In case you didn’t know, the US government passed the Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act back in the late 1980s. The passage of the act became known as the 25-year import rule, which only enabled cars to be imported to the United States if they were above 25 years old. Each year, plenty of exciting vehicles from around the world become eligible for import to the US. See some of the coolest cars that got the green light in 2021.
Renault Sport Spider
The Sport Spider is the 1990s sports car you’ve never heard of! Production of this tiny 2-seater began in 1996, meaning that the car can finally be brought over to the United States. After all, who wouldn’t want one of these?
The Sport Spider checks all the boxes of a proper sports car. It looks fast, it’s just inches off the ground, and it has vertical doors! This French drop-top is powered by a 150-horsepower mounted behind the driver, mated with a 5-speed manual transmission. Only around 1800 units were built.
Lotus Elise S1
The legendary Lotus Elise first debuted at the Frankfurt Motor Show in 1995, though its production did not begin until 1996. The original Elise, dubbed the S1, was produced until 2001. Although a newer Elise is not particularly difficult to find in the US, the first-gen S1 is a rare sight.
At the time of its debut, the Elise was praised as the most advanced sports car of its time. This lightweight 2-seater was powered by a 1.8L motor sourced from Rover. A sprint to 60 miles per hour takes it just 5.5 seconds, despite having a maximum power output of just 118 horsepower!
Subaru Impreza WRX STI
In 1996, Subaru released the long-awaited facelift of the high-performance WRX STI variant of the Impreza sedan. Interestingly, both the WRX and the WRX STI received a power bump. From 1996 onwards, both cars produced 276-horsepower. What’s more, the updated styling caused the 1996 WRX STI to be considered one of the best-looking Imprezas of all time.
Fans of quirky-looking wagons should definitely opt for the WRX wagon variant, while the 2-door 22B STi variant remains the most desired variant. Buyers who want to bring over a 22B will have to wait though, as the car was built in 1998.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IV
This year, the fourth generation of the iconic Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution celebrates its 25-year anniversary. That means that the sedan that’s highly sought-after by collectors is finally eligible to be imported into the United States.
All cars that are a part of the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution series are renowned for their exceptional handling and performance, both on track and off-road. The fourth-gen Evo was the first car that came fitted with the Active Yaw Control system that dramatically improved the car’s handling. Its 276-horsepower flat-four only made the car more desirable. Only 10,000 units were made in total.
Alfa Romeo Spider
Much like the Fiat Barchetta, the Alfa Romeo Spider is a great-handling two-door roadster which is a great alternative to the Mazda MX5. Unfortunately, the Italian automaker pulled out of the US market just months before the debut of this funky drop-top, hence it has never officially made it to the United States.
The Alfa Romeo Spider features sleek exterior styling and a removable roof. In its most powerful variant, the Spider comes equipped with a 3.2L V6 under the hood, rated at 237 horsepower. It is plentiful for such a small car!
Mitsubishi Galant VR4
The eighth-gen Galant VR-4 was released the same year as the fourth generation of the previously mentioned Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. Just like the Evo, the Galant VR-4 came fitted with the Active Yaw Control system. It may not be as sought-after as the Evo, though the Galant is unarguably an interesting, cheaper alternative to it.
Under the hood, the Galant VR-4 packs a twin-turbocharged 2.5L V6 powerplant rated at 279 horses! Plus, Mitsubishi also offered the car as a wagon.
The Cerbera is, without a doubt, one of the best cars produced by this small British automaker. Although the history of this manufacturer dates back as far as the 1940s, the company was not particularly famous. In fact, hardly anyone outside of the UK has heard of TVR until the 90s!
The TVR Cerbera was a powerful grand tourer that first appeared on the market in 1996. The vehicle initially came powered by a 360-horsepower 4.2L V8. Newer models were fitted with a more powerful 4.5L V8 rated at 420 horsepower.
Nissan 180SX Type X Nismo
The Nissan S13 is a beloved Japanese sports car that represents JDM cars of the 1990s. This 2-door coupe features a sleek exterior design and pop-up headlights. The only problem with the S13 is the fact that the standard version is awfully underpowered, the North American 240SX is rated at just 155 horsepower. The souped-up Type X Nismo variant wasn’t sold outside of Japan. Since it debuted in 1996, it can finally be brought to the US!
