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14 Classic Cars You Can Finally Import to America

Vukasin Herbez October 31, 2017

The American car market has interestingly and quite frankly, a notorious limit on importing cars that are not homologated for it. That limit is 25 years, which means you must wait at least 25 years to legally import cars that were never officially sold in the U.S. You might ask why a market as big and as powerful as the American auto industry needs such limitations. You have to go back a couple of decades to fully understand the situation.

Back in the early 70’s, when tough safety and emissions standards were imposed on the U.S. market, lots of imported cars lost their power and performance. All they gained were those ugly five-mph plastic bumpers. Customers who wanted both looks and performance could import the same cars from Europe or elsewhere and still get a factory warranty. They could also get all the insurance support in the U.S.A., even though their car was never intended for the American market.

The grey import market grew bigger and bigger each year. Soon, they were importing models never intended for the U.S. market. In fact, in just a couple of years, the private import business was so big, it threatened to close some official dealers and dealer networks. So, in the early 80’s, the government enacted the 25-year-old limitation, killing the gray market forever. They did this mostly because of pressure from the official dealer’s organizations and even the car manufacturers themselves.

Today, the 25-year law allows car enthusiasts to buy vehicles from 1992 or earlier. This was a great time for the automotive industry. Some of the best cars weren’t always available in the U.S.A. Keep reading to find out about the great cars you can import and drive on American highways.

1. Peugeot 205 GTI

When Peugeot introduced the compact 205 model in 1983, a performance GTI version wasn’t in the cards. Realizing that a hopped-up model could have an impact on the market, Peugeot presented the 205 with a 1.6-liter four-cylinder and 115 HP. The combination of a lightweight body, precise steering, a rev-happy engine and lively performance proved extremely popular with global buyers.

Peugeot even considered selling the 205 GTI in America, but since it pulled out of the market in 1991, U.S. buyers never got the chance to experience one of the best affordable compact performance cars of the 80’s. The 205 GTI was practical, economical and affordable. It managed to gather a cult following in Europe. In the late 80’s, the 205 GTI got a 1.9-liter engine upgrade that delivered 136 HP and an improved performance.

Despite the sales success of the regular model, Peugeot presented a homologation version they called the 205 T16 with the engine in the back. It participated in the World Rally Championship and in the famous Group B. Nowadays, 136 HP doesn’t sound much; however, drivers consider the 205 GTI one of the best hot hatches Peugeot ever made. Those late models from the early 90’s are finally available to excite American customers.

2. Lancia Delta HF Integrale

Lancia presented their compact model, the Delta, in 1979. The company started thinking about a performance version after it was on the market for five years. Lancia was always big in rallying. After the banning of their Group B model S4, they wanted something that could work well on the street and on the track, so they produced the HF Integrale. The main features of this model were a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 185 HP, which later went up to 220 HP. It also had a permanent, well-balanced all-wheel-drive system.

The Delta HF Integrale is an important hot hatch because it was the first one with an all-wheel drive (AWD) system. This marked the beginning of the transition from front-wheel drive, simple hot hatches to the high-tech, all-wheel drive performance monsters of today. The combination of a powerful engine, sharp handling, great traction and low weight was intoxicating for magazine testers of the day. The Delta HF Integrale received nothing but praises. Over the years, Delta HF Integrale proved to be a successful concept on rally stages all over the world and among the hot hatch fans.

They stopped production in 1994 after almost 40,000 Integrales were made. If you want to be the owner of a rally legend now available in America, be prepared to pay over $30,000 for one in good shape. Bear in mind the quality of those highly-tuned cars was never their strong suit.

3. Ford Escort RS Cosworth

Ford Escort was always an active model when it comes to affordable performance. From the legendary RS 1600 Mk1 to the Escort RS Turbo of the mid-80s, this was always a competitive yet obtainable choice. However, the best Escort RS was the 1992 to 1996 RS Cosworth model. Ford built it using Sierra RS Cosworth bits. This Escort was smaller, but it featured an improved 2.0-liter turbocharged engine with 227 HP.

The exterior was pure business with flared wheel arches, a hood with cooling vents and a massive rear wing that was adjustable. One of the main features was the rally-proven all-wheel-drive system that was necessary since the car developed over 230 lb-ft of torque. The Escort RS Cosworth was fast for the day. With a 5.8 second 0 to 60 mph acceleration time, it could beat most sports cars of the day. However, it was somewhat expensive for a hot hatch, so Ford decided to make it a limited model.

Since they introduced the car in 1992, it is now eligible for import. It should be interesting to see how people react to the sight of a rally Escort RS Cosworth on the American streets since Escort was always considered a slow economy car in the U.S.

