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We recently were able to assist in the resolution of a long standing dispute with Australian Customs on behalf of importers of Ferrari and Porsche racing cars.

The vehicles in question were all factory built racing cars and had numerous features which identified them as racing cars as against being able to be used for normal road use. Some of these differences included:

  • Perspex back window and side windows;
  • Side window works on a manual horizontal slide basis i.e. no wind down handle;
  • Fire bomb factory fitted as required by safety race tracks regs;
  • Air jacks factory fitted for allowing the car to be jacked up instantly in pit stops;
  • No heating or air conditioning;
  • No trim or sound installation;
  • No handbrake;
  • Special fireproof seat;
  • Full racing harness provided;
  • Non-road legal slick tyres;
  • Steering wheel with pit communication;
  • Roll cage;
  • Race clutch; and
  • Racing gear box.

The issue that was of concern to Customs was the fact that the vehicles had provision for the fitting of a passenger seat. As such, Customs took the view that the vehicles, despite all the above and other features, were to be regarded as passenger motor vehicles.

After making various submissions to Customs, we were eventually able to convince them that the vehicles should be regarded as racing cars. In particular, we pointed out that the subject vehicles were imported on a permit, issued by the Department of Transport and Regional Services pursuant to the Motor Vehicle Standards Act and Regulations, that restricted them to race track use only. Furthermore, the cars consequent on their specific racing features, were not capable of being registered for road use any where in Australia. In addition, the cars failed to comply with various Australian Design Rules which are compulsory for vehicles intended for public road use and a prerequisite for registration of vehicles in Australia.

Various other technical and legal arguments were put forward to assist in the successful conclusion of this case.

The case appears to have been an unfortunate one where the relevant Customs officials failed to look at the totality of the situation and simply focused on one isolated issue. In the end, common sense prevailed. Our clients were able to import the vehicles as racing cars without having to pay duty and were also entitled to obtain refunds in respect of prior importations.


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