Vehicles come in an endless variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and designs. And yet, there are still many that have yet to even capture the attention of most of the world. There’s a good chance that many people are completely unaware of these models and, sometimes, even the manufacturer is relatively unknown. How do so many high-performance vehicles find themselves blocked from entry into so many countries?
When manufacturers were designing these unique rides—which also happen to be fairly expensive—they cut as many corners as possible, in an effort to keep production costs down. It seems like an intelligent design choice until you realize that the corners the manufacturers are cutting are typically safety related. It’s confusing that these vehicles will run you well into the six-figure range, yet they don’t have the basic amount of airbags to make their way into many nations.
On the other side of the coin, some vehicles aren’t necessarily incapable of offering their rides to other countries, they simply choose not to for a variety of reason. Each time a manufacturer attempts to bring their model to a country, they must sacrifice a few models for crash and safety testing, so they want to make absolutely sure that their vehicle will actually sell. For young manufacturers—or the less lucrative—it’s not exactly realistic to waste five models of a vehicle that normally costs upwards of $200,000. In other words, not every car is officially ‘banned’ but hasn’t received the proper safety testing to be publicly sold; collectors will always attempt to take these original vehicles across borders but they aren’t always successful in these ventures.
25 Smart Crossblade
Many have absolutely no clue about all of the creations that led up to the infamous Smart Fortwo, especially those who live in the US. Taking in the likes of the Crossblade, it feels more like a favor than a tragedy that early iterations were barred from much of the highly-regulated regions of the world. Unsurprisingly, many of these models were outright banned for the obvious safety threats that a roofless, door-less car poses. The apparent luxury of having doors aside, the Crossblade also has no windscreen, which is not just unsafe but also quite annoying. Since the body of a Smart car is meant to have an aerodynamic design to optimize its efficiency, the windscreen was just left out altogether. It’s hard to say that the Crossblade was a total loss.
24 Ferrari XX
The Ferrari XX is one of the most restricted vehicles in the world, reserving its use for the development of new cars or hardcore collectors. The Ferrari XX costs nearly $2 million and is usually used to test new supercar technology. Giving a few models up for the purpose of crash and safety testing would be incredibly expensive on Ferrari’s end of the bargain, especially for a car that is built in such a limited quantity. This car isn’t available for use anywhere other than Ferrari test tracks, meaning you can’t drive them on the road nor race these desirable speed demons.
23 BAIC Rodedawg
It’s not often that you see an amphibious vehicle rolling down the road, and there’s apparently a reason behind that. The Beijing Auto Industrial Holding Corporation produced one of the most notorious military-like vehicles, commonly known as the Rodedawg, primarily for civilian use. And, while it seemed like it would have no problem being brought over to countries like the US—since it appears to go above and beyond the safety regulations—the Rodedawg turned out to be a total sham. BAIC had absolutely no proof of revenue from the Rodedawg, despite several press releases in which Rodedawg Industrial Holding claimed it was a highly successful vehicle. The Rodedawg was never been allowed to enter US grounds (as well as the roads of many other nations) for even a display or show.
22 Audi S1
Although we most commonly identify Audi’s powerful cars as being the S4 or S6, the manufacturer has another model up its sleeve. While the world has enjoyed the S4 and S6 for their convenience as well as their speed, Europe has been keeping the S1 to themselves all along. It’s a hot hatch with a 230-horsepower, turbocharged engine and even more personality than most of the world can handle; at least, that’s how Audi perceives it. The Audi S1 has a top speed of 155 mph and can reach sixty in just 5.8 seconds, but because of the believed lack of demand, the S1 remains exclusively for sale in Europe.
21 Suzuki Jimny
The Suzuki Jimny has remained largely concealed to much of the world because of increasingly stringent safety policies. Once you dig a bit deeper into the concerns that the Jimny raises, it’s highly evident why that’s the case. The Jimny is basically a tiny SUV and was originally equipped with minimal safety features. Over time, the Jimny has acquired multiple airbags and brake support, but even the Euro NCAP rated the current model (2019) 3 out of 5 stars due to its lack of features. While Suzuki is struggling to keep up with the ever-changing standards, the US is begging for this model to return. However, Suzuki has yet to make any move toward offering it to the off-roading market of the red, white, and blue. It’s currently being sold in Britain and is testing the waters in France.
