Importing a Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) vehicle is nothing new, but thanks to the U.S. federal laws governing the process, and one important exemption, we do get a new batch of import-eligible cars every year. Once a vehicle is 25 years past its build date, it becomes exempt from import restrictions because it’s an antique.
Here are a few JDM relics that will soon be eligible for import:
The 1997 Mitsubishi FTO is like a JDM Eclipse that sounds better
Because we already had the Eclipse, the Mitsubishi FTO never made it to the U.S. in any official form. Earlier versions of this sporty JDM coupe have been import-eligible for a few years, but soon you’ll be able to bring over the facelifted 1997+ variants. According to the FTO Buying Guide on JDMBuySell.com, the later models have a revised front bumper and splitter, along with a redesigned spoiler at the back, and revised suspension geometry.
Engine options for 1997 started with a SOHC 1.8-liter inline-four on the base GS model, but what you really want is one with the 2-liter V6. It’s a shame that we typically don’t get smaller short-stroke V6 engines in the U.S. The 6A12 from the FTO has a free-revving character and sounds incredible, belting out as much as 197 hp in the top MIVEC configuration with variable valve timing.
Type R: the ultimate JDM Civic
Though they are quite rare these days, the EK Civic Hatchback was available in the U.S., though never in the ultimate Type R format. This most extreme of EK Civics was reserved for Japanese consumption only, with the screaming B16B engine. It was essentially a destroked B18C from the Integra Type R, and produced 182 hp @ 8200 rpm. Upper trims were available with bright red Recaro seats from the factory, or you could have a stripped-down N1 variant intended for those who were choosing their own racing seats.
Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution Conquers the Dakar Rally
Far less common on the JDM spectrum, but no less interesting are SUVs like the Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution. They exist because Dakar rules required a certain number of road units to be made for the race versions. Mitsubishi built 2500 of the V55W variants from 1997 to 1999.
Unlike the Lancer Evolution, the Pajero Evo did not come with a turbocharged engine. Instead, the naturally-aspirated 3.5-liter DOHC 6G74 V6 produced 275 horsepower with MIVEC variable valve timing. Fender flares and scoops give the road versions essentially the same profile as the competition siblings. Race versions of the Pajero were dominant, to say the least, winning the Dakar Rally more than any other manufacturer.
These are only some of the gems from 1997 that we’ll have access to next year. With US dealerships like Virginia-based Japanese Classics taking care of the import process beforehand, you can buy a ’90s JDM icon just like you would any other used car. Whether you just like driving something unique, or have always wanted one of these special vehicles, buying a JDM car has never been easier.