Home Cars Uncharted Territory: Performance Cars Never Sold In America

Uncharted Territory: Performance Cars Never Sold In America

Vukasin Herbez July 21, 2023

America is the home of automotive culture on a global scale. That comes as no surprise as it is the country that launched the car industry. The United States also created hot rods, drive-ins, and endless stretches of highways that connect every state. Since cars are so important here, you might think that global manufacturers are eager to sell their products in the U.S.

Indeed, it’s easy to assume that American consumers have access to most of the car models produced throughout the world. But that’s not always the case. Even though consumers in the US have a great choice of performance cars, some are missing. American car customers are sometimes without the most exciting models. So we found the most interesting performance cars never released in the US. There were numerous reasons why the manufacturer decided to do so. Let’s get started here.

Photo Credit: VW

Volkswagen Scirocco R

The Scirocco is the Golf’s sportier, better-looking brother. It was built on the same platform and with the same engines but with a much sleeker, more aggressive design. The original Scirocco was introduced along with the first Golf Mk1 back in the mid-’70s and stayed in production until 1992. However, Volkswagen decided to revive the name in 2008 and presented the current generation (via Auto Express).

Photo Credit: VW

European customers can get Scirocco in a wide range of flavors, but the best one is the mighty Scirocco R. The model features all-wheel drive and 300 hp from a Golf R-sourced 2.0-liter turbocharged engine. With performance-tuned suspension and lots of power, the Scirocco R is highly fun to drive. Unfortunately, Volkswagen thought that launching Scirocco R in the USA would cannibalize the sales of the Golf GTI and Golf R so they decided to leave it in Europe.

Photo Credit: Auto WP

Nissan Skyline 2000 GT-R Hakosuka

Probably the most famous model name in the history of Japanese performance and sports cars is Nissan’s Skyline GT-R. Introduced in 1968, the Skyline GT-R started as a performance version of the upscale Skyline model but with many significant design changes that promoted it into a JDM performance legend (via EVO).

Photo Credit: Auto WP

The first GT-R was called Hakosuka, which is a Japanese term for a box. It featured squared lines and a boxy profile. But underneath the sheet metal, there was some serious sports car technology with a high-revving 2.0-liter six-cylinder engine and 160 hp. The Hakosuka GT-R had race-tuned brakes, steering, and independent rear suspension, making it capable on the street and the race track.

Photo Credit: Auto WP

Holden Ute SS

Not all forbidden fruits come from Europe or Japan. Some come from the Land Down Under, Australia. We’re talking about this model from General Motors’s Australian division Holden, a proper muscle pickup truck. The Holden Ute is a popular light-duty pickup that features a car chassis and engine but the payload and practicality of a truck. Further developing the concept, engineers from Holden decided to install the most significant engine they could find. It produces an insane truck featuring a 6.3-liter V8, 421 hp, and rear-wheel drive (via Carfolio).

Photo Credit: Auto WP

Even though the US customers already knew the half-truck, half-car concept with the Chevrolet El Camino or Ford Ranchero, GM decided to leave this model in Australia. They didn’t even try to import it with the left-hand drive for American customers, which begged GM for such a car. We are sure that Holden Ute will have many customers in America, but GM’s management has yet to make plans for importing this model.

Photo Credit: Top Gear

Lotus Elise S1

When the Lotus Elise debuted in 1996, it caught the auto world by storm. Such a compact yet beautiful roadster with a lightweight body and precise handling was unique on the market and influenced many big manufacturers to produce similar models. Lotus designed a car that weighed only 750 kg and went from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.8 seconds, powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine with 143 hp. The interior was pretty bare, but this wasn’t a problem (via Road and Track).

Photo Credit: Top Gear

The driving dynamics were so good, and the Elise was so fun to drive that the lack of an audio system or air conditioning was hardly noticeable. However, Lotus` quest for lightness resulted in a car that barely passed the crash tests in Europe but failed in America and was ultimately banned. Only the second generation of Lotus Elise, which debuted in 2001, got better crash test ratings and was granted a US passport.

Photo Credit: Mercedes

Mercedes A45 AMG

Even though Mercedes imports CLA 45 AMG and GLA 45 AMG models to America, it missed bringing the craziest hot hatch currently on sale, the A45 AMG. This is the first Mercedes hot hatch model, and it’s sold globally but not in the USA for some reason. Mercedes apparently thinks that it should keep this 360 hp, all-wheel drive monster out of US shores (via Drive).

Photo Credit: Mercedes

But let’s just talk performance, and you will understand the amount of fun US customers are missing out on. The 2.0-liter twin-turbocharged four-cylinder produces 360 hp. That is sent to all four wheels over an intelligent AWD system and a super-fast automatic transmission. It’s enough to produce a 0 to 60 mph time of 4.2 seconds and unbelievable diving dynamics, especially for a compact car. The CLA and GLA 45 AMG, which American buyers could buy, are good but not as good as the insanely fast A45 AMG.

