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Hagerty Employee

8 amazing cars you can import in 2021 under the 25-year rule

We have a certain rule here in the States, and it’s often frustrating. To get an exemption from the various forms and regulations that allow a car to be registered here, the Department of Transportation requires vehicles to be 25 years or older. That means we’ve had to watch with envy from afar as enthusiasts in Europe, Japan, and elsewhere enjoy cars that are effectively unobtainium for us, at least until the clock runs down on them. Our neighbors up north, in Canada, also have a 10-year head start on us with their own 15-year import rule.


If there’s a silver lining to the 25-year rule, it’s that every 12 months we get a crop of classic cars that, to us anyway, fresh and exotic. Exemptions are also granted according to a car’s production date rather than model year, which means there is a rolling list of vehicles that become newly available as the months press on.


Here are eight cars we’ve had an eye on from the class of 1996 that will be eligible to import at some point in 2021.


Read the full list on


Intermediate Driver

I've dreampt if I were to win a lottery, I'd try to get a Holden Commodore HSV...Ah, to fantasize about melting tires while hauling all the tailgate supplies to the game...

Intermediate Driver

If you live in a area that you may expect to drive a Lotus in wet conditions,  prepare yourself to experience an age old common issues considered normal for British  sports cars. Water leaks and electrical problems. That wouldn't stop me from buying an Esprit.


So if I wanted to find one of these to import, say the Skyline as an obvious example, where would I look/start??

Intermediate Driver

I have owned a S1 Elise since '99. The chassis doesn't rust, but there are steel bits that rust. And the aluminum bits can oxidize. For example. there was a Service Note for the floor. It is aluminum sheet and it is under a rubber mat. The mat can hold moisture (e.g., from occupants's shoes) onto the aluminum and cause oxidation that result in holes in the floor.


One interesting note on the Elise and Sport Spyder is that each has an aluminum chassis and both were developed at Hydro Aluminum at the same time. Each development team didn't know about the other. The Elise chassis is bonded and the Sport Spyder's is welded. Welding required thicker aluminum, so the Renault is heavier.

Intermediate Driver

Was just wondering why there were no price points on any of these vehicles, that would certainly make acquiring one more tempting.


I shall be importing my 1996 Saab 9000 Aero (RHD) which I have owned since new in the UK.  I brought an old Rolls Silver Spirit (RHD) across the pond some years ago, and while the actual shipping cost is <$1,500, the final bill is ca. $6,500 by the time Department of Homeland Security have performed a French Connection-style strip search and charged you $2,000 for it.  DMV registration was comparatively straightforward, though paper-heavy!


That Toyota Classic would look so much better with wire wheels. Tatra - air cooled rear mounted V-8? Would love to see a photo of that. Can't imagine how a V-8 could be air cooled.


Hands down, the Tatra and the Toyota Classic because they are interesting and bizarre.

Thank you for this; Hagerty endlessly comes up with some pretty wild stuff............

Intermediate Driver

None for me.  The steering wheel is on the wrong side.

Intermediate Driver

Not so easy to license in California.  With all the time and paperwork be prepared to spend close to $10k in adjustments and add ons.  Plus be prepared for to go through a process that you might wish you didn't want.  Also keep in mind many of these 25 year old imports may not be the bargain you suggest.  These vehicles are probably in need of much service and hard if not impossible to find parts. Don't expect to use these as like new daily drivers.  The importers are used car dealers who might not be as honest as regular US used car dealers.  Besides there are many reasons they are being imported to this country. Importers are likely driven by large profits which they cannot command in their native country.  Buyer be very aware.

New Driver

I really would love the Tatra. I just love Eastern European and Russian cars.


Hagerty Employee

The Audi RS2 Avant falls into this category as well. It's been an icon since release, and there are a few of them starting to hit the market here in the USA. 


What about the MGF?