The 180SX Type X Nismo is modified by Nissan’s motorsport division. The SR20DET can be found under the hood, rated at 205 horsepower.
Nissan Stagea 260RS
The Stagea is a dream car for lots of JDM fanatics for a very good reason. At first sight, this wagon may not look like much. You might be surprised to hear that the Stagea is essentially an R33 Skyline GT-R disguised as a wagon!
Nissan’s in-house tuner offered the souped-up 260RS variant of the Stagea. The 260RS came powered by the same twin-turbo V6 RB26 powerplant that can be found in the R33 GTR. Officially, the motor was rated at 276 horsepower. Less than 1800 units were built, but if you do come across a 260RS Stagea it is most certainly taking home to the US!
Toyota Chaser X100
The Toyota Chaser is yet another dream car for die-hard JDM fans. This cool sedan replaced the X90 Chaser in September 1996, meaning that the car will be able to be imported to the United States in just a few months. Just like its predecessor, the Chaser X100 came fitted with either rear-wheel or all-wheel drive.
Unarguably, the most sought-after variant of the Chaser X100 is the top-trim that came powered by Toyota’s iconic naturally-aspirated 2JZ-GE powerplant. This version of the Chaser was powered by the same powerplant found in the Toyota Supra! Sadly, Toyota did not fit the Chaser with the turbocharged version of the 2JZ motor.
Peugeot 106 S16
Much like the previously mentioned Mitsubishi Galant VR-4, this fun hot hatch is overshadowed by its predecessor. The Peugeot 205 GTI became an instant hit in the 80s, renowned for its performance and success in motorsport. While the 205 GTI has already passed the 25-year rule over a decade ago, its successor debuted for the 1996 model year.
The mighty 106 S16, also sold as the 106 GTI in some markets, came powered by a 120-horsepower 1.6L flat-four powerplant. This tiny hot hatch is well on its way to becoming a future classic.
The Toyota Classic was introduced in 1996 to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the automaker’s first production car ever made. The Classic featured a stylish exterior design paired with a contemporary interior. The Japanese manufacturer only built 100 units of the Classic sedan, which were only available domestically in Japan. 25 years later, they can finally be legally imported into the US!
Under the hood, the Classic packs a 96-horsepower 2.0L flat-four. This sedan is certainly more about the style, rather than top-notch performance.
Toyota Starlet Glanza-V
The Starlet Glanza-V is a souped-up, aggressive-looking variant of the Toyota Starlet hatchback. Although the car was officially only sold in Japan, units have made their way over to New Zealand, the UK, and other right-hand drive markets. In 2021, they can finally legally be brought over to the United States!
The Starlet Glanza-V is a fun alternative to other hot hatches from the 1990s. The car is powered by a 1.3L turbocharged flat-four motor. In effect, this lightweight hatchback could reach 60 miles per hour in just 8.2 seconds.
Toyota Land Cruiser Prado
In 1996, Toyota unveiled the second generation of the Land Cruiser Prado, internally referred to as the J90. The small SUV was a more compact alternative to the standard Land Cruiser. Unlike its successor, the second-gen Land Cruiser Prado never made it to the American market.
This unique SUV can make for a rare alternative to small SUVs that are available in the United States. The J90 Prado was equipped with an independent front axle and, naturally, a 4WD drivetrain. This SUV is very capable off the beaten paths, and it was offered in a 3-door body style, too.
Nissan Skyline GT-R R33
The Nissan Skyline needs no introduction. This high-performance sports car is an absolute icon of JDM cars, and one of the greatest automobiles of the 20th century. The R33 generation of the Skyline celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2020.
The R33 GTR came powered by Nissan’s legendary RB26DETT motor, officially rated at 276 horsepower. The Japanese automaker sold 2 different variants even quicker than the regular R33 GTR: the V-Spec and the V-Spec N1. Production of the R33 GTR ended in 1998, with only around 16 000 units built in total.
The second generation of the Midget is by far the quirkiest car on this list. If you’re looking for a car that will stand out at the next car meet, the Daihatsu Midget 2 may be the perfect pick for you.
