Home Cars 32 American Cars That Weren’t Sold In The U.S.

32 American Cars That Weren’t Sold In The U.S.

Vukasin Herbez October 13, 2018

Since the beginning of the car industry, Detroit established itself as the car capital in the world. For the better part of the 20th century, the American car industry dictated the trends in automotive design, technology, and production. And in the same period, U.S. manufacturers exported heavily to all parts of the world.

Everything began when Ford started selling their Model T cars worldwide, establishing assembly plants on several continents. The Model T was a utilitarian product people loved all over the world. But to continue selling cars in different countries, Ford needed to develop models to suit each specific market. This started the idea of founding subsidiary companies independent from Detroit.

Ford concentrated on engineering and building specific products under well-known American names. So we looked at the most interesting cars made by U.S. companies sold solely in parts of the world. Check these rare models out below.

32. Ford Falcon GT HO 351

Probably the most famous Australian muscle car was the mighty Falcon GT HO 351 that Ford introduced in 1971. Despite its performance portfolio, it was a four-door sedan with proper muscle equipment. It came with Ford’s 351 V8 with a shaker hood and beefed-up suspension and brakes.

The power output was 300 HP for the standard version, and Ford also offered Phase II and Phase III options. The car looked the same, except with upgraded mechanicals. In the ultimate Phase III version, the Falcon GT HO produced over 350 HP. Performance was astonishing with 0 to 60 mph in the six-second range and top speeds over 140 mph.

The Falcon GT HO was successful at racing, dethroning its arch-enemy, the Holden Monaro GTS 350. In the U.S., the Falcon was an economy car. But in Australia, it was a well-respected four-door muscle model with a racing pedigree.

31. Chevrolet “Chev” Firenza CanAm

One of the craziest, rarest Chevrolet muscle cars is the Chev Firenza CanAm. Chevy introduced it in 1973. They based the Firenza CanAm on the Vauxhall Firenza, a two-door sedan designed in England. However, they built it in South Africa under the Chevrolet badge.

But the best thing about this car was the engine. It was a 5.0-liter Chevrolet V8 straight from the Z28 Camaro with performance intake and heads producing close to 400 HP. Since the Firenza body was light, the V8 could launch this homologation special in 5.4 seconds to 0 to 60 mph. These acceleration figures were closer to a Ferrari than a Chevrolet. They only produced 100 Firenza CanAms, almost by hand, and mostly for racing. Today, surviving examples are quite rare and expensive.

30. Ford Capri

The success of the Mustang-inspired many American brands to offer a pony car model of their own. Even in Europe, the Mustang was popular and common. However, Ford wanted to explore the market further with a smaller European version. It would be less expensive and more suited to the needs of European buyers.

And this is how the Ford Capri came to be in 1969. They designed in the UK, so the Capri was a European Mustang in every way. Using the “long hood-short deck” formula and semi-fastback styling, the Capri had a fantastic stance. Although they based it on the standard Cortina floor plan with the same engines, the Capri looked like a thoroughbred sports or muscle car.

In fact, people often confused it with a U.S.-built Ford. This affordable coupe proved almost as successful as the Mustang, selling in millions during its 16-year lifespan. Interestingly, they imported it to America as the Mercury Capri in the mid-’70s.

29. Chevrolet Opala SS

The Opala SS is the typical example of a Brazilian muscle car Chevy produced in the height of the muscle car craze. They introduced this handsome fastback coupe in 1969. It came in a wide arrange of formal body styles as Chevrolet’s main mid-size model for the Brazilian market. However, the name, “Opala,” was controversial because customers thought it represented a mix between the names, “Opel” and “Impala.”

Germany’s Opel was a part of GM and produced a model they called the Rekord. While it was visually the same, the U.S.-made Chevrolet Impala used the 4.1-liter straight six, like Brazil’s Opalas. Either way, Chevrolet decided to introduce the performance version of the Opala using the same 4.1-liter straight six tuned to produce 169 HP.

