Tips, Tricks & Trends

You Can Now Import These Previously Illegal Cars in 2021

The Vehicle Safety Compliance Act of 1988 mandates that vehicles not originally sold in the United States are illegal to import until they are 25 years old. This means that each year, a batch of cars from a quarter of a century ago finally come of age, giving consumers a whole new world of vehicles to potentially buy. We all have car brands that we’re fiercely loyal to, but that doesn’t mean that flashy new options won’t catch our eyes. If you’re in the market for an import, here are the top three that we’re excited to see on American roads. 

Britain’s Lotus Elise S1 sports car

The Lotus Elise derives its name from Elisa Artioli, the granddaughter of Romano Artioli. While that may not mean much to you initially, it’s important to note that Romano was the chairman of Lotus and Bugatti. From the very title of the vehicle, the Lotus Elise evokes images of luxury and incredible speed. 

The flashy name may also sound vaguely familiar to you. In an odd turn of events, the S1 won’t be the first Elise making its way to U.S. markets. American consumers had a chance at owning 2000’s Series 2 or 2011’s Series 3 model while the S1 remained illegal. Changes in European crash sustainability requirements meant that the S1 could no longer be produced in the continent, so Lotus turned to General Motors for a partnership. 

Despite already having access to the later models, it’s unsurprising that many are hopeful they’ll get a chance at the original release. Constructed out of materials like aluminum and fiberglass, the beloved British sports car weighs less than 1,600 pounds. In a vehicle that light, its 1.8-liter engine packs a powerful punch. 

France’s Renault Sport Spider

1997 Renault Sport spider, 2000
The 1997 Renault Sport Spider | National Motor Museum/Heritage Images/Getty Images

The Lotus Elise isn’t the only small car making a big splash. Between 1996 and 1999, Renault Sport sought to create a vehicle that would have all the speed and class of a race car, as well as the every-day functionality of a road vehicle. The result was the Sport Spider — an incredibly lightweight, low to the ground vehicle that could 60 miles per hour in under six seconds. 

This is the kind of super-cool car you’ll want to be driving all the time . . . but that’s probably not a good idea. Some of the vehicle’s iconic design features, like its complete lack of a roof, meaning that the Sport Spider operates best under sunny skies. The earliest models even lacked a windshield, opting for an aeroscreen or wind deflector instead. Drivers would have to go full racecar and wear helmets if their version was equipped with the latter. 

Less than 2,000 of this car were made, and the inventory shrinks even further if you’re picky about right-hand vs. left-hand drive… or having a windshield. 

Sweden’s unique car – the Jösse Car Indigo 3000

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Jösse Car’s Indigo 3000 gives the Sport Spider a run for its money in terms of exclusivity. Only 44 working models were produced! Despite the minuscule quantity, the Indigo 3000 remains Jösse’s greatest legacy . . . primarily because it was the only car they produced before the manufacturer folded in 2000. 

Despite the dismal history, this car is an impressive little roadster. Its designer, Hans Philip Zackau, also did work with Volvo, resulting in many of the car’s components feeling reminiscent of the more prosperous manufacturer. It comes equipped with 3-liter aluminum Volvo straight-six engine. Using a manual transmission and rear-wheel drive, it can jet its two passengers to 60 miles per hour in just over six seconds. 

Not sold on any of these European beauties? CarBuzz shared a full list of more foreign-made rides that you can (try) to get your hands on in 2021.