Don’t expect any kind of high-performance specs from the Midget. After all, it is merely a quirky-looking utility vehicle. This Kei car produces a whopping 30 horsepower from its three-cylinder motor, which is mounted under the driver’s seat! The Midget’s 4-foot bed may not be as spacious as the one in a RAM, though you will never have to worry about finding a parking spot.
Ford Falcon XH
As you can probably guess by now, the Ford Falcon XH never made it to the United States. This uni-body pickup truck, based on the regular Ford Falcon, debuted in 1996 and was only available in Australia. This quirky-looking truck would surely make for a rare sight on American soil, and it can legally be imported starting in 2021!
The base Falcon XH was offered with a 4.0L flat-six motor. However, a variant powered by the Windsor 5.0L V8 was available as well. A naturally-aspirated roaring V8 under the hood only makes the Falcon XH cooler.
The Honda Stepwgn is a fun alternative to the otherwise boring market of minivans. This vehicle first debuted for the 1996 model year and was actually based on the Civic to maintain a low sticker price. The minivan’s 2.0L flat-four was mounted beneath the cab. The Stepwgn is only 185 inches long!
The previously mentioned 2.0L flat-four rated at 123-horsepower was the only available engine option. Don’t expect the Stepwgn to be a monstrous machine, it takes over 12 seconds for this minivan to reach 60 miles per hour!
If a Honda Stepwgn minivan is still too mainstream for you, consider taking a look at the Hyundai Santamo. This minivan, built by the South Korean manufacturer between 1996 and 2002, celebrates its 25-year anniversary this year. It means that the Santamo can legally be imported into the US!
To be frank, the Santamo minivan is actually Hyundai’s version of the popular Mitsubishi Space Wagon. Even the two engines offered in the Santamo were borrowed from the Japanese automaker. The top-level trim featured an all-wheel-drive drivetrain mated with a 2.3L flat-four motor.
The Seat Alhambra is a unique alternative to Japanese or Korean minivans. The Alhambra is certainly larger than a Stepwgn or a Kei car, yet it is a lot less common on American roads than the minivans that are sold in the United States. If you want a practical minivan that would definitely stand out in traffic, this may be the perfect pick for you.
The first-gen Alhambra was sold by Seat, a Spanish automaker, between 1996 and 2012. A variety of different engine options were available throughout the van’s production run, both diesel and gas.
BMW E36 M3
Although the E36 generation of the high-performance BMW M3 coupe was in fact available in the United States, it was nothing like the European version of the same car. An E36 M3 sold in the US came with a 3.0L flat-six rated at 240-horsepower.
Prior to 1996, the European E36 M3 was rated at 280 horsepower. In 1996, however, the engine was replaced with the all-new 3.2L flat-six rated at a whopping 316 horsepower! BMW connoisseurs should opt for the rare Alpina B8 4 based on the European 3-Series, which packed a 329-horsepower powerplant under the hood.
Josse Car Indigo 3000
What vehicle comes to your mind when you think of Swedish cars? Is it a classic Volvo, or perhaps a high-performance Koenigsegg hypercar? One thing is for sure, it most certainly is not the Josse Car Indigo 3000. This unique sports car was made back in 1996 after Bengt Lidmalm (founder) was inspired by TVR.
The Indigo 3000 is not particularly easy to find. Afterall, the small automaker only managed to build 44 examples of the roadster before filing for bankruptcy. The limited production run only makes this rare vehicle more desired!
Much like the Josse Car mentioned above, you have probably never heard of the Mitsuoka Galue. This Japanese manufacturer had been building vehicles since the 60s, and the Galue is one of the brand’s most popular creations.
At first sight, the Galue may slightly resemble a Rolls Royce, a Bentley, or another upscale sedan. Underneath the fancy body, the Galue is sadly just a dressed up Nissan Crew. Nevertheless, this rare sedan was a budget-friendly alternative for expensive British cars in Japan. Starting in 2021, the car can be brought over to the US.
If you have found the design of the previously mentioned Mitsuoka Galue appealing, you will certainly love the Mitsuoka Ray. This small compact features a similar upscale front fascia to the one found in the Galue. The car debuted the same year as the Galue, making it eligible to be imported into the United States later this year.
Like the Galue, the Mitsuoka Ray was not built by the Japanese manufacturer from the ground up. In fact, the Ray is actually based on a Mazda Carol. The modified exterior design makes the Ray easily distinguishable from a regular Mazda Carol, though.
