After the Second World War, cars became a global product. However, fundamental differences between the USA and the rest of the world meant that cars started to differ greatly as the years were passing by. That meant that the United States missed getting some interesting cars, and the reasons varied from failing to comply with safety and emissions standards to general lack of interest for a wider market. Today, we brought up twenty cool cars that were never officially sold in the US, but that are certainly worth your attention.
Porsche’s first road-going supercar is perhaps the most notorious car which was never imported into the United States. The import ban was a consequence of Porsche refusing to provide the Department of Transportation with four cars required for testing. As the car was never certified by the NTHSA. Not even Bill Gates could import his 959, and it was kept stored for full 13 years by the US Customs Service until the Show and Display law passed in 1999. Of course, Mr. Gates helped pass the law, and we’re thankful to him for that.
Nissan Skyline GT-R R34
The other infamous example of import banning comes from Japan, in form of the Skyline GT-R, especially R33 and R34 models. As all Skylines were never imported to the United States, they were also never certified by the DOT, and the fact that they’re RHD-only made matters even worse. A certan number of R33 and R34 cars came into the States as grey imports or legal imports by a company called Motorex, but it’s still very hard to legally own a GT-R in the USA. However, some examples can be imported under the 25 Year Old Import Rule that passed in 1998.
Mazda Eunos Cosmo Series JC
The 1990-1996 Eunos Cosmo was a luxurious coupé with a tri-rotor Wankel engine and Mazda’s halo car of the era. Apart from being pretty rare with 3,550 20B-REW triple rotor cars sold, the Eunos Cosmo was also a Japan-only car that never came to be imported to the States, although there were initial plans for that. The combination of these factors is why none of these cars legally came into the country.
Built by then-independent company Alpine and strongly relying on Renault engines, the Alpine A110 was one of the most successful rally cars of the sixties and the seventies. Although its predecessor called Alpine A108 was even produced in Brazil by Willys-Overland, the reason A110 never came to the USA was probably because the interest in exotic European sports cars wasn’t that strong during peak years of the muscle mania.
Nissan Silvia S15
Built from 1999 to 2002, S15 variant of the Nissan Silvia still has years in front of it to become legal in the United States. This coupé with enormous tuning potential from its turbocharged inline-four engines was a sold in Japanese, Australian and New Zealand market only, and so was non-compliant with US regulations regarding safety and emissions, as many other cars on the list.
One of the finest British independent supercars was the Noble M600, built by Noble Automotive from 2010. Powered by a twin-turbocharged 4.4L Volvo V8 with either 450, 550 or 660 horsepower, the M600 is capable of reaching truly impressive numbers, but a lack of any driving aids is kind of a problem for DOT and NTHSA, so this hand built limited edition mechanical wonder is basically illegal in the USA.
Lotus Elise S1
Even though the S2 Lotus Elise managed to find the way to the American customers, the original S1 Elise wasn’t that lucky with the DOT and NTHSA. This nimble British sports car is a certified future classic, so this means that when it turns 25, it will be a highly collectable car in the United States. Weighing just 725kg, the S1 Elise could go from 0 to 60 in just 5.8s thanks to its 1.8L Rover engine. Besides the standard S1, the extreme limited edition 340R was also unavailable in the US, so it’s another great car to keep your eyes on when the time comes.
The story of the Cerbera being banned in the US is one of the most bizarre ones on the list, because former TVR chairman Peter Wheeler didn’t believe in ABS, or airbags, claiming that they offer nothing but a false sense of security. With no modern safety systems whatsoever, TVR Cerbera couldn’t make it to the US, and it’s not the only model from the British factory that has been banned.
Lancia Delta Integrale
For largely unknown reasons, the Lancia Delta Integrale was never sold new on the US soil, despite being one of the best cars of its time, and an undisputed rally legend which won six consecutive WRC titles between 1987 and 1992. Today, Delta Integrale is one of the most collectible cars of the era, and a number of them entered the US thanks to the 25 Year Old Import Rule.
Mercedes-Benz A45 AMG
Speaking of cool turbocharged hatchbacks with four-wheel-drive, Mercedes-Benz decided not to offer the A-Class in the US, and that includes the souped up A45 AMG. This ultimate hot hatchback from Stuttgart is powered by a 2.0l inline-four with 381 horsepower and a top speed of 270 km/h. Quite impressive, huh? Fortunately, Mercedes-Benz offers an alternative in form of the CLA45 AMG.
