Automobile regulations vary heavily worldwide, with different standards that fluctuate from country to country and sometimes even differ in the same country. Because of this, manufacturers will create entirely different models based on the countries that the car will be sold in, leaving certain countries without some models that other countries have. This is especially true in America, as the States have some of the strictest automobile requirements. Safety regulations, emission standards and other market restrictions bar tons of automobiles from entry into the US, which is especially upsetting to collectors and gear heads alike.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHSTA) has a list of banned cars that isn't exhaustive, but is extensive and lists 18 pages of foreign cars which either aren't old enough to be imported, or don't pass requirements for some other reason. I said it wasn't exhaustive because it isn't: not every car on this list is also listed on the NHSTA's blacklist, however, many of them are.
Some of these cars are high-end luxury sports cars which are extremely rare, while others are daily drivers for people in non-American countries. However, I believe each one is worth discussing, because there are so many great models that are driven around the world that are completely unknown to Americans as well as citizens of other countries. I want to bring to light some of the amazing designs that are unfortunately barred from American soil.
So without further ado, here's 20 cars that are banned in America.
20 TVR Tuscan
A hidden gem from the 90s and 00s, the TVR Tuscan is a front-mid engine, rear wheel drive sports car that is available in either an in-line 6 format. The engine puts out about 350 brake horsepower and due to the staggeringly compact design, this car leaves others in the dust. This is actually why is barred from America: the safety standards in Europe are generally a lot looser than in America, meaning cars like the Tuscan are not safe enough for American drivers. I mean it makes sense too: tiny sports cars from the 90s and 00s are built to value performance over everything else, including safety, but nevertheless, it's sad that Americans can't get their hands on this classic.
19 Aston Martin Virage
The Aston Martin Virage was re-realesed at the Geneva Motor Show after an 11 year hiatus, surprising petrolheads everywhere. The Virage is a 2+2 roadster that packs a 5.9 L v12 engine under the hood that puts down about 490 brake horsepower.
James May of Top Gear commented on the Virage, saying that it's a sharper, "in-the-middle" version of Aston Martin's other model, the DB9 but less aggressive than the DBS.
The first iteration of the Virage was available in America between 1990 and 1993, however, American support of the car ended due to a lack of passenger airbags and an inability to pass American emissions standards. It's a shame too, as I think the revised Virage is a truly stunning car that I wish was available in the States.
18 Wiesmann GT MF5
Wiesmann was an independent German car manufacturer that specialized in hand-built, custom vehicles before it was liquidated in May 2014. One of the most notable designs from Wiesmann is the GT MF5, which was limited to a production number of 55 units in 2009. The engine inside the GT MF5 is a V10 BMW S85, rated at 547 horsepower, built with specialized tuning to maximize efficiency on the track. It's safe to say that the MF5 is a serious rarity in the car world, so despite it being barred from legality in America, its probably nearly impossible to find a model for sale that for anything less than an arm and a leg.
17 Noble M600
Much like the aforementioned GT MF5, the Noble M600 is a hand-built, custom designed supercar that makes a name for itself on the closed track. The twin-turbo V8 engine under the hood of the M600 puts out a whopping base horsepower of 450.
I say base because the included turbo kit, a Garret AiResearch, comes equipped with variable boost, allowing the driver to switch between 450, 550 and 650 horsepower, successfully increasing the power of the car by about 50%.
Quite possibly the most interesting thing about the reception of the M600 comes from its feature on Top Gear, when Jeremy Clarkson beat both the Pagani Zonda Roadster and Bugatti Veyron on the Top Gear track. Additionally, Richard Hammond praised the M600 on the show, despite a malfunctioning gearbox that affected the car during the filming of the episode.
16 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Tommi Makinen Models
As part of the sixth generation of the illustrious Evo, Mitsubishi released a special edition trim, named after the Finnish rally driver, Tommi Mäkinen. This edition comes in two trims: the RS and GSR, both of which include a list of modifications, tweaks and upgrades. The RS included features like a shortened shift ratio, a rear limited slip differential and optional Brembo brakes, while the GSR comes equipped with Active Yaw Control, an Anti-Lock Braking System and bucket seats. These upgrades, plus a tuned version of the turbocharged, 276 horsepower, 2L 4-cylinder engine from the stock Evo, makes the Mäkinen Evolution an incredibly fast, special edition rally car. It's really a shame that this amazing build was never brought to American markets and subsequently banned due to NHTSA.
15 Land Rover Defender
Harking back to 1983, Land Rover released a four-wheel drive, off-road vehicle known as the Defender, which was based on the original Land Rover series that made its debut in 1948 at the Amsterdam Motor Show.