The Tatra 700 is the only Czech vehicle on this list. What’s more, it is also one of the rarest! This upscale sedan saw a short production run limited to just 75 units. Nonetheless, if you do manage to get a hold of one, the Tatra 700 is certainly worth importing into the United States.
The Tatra 700 was the last production vehicle ever built by the Czech automaker. Though the standard Tatra 700 was far from a high-performance machine, a powerful 700 GT became available shortly before the car was discontinued. The Tatra 700 GT featured a 400-horsepower 4.4L V8 motor under the hood. Interestingly, the engine in the 700 was mounted in the rear of the vehicle!
Sure, importing a rare gem or a timeless classic that’s just passed the 25-year rule seems like the obvious choice. On the other hand, you could opt to be more quirky and import a car that’s the opposite of a legend, instead.
The infamous Rover 800– although the car originally debuted back in 1986, 1996 saw a major facelift. This sedan was essentially a mix of Honda engineering with a British touch. Interestingly, the Rover 800 was sold in the US until 1991! The post-facelift version, however, would have to be imported from overseas.
When thinking of iconic cars from the mid-1990s, the Citroen Saxo is perhaps the last vehicle that would come to your mind. Nothing about this French supermini was particularly exciting. In fact, nobody ever bothered to sell it in the United States, before the Saxo was eventually discontinued in 2004. However, there is something oddly fascinating about a car as small as the Saxo on American soil.
The Saxo debuted back in 1996, meaning it is eligible to be imported in the US from this year onwards. Available engines range from a 0.9L flat-four up to a 1.6L flat-four, mated with either a 5-speed manual or a 3-speed automatic transmission.
Porsche 993 GT2
Last year, many of the world’s finest automobiles celebrated their 25th-anniversary. This meant that these priceless vehicles built in 1995 could finally be brought over to the United States in 2020. Perhaps one of the most notable ones is the Porsche 911 GT2, which was dubbed the ultimate Porsche 911 at the time of its release.
The 993 GT2 featured an aggressive bolt-on widebody kit, a massive rear wing, and a 3.6L flat-six rated at 430 horses mounted behind the driver. Paired with a spartan interior and a lightweight body, the 993 GT2 was the ultimate 911 back in 1995.
Mercedes-Benz R129 Mille Miglia
In 1995, Mercedes-Benz released a limited edition variant of the Mercedes-Benz SL R129. This rare trim level was made to commemorate the victory of Sir Stirling Moss at the Italian Mille Miglia race back in 1955, as he had won in an older version of the SL series. Even though the German automaker offered the regular SL in the US, the Mille Miglia edition was never sold here.
A total of just 40 Mille Miglia edition SL R129s were sold. The first unit built was given to Sir Stirling Moss himself.
Honda Integra Type R
The Honda Integra Type R is yet another sports car that has rightfully earned the title as one of the best JDM cars of the 1990s. This front-wheel-drive hot hatch remains a great performing machine. Although it was sold in America as an Acura, the original Japanese variant features the Honda nameplate.
Under the hood, the Integra Type R was fitted with a screaming 1.8L flat-four that produced 197 horsepower and could rev beyond 8000 RPM! Spotting a fake Integra Type R is surprisingly easy, as all of the units were white.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution III
The fourth-generation of the high-performance Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution was previously mentioned on this list. Just a year before its debut, Mitsubishi released the iconic Lancer Evolution III which is arguably just as legendary as its successor. The car is renowned for its performance, offroading capabilities, and worldwide success in rallying.
Much like its successor, the Evo III features an aggressive exterior design, an all-wheel-drive drivetrain, and a powerful motor under the hood. In fact, the Lancer Evo III peaks at 270 horsepower, thanks to its turbocharged 2.0L flat-four.
Toyota Mega Cruiser
At first sight, the Toyota Mega Cruiser looks surprisingly similar to a Humvee, or its roadgoing cousin known as the Hummer H1. Much like the Hummer and the Humvee, the Mega Cruiser is renowned for its offroading capabilities. Interestingly, this gigantic SUV is even larger than a Hummer H1!
Out of 3000 units of the Mega Cruiser built by Toyota, only 133 were sold to civilians. As the majority of the examples are owned by the military, purchasing one of these unique SUVs may be a hard task. It is well worth the effort, though!