Peugeot 205 GTi
Another great hot hatch that was never an official US import was the Peugeot 205GTi. Powered by either a 1.6l or a 1.9l engine, this little French hatchback was quite a performer, and a car that largely defined the class in the late 80s and the early 90s. Post-war French cars were never that big in the US, but the blooming classic car market brought the 205 GTi to the States.
Renault 5 Turbo
Continuing with amazing and crazy French hot hatches, we have to pay hommage to the most extreme Renault of the time. While the United States got just a disappointing AMC Le Car, on the other side of the Atlantic, Renault had a version that had little to do with the original R5 in terms of practically everything. First of all, the 1.4L engine was moved behind the driver, and was also turbocharged, giving the R5 Turbo 160HP, formidable power for the era. This car was built for the purpose of rallying hard, but a street version was also available.
Audi S1 is just another proof that USA doesn’t like small hot hatches enough to get them imported to its soil. The S1 has Audi’s signature Quattro all-wheel-drive and 227 horsepower from its 2.0l turbocharged inline four. It’s the smallest and arguably the most agile and citywise Audi’s S car, and the only one not available in the US.
Peugeot’s unbelievably stylish coupé based on the Peugeot 307 mechanics was in production from 2009 to 2015, and over that time, around 67.000 examples were made. Unfortunately, none of these beautiful and chic bubble top coupés reached the United States. USA missing this car is such a shame, because there’s always space for small lifestyle cars in any market.
Ford Focus MK1 RS
European Ford division had a long history of creating amazing hot hatchbacks, and after the Escort RS Cosworth came the Focus RS. A part of Ford’s global platform, the first-gen Focus was sold in the USA from 1999 to 2007, but the North American continent missed the RS version. The car was built for one year only, from October 2002 to November 2003, and was powered by a turbocharged 212-horsepower 2.0l Ford Zeta engine. The Focus RS was limited to just 4,501 examples, the majority of them being sold in the United Kingdom, which means that LHD examples are quite scarce, and that the car is already highly collectible.
BMW’s most out-of-the-box Z car was the first one, the Z1 convertible. This two-seater featured a 2.5l inline-six from the 325i E30 model on a bespoke chassis and plastic bodywork. The main feature of the car were its doors which slid down into the body of the car rather than opening the normal way. The Z1 was in production from 1989 to 1991, and just 8,000 examples were made. Today, they are very valuable and sought after by the collectors, especially in the United States, where the car can be imported by exploiting the 25 Year Old Import Rule.
Nissan’s super cute retro microcar was a Japan-only product based on the Nissan Micra platform, built just in 1991 in around 20,000 examples. Along with several other models built at the Pike Factory, this was one of Nissan’s special cars that made the first step towards the 2000s retro craze in automotive design. It was available in four colorways representing the four seasons, with the rarest being the Topaz Mist, with 2,000 examples made. Initially, 8,000-example production run was planned, but the demand was so high that Nissan decided to build 12,000 more, and a number of buyers was chosen via a lottery.
Pininfarina-designed kei convertible was also a product for the Japanese domestic market, and was built in around 33,600 examples from 1991 to 1996. The car had a mid-mounted 3-cylinder engine with 64 horsepower and an impressive 8,100RPM redline. This small mechanical wonder had individual throttle bodies, and its speed was limited to just 84 MPH. As a JDM car, the Beat was built only as RHD, and that’s why none of these tiny open tops was imported to the US.
Ford Sierra RS Cosworth
Looking back, rally legends were never a thing in the United States, and that was the case with the Sierra RS Cosworth, one of the most amazing homologation specials of the era. Unlike the ordinary Sierra, three generations of the RS Cosworth featured specially engineered engines, and most importantly, permanent all-wheel-drive on examples built from 1990 to 1992. These Sierras dominated various rallies and touring championships, but at the time, they weren’t interesting enough to be offered to the US market.
Ford Falcon XB GT
Probably the best muscle car built outside the US, Ford Falcon GT was a V8-powered fastback coupé coming from Australia. The car became a pop culture icon thanks to the Mad Max franchise, where a heavily modified Falcon XB GT called Pursuit Special captured the hearts of petrolheads and post-apocalypse enthusiasts around the world. Even in its non-apocalyptic version, the Falcon XB GT is an amazing car, and a piece of the muscle car puzzle from the Land Down Under.