Photo Credit: Auto WP

Alfa Romeo Montreal

Even though the Montreal was never officially sold in Canada or America, this sports car from Alfa had a significant impact on the early ’70s sports car market. The Montreal was fast, stylish, and exclusive. It was built on a Giulia chassis with a timeless Bertone body and a high-revving V8 engine up front. Production was low at just over 4000 copies, making it sought-after today (via FCA).

Photo Credit: Auto WP

Although the Montreal could have been better due to the fact it was rushed into production, it was still a great-looking and driving coupe. Its design was influenced mainly by Lamborghini Miura and featured a sloping rear end, making it a true European fastback.

Photo Credit: Auto WP

Nissan Silvia CSP 311

You all probably know the Nissan Silvia for its widely popular S14 and S15 versions produced in the ’90s, which became the definitive drift cars. But the story of the Silvia as one of Nissan’s most legendary sports cars dates back to the mid-’60s and cool-looking Silvia CSP 311 coupe which was one of the first modern sports cars from this brand (via Nissan).

Photo Credit: Auto WP

Introduced in 1964 at the Tokyo Motor Show, the Silvia CSP 311 was a big step forward for this still-obscure manufacturer. The car had European looks and proportions. It was a luxurious (for the Japanese standards of the times) sports coupe with rear-wheel drive. It had a 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 96 HP, which gave it decent performance. However, the first Silvia was an expensive car for the Japanese domestic market. It sold in just 554 examples, most of which stayed in Japan.

Photo Credit: Auto WP

Porsche 959

The Porsche 959 is one of the fastest and most advanced supercars of the ’80s. The 959 was a superior Porsche in every way, not only by design but by performance and price. Since Porsche has always been so famous in America, you might think every model will be homologated for the US market, but the 959 was an exception to the rule. The car was so advanced and expensive to build that the factory decided not to market it in the USA. This was because the process of obtaining the permit by NHTSA was too much even for Porsche (via Porsche).

Porsche 959
Photo Credit: Automotion

Introduced in 1987, the 959 had a 3.0-liter turbocharged flat-six engine with 450 hp, which sent to all four wheels over an intelligent AWD system, the first of its kind. The car had traction control, ABS, and a host of electronic systems, which helped the driver. Despite all this being standard in most new cars today, it was space-age technology in the late ’80s. The performance of this technological tour de force was also astonishing. The 0 to 60 mph sprint was possible in just 3.7 seconds.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

McLaren F1

It is hard to believe but the legendary McLaren F1 was never officially imported to America. Sure, there are a few examples here, 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 in America and register it, too. This is the last analog supercar, and sending it on a road trip across America would be an interesting way of introducing this car to the States (via McLaren).

Photo Credit: Auto WP

The F1 was born in 1992 and stayed in production until 1998. During that period, McLaren produced 106 cars, including the GT-R versions, highly successful racing models. The F1 featured a 6.1-liter V12 engine made by BMW Motorsport that delivered 627 hp to a six-speed manual transmission. Road versions of the F1 had an interesting three-seat configuration with the driver’s seat in the middle of the cabin and the steering wheel positioned in the center of the dash. The racing success and overall excellence of the car made the F1 one of the best if not the best supercars of all time.

Photo Credit: Classic Car


Before roadsters like the Z3, Z4, and the limited Z8, BMW introduced a strange-looking but very interesting Z1. In 1989, there was nothing similar on the market. The Z1 was a sleek roadster with unique styling, plastic body panels, and unusual sliding doors, which disappeared in rocker panels when opened. Technically, BMW Z1 could drive with the doors down (via Auto Express).

Photo Credit: BMW

BMW built the Z1 on a special chassis that featured a new rear suspension setup. The power came from a well-known 2.5-liter six-cylinder engine with 168 hp that produced decent performance. The other interesting feature was plastic body panels directly onto the chassis. Owners could buy different color panels and attach them to the car at will. Essentially, you could change your car’s paint just by adding different colored doors, fenders, trunks, or hoods. In production until 1991, BMW made 8000 Z1 roadsters. The factory never tried to homologate Z1 for the US market, possibly because of unusual doors. They realized that the NHTSA would never approve this feature for safety reasons.

Photo Credit: Motor Authority

Mitsuoka Orochi

One of the world’s most obscure supercars comes from Japan in the form of the Mitsuoka Orochi, an odd-looking two-seater with Lambo doors and a controversial design. The Mitsuoka company was known for building restomoded cars based on regular models. Still, in 2006, they decided to enter the supercar market with the highly exclusive Orochi. The car was named after a mythical Japanese dragon with eight heads which influenced the design of the car (via Secret Classics).

Photo Credit: Motor 1

The Orochi is based on the Honda NSX platform but powered by Toyota’s 3.3-liter V6 engine with 240 hp. That wasn’t a ton of hp but the car is light and nimble so its performance is satisfying, to say the least. The Orochi was never intended to be sold outside of Japan or selected Asian markets, especially not in the USA. First, the car is a right-hand configuration, and second, Mitsuoka is only interested in domestic buyers.