Following the success of the original Mazda MX5, automakers around the world began presenting their alternatives to the small roadster hoping to cash in on its success. One of the fun alternatives to the MX5 has got to be the Fiat Barchetta which debuted back in 1995.
This funky-looking roadster may not have pop-up headlights like the original Miata, though its exterior styling is equally cool. The car’s 1.8L powerplant pushed out 129 horsepower delivered to the front wheels, which provided a unique driving experience. A sprint to 60 miles per hour takes the Barchetta 8 and a half seconds.
The Nissan Rasheen is a cute and uncommon alternative to American SUVs from the 1990s. The car first debuted back in late 1994, so it was actually already eligible to be imported since late 2019. The boxy and unique styling of the Nissan Rasheen is bound to attract attention in the United States.
Unlike the vast majority of domestic North American SUVs from the same era, the Nissan Rasheen is actually equipped with a small, fuel-efficient powerplant. The flat-four motor is rated at just 105 horsepower, though that is certainly sufficient for the daily commute.
Mitsubishi Pajero Mini
The Pajero Mini is the perfect SUV for Kei car enthusiasts. A Kei car is a category of tiny Japanese city cars, trucks, and even utility vehicles. Back in 1995, the Japanese automaker released a tiny three-door version of the regular Pajero. Who wouldn’t want to see one roaming around America?
The Pajero Mini is less than 130 inches long, and just 55 inches wide! To put that number to scale, it means that this SUV is smaller than a modern Mazda MX-5. It is hard to imagine a Pajero Mini squeezed at traffic lights between a Chevrolet Suburban and a RAM 1500.
Hardcore Audi enthusiasts may be aware that the upscale Audi A8 sedan only made it to the North American market in 1997. However, the car first debuted three years earlier. Car buyers who want an Audi A8 that would stand out against the other units should certainly import an early German variant of the car.
Back in the 1990s, the Audi A8 was as luxurious as a sedan could get. The car featured some of the world’s most advanced technologies available at the time, along with a variety of powerful motors under the hood. Its most notable engine option is the monstrous 6.0L W12.
Many car buyers seem to forget that the 25-year rule applies to all cars that weren’t sold in the US, and not just Japanese ones. The Ford Ka is a tiny subcompact that debuted in September 1996 and became an instant hit throughout Europe. Due to the low demand for small cars in the United States, the Ka never made it here. In just a few months, it will be legal to import a first-gen Ka!
Initially, the Ka came powered by a fuel-efficient 1.3L flat-four that produced either 49 or 59 horsepower depending on the trim level. The Ka is a unique alternative to Japanese Kei cars.
The Dynasty is an upscale, lavish-looking sedan sold by Hyundai, an automaker from South Korea. As this automobile debuted in 1996, it will be eligible to be imported in the US starting in 2021.
This unique sedan is bound to be a rare car over in the United States. Under the hood, the base Dynasty is equipped with a 2.5L V6 motor that delivers 167 horsepower to the front wheels. A more powerful variant, fitted with a 3.5L V6 rated at 225 horsepower, was the top-level trim of the sedan. The production of the Dynasty was stopped in 1999, when the sedan was replaced by the Hyundai Equus.
The Fiat Marea has a lot in common with the previously mentioned Daewoo Prince. Both of the cars are extremely bland, boring, and undesirable in every possible way. If for some odd reason anybody would like to bring one over to the United States, they can do so later this year.
The Fiat Marea was in production between 1996 and 2002. Lots of different engine options were available, both petrol and diesel, ranging from a 79-horsepower 1.4L flat-four all the way through to a turbocharged 180-horsepower 2.0L five-cylinder motor.
To be completely honest, the Daewoo Prince will probably not be appearing on American roads anytime soon. Although the car is eligible to be imported starting in 2021, it is hard to justify why anyone in their right mind would do so. The car isn’t particularly exceptional in terms of aesthetics, performance, or heritage.
Nonetheless, you could ship a Prince over to the US if you wanted to. The base model was fitted with a 1.8L flat-four, while the top-level variant featured a 130-horsepower 2.0L powerplant under the hood. The top speed is 126 miles per hour, and the sprint to 60mph is undisclosed. How exciting.