20 1st Gen Lotus Elise S1
The unique Elise took the world by surprise during its initial debut in 1996. It was a compact roadster with an elegant style that made it seem even more valuable than it really was; it had a paltry 143 horsepower but could reach 60 mph in 5.8 seconds due to its lightweight design. The interior was extremely neglected by the designers, built with only the most basic materials. No fancy trims or options were offered on the Elise back then. All of this minimalistic design came at a pretty intense cost, though. Since the Lotus Elise S1 weighed so little, it had incredible difficulty passing any crash tests, which kept it largely concealed until later models were built.
19 Land Rover Defender 110
Unlike many of the other off-roaders on this list, the Land Rover 110 is pretty famous for its abilities and is commonly used for transport by many militaries. According to a variety of sources, the Land Rover 110 is one of the best off-roaders simply because it can get through a variety of terrains while maintaining some of the highest safety standards. However, the 110 is not offered in the US because it has been deemed as ‘unsafe’. Why, you may ask? Land Rover completely eliminated airbags from the standard equipment, altogether. Since a used model is sold for around $110,000 or so, it’s safe to assume that it probably wouldn’t even be worth the money for Land Rover to upgrade its safety features for US testing, anyhow.
18 Holden Ute SSV
The Holden Ute is one of the models of General Motors’ Australian division that has yet to leave the continent. It is based on the same concept as the El Camino, except it has been met with far more popularity in Australia than anything the US iteration ever did. The Ute is built on a passenger car chassis and engine, however, it has the ability to tow and perform all of the practical tasks that typically belong to a truck. But wait, there’s more; the Ute also has one of the biggest engines. The 6.3-liter V8 found beneath the hood of the Ute allows the pickup-car to pump out over 421 horsepower with rear-wheel drive.
17 Mercedes-Benz UNIMOG
Produced by Daimler and sold under Mercedes-Benz, the UNIMOG is one of the most incredible off-road vehicles. It has insane ground clearance, a flexible frame that allows it to travel over extreme terrain, including large rocks, and also offers optimal views. All of these traits are why it’s used by several militaries around the world, including the US. However, civilian market production is another story. The UNIMOG isn’t sold in North America due to safety issues and is unlikely to be sold throughout much of the world purely because of its price point. There are, however, a few enthusiasts that have imported the UNIMOG to countries in which it's not offered.
16 Donkervoort D8 GTO Bilster Berg Edition
The D8 GTO is a rare supercar that is manufactured in the Netherlands. Starting at $224,000, the Donkervoort D8 GTO Bilster Berg would have a pretty large hurdle to overcome if it had any hope of making sales worldwide. The odds are stacked against it even further once the looks of the Donkervoort are taken into account. But the bigger issue is the D8 GTO’s topless design. It seems counterintuitive to build a car that beats all records of street-legal cars, yet it has no roof to somewhat protect passengers with. Since the D8 GTO Bilster Berg is only offered in the Netherlands, the manufacturer took a pass on all of the safety testing that the car would have to endure (and likely fail), so it seems that the rest of the world will never get a piece of this speed demon.
15 Land Rover Defender 130 'Project Rhino'
The Defender 130 is one of the cooler Land Rovers that you can find. Starting with a 110 4x4 chassis, it was cut in half and then welded together to form an extended off-road vehicle. It’s supposedly one of the toughest vehicles and can withstand a number of off-road elements, hence the name ‘Project Rhino’. However, the 130 has not been sold for civilian use. Based on its smaller counterpart, the 110, we assume that this likely has a lot to do with the cost of safety testing and the inevitable failure that Project Rhino would undoubtedly receive. Unless, of course, this model actually has (minimally) a set of airbags.
