5 Awesome Cars You Can Legally Import In 2016


It is definitely a weird batch this year.

If you live in the US, you are probably aware of the archaic law that prevents you from importing a car that isn't at least 25-years-old. Having written an entire thesis on the subject, the existence of the The Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act Of 1988 really makes me mad. Until my work is turned into a book, and someone important actually reads it, all I can do is take a look at some of the cars that were built in 1991 and will be legal to import this year. While none are quite as significant as the 1989 R32 GTR, there are some gems on the list.


First up is the TVR Griffith. The British sports car company did not have a market presence in the US, and that is a damn shame. The company was known for making uncompromising sports that never really worked properly but were extremely thrilling to drive. The Chimera was introduced in 1991 and was powered by a 4.0-liter V8 from Rover. While 240 horsepower from this engine doesn't seem like much, the two-seater convertible only weighed 2,310 pounds. That's less than a third-generation Miata! While the Chimera doesn't really have any modern safety features, having a unique sports car like this will make you the coolest guy at your local Cars and Coffee. But good luck finding parts for it!


Next up is another convertible, although this one is not exactly a speed demon. The Honda Beat is what is known as a kei car. These types of cars were only really sold in Japan and feature very small capacity engines. The Beat is powered by a 660-cc three-cylinder engine. While the 63 horsepower that this car makes will likely get you beat in a drag race by a school bus, the body was designed by Pininfarina so you can always tell people that it is basically a Ferrari. This car may not be the most practical on the list, but it would be a really cool autocross car and is a good budget ride for someone who wants to be "unique for cheap." You can find one of these in Japan for less than $5,000, but expect to pay more to get it here.

Keeping with the weird theme, we move on to the Nissan Figaro. This is definitely the weirdest car on this list. Only 20,000 Figaros were built and sold exclusively in Japan. The front-engine front-wheel-drive convertible is based on the Micra, but features a unique, retro body. The Figaro was only available as an automatic, but honestly, who is racing with one of these anyways? What you are buying is a car that looks like a 60s convertible with a modern drivetrain that will actually work. Be prepared to be stopped on the street and at gas stations by people who have no idea what this thing is. If you don't want attention, then this is not the right car for you. Who needs a Ferrari when this thing is much more unique.

After looking at a bunch of small two-seaters, you may be thinking that there is nothing worth importing that you can drive every day. Prepare to be proven wrong! The Lotus Carlton is one of the coolest cars that we never got in the US. It may share a name with a dorky 90s sitcom character, but the Carlton was the most badass sport sedan back in the early 1990s. At the time, Lotus was owned by GM. So GM decided to have the British sports car maker tune the Vauxhall Calrton (aka Opel Omega). What they created was a twin-turbo straight-six sedan with 377 hp and a 177 mph top speed. Yeah, in 1991! Throw in the six-speed manual from the Corvette and you have a sport sedan that is fast even by today's standards.

We have saved the best for last. This one won't be available to import until late in the year, but the wait will be worth it. The Lancia Delta Integrale Evoluzione is awesome because it bears one of the coolest badges in automotive history. While Lancia no longer makes anything good, cars like the Stratos, 037, and Delta Integrale conquered the World Rally Championship and the hearts of car guys around the world way back when. Why are these cars so cool? They are Italian sports cars that could also get sideways in a dirt race. The Evoluzione had a wider body than standard Deltas, and 10 more horsepower for a total of 210 horses. With four-wheel drive and a sub-six second 0-60 mph time, the Delta Integrale keeps up with today's best hot hatchbacks.

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