Barely legal: 5 hot imports you can finally drive on American roads in 2018

The Bancroft Roadster — one of the cars eligible for import in 2018
It’s a well-known fact that many of the hottest exotic cars in the world aren’t sold in the United States. The reason is simple: our government won’t allow any automaker to sell cars here unless they pass the Department of Transportation crash tests. That means sacrificing several cars to get access to the U.S. market. If you’re talking about a short production run of hyper-expensive exotics, the automaker can sell the whole lot overseas anyway. So why bother with America?

With something so rare and so excellent you’re well on your way to achieving automotive nirvana.

But there’s a loophole. The government allows us to import these cars once they reach 25 years old without regard to whether the car complies with the various rules. This is not to say it’s easy. To own one of the cars eligible for import in 2018 you will still have to fill out the right forms, and the customs people need to see a tag on the car stating the date the particular car was made. If the car doesn’t have that, you have to prove it’s 25 years old with an original sales receipt or other documentation. If you’ve got all that, you’re well on your way to achieving automotive nirvana, with something so rare and so excellent that you will be the God Emperor of Cars & Coffee.

To whet your appetite, here are five cars Americans will be able to import for the first time in 2018. Just go over to wherever they are and buy one, then ship it home. But don’t whine about the cost – I never promised it would be cheap!

1993 Jaguar XJ220-S

1993 Jaguar XJ220-S shot

You could actually bring this car to America this year, because production of the fearsome XJ220-S began in 1992. But most of the 275 cars built in this small production run were made in 1993 or 1994. The XJ220 is an homage to Jag’s XJ13 prototype, built for the 1966 24 Hours of Le Mans but never actually raced. The XJ220 was originally supposed to have a V12 like the XJ13, but by the time it came to production, a twin-turbo V6 was substituted for the V12.

Purists might cue the sad trombone for the turbo engine compared to a V12, but it still made 540 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque. Those are respectable numbers today, and back in 1992 they were fantastic. In fact, it’s still one of the fastest cars in the world. The XJ220 will do the 0 to 60 sprint in just 3.6 seconds and will reach 212 mph.

The original concept for the XJ220 made it an AWD car, but by the time they had it ready for production, the car had the standard exotic layout of a rear-mid engine with a five-speed manual gearbox driving the rear wheels. You did get a limited slip diff, but it was a viscous coupling rather than something truly lockable.

With all that, the Jag XJ220-S was an expensive proposition in its day, retailing for £470,000, or $846,000 in 1992. The good news is, you won’t have to pay anything like that to get one today. Prices for the XJ220 have been stable around $350,000 to $450,000 for the last couple of years. Not that a few hundred thousand will make a difference for most of us.

1993 Lamborghini Diablo Strosek

1993 Lamborghini Strosek Diablo shot

Lamborghini built the Diablo from 1990 to 2001, and there are several in the United States. But the Strosek was a special edition modified by Vittorio Strosek, who thought the basic Diablo was a little too ho-hum for his tastes. Strosek changed up the bodywork to get some more aero and gave the car an adjustable wing for extra downforce.

The basic Diablo was a fire-breathing devil to begin with, boasting 485 horsepower and 428 pound-feet of torque from a 5.7-liter V12 engine. By 1993 you could get the Diablo VT with AWD and electronically adjustable shocks. The Diablo was good for a 4.5-second 0 to 62 run and had a top speed of 202 mph.

Good luck finding a Strosek Diablo for sale, but you can pick up a regular Diablo for about $100,000 to $150,000 these days. The Strosek models will be more, maybe a lot more.

1993 Aston Martin Virage Volante

five cars eligible for import in 2018 1993 aston martin virage volante cropped

The Virage Volante was the convertible version of Aston’s sexy Virage coupe. With a vestigial rear seat, the car was technically a 2+2, but only a complete schmuck would ever carry four in a car like this. The Volante was made for just you and a friend to enjoy.

Only a complete schmuck would ever carry four in a car like this.

About 230 units of the Virage Volante were made, starting in 1992. Virage Volante buyers enjoy a 5.3-liter V8 engine with 330 horsepower and 364 pound-feet of torque. The 0 to 60 run was accomplished in 6.5 seconds and top speed is about 158 mph. Buyers had a choice of a five-speed manual transmission from ZF, or a Chrysler three-speed automatic.

If you look around, you can find some of the more rare 6.3-liter hot rod editions, with 500 horsepower and 480 pound-feet of torque. The Virage 6.3 also got some wide body changes, better brakes, and 18-inch wheels.

If this scratches your Aston itch because the Vanquish S is a bit pricey, there’s some good news. Prices vary widely, especially for the 6.3-liter models, but you can pick up a Virage Volante for well under $100,000 with the basic engine. Part of the low price is that Aston had a touch of malaise in this era, and you can identify several parts that were sourced from more pedestrian cars, like that three-speed Chrysler Torqueflite automatic, or the headlights from a VW Scirocco. The steering column was a standard GM unit. There’s that sad trombone again.

1993 Alfa Romeo RZ

five cars eligible for import in 2018 1993 alfa romeo rz

If you’re looking for something really weird, the Alfa Romeo RZ is about as odd as it gets. RZ stands for Roadster Zagato. It’s a two-door convertible that honestly looks like a kid’s toy, but it’s got grown-up performance and some really exciting features.

The RZ is based off the SZ coupe of the same era, and it’s equipped with a smooth 3.0-liter V6 engine inherited from the funky late-80s Alfa Milano sedans. The engine is good for 204 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque, and will propel the RZ from 0 to 60 in 7.5 seconds. The gearbox is Alfa’s legendary five-speed manual rear transaxle, which gives the car a near-perfect balance. The transaxle design even moves the rear disc brakes inward on the axles to reduce unsprung weight.