14 Pagani Zonda R
Produced by the carmaker making waves in Italy, Pagani, the Zonda R is one of the rarer models that has left their production line. It’s basically a mid-engine roadster with a ridiculous amount of power built into it; the zero-to-sixty time on the Zonda R is 3.4 seconds. This is partially why there have only been 125 built; that and the fact that they cost close to $2 million. It’s unlikely that many places will ever see the likes of these roadsters anytime in the foreseeable future since safety testing would be astronomically expensive. The likelihood of seeing these on the roads in most places is nonexistent.
13 Lamborghini Strosek Diablo
We can’t deny that this is a beautiful car, but the Strosek Diablo is more of an artful venture than it is a safety-conscious supercar. It came into existence when Victorio Strosek decided to revamp the original Lamborghini Diablo, thus creating one of the most exclusive Lambos ever. Strosek repositioned the mirrors and spoiler and replaced the headlights with smaller alternatives. Today, the Strosek Diablo is the car that many collectors desire but remains illegal on the streets in many regions, including the US. The mirrors offer little-to-no visibility and the headlights are far too small to meet regulations. Sadly, this isn’t a car you’ll come across often, particularly because of its high price.
12 KTM X-Bow R
The KTM X-Bow (pronounced ‘cross bow’) is an extremely light recreational ‘car’ that is actually in high-demand around the world for racing purposes. Its open-air design plays a major role in the X-Bow’s inability to acquire a street-legal status. But it’s not simply the topless design that keeps the X-Bow off of the streets, it’s high-performance specs that have deemed the car unsafe for personal use. Despite the fact that it can’t be used as your everyday cruising vehicle, KTM ended up doubling their production of X-Bows from their original figure. That’s quite a success for KTM’s first car, or any car that poses a threat to life.
11 Lotus 340R
Lotus has quietly made its way into the mainstream spotlight with many other sports cars. And throughout that climb, the manufacturer has had a few mistakes along the way—although the 340R was hardly a failure—some of which happen to err on the side of danger. The 340R is cool in every sense of the word; it’s topless, door-less, and one of the fastest cars of its kind. And, that’s precisely the problem with the 340R. A car that’s designed to move as fast as possible should probably have a few safety features installed to prep the passengers for those worst-case scenarios which are bound to occur when you’re driving at top speed.
10 Nissan Figaro
The Nissan Figaro is actually a pretty neat car. It’s obviously styled in a vintage fashion and really captivates that feeling that you’re in another time…especially once you get into an accident with one of these. The Figaro was so far off from the US safety regulations that it has been banned ever since its 1991 debut. In fact, the Figaro probably didn’t make its way too far outside of Japan since it was produced in such a limited number. Only 12,000 of these were ever released to a few buyers who were lucky enough to be selected in Nissan’s lottery.
9 Citroen 2CV Dolly
Even if the Citroen 2CV Dolly wasn’t illegal to drive, we doubt that it would have made a very big impression on the car market, anyway. There’s a very slight chance that buyers would have been able to get past its unattractive body; it’s obvious that the Citroen was designed as a wannabe retro vehicle but it was a complete failure of style. Based on the fact that the model was built and produced to resemble cars from the 50s, yet was sold in the 80s, we assume that it probably wouldn’t have made great sales in the US, anyway. Yet, the Citroen 2CV Dolly was so unique that it didn’t necessarily fit into the 50s mold, either. Regardless, the Dolly isn’t welcome in most places around the world.
8 1996-2005 TVR Cerbera
For almost a decade, all of TVR's models weren’t allowed into the US, yet the UK-made sports cars continued to make a generous amount of sales in Canada. Judging from the style of the Cerbera, you wouldn’t think it was much faster than your base model Camaro or Mustang. Yet, this TVR sports car is beyond powerful and didn’t have the required safety equipment for the US government to allow its entry onto US soil. It may seem like an exaggeration, but this little car has a 420 horsepower engine and can reach 60 mph in just 3.9 seconds. That was pretty phenomenal for a car that started production in 1996.
