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15yo ADR-ing - Part One

Part One of ADR-ing a 15 year old Japanese import...

By Michael Knowling

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At a glance...

  • First of three part series
  • Inspecting the vehicle
  • Sorting the documentation
  • Starting the ADR process - seatbelts and mirrors
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We’ve recently tested a wide variety of Japanese imports that have arrived in Australia under the regulations for 15+ year old vehicles. One of the biggest attractions of these vehicles is the relatively small amount of ADR (Australian Design Rules) work necessary to get them road registered – only about half the work required for a later model vehicle.

But what exactly needs to be done and, more importantly, can this work be done at home by the average enthusiast?

In this three-part series we’ll take you through the process of ADR-ing our newly acquired 1989 Nissan 180SX.

Preliminary Steps...

Inspecting the Car

Before handing over money for a vehicle fresh from Japan, we strongly recommend that you have it professionally inspected.

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The inspection should focus on whether the vehicle has any major faults that would make it difficult to pass a roadworthy inspection. If the chassis is damaged or there’s excess rust (common in vehicles sourced from the snowy areas of Japan) you’d be advised to steer clear. The car must be in sound structural condition.

It is then important to check the documentation associated with an imported vehicle.

The vehicle must be provided with a "Vehicle Import Approval" document, which outlines the year of vehicle manufacture, VIN and the importer’s business details. An import approval number is also issued. Note that the vehicle cannot be registered if the Vehicle Import Approval is not provided.

After satisfying these requirements there’s nothing to stop you purchasing the vehicle - go for it!

Note that you’ll need to find a way to transport the vehicle home. You can hire a flat-bed truck or, if the car is safely driveable, you can obtain a temporary registration permit. In South Australia, a 1 to 3 day permit can be arranged at any Transport SA centre for AUD$46.


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So you’ve purchased an imported vehicle together with its Vehicle Import Approval document. Now what?

Well, the next step is to obtain another document from your local Department of Transport – an "Imported Motor Vehicle Application for Exemption from Fitting of a Compliance Plate". This document requires your personal details and details of the vehicle.

Both documents – the Vehicle Import Approval and Imported Motor Vehicle Application for Exemption from Fitting of a Compliance Plate – must then be forwarded to the Department of Transport.

After a few weeks you will be sent the all-important "Statement of Requirements" document. The Statement of Requirements outlines the ADR modifications and vehicle standards required for registration.

Now you can begin the ADR-ing process!

Specific ADR Details – Where to Get Them?

During the process of ADR-ing our 180SX we found it necessary to make several phone calls to the local traffic authority regarding the specific ADR details.

We have since learnt that all this inforation is available on CD-ROM. A CD-ROM can be purchased for AUD$23.55 and an on-going subscription (with up-to-date amendments) costs AUD$70.60.

The CD-ROM can be ordered at or by e-mailing

The ADR-ing Process...

Be aware that the ADRs listed in the Statement of Requirements vary from car to car. The process detailed in these articles applies only to a 1989 Nissan 180SX.


The Statement of Requirements indicates that the front seatbelts of the 180SX meet ADRs, but the factory rear belts must be replaced.

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As seen here, the 180SX comes factory-fitted with a pair of non-retractable lap belts for the rear seating positions. These are poor from a safety perspective and must be replaced with 3 point ELR (emergency locking retractor) seatbelts.

Okay - so where do you begin?

The first step is to check if the vehicle has provisions for fitment of 3 point rear seatbelts. In the case of the 180SX, we discovered upper seatbelt anchorages sitting vacant behind the plastic C-pillar trims. These anchorages are already threaded.

Note that switching from lap to 3 point seatbelts in the 180SX requires swapping the orientation of the buckles. In the factory arrangement, the seatbelts reach from the inboard anchorages to the buckles fitted to the outboard anchorages. In a 3 point configuration, the upper and lower seatbelt mounts are fitted to the outboard anchorages (one directly beneath the other) and the buckles are moved to the inboard anchorages.

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If your vehicle is a popular Japanese import there’s a good chance of being able to find a company that sells ADR-approved seatbelt kits. These kits typically comprise a retractor reel and buckle, upper mounting bracket, high tensile bolts, spacers and spring washers – everything you need. Rear seatbelt kits usually cost AUD$300 to AUD$400.

In the case of our 180SX, we were lucky enough to score a ‘new old stock’ seatbelt kit for just AUD$100. (And, sorry, we grabbed the last available set!)

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Installation of the new 3 point seatbelts requires removing the back seat, factory rear seatbelts and C-pillar trim panels.

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A hole was then drilled through each plastic C-pillar trim where the upper anchorage bolt connects to the body. These holes were filed clean before the trim pieces were refitted to the C-pillars.

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The seatbelt retractor reels could then be secured to the C-pillar anchorages using the pre-fabricated metal brackets and high tensile bolts supplied in the kit.

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The lower seatbelt flanges were fastened to the anchorages that were previously used for the buckles. Note that the belt should be installed without twists.

Next, the seatbelt buckle (which is relocated to the inboard anchorage position) can be bolted into place. All seatbelt anchorage bolts should be tightened to the specifications listed by the vehicle manufacturer.

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Once installed, the rear seat can be refitted and the buckle height adjusted to suit. The buckle should be set so that it rests at the side of a seated occupant’s hip. The buckle must not rest on a seated person’s abdomen.

Note that the Securon seatbelts used in our 180SX feature a retractor reel that can be mounted at various angles. An adjustment mechanism is used to achieve the appropriate seatbelt retraction and emergency locking characteristics.

Once you have satisfactory seatbelt retraction and locking performance, the job is done.

Do-It-Yourself Seatbelts

If you don’t buy an off-the-shelf ADR-approved seatbelt kit you can take a Do-It-Yourself approach – but there are a few traps to be aware of...

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Most importantly, the majority of retractor reels are designed to be mounted at a specific angle. If the reel is mounted away from this angle it may not function properly. Care must be taken to select the appropriate retractor reel.

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Seatbelt mounting brackets must meet certain strength requirements and the anchorages must be positioned within certain angles relating to the seating position. There are also requirements that the seatbelt tongue must self-eject from buckle when the release mechanism is pressed.

If you take a Do-It-Yourself approach with seatbelts, we suggest contacting your local traffic authority for full requirements.

Exterior Mirrors

"Like many Japanese-market vehicles, the Nissan 180SX is factory-fitted with convex passenger and driver's side exterior mirrors. According to our Statement of Requirements, the driver's side mirror must be replaced with a flat mirror."

Initially, we considered purchasing the driver’s side mirror insert from a locally-delivered Nissan 200SX - it appears that the mirror element is the same as the 180SX’s. However, a cheaper alternative was to have a piece of flat mirror cut to shape.

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The process begins by removing the driver’s side mirror from its housing. In the 180SX, this involves removing a mounting screw (on the underside of the mirror housing) and unclipping the connection for electric adjustment.

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Using a pair of flat-blade screw drivers, the mirror element can now be gently prised out of its rubber surround.

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With the factory mirror element and its rubber surround apart, we presented both to a local glazier/mirror specialist. For just AUD$15, a replacement flat mirror was cut to shape and fitted into the surround. Note that there was plenty of factory adhesive remaining on the rubber surround to ensure the new mirror won’t fall out.

The flat mirror insert could then be refitted to the vehicle. Easy.

Stay tuned for Part Two - we’ll tackle the fuel filler, intrusion bars and child restraint anchorages...

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