This post originally appeared on Details.com.
For years, the United States deemed these foreign cars off-limits. Because they were never here in the first place, they didn’t conform to our safety and emissions standards.
Drivers who wanted to import their own rare classics risked losing their insurance and even doing jail time if they were caught — and the cars would be confiscated and crushed. There’s a little-known red-tape workaround, though, called the 25 Year Rule: It simply means these models are officially of age.
1. Porsche 959
Only about 330 were built in the late eighties to conform to the rules of Group B rally racing, a short-lived and raucously dangerous off-road competition.
Speed. Made from carbon fibre and Kevlar, this was once the world’s fastest street-legal ride.
“You’d never know you were driving in a 27-year-old car,” says dealer Bruce Canepa, who brought one to the U.S. for Bill Gates. The car starts at $US700,000.
2. Mercedes G-Wagon
The Cabrio, like all versions of this rectilinear SUV, boasts an over engineered all-wheel-drive system; it can traverse almost any terrain.
During its 35-year run, the company also added leather seats, wood trim, and twin turbocharged V8 and V12 engines.
Exclusivity, says Russ Leabch, who’s been importing hard-to-find Mercedes SUVs since the eighties: “People who buy these cars want something no one else has.”
It starts at $US130,000.
3. Lancia 037
This hard-to-find early-eighties classic epitomizes a look common among expensive Italian sports cars of the period. Its style is low and wide, with subtly integrated scoops and vents to feed air into its supercharged engine.
Pedigree: “It’s Italian, with all the proper noise and passion,” says Tom Papadopoulos, who has gotten his hands on two out of only 207 ever made and is always on the lookout for more. The starting price is $US400,000.
4. Ford Falcon XA GT/XB GT
In Australia as in the U.S., the late-sixties/early-seventies muscle-car era was all about getting the biggest possible engine into the smallest possible space, and the angular design evokes its American heritage.
Celebrity. After star turns in “Mad Max” and “The Road Warrior,” these became “the coolest ‘anti-hero’ movie-star cars ever,” says Dee Vyper of Mad Max Cars, which has been importing and refurbishing them since 1997. The car starts at $US60,000.
Still forbidden, but not for long
In one or two years, these rides can land on our shores.
1992 BMW M5 Touring
This benchmark of high-powered sports sedans is the first of the “M” cars to be offered as a station wagon. It also features the brand’s signature straight-six engine, which purists appreciate.
1991 Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evoluzione
Your standard economy hatchback — with a turbocharged engine, an off-road-inspired all-wheel-drive system, and giant wheels tucked under outrageously flared fenders.
1990 Citroën XM
Twenty-four years after it won European Car of the Year, this long, low, aerodynamic executive sedan — descended directly from the groundbreaking Citroën DS of the 1950s — still looks, and drives, like nothing else on the road.
1990 Toyota Century Limousine
The 1967 sedan was used by dignitaries as well as the Japanese Mafia. When demand spiked during the economic bubble of the late eighties, Toyota introduced this new, even longer version.
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