American cars were always desired in other parts of the world. The muscle car craze of the 1960s and the 1970s, for example, took over the entire planet. While many American cars were simply shipped out and sold in other countries, others would not meet the criteria of car buyers outside of the United States.
For that reason, American automakers decided to develop vehicles that would be exclusive to other markets. We wish some of these cars were available in the United States, while others are definitely a hard pass.
Ford’s flagship pony car, the Ford Mustang, quickly became a worldwide sensation. While the Mustang was loved by buyers in America as well as Europe, Ford wanted to create a smaller pony car that would better suit the European market. That is how the Ford Capri was born for the 1969 model year.
The European equivalent of the Ford Mustang shared the platform and available engine options with the Cortina, though its styling was a lot more aggressive. The car proved to be a massive success, with million units sold during the car’s 16-year production run.
Brazilian Dodge Charger R/T
You might be surprised to hear that the car in the photo above is a Dodge Charger. Afterall, the Charger’s iconic design is different than the one seen in the photo. Dodge used to create a Brazilian version of the Charger R/T that never made it to the US market, hence the cosmetic differences.
The Brazilian Dodge Charger R/T was in fact based on a two-door Dodge Dart. The Charger came with Chrysler’s 5.2L 318 cubic-inch V8 motor under the hood, which peaked at 215 horsepower. The Dart was in production up until 1982.
Chrysler Valiant Charger
Dodge has released a special variant of the Charger unique to the Australian market. As Dodge was not a recognizable automaker in the land Down Under at the time, the car was sold as a Chrysler instead. The souped-up muscle car was based on the Chrysler Valiant, and not a Charger as we know it.
The Australian Chrysler Charger was available with a selection of small block V8 powerplants, while the base model came powered by a 140-horsepower 3.5L powerplant. Its most powerful variant, the Valiant Charger 770 SE, was rated at 275 horsepower.
European Ford Granada
Much like the Dodge Charger, many petrolheads may recognize the Ford Granada. The moniker was used on sedans sold by Ford between the 1970s and the 1980s in the United States. However, Ford also developed a European version of the Granada that never made it to the US.
The European Granada was built by Ford Germany between 1972 and 1994. The car debuted as a cheaper alternative to executive vehicles made by German and British automakers at the time. The Granada proved to be successful and could be seen in police fleets or as taxis in cities throughout Europe.
Chevrolet Firenza Can Am
The Firenza Can Am is a rare muscle car from the 1970s that was only produced for the South African market. The souped-up variant of the Firenza was built to meet the homologation regulations in order to compete in motorsport, hence Chevrolet only produced 100 units of this powerful muscle car.
Under the hood, the Firenza Can Am was equipped with Chevrolet’s 5.0L V8 from the first-gen high-performance Chevy Camaro Z28. The power output was almost 400 horsepower, resulting in a 5.4-second sprint to 60 miles per hour!
Ford Falcon Cobra
The Ford Falcon Cobra is a muscle car developed by Ford for the Australian market. In the late 70s, the American automaker was about to retire the XC Falcon and replace it with the new XD. As the 1979 XD Falcon was not available in a 2-door coupe body style, the manufacturer had nothing to do with a few hundred remaining XC Falcon body shells. Instead of scrapping them, the limited Ford Falcon Cobra was born.
The powerful muscle car saw a short production run of just 400 units in total, all of which were produced in 1978. The first 200 units received the powerful 5.8L 351 cubic inch V8 motor, while the other 200 were fitted with the 4.9L 302 cubic inch V8.
Ford Sierra RS Cosworth
The Ford Sierra RS Cosworth is a well-known British sports car developed by Ford. Despite being made by the American automaker, the souped-up Sierra Cosworth never made it to the US market. The performance-oriented version of the Sierra was sold until 1992.
Today, the Sierra RS Cosworth is renowned for its motorsport success and unbelievable performance. Back in the 1980s, a 6.5-second sprint to 60 miles per hour was nothing short of amazing. The RS Cosworth pushed out 224 horsepower delivered to the rear wheels, though a four-wheel-drive variant became available in 1990.
The legendary Group B rally class is responsible for the birth of some of the world’s most hardcore sports cars of the late 20th century. Brilliant vehicles such as the Audi Quattro S1, the Lancia 037, or the Ford RS200 would likely never exist if it wasn’t for FIA’s homologation requirements to take part in Group B. Manufacturers had to create a few hundred roadgoing units of their race cars to be eligible to enter the season.
