Welcome to America: Cars You Can Legally Import in 2016
In the United States there is a law that stipulates that you must wait 25 years to import a car that was never sold here. That means many of the coveted Japanese and European cars of 1991that weren’t available in North America then are officially available now, and there are infinite cool ones from that year. Here are our favorites!
TVR Griffith, UK
As far as coveted British roadsters go, the TVR Griffith is a true prize for any American collector. With a 240-hp, 4.0-liter V8 under that long hood aka the classic Jaguar/Rover engine as opposed to the later TVR in-house design and a body that is distinct, the Griffith is still an incredibly desirable car with performance figures that are every bit as modern as a bespoke suit. If you’re a collector worried about rust, the body is fiberglass, and the tube-frame steel chassis has been noted by collectors to be easy to repair and replace.
Toyota MR2 SW20, Japan
Venturi Atlantique, France
Anyone who’s had the original Playstation and played Gran Turismo 2 should immediately recognize the Venturi Atlantique. It is essentially the flavorful French take on the Lotus Esprit. It is packed with a PRV V6 engine that was more famous for being found in the Back to the Future DeLorean DMC-12, but Venturi did the block one better by fixing the power issue with a pair of turbos. In 1991, the Atlantique made 260 hp, a healthy enough figure to get it in the low-five-seconds to 60 mph range. “Bienvenue” indeed!
Lancia Delta Integrale Evoluzione, Italy
Nissan 180SX, Japan
Lotus Carlton, UK
The Lotus Carlton was the fastest sport sedan in its day. Back when Lotus was still owned by GM, there was a need for a fast sedan. So, the twin-turbo straight-six engine produced 377-hp and the car used a six-speed manual transmission from a Corvette ZR1. And if you don’t want the inconvenience that comes with right-hand drive, import a Lotus Omega, which was the European-market version of the car.
Toyota Celica GT4, Japan
The Celica came to America, but we never saw the GT4, which makes it a great find. In Japan it featured four-wheel steering and AWD. It was essentially a detuned rally car that hit ahead of the Subaru WRX. The turbocharged 3S-GTE engine is an all-business, 221-hp affair. The most powerful GT Celica for North American buyers brought only 200 hp. The GT4 had a vicious coupling center differential and Torsen rear, and if you can find an ultra rare GT-Four Rally, also made only for Japan, buy it. That car has a more rugged five-speed transmission and came without power anything—no A/C, no audio system, and steel rims. It was built to go race, period.
Maserati Shamal, Italy
Powered by a 3.2-liter twin-turbo V8, the Shamal made about 326-hp. It could hit 60 from a standstill in 5.3 seconds. And just look at those rear arches. Both elegant and aggressive, they did well to offset the car’s pointier nose. While you could argue that the Maseratis of today flounder a bit in image, the Shamal was a Gandini-designed standalone great.
So there you have it! Are you a collector or museum curator or just a person looking for something neat to toy with? These cars born in 1991 are hitting their mid-20s and are ready for a new home in the US, will it be your garage?
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Alex has worked in the automotive service industry for over 20 years. After graduating from one of the country’s top technical schools, he worked as a technician achieving a Master Technician certification. He also has experience as a service advisor and service manager. Read more about Alex.