Although not much by today’s standards, it was enough to give the Opala SS decent performance figures, attracting many customers. The Opala SS was even successful on the race tracks and won many events in Brazil during the 1970s. And the Opala SS had a distinctive appearance package that included a vinyl roof and racing stripes. It also came with cool graphics and sporty wheels to differentiate it from its lesser cousins.

28. Dodge Charger R/T

Most people know what the Dodge Charger looks like since it is one of the most popular classic muscle cars in the world. However, the Brazilian version is different even though it carries the same name and model designation. In the late 1960s after the demise of the Simca operation, Chrysler introduced the Dodge Dart to produce locally.

The car was modern and among the most prestigious Brazilian models. But in 1971, Chrysler surprised Brazilian performance enthusiasts with a new model they called the Charger R/T. It was a dressed-up two-door Dart with a new front design and cool graphics. They also gave it a vinyl roof and a 318 V8 engine with 215 HP.

The new Charger R/T was immediately one of the most desirable cars in Brazil. It came with optional air conditioning and a plush interior. The front disc brakes made it highly advanced for the time. The high price meant it was relatively rare, but it was a hit with Brazilian car fans.

27. Ford Falcon Cobra

In 1978, Ford was getting ready to introduce a new body style for its popular Falcon. They wanted to produce a new model in a sedan or station wagon because the two-door coupe was out of production. After closing down the assembly lines of the old model, Ford was left with 400 coupe body shells to scrap. However, Ford decided to turn the leftover bodies into a special version they called the Falcon Cobra.

The 1978 Falcon Cobra came with a 5.8 or 5.0 V8 engine and automatic or manual transmission. Also, it came in two colors, white or blue. Each car had racing stripes as an homage to the Shelby Mustang, which was popular in Australia. Today, the Falcon Cobra is a valuable and popular car in Oceania.

26. Chrysler Valiant Charger

The Chrysler Motor Company wanted to participate in the Australian muscle car class, so in 1971, they introduced the Valiant Charger. They based it on a regular Valiant platform but gave it a sporty new two-door body. The Charger got its name from its American cousin, the Dodge Charger. To be able to keep up with mighty Falcon GTs, Monaros, and Toranas, the Valiant Charger came with several performance engines.

The most popular engine came from a hot version of Chrysler’s six-cylinder engine featuring new cylinder heads and updated intake systems. In the R/T version, the 4.3-liter six delivered over 240 HP, but the most powerful version was Charger 770 SE E55. Under the hood was a well-known, Mopar-built 340 V8 with 285 HP and three-speed automatic. This engine was common in Dodge Challengers and Plymouth Barracudas in America.

25. Ford Sierra Cosworth

Ford UK is a popular economy car manufacturer. However, occasionally they produce a machine with amazing performance and power still at affordable prices. Some say that fast Fords are perfect examples of “blue-collar” sports and muscle cars since they attracted mid-class buyers.

One of the most legendary British muscle cars is the fantastic Sierra Cosworth, which they introduced in 1985. The Sierra was an ordinary family sedan Ford produced in numerous versions. The car featured rear-wheel drive and an independent rear suspension. However, when Ford decided to contract the Cosworth tuning house for a performance model, a legend was born.

Cosworth took three door-body and added a special body kit with spoilers and unique wheels. Under the hood was a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine producing 225 HP, propelling the car to 60 mph in just 6.5 seconds. For 1985, those were fantastic numbers, so the Sierra Cosworth immediately became one of the hottest British cars on the road. Also, it was successful on the tracks, winning many races.

24. Chevrolet Veraneio

Lots of American manufacturers produced trucks and vans abroad using identical platforms and designs as in America. Ford, Chevrolet, and Dodge produced pickups for the South American and Mid-Eastern markets similar to their domestic models except for the engine and trim options. However, for the big Brazilian market, Chevrolet decided to go with unique styling and somewhat of a different concept than in the U.S.