4. Opel Omega Lotus/Lotus Carlton

This crazy and menacing-looking sedan is virtually unknown in U.S., even though GM’s subsidiaries, Opel in Germany and Vauxhall in the UK produced it. It once claimed the title of the world’s fastest four-door. It was short-lived because it entered the market in 1990 and production stopped in 1992. The Omega Lotus was Opel’s rear-wheel-drive luxury model. Tuned by renowned British sports car maker Lotus, they gave it a turbocharger on top of an already powerful stock six-cylinder engine.

The 3.6-liter six delivered 377 HP, which was massive for the standards of the day and the performance was thrilling. The 0 to 60 mph run was over in just 5.2 seconds and the top speed was a record-breaking 177 mph. They sold the car in just one color – Imperial Green, a shade of dark green. Opel produced and delivered the vehicles, while Lotus did the finishing and fine-tuning. The body kit, spoiler and special details were all installed in England.

Unfortunately, the production numbers were low due to several reasons. First, Opel and Vauxhall were considered economy car manufacturers and the Omega Lotus and Lotus Carlton were expensive cars with a price matching the fully optioned Jaguar XJ. Second, the recession of the early 90’s hit the market hard. So, in the end, Opel and Lotus made only 950 cars, which are valuable classics today and the prices are slowly rising. So, if you are looking for one of this gangster-looking, brutally fast sedans in America, now is the moment.

5. Suzuki Cappuccino

If you are a fan of Kei Cars, those Japanese micro automobiles with diminutive dimensions, small engines and a lot of fun, now is the time to show it. Several interesting cars are now legal for import and one of them is the Suzuki Cappuccino. This is a tiny roadster Suzuki built out of aluminum with rear-wheel drive, a cramped interior and a small trunk.

The engine only delivered 64 HP from a 670-cc three-cylinder unit, but it likes to rev. Thanks to only 1,400 pounds of weight, this car has a lively performance and unbelievable driving dynamics. Suzuki produced it in a right-hand-drive configuration only and sold it in selected markets in Asia and Europe. So, the Cappuccino is a rare car with a total production of only approximately 28,000. The prices are not high presently, but it will definitely gain value when U.S. car enthusiasts start buying them.

6. Autozam AZ-1

The second interesting Kei Car on this list that you can import to America is the crazy Autozam AZ-1. If you don’t know what this car is, nobody can blame you. It is a tiny sports car with a turbocharged, 660 cc three-cylinder engine that delivers 64 HP. Mazda built it and Suzuki sold it in limited numbers from 1992 to 1995. During that time, they produced less than 5,000 of them.

Despite its size and 1,500 pounds of weight, the Autozam AZ-1 was a proper sports car. In fact, some consider it the only supercar in the Kei car segment. The perfect chassis, gullwing doors and decent performance made it a favorite driving machine in Japan. The bizarre styling and lively driving dynamics give the driver a unique experience, which is one of the reasons to consider importing this little gem.

7. Bugatti EB 110 SS

Before the mighty Bugatti Veyron or new Chiron, they developed with Volkswagen’s money, there was the early 90’s Bugatti, which produced only one model. They called it the EB 110 and it was on the market for just a few short years. The EB 110 was a fantastic supercar, conceived with the philosophy of Ettore Bugatti’s original creations in mind. The SS was the ultimate version.

With a 600 HP engine, it can reach 60 mph in 3.2 seconds. The EB 110 SS costs over half a million dollars new, but they never sold it in the U.S.A. The Bugatti factory only made 33 of those brutally fast supercars before they went bankrupt. But, now you can own and import one. Of course, don’t expect it to be a bargain. You will probably end up paying more than the car was originally worth, but that is the price of exclusivity.

8. Jaguar XJ220

The story of the XJ220 is a strange one. Jaguar conceived it in the late 80’s as their first road-going supercar, and it looked promising. The concept car and the first prototypes had Jaguar’s standard V12 engine, but they tuned it to produce a higher output. However, halfway into development, they decided to install a new 3.5-liter twin-turbo V6 unit with 542 HP. The design of the car was fantastic. It had flowing lines along with a wide stance to emphasize its performance and speed.

When they released it, the XJ220 was the world’s fastest road-going model with an enormous price. Despite the hype and the wealthy customers waiting to buy this model, several delays in production and a lack of the V12 affected the market. They built less than 300. Jaguar named it the XJ220 since it could top 220 mph. However, they never officially sold it in America. Now is your chance to bring one of those misunderstood beasts to our shores.