The 90s Defender models utilize a 2.5L turbo diesel engine known as the 200TDi, which could put out about 107 horsepower, but later saw an upgrade to the 300TDi.
The 200TDi was loosely based on the existing Defender engine, but featured a few upgrades like an alloy cylinder head, which improved turbocharging, inter-cooling and direct injection. The 1993 Defender 110 is specifically listed on the NHSTA's blacklist, which means its barred from entry into the US. So I guess American drivers will have to settle for one of Land Rover's other off-road vehicles.
14 Volkswagen Polo BlueMotion
During the fourth generation of the Polo, Volkswagen released a BlueMotion version of the car, decreasing its environmental footprint. BlueMotion is an ongoing name badge for Volkswagen, as there have been a few models that feature a BlueMotion trim, denoting a modified build that is more eco-friendly. In the case of the Polo, the stock 1.4L engine was modified to have longer gear ratios, the body was made more aerodynamic, the tires were replaced with low rolling resistant tires and many of the alloys used in construction were replaced with more lightweight versions. The result: a car that produces less than 100g/km of CO2 and a stated fuel economy of 74.3 miles per gallon. It's a shame that this car is legal in the states, as I think it would be cool to see more fuel-efficient Volkswagens.
13 Alfa Romeo Giulietta
Giulietta actually refers to three Alfa Romeo models, however, I am referring to the most recent, also known as the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Type 940. Introduced at the 2010 Geneva Motor Show, the Giulietta is a small family hatchback that places elegance and performance at the top of its priority list, as the car is incredible, both mechanically and aesthetically.
The initial build of the Giulietta 964 includes an in-line 1.4L engine, but was later upgraded to a 2.0L diesel engine, outputting about 148 horsepower.
All in all, the Giulietta is an illustrious, high end, luxury family vehicle, designed with the expertise that Alfa Romeo is so well known for. It's really a shame that this car hasn't been brought to the American market and even more of a shame that Americans are banned from importing them.
12 Nissan Pulsar
The Nissan Pulsar is a historic model for the Japanese manufacturer, dating back to 1978 and seeing production in some sense, still today. Needless to say, the Pulsar has undergone a serious amount of changes in that time, ranging in power levels from 78 horsepower to 227 horsepower and equipped with either FWD or 4WD. Models included the GA13DS, GA15DS, GA16DE, SR18DE, SR20DET and the CD17, so its safe to say that there is a lot of variety when it comes to the Pulsar. It's a shame that it was never brought to American markets though, as I think it's one of Nissan's hidden gem sedans.
11 Toyota Sera
The Toyota Sera has got to be one of the most interesting models that Toyota has ever made, due almost entirely to its design. The Sera is a 3-door, 2+2 hatchback that is built with a glass roof canopy and butterfly doors, giving it a unique, supercar-esque appearance.
In terms of mechanics, the Sera is a pretty much a run-of-the-mill sedan, including a 1.5L in-line 4 engine, but surprisingly, there were other non-performance related additions to the car, like an advanced surround sound audio system. It's really a shame that the Sera was restricted to the Japanese domestic market, as a sedan with butterfly wings is an absurd, yet unique design that is nearly timeless.
10 Lotus 340R
In 2000, Lotus engineered one of the most interesting supercars to date, the 340R. Built with a 4-cylinder version of the Rover K-Series, referred to as the VHPD (Very High Power Derivative), the Lotus puts down about 177 brake horsepower.
Due to its incredibly lightweight construction and superior weight distribution, the 340R has a zero to sixty time of 4.4 seconds, which is incredible considering the size of the engine.
However, this is exactly the reason why it's not in America: the car does not meet safety regulations because of its subcompact design. It is technically road legal in the UK, but most Lotus 340Rs are reserved for the track anyway.
9 Toyota Hilux
The Toyota Hilux is a unique pickup truck that utilizes a similar design as the SR5 but has a few differences. The Hilux comes equipped with a range of engine sizes, from 2L to 4L, that are diesel powered and outputs a range of horsepower between 139 and 235. The reception of the Hilux by consumers is that the truck is well built, reliable and fully qualified for even the toughest of use.
The Hilux is even viable in rough terrain, as it comes optional with 4WD that can handle moderate off-roading.
While there are many other trucks in Toyota's catalog that are basically equivalent to the Hilux, it's still unfortunate that the Hilux never made it to America's markets and subsequently because of it's age, the new generations are barred from import.
8 Nissan Patrol
The Nissan Patrol is sort of like a Pathfinder lookalike, although its more closely related to the Armada. The fifth generation of the car is my favorite, dubbed Y61, which was produced from 1997 to 2013. It was made available in a series of different trims, including engine sizes ranging from 2.8L to 4.5L, some of which are diesel and others petrol. Throughout the 2000s, the Patrol underwent different facelifts and mechanical changes, until 2014 when it was discontinued in the majority of the countries where it was sold. However, it still saw production in South Africa, the Middle East, Pakistan, Paraguay, Bolivia, Sri Lanka and the Philippines.