The best example is the cool-looking Chevrolet Veraneio. It was just one SUV/crossover model produced from the late ’50s to the early ’80s in Brazil. Chevrolet realized Brazil needed trucks as well as a local version of the Suburban. The Suburban model could carry up to nine passengers and their luggage and still could tackle tough Brazilian roads.

They built the Veraneio on a truck chassis and equipped it with standard six and V8 engines. But they covered it in a unique-looking SUV body. Despite having a unique design, the Veraneio was identical to other Chevrolet truck products underneath the body. Today, it’s hard to find one in good condition since most people used their Veraneio as a work vehicle.

23. Ford F-1000

When Ford realized Chevrolet was building special models for the Brazilian market and winning buyers over, they decided to do something similar with their truck operation. That’s how the strange and interesting F-1000 came to be. Ford introduced the F-1000 in 1979. It was outdated in styling but advanced in construction.

It featured an extended cab but came with two doors and a short truck bed. They equipped it with an all-wheel drivetrain, which local buyers needed for driving through the jungles of Brazil. However, the most interesting thing was the engine. All F-1000s came with diesel six cylinders and later turbodiesel engines. The engine choices limited the F-1000’s appeal to commercial users. But almost all buyers used them as dependable work trucks. Production ended in 1998 yet those interesting trucks still roam Brazilian roads.

22. Chevrolet Chev SS

Behind this strange name is the Australian-built Holden Monaro GTS. Chevy exported it to South Africa and sold it under the SS badge through their dealerships. The car was basically the same as the Monaro GTS except for the front grille. Also, the South African SS had four headlights. Buyers could choose between two V8 engines.

The standard powerplant was 308 V8, but most customers wanted the 350 V8 with 300 HP. With this engine, the SS could accelerate to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds and top 130 mph. Interestingly, despite relatively high production figures, the Chev SS is rare. This is because drivers either crashed most of them or sent them back to Australia.

21. Chevrolet Niva

Back in the early 1970s, Russian Lada introduced a compact but capable SUV they called the Lada Niva. It lasted in production for decades and even managed to achieve considerable export success. However, the original Niva was rugged and slow. So in the 1990s European, American and Japanese companies engineered a wide arrange of modern SUV models. This forced Niva to lose their battle for customers.

In the mid-’90s, General Motors invested in the Russian car industry, including the Lada factory. So, in 1998, Lada produced the second generation of the Niva. But this time, they called it the Chevrolet Niva, selling it in Eastern Europe and selected export markets.

Compared to the original model, the Chevrolet Niva had a better design and it was also more technically advanced and comfortable. It comes with a 1.7-liter four-cylinder that sends power to all four wheels.

20. Ford Escort Mk1

Although the British car industry was always known for luxury and sports cars, their economy models were just as interesting. And this was the case with the Escort Mk1, a mass-produced economy car that became one of Ford’s global best sellers. Also, it was a fantastically successful motorsport legend.

Ford introduced in the Escort Mk1 in 1968. It was a compact rear-wheel-drive saloon aimed at family buyers. And the basic version used the forgettable 1.1 and 1.3-liter engines. But for those who wanted more, Ford offered the hot 1600 RS and RS 2000 models. They had special suspensions and engines. They also had a lot of power and low weight. This combination made them capable of defeating much more expensive cars. Overall, they were proper racing monsters.

19. Ford Landau

Ford presented the Landau in 1971 as the biggest and most expensive car the company sold in Brazil. However, the Landau was basically an upscale mid-’60s Ford Galaxie. They produced it until 1983 and made few changes during that time. The Landau was a common car with government officials.

Under the hood was a 302 V8 engine the mated with a three-speed automatic or manual gearbox. Interestingly enough, in the late ‘70s, Ford Brazil produced several thousand Landau models they modified to run on alcohol rather than gasoline due to the oil crisis. They built over 77, 000 Landaus during its 12-year production run.

