Those of us who live in the United States suffer through a very unfortunate rule about private automotive importing: Under most circumstances, you can’t legally import a vehicle until it turns 25 years old. That means that as of today, November 2016, the newest vehicle you can legally import to the U.S. was built in November 1991, and that eliminates a lot of very, very cool cars I’d love to import.
But many of these cool cars will soon have their day. In the next few years, the R33 Nissan Skyline GT-R will be legal — and then, soon after, the R34 GT-R. Of course, I’m excited for those to turn 25. But I’m also excited for these five lesser-known foreign cars that are just waiting for their turn to be legally imported into the U.S.
The Audi RS2 will always be one of my all-time favorite cars — a high-performance, all-wheel-drive station wagon that signaled the beginning of the global sport-wagon craze. Built in a joint venture between Porsche and Audi (hence the Porsche wheels and brakes), the RS2 offered a monstrous 311 horsepower back at a time when the Mercedes S500 hadn’t yet cracked 300 hp. Since the RS2 first entered production in March 1994, it becomes legal to import in March 2019. I’m counting down the days.
BMW 3 Series Touring (E36)
Although E30 BMW 3 Series Touring models are getting all the love from importers these days, I’ve always had a soft spot for the next-generation model, the E36 3 Series Touring. In fact, I think it’s probably the most beautiful BMW wagon of all time; it’s at least second to the E34 5 Series. Although BMW never made an M3 version of the E36 3 Series Touring, conversions aren’t incredibly difficult to do. But I’d be happy just puttering around town in a regular model, knowing that my car is more attractive than just about anything else on the road. The E36 3 Series Touring came out for the 1995 model year, which means they likely went into production in late 1994, so early models will be eligible to import in about 3 years. Find a BMW 3 Series for sale
Mercedes-Benz E55 AMG Wagon (W210)
Although the W210-style Mercedes E55 AMG wagon is still many years away from being legal to import, it’s one of the cars I’m most excited to see in the U.S. I once owned a mint-condition, low-mile 2001 E55 AMG sedan, and I’ve regretted selling it ever since. I think the only way I could fill the gap it left is if I find a nice wagon version. The wagon is so incredibly spacious and practical, and the subtle, understated styling differs a lot from the look-at-me appearance of modern AMG models. But I also want one because this was the only solid, reliable AMG E-Class, thanks to a fairly simple naturally aspirated 350-hp 5.4-liter V8. Unfortunately, the E55 AMG wagon didn’t come out until 1999, which means legal imports won’t start until 2023. Find a Mercedes-Benz E-Class for sale
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
Fact of the day: The first-generation Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution debuted in October 1992, which means early examples will be legal to import in less than a year. But while the Evo I was cool, offering 244 hp and all-wheel drive, things didn’t really heat up until the 270-hp Evo III, which debuted in February 1995. Personally, I’ve always been partial to the Evo VI, especially in that gorgeous blue color they all seemed to be. Unfortunately, that one’s an especially long wait: It didn’t come out until January 1999, meaning it won’t be legal to import for more than 7 years. Find a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution for sale
Subaru Impreza WRX STI
Like the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, the rival Subaru Impreza WRX made its debut in the early 1990s. The first models came out in November 1992, which means the earliest cars — with 240 hp — will be legal to import in about a year. Meanwhile, the earliest WRX STI models (with 270 hp) debuted in limited production in early 1994, with expanded production soon after. With early versions of the Skyline GT-R already legal and the Lancer Evo on its way, the arrival of the WRX STI will mean all three of the vaunted Japanese high-performance cars we could never get in the States will soon be available, right here in the U.S. Find a Subaru Impreza WRX for sale
Doug DeMuro is an automotive journalist who has written for many online and magazine publications. He once owned a Nissan Cube and a Ferrari 360 Modena. At the same time.