Yesterday, we gave you all a hypothetical: All cars in the United States have been destroyed by a tainted batch of fuel, but the 25-year import ban is still in effect. You, a person who still needs to go to work, have to import a car — but it can only be from early 1997 or before. You gave us a wealth of answers, but not everyone can make the list. Here are your best choices for survival in an alternate reality where your daily driver must be a vintage import.
Holden Sandman, 70's shaggin wagon mixed with muscle car.
Any car bold enough to paint its own name on its tailgate has earned my respect and admiration. I will now be calling every local tattoo shop to try and get a lower back tattoo that says “Steve,” in this exact font, in solidarity.
How about a TVR? Honestly, I don’t know much about them and hear some are terrible, but every time I would see one on British Top Gear I’d think THAT’S the car I’ve been looking for, a kind of supersized Miata or European take on a Fox Body Mustang.
Here’s one from 1997 called a Chimaera 500, with a 345hp 5.0 “Litre” (of course) V8. Sigh. Now if I could only get that steering wheel moved over...
Learning to drive on the right can’t be the end of the world. Sure, it’ll make looking through intersections a little harder, but won’t it be worth it?
Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution
Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution.
The JDM Off-Road scene is underrated.
The Pajero Evo whips, rules, rocks, and fits any other word you can find for “is incredibly exciting.” I’ll take mine in white, to better show off the splattered mud and dust.
Skoda Felicia Fun
Skoda Felicia Pickup Fun
Would be a perfect weekend car, hauling some dirt and yard stuff before sliding the back seats out for the kids so we can go get ice cream.
Any ute is great, but a ute built around the concept of Just Being A Good Time is the best. It’s fun! It’s right there in the name!
Peugeot 306 GTI-6
Peugeot 306 GTI-6. I know, not an import fav but I love them.
In a world without USDM cars, the floodgates are truly open for European hot hatches. Are you going to import a boring old GTI, or go for something no one’s ever seen before?
Just for the lulz, lets say this Reliant Robin.
It is the LX model, with the leather trimmed steering wheel and white “sporting” dials. How could anyone resist it? :)
Bonus points for including an actual listing to a specific car you’d bring in. Extra bonus points for finding what appears to be the ideal Robin spec, down to those period-correct wheels.
Nissan Pulsar GTI-R
Pulsar GTI-R or a Celica GT-4
Oh god this QOTD was a terrible idea. I’m going to be searching Japanese auctions for these all weekend. Who allowed me to do this to myself?
Alfa Romeo Spider
Alfa Romeo Spider with the V6, because Miata isn’t always the answer.
I saw one of these in Jacksonville FL last year, so apparently there’s already at least one in the states.
Has any brand, besides maybe BMW, had as much aesthetic consistency as Alfa Romeo? The grille shape, the badge placement, even the wheels still feel very in touch with current Alfas.
TVR Cerbera Speed Six, or a Series I Lotus Elise.
The American car market has already been simplified in our hypothetical, down to nothing, so why not import some lightness as well? The Series I is an inspired touch, with its more purpose-built styling.
I’ll tell you right now, don’t import anything 25 years old from Canada. I don’t care how tempting an Acura 1.6 EL is, rust never sleeps.
That said, my wife really wants a camper van, and how could you be sad driving a Bongo Friendee? Having a bad day? Just say it to yourself, “Bongo Friendee,” and tell me you don’t grin a little?
There’s even one for sale in BC right now for $15k, although the same dealer has a pair of newer Delicas as well, so can I cheat and use the 15 year rule and then sell said Delica in the US once it hits 25 years?
Although, I also really want to ride proper and get a Toyota Century, even if I’m not a titan of industry.
Japanese vans always seem to have the best names in the industry. Though, as great as the Delica Star Wagon is, it isn’t quite as friendly as the Friendee.
I’d grab a non-descript European sedan, nothing fancy, just a family car, I think its the same as a Ford Contour. (That’s what I’m telling my insurance company anyway.)
The Lotus Carlton may have been based on a Vauxhall, but that front end screams Ford XB Falcon to me. At least, XB Falcon in Mad Max guise. Would this be the last of the twin-turbo I6 Interceptors?
Volvo 850 R
Simple, a Volvo 850 R with a manual transmission. 1996 or 1997. Sure, the yellow T-5R gets all the notice, but the two Rs got a larger turbo and a torsen limited slip, when equipped with a manual transmission. Wagon, preferably.
Who can resist that classic boxy silhouette? Those absolutely perfect wheels? A Volvo wagon may not look like much, but it’ll have it where it counts.
A Classic Mini
1997 Rover Mini Cooper. We’re coming up on the final years in production of the classic Mini, the forbidden fruit of the US.
The classic Mini was a racing legend of its time, and the wheels-at-the-very-corners-of-the-chassis approach still works to this day. Makes sense, then, that Rover just kept on making them for decades, meaning your model-year 1997 is all but identical to the ‘60s original.
Browsing https://www.japaneseclassics.com/ and I came across this Mitsubishi. I’ve never even heard of a Strada, but now I want it. asking 15K 1993.
If you want the proportions of a Jeep Gladiator, but the thought of a Jeep just isn’t unique enough for you, the Mitsubishi Strada has your back. The most recent version of the truck, funnily enough, is sold in some markets as a Ram. It all comes full circle.
[Just a photo of the Ford Puma]
Technically, the Puma didn’t start production until September of ‘97, so you can’t bring one in for a few more months. But, given the state of global shipping right now, we’ll assume it’ll take that long to actually reach American shores. It’s worth it for a car this cool.
Nissan Cefiro A32 Wagon or a Nissan Leopard with a VQ30DET (really any y33 car with said engine)
I’ve always thought the Leopard would look great in full VIP style — slammed to the ground, wild camber, and the most luxurious interior appointments you can find. This solemn duty falls to you, it seems.
I have whole list of stuff starting with a Landrover Defender 110 or 130, a Peugeot 106 Rallye, a Suzuki Cappuccino to give my 3/4 scale wife a 3/4 scale Miata. A Toyota Century would also be cool.
There are few cars on earth more luxurious than the Century, and even fewer that can be found for its price point. If you want the most comfortable experience for your dollar, you can’t go wrong with the Century.