18. Ford Falcon Sprint Argentina

Ford unveiled the Falcon in America in 1960 as its best-selling compact model. It came with a range of six and eight-cylinder engines and several body styles. So to reclaim its position as the market leader in Argentina, Ford decided to present an Argentinean version in 1962. It was basically identical to the U.S. model featuring a few design tweaks.

In 1973, Ford Argentina wanted to explore the muscle car market, so they announced a new performance model called the Falcon Sprint. This was the same 10-year-old four-door sedan. However, it came with an appealing graphics package, a different front end, and a 3.6-liter straight six delivering 166 HP.

17. Ford Capri Perana

Basil Green was an accomplished racer turned tuner and dealer. When Ford introduced the affordable and cool Capri coupe in late 1969, he realized the potential. So he soon introduced the Capri Perana. Green took the 3.0-liter V6 Capri from England and installed a 5.0-liter Ford V8 from a Mustang.

To make the car handle properly, Green had his engineers modify the suspension, chassis, brakes, and steering. So, after some thorough work, the Capri Perana was born. The power output was around 280 HP. But in the lightweight body of the standard Capri, the Perana was able to reach 60 mph in just six seconds.

16. Ford Taunus

The Taunus was a line of mid-size, family sedans and wagons Ford Germany built from the late 1930s up to 1982. Over the years, Ford Germany produced numerous models and versions. The vehicle sold well in Europe as well as other parts of the world too.

The Taunus didn’t share any components with American-built Fords. But Dearborn often used the same compact V4 engines they produced in Germany for some of their show cars and prototypes.

15. Ford Del Ray

Although it sounds American, the Ford Del Ray was a car produced in Brazil. And they fully constructed and designed the car in South America. Also, the Del Ray had a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine that came from Volkswagen.

They presented this model in 1981, selling through 1991 in Brazil as well as other South American countries. It was available as a four-door sedan, two-door sedan, and a practical station wagon.

14. Chevrolet Calibra

In 1989, GM subsidiary Opel introduced an advanced sports coupe called the Calibra. The car featured modern, aerodynamic styling. Chevy built a lineup of cars that had four and six-cylinder engines with front-wheel drive. And at the time, it was one of the best affordable sports cars on sale in Europe.

However, GM decided to reintroduce this car in South America, and not as the Opel but as the Chevrolet Calibra. They sold the car with minimal modifications. Top brass at GM even considered bringing it to America, but that didn’t happen.

13. Ford Granada

American car enthusiasts will recognize the Granada name since Ford introduced it on a series of mid-size cars from 1975 to 1982. However, you may not know about European Granada. It was a different model Ford produced from 1972 to 1985.

Ford conceived it as a luxury model, so the Granada was the biggest car they sold in Europe. It was also powered by four and six-cylinder engines and featured a long list of optional extras. The model came in two distinctive generations and they later replaced it with the Ford Scorpio in 1985.

12. Ford Sierra XR8

You might remember the Ford Sierra, the definitive ’80s Ford’s mid-size family model with rear-wheel drive. The car was sold in America as Merkur XR4Ti with a 2.3-liter turbo engine with modest success. But South Africans had a different idea.

The Ford SA produced a limited run of Sierra XR8 models, which featured a 5.0-liter V8 engine with 220 HP straight out of a Mustang. With its light body and manual transmission, the Sierra XR8 could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in less than seven seconds, making it perfect as a basis for a successful racing car. Since this was a homologation special, the production was small at just 250 examples which looked almost stock.

10. IKA Torino

The IKA factory was established in 1955 as a Kaiser subsidiary in Argentina, which produced American-designed models for the local buyers. However, in 1964, IKA, now a part of American Motors Company, needed a modern-looking and powerful car in order to compete on the Argentinean market. AMC provided IKA with a 1965 Rambler American platform, including body panels and drivetrain, while IKA designed and produced the front and rear end design and interior.