7 Volkswagen Scirocco R
The Scirocco R may only look like a rounded Volkswagen Golf. However, there’s much more to than meets the eye with this goofy-looking VW. The Scirocco R is surprisingly powerful; it has twice as much horsepower as your average compact. Over 300 horses keep this car young and the all-wheel drive is a step up from that typical front-wheel control that can be a bit hard to stomach. Unfortunately for the US and other regions of the world, VW chose not to offer the car out of fear that their Golf models would be drowned out in its shadow. It’s maintained an exclusive residence in Europe, instead.
6 Lada Niva
Built in the Soviet Union, the Lada Niva was a fairly popular off-roader in Europe. However, it hasn’t seemed to make its way into the Western Hemisphere and is completely barred from entering the US. The Niva doesn’t meet safety nor emissions standards in many regions but even if it was allowed in, the Niva has become nearly obsolete. The Lada Niva has gained a reputation for being a knock-off Fiat, but it doesn’t have half the dependability of one; despite its spurt of popularity, the Niva is a scarce sight in Europe today. It’s pretty disgraceful if a compact from Italy can outlive any vehicle.
5 1996-2005 TVR Tuscan 3000M
Along with the rest of the TVR fleet, the Tuscan has had a challenging time making its way into the US, along with a few other countries. The 3000M was given a Rover V8 engine, which was not only a gas guzzler, but also happened to have quite a bit of dirty emissions associated with it. It’s certainly a beautifully-designed machine, but the same can’t be said about what comes out the other end. Collectors have managed to wriggle the Tuscan through the US border after jumping through regulation hoops and severely modifying all of the components that raised safety and emissions concerns.
4 Wiesmann GT MF5
There’s nothing quite as mysterious as a roadster like the Wiesmann GT MF5; it's a little-known creation from Germany with incredible power. The Wiesmann has a ten-cylinder engine that pumps out 507 horses and 385 pound-feet of torque. The term ‘roadster’ probably downplays its abilities because the GT MF5 is not a car that jokes around. The acceleration is intense, with the Wiesmann GT MF5 tapping into the 60 mph range in just 3.9 seconds. It’s one of the fastest cars that has been tested by the mainstream media. Of course, Wiesmann doesn’t have a renowned history like Lamborghini or Ferrari. But with cars like these in production, we’re hoping that the name can build some clout and make its way around the globe.
3 Nissan Skyline R34 'Godzilla'
Of all the sports cars from Japan that have been worshipped by enthusiasts around the globe, the Nissan Skyline is one of those rare models that almost everyone desires. It has over 224 horsepower and an incredible amount of tuning potential. In fact, the majority of owners had their Skyline R34 tuned mere hours after purchasing the Skyline. It was only sensationalized even more by movies like The Fast And The Furious. Despite all of its demand, the Skyline R34 has only been available to right-hand driving markets, and that leaves the US out of the equation altogether, despite the fact that some of its largest supporters reside there.
2 BMW 1 Series Hatchback
Whether or not you’re a fan of the hatchback, BMW has its own opinions about where the 1 Series hatch would succeed or not. Hence, why the car has stayed comfortably sold in Europe only. It’s believed that there is hardly a market for hatchbacks, in general, in countries such as the US and BMW has almost no intention of ever bringing this iteration out of hiding anytime soon. This car has an exciting 326 horsepower and is currently rear-wheel-drive, but BMW has discussed adjusting the car’s specs to compete with current US compacts, like the Ford Focus. Which means that it would probably become front-wheel-drive and would likely lose some of its luster, defeating the entire purpose of sharing it with the world in the first place.
1 Morgan Roadster
The Morgan Roadster 110 is a V6 that’s built to be a one-of-a-kind prototype. Upon first glance, the Morgan looks like a well-preserved two-seater from the 1940s. That's hardly the case, though, as the Morgan Roadster was actually produced in the early-2000s, making it one of the most tasteful modern classics that you’ll probably never spot on the roads. It’s not exactly barred from entry into the US, but there are only three known models that have been carried into the States. Even in Europe, the existence of the Roadster is extremely sparse. Despite its old-fashioned styling, the Morgan Roadster has 300 horsepower and a satisfying six-speed manual gearbox. It’s an absolute tragedy that these aren’t better recognized or more widely produced.
Sources: Top Speed, Motor1, and Wikipedia.