Photo Credit: Auto WP

Bristol Fighter

Bristol Cars is one of the craziest companies in the world. Not for their models, which are quite strange themselves, but for their business policy. The company barely made any money for decades, operated only one showroom, sold only 1 or 2 cars per year, and refused to modernize its lineup for decades. However, they somehow managed to survive. In 2004, Bristol decided to introduce a new model with uncompromised performance and fresh design, which is how the Bristol Fighter was born (via Auto Car).

Photo Credit: Auto WP

The chassis was custom-made with a special body featuring gullwing doors and a long hood. The design of the Fighter has no resemblance to other Bristol cars. But it carried the tradition of using Chrysler engines. This performance car has an 8.0-liter V10 from Dodge Viper rated at 525 HP. With 0 to 60 mph acceleration times of around four seconds and a top speed of over 200 mph, it was one of the fastest cars in the world.

Photo Credit: Auto WP

TVR Sagaris

The TVR Sagaris is a car we are truly fond of, and it’s a terrible shame it never came to America. Introduced in the early 2000s, it was an exciting and innovative design from a company known for brutally fast and sleek sports cars. It was propelled by TVR’s own 4.0-liter high-revving six-cylinder engine with 406 hp. The Sagaris was lightning quick, with a 3.7-second 0 to 60 mph time and a 185 mph top speed (via Top Gear).

Photo Credit: Pinterest

But the coolest thing about this sports car was its design. Named after a battle axe from Greek mythology, the Sagaris was simply hard to describe. There are very few cars with such an aggressive design that still manages to look elegant and fast even when standing still. TVR’s management was under scrutiny for not equipping the car with standard safety features like ABS, stability control, or even airbags. This caused problems with buyers in several European markets. The head of the company explained that such devices promote overconfidence in drivers. Needless to say, this policy didn’t provide TVR with many customers even though the car was fantastic. It also forbade the Sagaris from entering the US market.

Photo Credit: E Manual Online

Lotec Sirius

The Sirius is one of the most obscure European supercars. Lotec produced it in the early 2000s. The prototype caused much attention when it was first shown in 2001, but ever since, news about this crazy supercar was scarce. Some say that only two examples left the factory, and some say that Sirius never progressed beyond the prototype stage (via Below The Radar).

Photo Credit: Auto WP

However, the Sirius is still one of the most powerful and interesting machines out there. The heart is a twin-turbo Mercedes V12 engine that produces around 1300 HP. The Sirius is unbelievably fast with a five-speed manual transmission and just 2800 pounds of curb weight. The 0 to 60 mph sprint takes less than 3.7 seconds and the top speed is an amazing 285 mph.

Photo Credit: Auto Blog

Aixam Mega Track

The French Mega Track was one of the most interesting and rarest supercars that never came to the US. Built by Axiam company in the mid-’90s, the Mega Track was the first and only off-road supercar ever built. You might ask yourself how it’s possible to have a supercar capable of going off-road. The complicated system allowed 8 to 13 inches of ride height, and in just one moment, the Mega Track could become a true off-road beast (via Aixam).

Photo Credit: Dyler

Behind the driver was a massive 6.0-liter V12 engine from Mercedes-Benz, which produced 400 hp and powered all four wheels. The concept had its drawbacks, and the Mega Track was a pretty heavy and big car. It weighed over two tons and had a length of over five meters, which is more than the Mercedes S-Class. The Axiam company, known for producing small microcars and various automotive industry components, needed more time and interest to promote the Mega Track further. Production stopped after only five or six (depending on the source) examples left the factory.

Photo Credit: Driving

Alpine A110

The legendary Renault Alpine A110 was a rally legend and one of the best sports cars in the early 1970s. Now it finally has a modern version. For years, Renault teased performance car fans with concepts and announcements. Finally, they have announced a production-ready car. If you are familiar with the classic Alpine, you’ll instantly recognize the shape and the idea behind this fabulous car (via Alpine Cars).

Photo Credit: Arab Motor World

It’s a small, lightweight sports coupe with a rear-mounted engine and rear-wheel drive. It provides driving excitement and unparalleled road holding. That was the idea behind the new Alpine A110. This small coupe weighs just over a ton and has a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder behind the driver powering the rear wheels. The power is more than adequate at 252 hp running through its seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

Photo Credit: Porsche

Porsche Panamera Diesel

Most people are familiar with the Porsche Panamera sedan. Since its introduction in 2009, it has been one of the best-selling models in its class. Combining luxury with 911 performance and looks. For 2017, Porsche presented the second generation with even sleeker styling and more power. However, Porsche is offering a diesel option for buyers outside the states (via Top Gear).

Photo Credit: Porsche

Under the hood is the 4.0-liter twin-turbo diesel engine that delivers 422 hp. While it doesn’t sound like an especially huge power output, it has impressive torque ratings. The 4.0-liter oil burner has 627 lb.-ft of torque available at 1,000 rpm. This much torque will provide lightning-fast acceleration times and will easily pull this heavy sedan to 177 mph top speed. Of course, the Panamera 4S Diesel isn’t available in America and probably never will be.

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