The Torino debuted in 1966 and was pretty modern and advanced for Argentinean standards of the day. However, IKA realized that the Torino had more potential of just being a right road car and started upgrading the engine as soon as 1969 with the Torino 380W model. This version included a 3.8-liter engine with 176 HP and unique exterior trim.

The Torino was the premium Argentinean muscle car since it was a nice-looking coupe with luxury appointments and excellent driving dynamics. The company continued to produce more and more powerful versions like Torino TSX, Torino GS, and Torino ZX with the same 3.8-liter engine but with power ranging from 200 to 215 HP.

9. Ford Maverick GT V8

The American buyers got to know Maverick as Ford’s base economy model introduced in 1969 in order to fight the foreign compact car invasion. The American Maverick wasn’t anything special, just another affordable runabout with no defining features, but it was one of the premium muscle cars in GT trim in Brazil.

But for muscle car connoisseurs and enthusiasts, Ford produced the Maverick GT V8 equipped with a 5.0-liter V8 (302 CID) producing 199 HP, a significant number for the standards of the day. In this relatively light package and with a four-speed manual transmission, the Maverick GT was one of the fastest Brazilian cars at the moment and a very popular muscle car.

In 1975, Ford introduced Maverick GT with Quadrajet four-barrel carburetor, which raised the power level to 255 HP and made this compact very fast. This model came with famous Ford’s Grabber colors, front and rear spoiler, sports wheels, and lots more. Even today, this is one of the most popular and sought-after Brazilian muscle cars.

8. Ford OSI 20M TS

Back in the ’60s, Italy was full of small design houses producing interesting variants of regular production cars. Most of those little body shops looked for lucrative contracts with big companies, which will provide them with financial security and a chance to present their creations to a worldwide audience.

One of those small firms was OSI, which concentrated on producing bodies based on a Fiat chassis. However, their best-known model was, in fact, a Ford. Back in the mid-’60s, OSI teamed with European Ford to produce a limited run of sports cars based on mid-size Taunus chassis. The vehicle was called Ford OSI 20M TS and had a gorgeous and elegant coupe body, a 2.3-liter V6 engine, and around 110 HP. Not much, but since it was light, performance was satisfying to most customers.

7. Chevrolet 400 Super Sport

In the early ’60s, Ford and Chrysler introduced modern and affordable versions of US models for the Argentinean market, which left Chevrolet without a proper competitor. In order to attract more buyers and regain position on the market, Chevrolet decided to introduce a model called 400, which was basically the American Chevy II or Nova. The main version was a modest four-door sedan with a 3.2-liter straight-six engine.

The car proved to be decently popular, but the rising racing and muscle car scene demanded a more powerful version. So in 1967, Chevrolet presented the 400 SuperSport, one of the first domestic muscle cars in Argentina in whole South America. The 400 SuperSport had better brakes and suspension and a tuned version of the venerable 250 CID (4.1-liter) straight-six with 155 HP.

The car could be easily distinguished from the American-made Chevy II since the 400 SuperSport had four headlights, a blackout grille, and fake hood scoops similar to the 1966 Chevelle SS. Despite the fact it was a four-door sedan, the 400 Super Sport was popular with Argentinean racers of the day.

6. Ford Cortina XR6 Interceptor

Introduced in 1982, the Cortina XR Interceptor was a high-performance version of the regular MK3 Cortina sold all over the world. Ford South Africa wanted something to spark the sales and also reintroduce muscle cars to the market, and Cortina’s rear-wheel-drive platform was perfect for the job.

The Cortina XR6 Interceptor was a performance four-door sedan with a 3.0-liter V6 engine with three Webber carburetors, hotter cam, and high compression heads. The power was not very high at 140 HP, but the Cortina was reasonably light and stable. Since it featured a pretty ordinary look, it was the favorite getaway car for armed robberies. Simply, it featured a straightforward design perfect for blending with the traffic and engine powerful enough to get you away fast. Maybe that’s why Ford built only 250 of them.

