Dear Tom and Ray:
I just returned from visiting my daughter, who is a Peace Corps volunteer, in Yeghegnadzor, Armenia. Now, my daughter is an adventuresome gal, and she's become infatuated with the Lada Niva. It's a very small but particularly utilitarian 4-wheel-drive SUV. She's decided that to reward her for her service to humanity, I should procure one for her upon her return to the U.S. She's scheduled to come home about a year from now, which gives me some time to research this and find a viable reason for telling her it can't be done. She would like for me to make contact with one of her Armenian friends, have him find and buy the vehicle on her behalf and ship it to the U.S. My alternative plan is for her to purchase the auto in Armenia, where she's now based, drive it across Europe and ship it across the pond once she reaches the Atlantic. Here's my question: What would I need to do to the Niva to have it pass U.S. import standards? Would I need to bring two home -- one as the primary vehicle and one as a parts car -- or would I have ready access to parts in the U.S.? Please help me out, guys. I'll have hell to pay if she's not greeted with the car, or at least a convincing reason for my not having been successful.
Tom: Well, your daughter obviously has bonded with the people of Armenia. That's wonderful. And she clearly wants to take a piece of her experience there home with her -- she wants a keepsake.
Ray: But it would be easier, and cheaper, if she just married an Armenian and brought HIM home, Chuck. Because there's no way you're ever going to get a Lada approved for road use in the United States.
Tom: If a vehicle doesn't meet U.S. safety and environmental standards (and trust us, Chuck, this one doesn't), the U.S. Department of Transportation requires you to either upgrade it and make it comply, or destroy it. Guess which option you're going to be forced to pick?
Ray: Unless you're the kind of guy who makes nuclear reactors out of balsawood in his spare time on weekends, you're not going to be able to upgrade this thing to meet U.S. code. Even car companies have a hard time doing it. For an individual, it's almost
Tom: Trust us, a wedding's going to be cheaper, Chuck. No matter how many lamejun pizzas you have to come up with for the reception.
(Car Talk is a nationally syndicated column by automotive experts (and brothers) Tom and Ray Magliozzi. Write to them at the Car Talk Web site.)