Finally Legal: Cars You Can Bring to the U.S. in 2020 (2023)

Finally Legal: Cars You Can Bring to the U.S. in 2020 (1)

Since the passage of the Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act in 1988, car enthusiasts in the United States have been able to import any car from a foreign country as long as it's at least 25 years old. Today, that 25-year reach begins with the 1995 model year, which gave the world quite a range of interesting SUVs and high-performance machinery from Japan, Europe, and Australia. Although these models were not sold in the U.S. for a variety of reasons, usually lacking compliance for our emissions and safety regulations, they are now eligible for legal importation. Likelast year, we've compiled a dozen of the coolest vintage machines now ready for importing.

Subaru WRX Series McRae

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Although theSubaru WRXfirst appeared in 1992, it didn't make it to the U.S. until 2002. In 1995, to celebrate the success of legendary rally driver Colin McRae, Subaru UK created a special limited-edition version of the all-wheel drive Impreza sedans. That year, McRae became the first British driver to win a World Rally championship. The cars were even prepared by Prodrive, the company that produced McRae's dominant WRC machines. They were called the Series McRae, and Subaru released just 200 of the special WRXs. Each was, of course, a turbocharged flat-four painted Rally Blue with gold wheels (16-inch Speedline Safari alloys), just like McRae's race cars. They also featured special McRae graphics, Recaro front seats, a re-trimmed interior, numbered dash plaques, about 250 horsepower, and surprisingly, a sunroof.

Mercedes-Benz Special Edition SL Mille Miglia

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Although AMG never created a true high-performance variant of the R129 generation of the popular two-seater,Mercedes-Benzmarketed a few special versions of the convertible it never sold in the U.S. In 1995, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Stirling Moss's epic victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia road race, Mercedes created the Mille Miglia edition of the SL. Only about 600 were built, including SL280, SL320 six-cylinder models, and V-8-powered SL500 versions. Some sources claim AMG created a small number of 381-horsepower SL60 models. Each were painted Brilliant Silver metallic with polished Evo II six-spoke alloy wheels, red and black leather interior, and carbon-fiber trim.

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Mitsubishi Pajero Mini

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According to Sean Morris, the director of Toprank in Cypress, California, one of the nation's leading importers of Nissan Skyline GT-Rs and other unique JDM models, “TheMitsubishi Pajero Mini is like a Pajero but bite size.” They're tiny little things. At just 129.7 inches long and 54.9 inches wide these SUVs are about two feet shorter and 13 inches narrower than a new Mazda Miata. They also have a 4.0-inch shorter wheelbase than the sports car, and they only weigh about 1900 pounds. If you remember the Suzuki Samurai, you get the idea. The Mitsu's 660-cc four-cylinder engine is minuscule and weak (with about 40 horsepower), but a dual-overhead cam turbocharged version with about 50 horsepower was also offered.

Toyota Mega Cruiser

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Strikingly similar to America'sHummerH1, the 1995 Toyota Mega Cruiser is one of Japan's most extreme off-roaders of all time. The enormous SUV is 16 inches longer than the Hummer, stands about 7 inches taller, and weighs nearly 6300 pounds. Like the H1, it saw military duty and features double-wishbone suspension, portal axles, an on-board tire pressure control system, huge 37-inch tall tires, four-wheel steering as well as front, center, and rear locking differentials and a 28.5-gallon fuel tank. With a ground clearance of nearly 17 inches, which is 10 millimeters higher than the Hummer, it can go just about anywhere. Inside, there was seating for six. According to Toyota, only 3,000 were made, but it sold only 133 to civilians. They were all powered by a 152-hp 4.1-liter turbodiesel inline-four backed by a four-speed automatic.

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Porsche 911 GT2

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Perhaps the ultimate air-cooled Porsche 911, the1995 GT2was a homologation special to qualify the 993 RSR 3.8-liter for the BPR Series class N/GT. It did not come to the U.S., however, and Porsche only built 194 from 1995 to 1998. The original sticker price was $195,000, and now these cars consistently sell at auction for seven figures. With special seats, a unique three-spoke steering wheel, pull-strap door handles, aluminum doors and hood, titanium wheel centers, and no undercoating or sound deadening, these rear-wheel cars weigh about 3100 pounds, which is about 400 pounds less than an all-wheel-drive 993 Turbo. Porsche did give the GT2 the Turbo's wide body but fitted lighter bolt-on fiberglass fenders, and tweaked its twin-turbo 3.6-liter flat-six to produce 430 horsepower. Unique bumpers, a massive rear spoiler, and a six-speed manual transmission were also part of the deal.

Alfa Romeo Spider and GTV

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In the summer of 1995, after years of dismal sales and financial loses,Alfa Romeolaced up it fancy Italian loafers and walked out of the U.S. market. That same year, it introduced two new sexy wedge-shaped sports cars: the two-seat Spider and the GTV 2+2 coupe. Designed by Pininfarina, the front-wheel-drive machines featured a traditional Alfa grille flanked by four round headlamps and a Kamm-tail style rear end. The Spider's soft top stowed beneath a hard cover for a flush look. Inside, a simple dashboard offered considerable instrumentation. To keep costs down, Alfa had used its existing compact-car platform, which featured a multilink rear suspension, and fitted the powertrains from its 155 sedan, including a 16-valve 2.0-liter Twin Spark four-cylinder and a 12-valve 3.0-liter V-6.