Just 278 RZ models were ever made, painted in red, yellow, and black. You can pick up an RZ for about $60,000 if you can find one. Some sellers are asking over $100,000 these days, but shop around for the best deal.

1993 Bancroft Roadster

1993 Bancroft Roadster

If you want to get really esoteric, just six examples of the Bancroft Roadster were ever made. The car has the look of a 1930s roadster, complete with a rumble seat. The cars were built in Germany, and use the driveline from a Mercedes SL 500. You get 324 horsepower and 287 pound-feet of torque from the 5.0-liter V8 engine, and a four-speed automatic transmission.

Let’s say you actually bought one of these beauties – how do you get it from wherever it may be to your door?

It’s hard to say how much you might have to pay to get one of these, but it’ll be a lot. You have to track one down and then ask the owner. If you have a serious jones for this kind of this, you might be better off buying a Clénet.

OK, so let’s say you actually bought one of these beauties and you can’t wait to get it into your garage. How do you get it from wherever it may be to your door? You start by contacting a shipping company like Uship, which runs a service connecting people who need stuff moved with the actual carriers who move stuff around. It’s kind of like Priceline for shipping, and it even includes bids from individuals who have some extra cargo capacity in their personal vehicles. They’ve even got an app to help you out.

Getting a car from overseas has never been easier than it is now. It’s still expensive, but if you want something truly unique, this is how it’s done.

Product Review

The 2020 Volvo V60 Cross Country is a do-it-all Swedish army knife

Volvo laced up its smallest station wagon in hiking clothes to create the V60 Cross Country. It's a lifted, all-wheel drive wagon that laughs at icy roads while coddling its occupants. We travel to Sweden to try it out.
Cars

BMW’s X3 M and X4 M pack 503 horsepower in nontraditional form

BMW is starting even further from its heritage with the 2020 X3 M and X4 M performance crossovers. But with up to 503 horsepower available in each vehicle, does that really matter?
Product Review

Asus Zephyrus S is a laptop for gamers. Everyone else need not apply

RTX graphics have finally made it to gaming laptops, and the first we've tested is the new Zephyrus S. Now with a 17-inch display and those new graphics inside, the Zephyrus' unique design boasts some additional power.
Product Review

Bigger battery and folding top add appeal, but BMW’s i8 remains ultra-niche

Want a high-performance vehicle that's more than just a frightening driving experience? Desire the look and feel of a sports car with the road manners of a luxury commuter? The BMW i8 is for you.
Cars

The hottest of all Mini hatches is coming with a Batman-approved design

The Mini John Cooper Works GP concept first seen at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show will go into production in 2020, Mini has confirmed. The John Cooper Works GP is the ultimate performance version of the Mini Cooper.
Cars

Report: Amazon and General Motors may invest in electric pickup company Rivian

General Motors and Amazon may invest between $1 billion to $2 billion for minority stakes in U.S. startup Rivian, an all-electric truck company, Reuters reports. Rivian introduced the R1T pickup at the 2018 Los Angeles Auto show.
Cars

Ford F-150 recall: Fault could cause vehicle to downshift into first gear

Ford is recalling 1.48 million F-150 vehicles over a potential fault that could cause it to suddenly downshift into first gear. The automaker said it's currently aware of five accidents related to the issue.
Cars

Volkswagen’s hot-rodded T-Roc R is ready to shred its tires to confetti

Volkswagen released a teaser sketch to preview a hot-rodded SUV named T-Roc R. Insiders suggest it will be closely related to the mighty Golf R, meaning it will pack a turbocharged, 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine rated at about 300…
Cars

Honda’s Urban EV is shaping up to be a high-tech, high-style electric city car

Honda will travel to the 2019 Geneva Auto Show to unveil a close-to-production prototype that previews an adorable, city-friendly electric car. The Urban EV will offer about 155 miles of range, and its interior is a tech lover's dream come…
Cars

Audi’s Geneva-bound Q4 E-Tron concept will give us a glimpse of the future

Audi has released a trio of teaser sketches to preview the Q4 E-Tron concept. Scheduled to make its debut at the 2019 Geneva Auto Show, the design study takes the form of an electric SUV with a muscular design and a tech-filled interior.
Cars

Tesla’s Dog Mode lets good Samaritans know that Fido’s A-OK

Tesla's latest over-the-air software update adds two features called Sentry Mode and Dog Mode. Sentry Mode records footage and alerts the owner if someone breaks in, while Dog Mode runs the A/C so owners can safely keep their dogs in their…
Cars

Rock out in the carpool lane with Singing Machine’s Carpool Karaoke microphone

Carpool Karaoke fans can count down the days till summer. That's when Singing Machine's Carpool Karaoke microphone will be available. Connect the Carpool Karaoke Mic to your car radio to make your next road trip a mobile karaoke party.
Cars

Bentley Bentayga Speed surpasses Lamborghini Urus as world’s fastest SUV

The Bentley Bentayga Speed has wrested the title of world's fastest SUV from its cousin, the Lamborghini Urus. But the Bentley is just 1 mph faster than the Lamborghini. It requires 626 horsepower to achieve that top speed.
Emerging Tech

With CabinSense, cars will soon know who’s riding in them and respond accordingly

What if your car could know who's riding in it and customize the entertainment and safety options accordingly? That’s what's promised by the new CabinSense in-car Occupancy Monitoring System.