The Ford RS200 is a renowned rally car that’s had tremendous success in motorsport in the 1980s. The lightweight 2-door car featured a mid-mounted, 2.1L motor that produced 250 horsepower. The racing variant was tuned to make as much as 500 horsepower!
Never heard of the Cadillac BLS? That is likely because this American 4-door sedan never even made it to the US market. Back in the mid-2000s, Cadillac lacked a sedan that would fit the European market, as the existing CLS was simply too large. Eventually, the BLS turned out to be a flop and was discontinued merely five years after its debut.
The BLS was offered in two body styles: saloon and station wagon. The available powerplants ranged from a Fiat-sourced 1.9L flat-four for the base model, up to a 250-horsepower 2.8L V6 that still felt underpowered. The BLS’ front-wheel-drive drivetrain was not exactly appealing, either.
In the late 1980s, the craze for lightweight, budget-friendly sports cars was on the rise in Europe. Opel, a subsidiary of GM, introduced the affordable Opel/Vauxhall Calibra 2-door sports car in 1989. Following the car’s success, GM decided to introduce the Calibra on the South American market. The car was rebadged as the Chevrolet Calibra.
The Chevrolet Calibra is pretty much identical to the European Opel Calibra, or the Australian Holden Calibra. The lightweight sports car was offered with a variety of different powerplants, ranging from a 115-horsepower 2.0L flat-four all the way through to a 205-horsepower turbocharged flat-four.
The South African Chevrolet SS can actually be traced back to Australia. Back in the 1970s, the Holden Monaro GTS was rebadged as a Chevrolet SS and sold in South Africa under the automaker’s high-performance moniker to boost sales. Though the car features a different front end than the Monaro, it is essentially the same vehicle with Chevrolet badges.
The 308 cubic inch V8 motor was fitted in the SS as standard, with the 300-horsepower 350 cubic inch powerplant available as an extra option. A sprint to 60 miles per hour took the SS just 7.5 seconds, while the top speed was 130mph.
The Ford Escort was one of the best-selling Ford production vehicles of all time. The car first debuted on the British market back in the late 1960s and became a hit among buyers practically overnight. Despite its popularity, Ford never sold the Escort in the United States.
The Escort was offered with a variety of different powerplants. Buyers looking for a fuel-efficient daily driver could opt for the entry-level 1.1L variant, while the RS 2000 was the ideal alternative for petrolheads looking for a powerful vehicle.
Ford Falcon GT HO 351
The Falcon GT HO 351 is perhaps the best muscle car you’ve never heard of. That’s because this variant of the second-generation Falcon never made it to the American market, and was only sold in Australia. The car provided a great mix of proper muscle car performance paired with the practicality of a large 4-door sedan.
Under the hood, the muscle car packed Ford’s 351 cubic-inch V8 motor that produced over 300 horsepower. A six-second sprint to 60 miles per hour, along with upgraded suspension and brakes, make this variant of the Falcon a great-performing Australian muscle car of the 70s.
Ford Falcon Sprint
The Ford Falcon was not just sold in Australia. Although Ford first introduced the Falcon in Argentina back in 1962, it was only offered as a fuel-efficient compact car at first. Eleven years later, however, the American automaker unveiled the Falcon Sprint. The souped-up sporty variant of the Falcon was Ford’s answer to the rising demand for muscle cars in South America, specifically Argentina.
The Ford Falcon Sprint, like many other cars in this list, was aimed to be more affordable than true American muscle. The four-door sedan received cosmetic tweaks to distinguish it from the base Falcon, as well as a 3.6L flat-six rated at 166 horsepower.
Chevrolet Opala SS
The demand for muscle cars was crazy throughout the 1960s and the 1970s. Unsurprisingly, car buyers outside of the United States wanted to get in on the action. Chevrolet recognized the demand for muscle cars in Brazil and developed the Opala SS, which debuted for the 1969 model year.
Despite the SS moniker, the Chevy Opala SS was far from the most powerful car made by Chevrolet. In fact, its straight-six powerplant only produced 169 horsepower. Either way, the Opala SS looked like a proper muscle car and became a hit among petrolheads seeking a budget-friendly alternative to American muscle cars.