9. Alpine A610

If you think France didn’t produce any relevant sports cars in the last 30 years, think again. They introduced the Alpine A610 in 1991. It was a replacement for the Alpine GTA and old A310 from the late 70’s. The fiberglass-bodied coupe featured several interesting features like a futuristic interior, a rear-mounted turbocharged V6 engine from Renault and a vivid performance.

The 3.0-liter V6 produced 247 HP, which was enough to launch this lightweight coupe from 0 to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds with a close to 170 mph top speed. However, the production was somewhat limited and prices are high. So if you want to enjoy this French sports car on American roads, be prepared to pay around $40,000 for a perfect example with a full-service history.

10. Mazda Familia/323 GTR

The early 90’s was the perfect time for the introduction of those rally homologation specials, so many European and Japanese companies did just that. Almost all those models became successful on the rally stages and became the legends of the hot hatch segment.

Some of those cars remained popular for all those years, while others fell into oblivion. This car is one of the latter. They called it the Mazda Familia GTR for the Asian market and the 323 GTR for the European market. It was a competent, fast version of Mazda’s popular compact car. But the GTR was more than just a cool nameplate. It was a highly tuned version of a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with special all-wheel drive.

The power output was high at 205 HP, and the AWD system meant this little compact handled like a dream. Today, they are rare and not expensive, so hurry up and snap this obscure piece of rally history.

11. Alfa Romeo SZ

The definitive Alfa sedan of the late 80’s was the legendary Alfa Romeo 75. It was a model available to American buyers, too. However, Alfa pulled out of the U.S. market in the early 90’s to concentrate on European customers. In 1989, in cooperation with the famous Italian design house Zagato, Alfa presented a crazy-looking sports car they called the RZ.

It was a Zagato styling exercise they based on the Alfa 75 platform featuring a 3.0-liter V6 engine with 211 HP. It had a transaxle gearbox and fantastic handling. Alfa and Zagato only made 1,050 of the RZ coupes. But, in 1991 these two companies introduced a convertible called the SZ. It featured the same strange styling and world-class handling, along with the open top and sleek silhouette.

The production was below the planned 350 examples and soon people forgot the SZ. Today, you have the chance to import one of the rarest and most capable classic Alfa Romeos in car history.

12. McLaren F1

It may be hard for most people to comprehend, but they never officially imported the legendary McLaren F1 to America. Sure, there are a few examples in the U.S., but they are basically sculptures with no license plates. Now, 25 years after the F1 rocked the world of supercars, you can finally own one of these bespoke sports cars in America and register it, too.

Car enthusiasts and experts have written much about the F1, including the way they designed and produced it. The F1 changed the supercar world forever. They introduced the F1 in 1992 and it stayed in production until 1998. During that period, McLaren produced 106 cars, including the GT-R versions, which were their highly successful racing models. The F1 featured a bespoke 6.1-liter V12 engine by BMW Motorsport. It delivered 627 HP and used a six-speed manual transmission.

The road versions of the F1 had an interesting, three-seat configuration. The driver’s seat was in the middle of the cabin and the steering wheel was in the center of the dash. The initial testing, racing success and overall excellence of the package declared the F1 one of the best, if not the best supercar of all times. The price of the F1 was around $1 million when new. Currently, some perfect examples trade hands for 10 to 15 times as much.

13. Nissan Skyline R32

Everybody who has played racing games in the last 20 years knows about the R32. This crazy powerful all-wheel-drive Japanese coupe was on top of many American car enthusiasts’ wish lists for a quarter of a century. And now it is finally eligible to import. They introduced this model in 1989, so it has been legal since 2014. However, most die-hard fans waited until 2017, so they could import later versions with more power, lighter weights and better performance.

For those who want facts, this two-door coupe has intelligent all-wheel drive, a 2.6-liter turbocharged engine with 276 HP stock and lots of tuning potential. Unfortunately, all R32s are right-hand drive models since Nissan primarily produced them for the Japanese and Australian markets. But for true JDM fans, this just adds to their appeal.

14. Volkswagen Golf Mk2 Country

Before Volkswagen produced their famous SUVs like the Touareg or Tiguan, they produced the interesting Golf Country. They introduced it in 1990 and produced it for a limited period of time in just 3,000 examples. The Country was basically a five-door Mk2 Golf with an intelligent all-wheel drivetrain, lifted body and off-road accessories.

It was a strange, rare car in Europe, capable of going off-road. The prices are not high, but it could be hard to find the one you want. Imagine how cool it would be to drive one of these interesting, obscure cars on America’s back roads.

If you’d like to draw attention every time you drive down the road, consider importing one of these cars. Car fans are excited to finally get their hands on these beauties.

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