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When it comes to JDM imports, the first thing most people land on is either a Nissan Skyline or a Toyota Supra. Typically, the FD RX-7 follows that thinking, too. However, there is a virtually unlimited supply of awesome ‘90s Japanese cars that never made it to the U.S. Fortunately, by way of the 25-year import law, we now have access to a bunch of those cars. Here are four amazing JDM cars from 1997 that you can now legally import into the U.S.!

1997 Honda NSX Type S

Yellow 1997 Honda NSX Coupe driving away from camera
1997 Honda NSX | Honda

Mighty convenient timing, isn’t it? The brand new Acura NSX Type S happens to drop the same year that its legendary JDM predecessor, the original NSX Type S, becomes legal for U.S. Import!

According to JDM Buy Sell, The NSX Type S was the successor to the track-oriented NSX-R and kept a lot of its spirit alive. Like the modern one, the Type S is a spicier version of the NSX meant for buyers who want to take their car to the track. It has stiffer front dampers and a bigger rear sway bar to improve the NSX’s already outstanding handling (let us not forget that Aryton Senna played a role in its development). However, the real party trick for the Type S is the weight reduction efforts that brought its total weight down to just 2,910 pounds. That’s about as much as a modern Ford Fiesta.

Honda made only 209 NSX Type S examples, spanning from 1997 to 2001. Hey, nobody said these were going to be easy cars to import! If you can find one, though, bring it on over!

1997 Subaru Impreza (GC8) WRX STi Type R

Up next on the JDM Gauntlet is the WRX STi Type R. Many folks may be a bit off-put by the Type R brandishing as the majority of U.S. car enthusiasts likely associate that term with Honda. However, multiple Japanese manufacturers used the Type R designation.

According to Whichcar, the STi Type R differentiates from a standard GC8-era WRX. It uses a beefier engine, a variable electronic center differential, bigger turbo, intercooler spray, shortened gearing, quicker steering ratio, WRC-style roof vent, no sound deadening, and blue interior trim. It also has much more aggressive styling and aero.

Again, this is not a vehicle you’ll come across very easily. It is, however, legal to import if you find one from 1997!

1997 Honda Civic Type R (EK9)

Folks who say things like “just a Honda Civic” probably won’t get much of a thrill from this one, but those who know are waiting on the edge of their seats.

The EK9 Honda Civic Type R is the ultimate Honda hot hatch. Everything about this Civic is optimized to be on track. From its specifically-engineered suspension to its drastic weight-reduction techniques like eliminating sound deadening, this “lowly Civic” is a force to be reckoned with. Combining these elements with the iconic Honda B16 VTEC four-cylinder with 182 naturally-aspirated horsepower. Good, now consider an almost unbelievable curb weight of around 2,300 pounds, and what do you get? A lap time around Ebisu circuit that’s over two seconds faster than a Honda S2000.

1997 Mitsubishi FTO

Red 1997 Mitsubishi FTO JDM Coupe
1997 Mitsubishi FTO | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The Mitsubishi FTO is a bit of a goofy car, but that’s what makes it so lovable.

The FTO is a quaint little sport-ish coupe with big bubbly eyes. Originally available with a four-cylinder, the later models got a rev-happy V6 engine that sounds great and makes 197 horsepower. Though that isn’t all that much by today’s standards, it’s plenty of fun in a light and nimble Japanese car.

This only scratches the surface of awesome JDM imports

There’s a JDM import for just about any budget, from legendary icons to more obscure vehicles. Honorable mentions for the 1997 model year include the WC34 Nissan Stagea (effectively a Skyline wagon) and the Toyota Caldina GT-T, a goofy wagon with the same engine as a Toyota Celica GT-Four.

So, if the prices of Skylines and Supras scare you or you want something a little different, don’t fret! There are plenty of JDM fish in the sea. As the years go by, more and more niche rides will become legal in the U.S.


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