Chrysler 300 SRT
The supercharged Chrysler 300 SRT was easily one of the most fantastic, 4-door performance-oriented sedans sold in the United States. Following a much-needed update of the 300 in 2011, the SRT was easily the best trim level available.
In 2015, the Chrysler 300 was refreshed yet again. This time, however, the automaker decided to drop the supercharged SRT variant from the United States lineup. The powerful sedan is still available in other markets, though.
Chrysler Valiant Charger R/T
Chrysler created a muscle car only produced for the Australian market, just like Ford’s Falcon Cobra or the GT HO 351. The souped-up variant of the Chrysler Valiant was introduced in 1971. The sporty Valiant Charger lost two doors compared with the regular Valiant which was only available as a 4-door sedan.
Chrysler offered the R/T trim with a 240-horsepower 4.3L six-cylinder. For the ultimate performance, buyers could opt for the 770 SE E55, powered by a 340 cubic inch V8 motor that produced 285 horsepower, paired with a 3-speed automatic transmission.
Dodge Dakota R/T 318
Back in the late 1990s, Dodge introduced the second-generation of the midsize Dodge Dakota pickup truck. The most powerful variant of the truck, the Dakota R/T, came powered by Dodge’s 360 cubic inch V8 that peaked at 250 horsepower. However, the American manufacturer also released a Dakota R/T powered by the 5.2L 318 cubic inch V8.
The 318-powered second-gen Dakota R/T was only available for the Brazilian market. The truck was more affordable than the 5.9L R/T available in the US, yet it came with the same upgraded suspension, bucket seats, exhaust system, and an array of cosmetic changes unique to the souped-up R/T.
In 1972, Ford brought the fifth-generation Ford F-Series pickup truck to the Brazilian market. To keep up with the trucks built by Chevrolet exclusively for the Brazilian market, Ford released the F-1000 in 1979. The four-door pickup truck is far from the prettiest vehicle made by Ford, though it was rather advanced at the time.
The F-1000 was always intended to be used as a workhorse, that is why its styling was not particularly appealing. The truck was only available with reliable, six-cylinder diesel powerplants. It was sold all the way until the 1990s.
In the past, American manufacturers have made some iconic car-based pickups. The Chevrolet El Camino was perhaps the most successful one of them all before the demand for car-based pickup trucks plummeted by the 1980s. The RAM 700 seen in the photo above is a spiritual successor to Dodge’s alternative to the El Camino, the Dodge Rampage.
The RAM 700 is powered by a small flat-four cylinder motor. It’s undoubtedly more fuel-efficient and smaller than the RAM trucks from the United States. This compact pickup truck is available in different countries throughout South America.
The Chevrolet Montana is yet another American pickup that has never made it to the North American market. Just like the previously mentioned RAM 700, the Chevrolet Montana is a pickup based on a passenger car. The Montana is in fact based on an Opel Corsa. Its affordable price tag and a fuel-efficient motor make the truck an ideal choice as a workhorse.
The Montana is offered with a tiny 1.4L flat-four motor paired with a front-wheel-drive drivetrain. It’s sold in South American markets including Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, as well as South Africa.
Chrysler’s entry-level vehicle, the Dodge Neon, used to be available in the United States back in the early 2000s. Since then, the Neon has been replaced by the new Dodge Dart in North America, which is arguably not as great as its predecessor. The Neon, on the other hand, has made a return in 2015. It just has not made it to the US market.
The new Neon, which is essentially a rebadged Fiat Tipo with a slightly altered exterior design, is only available in Mexico. The entry-level Dodge was reportedly making its way to the United States, though the plans may have been canceled due to low sales figures of the new Dart.
IKA Torino 380W
Back in the mid-1950s, the now-defunct Kaiser produced cars in Argentina under the Ika nameplate. A decade later, Ika was approached by AMC. The American manufacturer provided Ika with the Rambler American platform, and the Ika Torino was born.
The base Torino debuted in 1966 and was rather advanced compared with its competitors available in Argentina at the time. Three years after the debut, Ika unveiled the Torino 380W, which was the ultimate trim level of the car at the time. The IKA Torino 380W was powered by a 176-horsepower 3.8L motor under the hood. In the upcoming years, IKA released more powerful variants of the Torino based on the 380W.
