racecar. The interesting thing is that this is not an avenue available to any domestic racecar. Everyone who has a street VIN modified for racing such as engine swaps or emissions mods is in violation and always will be. But I now have an official blessing.

It was now cold and about to snow in Canada so my friend agreed to store it in a heated building over winter. From then until now, I had plenty of time to lament all the ways that it can still go wrong. They don't technically need a formal reason to turn me back. They can simply look at the history and say no. A few weeks later I also got a letter telling me that my NEXUS (Canadian side of GlobalEntry) has been revoked. I obviously knew why but I tried to get an answer from them so I could appeal. They said you can appeal but to know why you need a FOIA request. Great, so I basically have to appeal as "sorry, pretty please?". They rejected the appeal so now I'm ineligible for up to 6 years, depending on how angry they are. Whatever, they can choke on it, it was only a benefit when I was crossing the Canada/US border frequently - it's a little inconvenient now. But it was another question in my mind about how much trouble they'll give me.

In my mind, it was still a very real possibility that the car was staying in Canada forever.

There was also the question of how this was going to work. Since I had to get my dogs home, my truck was now on the opposite side of the continent. One option would be to drive back and forth, which would leave my wife alone for almost 2 weeks and no guarantee that I'm successful. Another was to ship the car, to Canada or Buffalo, and meet it there. I at least wanted the car here as a mental roadblock and I found an exotic transporter that would do it. Trailer quotes were insane though, they'd put me half way to buying a new one. But trailer import is easier so I thought I could ship my truck back to tow the trailer by itself some day. But the luxury transporter conditions were ruthless - they said that we will make a reasonable attempt at importing your car but any delays we charge you 150/hr and if we are unable to resolve any issues, we will leave your car at the border and keep your fee. Lovely.

Just then, my friend who was storing the trailer/car for me said he's overdue for a vacation and offered to tow the whole thing for me for what the transporter would charge for the car alone. So I booked a one way flight last month, filled out all the paperwork to a tee and went on my way. My friends were being all upbeat but I was feeling bad that they were excited about this roadtrip and in my mind it may only be an hour long... They tried to make me have a positive outlook but I'm weird in that I actually stay calmest by taking reality at its terms. I was planning for what to do after we cross the border but also looking at flights out of Toronto. 

We get to the border, again went to my cowboy homies at Rainbow, they pull us over, this time I say I'm importing my junk. One guy comes out with a notepad, smacks it on the table, goes HOKAI... what are we doing here?!?!?! I'm thinking great, here we go. I say I've moved to the US for work and now I'm importing my racecar and trailer. You have the ownership? Yeah. Do you have the... yeah. And the... yeah, and here's the formal EPA letterhead letter.  Ok cool, go have a seat. Comes out and asks for the trailer keys. I think ok NOW here we go, they'll at minimum want to toss every square inch of the trailer and car since I'm probably on some E36 M3list.

He comes back after a few minutes, says come with me, sign here and here, stamp stamp, thanks bye. I feel like I held my breath for the next 15 minutes because once we were past the gate I let out a scream like the Kevin Bacon character Swigert in Apollo 13 upon receiving the news he's going.

And that's it and that's all man. They dropped me off at the Cleveland airport for the flight home and we met at my house a few days later.

Das Hammer's visit to Bonneville

 

AWSX1686 (Forum Supporter)
AWSX1686 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UberDork
6/7/23 8:42 a.m.

Dang, that was stressful just reading it. I'm glad you got it sorted out!

AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter)
AngryCorvair (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
6/7/23 10:33 a.m.
AWSX1686 (Forum Supporter) said:

Dang, that was stressful just reading it. I'm glad you got it sorted out!

+1

i hate crossing at Detroit

rustomatic
rustomatic HalfDork
6/7/23 1:13 p.m.

Wow.  It's literally easier to be an actual criminal.  

Oh, the stresses we endure for the sake of hotrod.

BigD
BigD HalfDork
6/7/23 3:09 p.m.
rustomatic said:

Wow.  It's literally easier to be an actual criminal.  

Oh, the stresses we endure for the sake of hotrod.

Yeah like so many things, if I was simply a criminal this would have been a zero. Just get a friend with a Canadian residence to tow it across the border for me, hook it up in Buffalo and be on my way. But the one big bonus out of all this is the formal EPA blessing. I've heard that they are getting more and more ornery. To the point where they are taking snitch calls from racers on other racers, to sick the EPA on someone that offended them at a race, saying this guy has an illegally modified car. I was also told that they sent a squad to SEMA this year, taking down the VINs of all the rice out there. A lot of people are probably going to get a very expensive letter in the mail this year. They told me that beyond the basic fines, which are a lot, if your car is subjectively sufficiently modified, they will declare you a manufacturer, at which point they fine you $35000 per day until the car is made compliant or destroyed...

...so I'm quite happy about that letter, beyond the fact that it let me have my car here.

BigD
BigD HalfDork
6/9/23 3:30 p.m.

Unstickerizing Das Hammer a bit. I was proud to work with a cool American company with some really great people working there but with what Holley has done to them, time to turn my back.

adam525i
adam525i GRM+ Memberand SuperDork
6/9/23 7:00 p.m.

Don't let the EPA see that, they might think it's not a racecar anymore!

Any plans for it to leave the garage and hit a track this year?

BigD
BigD HalfDork
6/9/23 8:43 p.m.
adam525i said:

Don't let the EPA see that, they might think it's not a racecar anymore!

Any plans for it to leave the garage and hit a track this year?

Hard to say but I'd definitely like to. This summer is looking too intense with kids. The young one especially needs to get a bit older so I don't feel like such a bag of dicks leaving home for the whole day.

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