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Nissan Rasheen

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Carlike and kinda cute, theNissanRasheen is a small four-cylinder SUV with all-wheel drive and seating for five. Some say its blocky lines and slab sides have an eastern European quality, but to our eye it borrows a bit from the 1984-2001 Jeep Cherokee. First introduced in November 1994, the Rasheen proved quite popular with early models powered by a 1.5-liter four-cylinder with 105 horsepower and 100 lb-ft of torque. Production lasted until August 2000, and larger, more powerful engines came later. The Rasheen shared Nissan's subcompact-car platform and used the companies ATTESA four-wheel-drive system, which featured a viscous center differential, a version of which was also used in Nissan's Skyline GT-Rs at the time.

Honda Integra Type R

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These Integra Type Rs were instant performance legends and have now become hot and expensive commodities on the collector car market.Hondadid sell the Integra Type R in the United States from 1997 to 2000 as an Acura, but everywhere else in the world, including the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) the front-wheel-drive hot hatch was a Honda. All were white and powered by a 1.8-liter four-cylinder known as the B18C. It featured Honda's VTEC system, which debuted on the NSX, revved beyond 8,000 rpm, and produced 197 horsepower through a five-speed manual transmission. Body reinforcements, a retuned suspension with larger sway bars, bigger brakes, and white aluminum wheels were also part of the package. Air conditioning was optional.

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Mitsubishi Evolution III

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Much like its main rival, Subaru's WRX,Mitsubishi's Evolutionis a small rally-inspired all-wheel-drive turbocharged sedan that eventually made its way to the U.S. In 2003, the Evolution VIII finally found its way to America. But the Evo legacy had begun 10 years earlier with the Evolution I and quickly the Evo II. In 1995, Mitsubishi introduced the Evo III, which used the same Lancer platform as its predecessor but offered more power and more aggressive styling, including a larger rear spoiler and a new nose to better cool its engine and brakes. Its 2.0-liter four-cylinder had a higher compression ratio and a larger turbocharger, which cranked output from 252 horsepower to 270. A five-speed manual transmission and 15-inch wheels and tires were standard.

Nissan Skyline GT-R R33

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In the early to mid-1990s, Japan's auto industry hit its stride when it came to producing high-performance models. But none is as iconic as the all-wheel driveNissanSkyline, produced from 1989 to 2002. Production of the R32 variation ended in 1994, and Nissan introduced the R33 the following year with three models: GT-R, V-Spec, and V-Spec N1, which were made lighter by removing ABS, air conditioning, the audio system, and the rear wiper. Under the hood was the 276-horsepower RB26DETT, the legendary twin-turbocharged 2.6-liter inline-six that powered the R32. All-wheel drive, rear-wheel steering, and a five-speed manual transmission were standard. The R33 GT-R was produced until 1998, but only 16,674 were built. That's far fewer than the 43,937 Skyline R32 GT-Rs that Nissan sold.

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Euro-Spec BMW M3

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Yes, you could buy aBMW M3in the U.S. in 1995. Although BMW also sold the E36 M3 in Europe at the time, it wasn't exactly the same car it sold here. The Europeans got more horsepower—a lot more. A U.S.-spec 1995 M3 is powered by a 240 horsepower 3.0-liter inline-six, while the higher revving 3.0-liter six in the Euro models made 286 horsepower. And in 1996, the Euro models got a 3.2-liter engine that produced 316 horsepower at 7,400 rpm and considerably more torque than the American version. And don't even get us started on the 1995 Alpina B8 4, which was based on the 328i, packing 329 horsepower and 347 lb-ft of torque.

Fiat Barchetta

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In the mid-1990s, car companies all over the world, from Mercury to BMW, were launching little roadsters and trying to capture the success Mazda was enjoying with the first-generation Miata. We’ve already covered Alfa's Spider, but its parent companyFiatkept this one for itself. The front-wheel-drive Barchetta, which means little boat in Italian, was produced from February 1995 to summer 2005. It was based on the Fiat's subcompact Punto and featured a 1.8-liter four-cylinder and a five-speed manual. Performance was modest with 129 horsepower, but the Barchetta only weighs about 2300 pounds. Zero-to-60 mph takes about 8.5 seconds. But that doesn't matter much. This sporty two-seater isn't meant to be a hard-core sports car. It's really all about its folding soft top and voluptuous curves.

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Cars You Can Import in 2021

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Scott Oldham

Contributing Editor

More parking. That's all Scott Oldham really wants out of life. His three-car garage is full, as is his driveway. Necessity, combined with poor financial judgment and an inability to sell anything, has forced the second-generation automotive writer and smoky-burnout enthusiast to store a few of his prized American classics in rental garages around Los Angeles. But not the big-block 1969 Camaro his built with his dad; that one stays close to home.

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