Buick Park Avenue
Many petrolheads may not be aware that the upscale Park Avenue sedan has been back for a couple of years now. Believe it or not, Buick cars are incredibly popular in China. For this very reason, the American automaker decided to focus on the Chinese market. The latest Park Avenue debuted in Asia, the sedan is not available in the United States.
The American Park Avenue was discontinued back in 2005. The latest Park Avenue shares its platform with the Holden Caprice. The sedan is offered with a variety of economical V6 powerplants.
Buick’s flagship minivan, the GL8, has followed in the footsteps of the previously mentioned Buick Park Avenue. As the demand for minivans plummeted in the United States, the wisest decision for Buick was to sell the GL8 in China instead.
The GL8 was first introduced in China back in 1999, and it is still in production today. Twenty-one years after the debut, the GL8 is still built on the same platform. The latest, third-gen GL8 debuted for the 2017 model year.
Ford Mondeo Wagon
Decades ago, Ford sold the Mondeo sedan in the United States rebadged as the Ford Contour or the Mercury Mystique. The Mondeo eventually became very similar to the Fusion. One of the key differences, however, is the wagon body configuration. This body style has never made it to the North American market!
Automakers in the United States became hesitant about selling wagon variants, as sales figures were always lower than sedans. The lack of demand forced Ford not to bring the wagon variant of the Mondeo over to the US.
Ford Mustang Shelby Europa
Back in the 1970s, a Belgian Shelby dealer and racing driver Claude Dubois approached Carroll Shelby. The dealer asked Shelby to produce a limited line of European-spec Mustangs modified by Shelby, as the production in the US was halted in 1970. Within a year, the 1971/72 Ford Mustang Shelby Europa was born.
The Shelby Europa spec Ford Mustangs are very sought-after by collectors today. Afterall, only 14 units were produced during the car’s two-year-long production run. The majority of the units came powered by the 351 cubic inch V8, while some received the powerful 429 Cobra Jet V8 motor.
Ford OSI 20M TS
The Ford OSI 20M TS may just be the prettiest vintage sports car you have never heard of. OSI was an Italian manufacturer that, like countless other companies throughout Italy at the time, focused on producing stylish bodies for existing platforms. Although OSI primarily built cars based on Fiats, one of their best creations is the OSI 20M TS which is based on a Ford Taunus.
This stylish coupe was powered by a 2.3L V6 motor rated at 110 horsepower. Though it was far from a high-performance monstrosity, the OSI 20M TS was unarguably a great-looking car.
Ford Cortina XR6 Interceptor
The third-generation Ford Cortina was a hit among consumers worldwide. Although the car was practical and fuel-efficient, Ford lacked a performance-oriented variant that would appeal to car buyers who were after a fast, budget-friendly vehicle. The answer turned out to be the Ford Cortina XR6 Interceptor, unveiled for the 1982 model year in South Africa.
The Ford Cortina XR6 produced 140 horsepower from its 3.0L V6 motor delivered to the rear wheels. While that may not sound too powerful, the body was light which accounted for great handling. The production run was limited to just 250 units in total.
The Caprice was a beloved American sedan that dates all the way back to the 1960s. Ultimately, Chevrolet dropped the Caprice sedan from its North American lineup in 1966, in favor of the ever-growing demand for large SUVs. Just a few years later, in 1999, the Caprice was reborn in the Middle East.
The Caprice entered the Middle Eastern market as a more modern alternative to the Dodge Charger. The Caprice was essentially a rebadged Holden with an LS-derived powerplant. Interestingly, the Caprice has made a short return to the US in 2011, when the vehicle was sold to police forces around the country. It has not returned on the public market, though.
The Landau was released in Brazil in the early 1970s. The lavish 4-door sedan served as Ford’s most luxurious and upscale vehicle available in South America, despite essentially being a remodeled 1960s Ford Galaxie. Nevertheless, the Landau was immensely popular among wealthy car owners in Brazil.
The Ford Landau packed a 302 cubic inch V8 motor under the hood, which produced 198 horsepower. During the Brazil oil crisis in the late 1970s, Ford even designed a variant of the Landau that could run on ethanol rather than conventional fuel! Sales figures peaked in 1980 at 1581 ethanol-powered Landaus sold that year.
The Taunus was a midsize vehicle built and sold by Ford Germany for decades starting in 1939. As the vehicle was built and sold in Europe, the Taunus never made it to the American market. During its long production run, the Taunus saw over 7 different generations of the car. Apart from Germany, the Taunus was also built in Argentina and Turkey.
