In the Rio Grande Valley, it’s not unusual to run into a Volkswagen Gol, Suzuki Jimny, Renault Duster or Peugeot 208. Mexican drivers often journey north to the U.S. from the bordering states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo León for holidays or just to do a bit of shopping. Malls and grocery store parking lots in the RGV are full of foreign-market cars that I geek out over on a daily basis.
But I was charmed by the cars I saw in Monterrey, which is famous for its Sierra Madre mountains and incredible grilled meats. I hadn’t been to the capital city of the northern state in Mexico in years. I vaguely remember visiting as a kid and being terrified of water slides at the now-defunct Sesame Street water park.
Forget the water slides. I’ve never had as much fun at any amusement park as I did in Monterrey, where I rented a shitbox with a manual transmission and drove all around the city. Carspotting beats all amusement parks, hands down.
I was only in town for a couple of days, but made the best of it with my rental so I wouldn’t have to wait on Ubers. The rental had to be something that would blend in, something to make me feel like a local. So, of course, I was given a white Nissan Versa. God bless the econobox with a stick shift. In it, I felt I’d gone native:
I spent the better part of the day in interviews with folks at NASCAR Mexico, but I managed to get photos of neat cars too. As soon as I arrived at the bus station, a Nissan Tsuru greeted me:
Not long afterwards I spotted a BMW 1-Series hatchback on the highway. It wasn’t quite the revived “ti” I’d hoped to see, but that’s OK:
There was this SEAT Altea Freetrack:
There was the SEAT León Cupra, which is now sold under its own performance brand:
I even spotted this Ford Anglia at a Harry Potter-themed restaurant. Don’t ask. Themes are apparently a thing down there:
But out of all the other cars I spotted while in the city and many others not pictured here, my favorite had to be this Dodge 1000 Van:
This is just a rebadged Mitsubishi Delica! The little cargo vans have been imported and sold in Mexico as Dodge models since the late aughts. Their design dates back to the 1980s, but it looks as good as ever. Such a friendly van.
Driving in the city was a therapeutic experience. And I badly needed some drive therapy. I was afraid driving an outdated, foreign-market car would be terrifying on Monterrey’s highways, but the speed limits are so much lower than the 80-mph I’m used to in Texas. I never felt like I was in a lot of danger, and I slotted into the pocket on busy roads, smiling as cars I’d never see in the U.S. circled around me like schools of fish in the Gulf’s warm waters.