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.
Inspecting the Car
Before handing over money for a vehicle fresh from Japan, we strongly
recommend that you have it professionally inspected.
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
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.
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
The Statement of Requirements indicates that the front seatbelts of the
180SX meet ADRs, but the factory rear belts must be replaced.
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)
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.
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
Installation of the new 3 point seatbelts requires removing the back seat,
factory rear seatbelts and C-pillar trim panels.
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.
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
The lower seatbelt flanges were fastened to the anchorages that were
previously used for the buckles. Note that the belt should be installed without
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.
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
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
Once you have satisfactory seatbelt retraction and locking performance, the
job is done.
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...
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.
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.
"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.
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.
Using a pair of flat-blade screw drivers, the mirror element can now be gently prised out of its rubber surround.
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...