7 Volkswagen XL1
Unveiled at the 2011 Qatar Motor Show, the Volkswagen XL1 is the third version of Volkswagen's 1-liter car, which is essentially a plug-in diesel hybrid.
Supposedly, the XL1 can achieve a theoretical fuel efficiency of 260 miles per gallon from its two-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that can output about 47 horsepower.
Production began in 2013 and was limited to 250 units, which went to pre-sale applicants who essentially purchased the cars before they were made. So, despite the illegality of importing an XL1 due to NHSTA, it's safe to say it'd be nearly impossible to find one for sale anyway, leaving this to be a rare find to say the least.
6 Bentley Azure Mark II
When Volkswagen acquired Bentley, the Azure was a stunning model in the middle of its first generation, which ended up lasting until 2003. It wasn't until 2006, when Volkswagen executives decided to breathe life into the Azure and release the second generation, dubbed Mark II. Equipped with a turbo-charged V8 making 450 horsepower, the Mark II is a seriously powerful, high end, luxury sedan. I mean, look at this thing; I would expect it only to be driven by a paid driver, transporting some sort of VIP. Unfortunately, sale of the Azure was restricted to Russia, Europe and the Middle East, and the Azure was placed on the NHSTA's nonconforming vehicle list.
5 Porsche Carrera 911 RS
While there are many models of the Carrera available in America, there are many models that were only sold in certain domestic markets as well as a myriad of models listed on the NHSTA's nonconforming vehicle list.
The RS is one particular trim that was never brought to North America and it's a shame because it's a wicked fast roadster.
The 1973 and 1974 models were built with a 210 horsepower, 2.7 liter engine that propels the lightweight design of the Carrera, leaving other cars in the dust. I think the Carrera is a true testament to Porsche's drive to make quality vehicles, as the Carerra is expertly designed and seems nearly flawless.
4 Lamborghini Diablo
Designed by Marcello Gandini, the Lamborghini Diablo is an extremely high powered mid-engine sports car that saw production between 1990 and 2001, when it was replaced Lamborghini Murciélago. Under the hood, a v12 engine pushes 485 brake horsepower, giving the Diablo plenty of enough power to stand up to other supercars in its class. Not surprising really, considering this monster bears the all too elegant Lamborghini badge. The 1997 model is specifically listed on the NHSTA's blacklist, because it doesn't meet safety and age requirements to be imported, however, I should mention there are some Diablos in America. A limited production run of 25 units were built specifically for the US car market, however, the Diablo's presence in America is still basically nonexistent.
3 1994 Toyota Supra
While the Supra was sold in the US for a short time, the foreign models (that are younger than 25 years) are barred from entry. Unfortunately, the 94 Supra just barely falls short of the age specification meaning it's banned from America.
This is probably the least "banned" car on the list, as there are still plenty of other Supra models which are registered on American soil, however, because of the legendary status that the Supra has, it needed to be mentioned.
Fortunately, by the year 2030, Americans will have access to pretty much all of the JDM legends like the Supra, giving Americans something to look forward to in the coming decade.
2 Porsche Carrera 964 RS
Nearly identical to the Carrera 911 RS, the Porsche Carrera 964, dubbed 964 or Carrera 4, also had an RS model, released about 20 years after the 911 RS. It was based on the design of the 911 RS, but included a revised engine that can output about 260 brake horsepower. Due to the ultra lightweight construction, as well as, stripping of most non-essential features, the 964 has an incredible power to weight ration, creating a recipe for an absolute speed demon. I should mention that there was an American version, the RS America, that was produced in 1993 and 1994, however, it was based on the Carrera 2. So, while the RS America was released, the original Porsche 964 is restricted to European markets and barred from American import.
1 Lotus Elise Series 1
I should preface this one by saying, it's a little redundant to include both the 340R and the Series 1, as the 340R is essentially a later released trim of the Elise. Nonetheless, I think that the base model should also be mentioned, as it stands alone as an amazing roadster.
Initially released in 1996, the Series 1 was designed by Julian Thompson to have an incredibly low curb weight and center of gravity.
This allows the car to be significantly faster than other cars that have much bigger engines and truthfully, I tip my hat to Lotus, as all of their cars are so expertly designed, it's almost unfathomable.
Sources: Lets Drive Car, Cheat Sheet, The Grizzled, Speed Society, Odometer, Buzz Drives, Exotic Car Rental Guide, Auto Info, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Office of the Federal Register