James Bond fans might be able to recognize the sleek lines of the Ford Taunus. A 1976 Taunus was featured in a car chase in The Spy Who Loved Me.
The Chevrolet Orlando is a small minivan that was unveiled by GM for the 2011 model year. This practical vehicle was sold in various markets around the world, such as South Korea, Russia, Vietnam, or Uzbekistan. However, the quirky Orlando has never made it to the United States.
GM assumed that the Chevy Orlando would not sell well in the United States. Afterall, it isn’t a particularly exciting vehicle, nor is it as practical as some of the larger minivans currently on sale. A wide selection of tiny, underpowered engines certainly would not have made a good selling point in the US, either.
Ford Racing Puma
The Ford Puma debuted towards the end of the 1990s. It was marketed as a sporty, slightly more performance-oriented variant of the economical Ford Fiesta. Although the standard Puma may have looked like a sports car, the performance could not keep up with its extravagant styling. The base model Puma had a 0-60 sprint in nearly 11 seconds.
Ford unveiled the souped-up Racing Puma that same year. The production run was strictly limited to 500 units. The power output was raised from the base model’s 90 horses up to a little over 150 horsepower. The car was never sold in the US.
Dodge GTX V8
The Dodge GTX is one of the many cars that Dodge produced exclusively for the South American markets. The car was first introduced back in 1970 and became a hit among consumers. The GTX looked like a proper muscle car for a fraction of the cost of importing one from the United States.
Initially, the base GTX was offered with a flat-six motor paired with a 4-speed automatic. Later on, however, Dodge fitted the 318 cubic inches 5.2L V8 motor underneath the hood.
In the 1970s, the Niva made by Lada, a Russian automaker, was a surprisingly modern and capable SUV. Other manufacturers soon caught up with the Niva, and by the 1990s the Russian SUV was already outdated. In 1998, the second-generation of the Niva SUV was unveiled. This time, however, the car was sold as a Chevrolet Niva.
The second-gen Niva remained a capable SUV in its affordable price range. The car was available in different countries across Eastern Europe, as well as other markets in Asia. The Niva was equipped with an all-wheel-drive drivetrain and a fuel-efficient 1.7L flat-four motor.
This extremely unique-looking SUV never made it to the North American market. The Veraneio was first unveiled for the 1964 model year and was built in Chevrolet’s Sao Paulo plant in Brazil. The first-gen Veraneio had been in production for 25 years.
The Veraneio underwent many changes throughout its long production run, including cosmetic touch-ups to the car’s design inside and out. The SUV was offered with 2 different V6 engines and served as an alternative to the Suburban.
Ford Del Rey
Even though the Ford Del Rey was designed exclusively for the Brazilian market, the car was also sold in other South American countries. The Del Rey was available in Chile, Venezuela, Uruguay, and Paraguay, on top of Brazil. The car served as a budget-friendly, fuel-efficient vehicle from the American automaker. The Del Rey was offered as a two-door coupe, four-door sedan, and three-door wagon.
A small 1.8L flat-four, sourced from Volkswagen, powered the Del Rey. A smaller, 1.6L flat-four, was available as well. The car was anything but a high-performance monster.
Ford Fairmont GT
The Fairmont GT was introduced in Australia and South Africa for the 1970 model year, practically as a local variant of the Ford Falcon. The Ford Falcon GT saw massive success as a desirable muscle car in Australia, and the Fairmont GT was made as another alternative to the car.
Fairmont GTs produced between 1971 and 1973 were rated at 300 horsepower thanks to the car’s 351 cubic inch V8 powerplant. Back then, the Ford Fairmont GT was one of the fastest cars available in South Africa.
The Dodge Ramcharger was the automaker’s flagship SUV that first debuted in the 1970s. Then, the Ramcharger was ultimately replaced by the Dodge Durango in 1998, which was based on the midsize Dakota pickup truck and not on the Dodge Ram truck. Not many people are aware that the Ramcharger has lived on, at least in Mexico.
In 1998, the Ramcharger was released for the Mexican market. The car was a two-door SUV based on the Ram from the same year. Although the front end somewhat resembled the existing Durango, it was only offered in a 2-door body configuration. In its most powerful variant, the third-gen Ramcharger came equipped with the Magnum 5.9L 360 cubic-inch V8 motor rated at 250 horsepower.