Asbestos found in classic cars
DEADLY asbestos is being detected in an increasing number of privately imported classic cars - and unwary buyers are risking thousands of dollars in fines and repairs.
Australian Border Force has intercepted more than 50 classic and vintage cars containing asbestos parts so far this year, almost twice as many as the same period last year.
Valuable collector cars such as Ford Mustangs, Rolls-Royces, Bentleys and Jaguars - most of which are more than 40 years old - have been caught in the Customs crackdown.
Individual importers risk fines of more than $3000 per offence, but the biggest expense is getting car parts tested and replaced.
Importers must pay for the testing of suspect parts and then replace them with asbestos-free components before the vehicle can clear Customs - a process that can take months and cost in excess of $20,000.
"Recent history has shown a high incidence of imports in the classic car sector where asbestos has been found in parts such as brake pads, clutch linings and gaskets from vintage and veteran cars," said Stephen Hledik, the acting commander of Customs Compliance in the Australian Border Force.
"If the Australian Border Force suspects there is asbestos present in the goods being imported we will instruct the importer to arrange for testing at their cost. That involves extra cost to them as well as delays as the testing is conducted," said Mr Hledik.
"It's the responsibility of the importer to make sure the asbestos parts have been removed before importing the car into Australia. Importers need to be aware that Australia's total ban on asbestos (introduced in 2003) means zero per cent asbestos content."
News Corp Australia has spoken to three private importers who've been caught out by the recent detection of classic cars containing asbestos, but none wanted to comment publicly.
One importer said testing and repairs cost him $14,500, another said the process set him back $25,000. Another importer said he was $10,000 out of pocket.
Australian Border Force says it has the discretion to not issue fines, but will use its powers to keep vehicles in quarantine until asbestos parts are removed.
One classic car importer who was caught out said it is "Russian roulette whether or not your car gets an inspection".
However he cautioned anyone planning to import a classic car to get it checked first.
"Anybody who buys an imported classic car needs to get it inspected by an authorised asbestos expert whose qualifications are recognised by Australian authorities, otherwise you could be wasting your money importing the car in the first place," one importer told News Corp Australia.
The Australian Border Force does not collect samples or dismantle cars suspected of containing asbestos. Instead, the importer or their broker is responsible for arranging testing by an accredited expert.
Testing for asbestos requires microscopic analysis by "an occupational hygienist".
For testing in Australia the laboratory must be accredited by the National Association of Testing Authorities (NATA); overseas test results will only be accepted by a "NATA-recognised equivalent".
Australia's prohibition on asbestos has been in place since 2003 and "the significant health risks of asbestos are well known", said Mr Hledik. "We make no apologies for our work to protect the community from the significant dangers of asbestos."
He said many overseas sellers will claim a car is asbestos-free "but importers shouldn't rely on the assurances of the seller alone," said Mr Hledik.
"Get it tested, or remove and replace the suspect parts, and you'll save yourself a lot of time, effort and money when your car arrives in Australia."
RECENT ASBESTOS BUSTS BY AUSTRALIAN BORDER FORCE
1948 Chevrolet Fleetline, USA to Adelaide
1969 Chevrolet Corvette, USA to Adelaide
1955 Chevrolet Bel Air, USA to Adelaide
1972 Lotus Europa, USA to Adelaide
1987 Nissan Skyline, Japan to Sydney
1964 Bentley S3, Netherlands to Perth
1978 Holden sedan, New Zealand to Brisbane
1973 DeTomaso Pantera, USA to Sydney
1972 Ducati Desmo 450 motorcycle, Holland to Sydney
1973 Jaguar E-Type, USA to Brisbane
1962 Lancia, USA to Sydney
1966 Ford Shelby GT350, USA to Sydney
1965 Ford Mustang, USA to Sydney
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling