Ever wanted to roll up to cars and coffee in something truly weird? Something that makes people go, “What the heck is THAT?” Well, if you’re in the U.S., you can import pretty much anything that’s at least 25 years old. But don’t be boring and buy an R32 Skyline like every other Fast-and-Furious wannabe. Show you have discriminating taste and brass balls by importing one of these more Jalop vehicles. You’ll have the only one in your neighborhood, if not the country.
1. Volvo 480
Yes, Volvo made a weird, wedge-shaped hatchback with popup headlamps from 1987 to 1995. In fact, the 480 almost came to our shores, but Volvo axed its U.S. sales plans at the last minute. Now you can finally right that wrong and have all your friends saying, “That’s a Volvo?”
This one was offered on eBay a few years back for $9500.
2. Peugeot 504 pickup
Obviously, you’re not going to trade in your F-150 Super Duty for this petite French pickup. But toss a couple of baguettes and a case of Bordeaux in the back, and you’re ready for a picnic on the promenade in this happy little truckster. It’s like a Hilux with twice the style and none of the reliability.
These are fairly cheap, and can be had for the equivalent of about $3-4K these days.
3. BMW E30 Touring
A few brave Americans have already started importing these with mixed impressions. But why take their word for it when you can have one of your very own? Maybe you dream of swapping in the motor from an M3, or maybe the 170 horses in the 325i are enough for you. Either way, go ahead. Take a chance on this sporty Bavarian wagon.
Based on mileage and condition, these change hands for anywhere between $4-12K, but average price seems to be about $7,500.
4. Citroën XM/Peugeot 605
Have a craving for a big, French saloon car? These kissing cousins were built on the same platform, starting in 1989. And the styling, considered ultra-modern in the late eighties, has held up extraordinarily well over time. Whether it’s the space-age looks of the XM or the clean, handsome lines of the 605 that speak to you, import one of these French fashionistas and you’re sure to get noticed. And did I mention that the XM came in a wagon, too? Wagon!!
5. BMW Z1
BMW’s original “Z” car was never offered in the U.S. But as they’ve crossed the 25-year threshold, a few brave souls have started bringing them over. If the aerodynamic styling isn’t enough to get your motor running, just look at those retractable doors! Plus, all Z1s are left-hand drive, so no need to get used to sitting on the “other” side of the car.
While well-kept examples can go as high as $50-80K, this 1990 Z1 sold for just $27K in Philadelphia last year.
6. NSU Ro80
This West German predecessor to Audi featured a forward-thinking, aerodynamic shape that would directly influence automotive design for decades to come. Unfortunately, it was also woefully problematic, with engine rebuilds often required after just 30,000 miles. But fear not, for most of today’s survivors have long since had their rotary engines swapped for a much more reliable Ford Essex V4.
This example went to auction in 2014 with an estimated sale price of $10-14K.
7. Kei Cars (Honda Beat, Toyota Sera, Nissan Figaro, Suzuki Cappuccino)
When it comes to kei cars, you have plenty of choices, but all of the above have passed the 25-year threshold fairly recently. They’re cute, they’re cuddly, and they’re sure conversation starters. So far, I have seen a Sera and a Figaro at my local cars and coffee, and one Cappuccino on the road. The only one I have yet to spot is a Beat. If you import one, can I be the first to know?
All of these kei cars can easily be found for around $3-10K. This Toyota Sera went for $8,500 just a couple years ago.
8. Audi S2
Americans still have to wait a couple more years for the RS2 Avant, but the S2 is ready for import today. This hot hatch came standard with a turbo, a 5-speed manual, and permanent all-wheel drive. It’s definitely a unique alternative to the GTI and M3 of the era. Frankly, I’m surprised more of these haven’t made it over yet.
The S2 is pretty hot in the market right now, and nice examples don’t stay available very long. It’s also affordable, selling for $6-7K, on average.
9. Toyota Century
Want something that says “VIP” without shelling out for a Maybach 62? With a Toyota Century, you can comfortably roll like emperor Akihito, albeit without the police escort. Why even bother with an S-Class or a Lexus when this 4.0L V8 limousine is now U.S.-legal? Best of all, they are stupid cheap these days, but that can just be your little secret.
The late ’80s and early ’90s limos can usually be found for just $2-4K.
10. Maserati Ghibli II
The second-generation Ghibli came out almost two decades after the first generation ceased production. This comfortable, Gandini-styled GT car made its debut in 1992, so the earliest examples are just getting the green light for U.S. import. Unlike the earlier and much rarer Maserati Shamal, the Ghibli can be found with relative ease in the used market, and for a small fraction of its original asking price.
Expect to pay $15-20K for a Ghibli II in good condition.