5. Dodge GTX V8

The Chrysler Corporation was pretty active in Argentina during the ’60s and the ’70s, and it produced several models aimed directly at the local market. Their most significant and most luxurious offering was Dodge GT, a Dart-based sedan with better equipment powered by the famous 225 Slant Six engine. The car was introduced in 1968, but in 1970, Chrysler Argentina decided to present the proper muscle version in the form of the Dodge GTX.

Borrowing the name from the eponymous Plymouth car, Dodge GTX was also a luxury muscle car, at least for South American standards of the day, with power windows and air conditioning as standard. It featured a cool-looking coupe body and optional 318 V8, which delivered 212 HP or 230 HP depending on model year and transformed this Dodge in one of the most powerful domestic cars of the period. Production lasted until 1973, and due to its high price, the GTX wasn’t produced in many examples.

4. Ford RS200

Back in the mid-’80s, motorsports were all about rallying and famous and terrifyingly dangerous Group B. Group B was a part of the World Rally Championship, which featured factory prototypes loosely based on production cars with insane turbocharged engines and all-wheel-drive systems. The vehicles were crazy fast and crazy dangerous and much loved by fans all over the world. Eventually, Group B was canceled by FIA, but manufacturers battled each other for supremacy on the dirt and mud of rally stages for a few years. This brought us many exciting and fast road cars since manufacturers were obligated to produce a number of road-going vehicles for homologation purposes.

That was precisely the insane Ford RS200. Introduced in 1984, it was a mid-engined, turbocharged sports car that featured a lightweight body construction, a 2.1-liter engine with 250 hp, and two seats. It was a race car with no intention of hiding it Thanks to all-wheel drive, it was capable of jumping from 0 to 60 mph in just 5 seconds flat. The road version, of which 200 were made, was detuned from 450 compared to 500 hp of the race version.

3. Ford Racing Puma

In the late ’90s, Ford UK presented the Puma, a small compact performance model that was based on Fiesta. The Puma looked fast, but it wasn’t much faster than the economy Fiesta with the same engine in reality. So, in 1999, the Ford rally team prepared a limited production model called Racing Puma, which was produced in only 500 examples.

The Racing Puma had special paint, bodywork, wheels, and suspension setup while retaining the stock 1.7-liter four-cylinder although a bit modified. The power output was modest at 150, but the car was light and elegant, which provided the driver with an exhilarating driving experience.

2. Shelby Europa

When Shelby introduced its line of mighty Mustangs, European enthusiasts took notice. Soon the cars were popular on the continent as well as in the United States. One of the first Shelby dealers was Belgian racing driver Claude Dubois. After the Shelby production stopped in 1970, Dubois approached Carroll Shelby and asked him for the rights to produce a unique line of European spec 1971/72 Mustangs under the Shelby name.

In two years, only about 14 cars were made, which makes Shelby Europe an incredibly rare muscle car. Most of them got 351 V8 engines, and some received the 429 Cobra Jet.

1. Ford Fairmont GT

Introduced in 1970, the Fairmont was a full-size sedan designed and constructed by Ford’s Australia division but built and sold by the South African branch too. It was basically a version of Australian Ford Falcon XY.

As you know, the Falcon GT was one of the first and most popular Australian muscle cars, so South African dealers wanted their own local version. That is how the Fairmont GT came to be. Powered by Ford’s 351 V8 engine, the 1970 model had a 2 barrel carburetor, while the 1971 to 1973 model had a 4 bbl version with 300 HP, making it one of the fastest and most powerful cars in South Africa at the time. The 0 to 60 mph time was pretty respectable 7.2 seconds. Of course, the Fairmont GT was an expensive and rare car, and in four years of production, Ford built just 1824 examples.



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