Every year there's a new group of forbidden fruit vehicles that are eligible for legal import into the US. A longstanding Department Of Transportation rule means you can't own or drive any foreign-market car in the US before 25 years from its initial production date. But once that quarter-century ban lifts, all bets are off.
Next year, cars produced in 1999 are eligible. So if you didn't get a chance to snag a Subaru 22B or a Mercedes-Benz CLK GTR when they were up for import last year, there are a few new enticing options worth taking a look at in 2024.
Sure, you can buy a modern Audi S3 – but why not set yourself apart at the next cars and coffee by importing the first-generation Audi S3 instead? Originally introduced as a three-door hatchback, the first-gen S3 had 207 stock horsepower from a turbocharged 1.8-liter engine and was only available in markets like Europe, Japan, Australia, and a few others.
Aficionados of weird Audis will be delighted to know that the A2 is officially eligible for import in 2024, although you will have to wait until November of next year. Production of the funky-looking five-door kicked off in November of 1999 for markets like Germany and the United Kingdom with its unique aluminum unibody construction. It’s not a hugely sought-after car by enthusiasts, granted, but it would make for an interesting collector's item.
Another car US buyers might be familiar with is the Hyundai Equus. Oddly enough, the first-generation model debuted at the New York Auto Show but never went on sale Stateside. Instead, Hyundai offered the first-gen Equus in Europe and other markets with a base 3.0-liter V6 engine or an optional 4.5-liter V8 at the top of the range. It doesn't rank highly on the list of collector's cars, granted, but the Equus is an interesting not-for-America sedan nonetheless.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI
The Lancer Evo VI arrived at a time when Mitsubishi's rally success was at its peak. But it wasn't that much different than the Evo V, really. The sixth iteration gained new bodywork, improved cooling elements, upgraded pistons, and a titanium-aluminide turbine wheel for the turbo on the RS model. It was still powered by the Evo V's turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with 276 horsepower, but the more powerful RS model arrived later on with 330 hp. At any rate, the Evo VI was a stellar sports car and now it’s legal Stateside.
Nissan Silvia S15
If you didn't take advantage of importing an R34 Skyline last year, this year you can bring over its baby brother: the Nissan Silvia S15. Debuting in 1999 and surviving until 2002, the S15 was the last generation of the Silvia and one of a handful that didn't make it Stateside. Under the hood was a SR20DET turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with 247 horsepower, well-known among the tuning community for its ability to take on heaps more power.
Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R
The most important car you can legally import in 2024 is the Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R. Technically it debuted late in 1998, but production didn’t kick off until January of 1999, making it officially eligible early next year. The R34, of course, is one of the most iconic Japanese sports cars of all time. It had a twin-turbocharged 2.6-liter straight-six engine with a six-speed manual and around 280 horsepower stock. But finding one worthy of importing won’t be easy or cheap. The market lists the R34 GT-R at around $200,000 before import fees.
Pagani Zonda C12
Assuming you have all the money in the world, the Pagani Zonda C12 is now legal to import into the US. While later iterations of the Zonda and eventually the Huayra were and are available Stateside, the original Zonda C12 and some of the earlier iterations were only available abroad. The first C12 had a 6.0-liter Mercedes V12 that made a whopping – wait for it – 395 horsepower. Later models upped the output to nearly 600 ponies and beyond.
Porsche 996.1 GT3
The first Porsche 911 GT3 ever made can now be imported into the US. The 996.1 GT3 had just 355 horsepower back in 1999 – modest by today's standards. But it also removed any and all unnecessary weight in the name of lightness. It had barely any sound deadening, no rear seats, and no air conditioning. For a Porsche collector looking to get their hands on a rare 911 for relatively reasonable money, this is it.
The Toyota Crown lineup dates back to 1955, but some of the more sought-after models are the ninth, 10th, and 11th generation models – the latter of which is now a candidate for import next year. Launched in September of 1999, the Crown S170 had a more premium Lexus-like design and your choice of 2.0-, 2.5-, or 3.0-liter engine options.
TVR Tuscan Speed Six
Under the ownership of Peter Wheeler, TVR was a force to be reckoned with in the UK in the mid to late 1990s. The Tuscan Speed Six was one of its gems, debuting in 1999 with a new 3.6-liter inline-six engine producing 360 horsepower. The displacement eventually grew to 4.0 and 4.2 liters later on in the life cycle, with the power jumping to 380 hp. If you have an affinity for weird British sports cars, now is your chance.