American drivers enjoy an incredibly diverse choice of automobile makes and models, including imports from far-flung corners of the world. Yet, over the years, a number of intriguing foreign vehicles were never imported to the U.S.A. (officially, at least).
Here are ten cool cars which, for a variety of reasons – including the costs of satisfying stringent U.S. “federalizing” regulations and the impracticality of making left-hand-drive versions – seldom sat in a stateside showroom.
Alpine is a long-established French automaker whose super-sporty creations are powered by rear-mounted Renault mills. Its A110 “Berlinette” coupe (1961-77) is perhaps Alpine’s classic creation. This fiberglass-bodied beauty, which delivered Alpine-Renault the first World Rally Championship in 1973, boasted up to 140 horsepower and 136 mph. Built in very limited quantities, most A110’s in America were privately imported later in life, and U.S. enthusiasts might have better luck finding the (still extremely rare) Mexico-made Alpine-Renault Dinalpin variant. Yet some sort of Alpine may still arrive stateside, as Renault announced plans to revive the brand with the unveiling of its A110-inspired Alpine Vision Concept last year.
Best remembered for quirky three-wheelers and spartan economy rides, England’s Reliant also made some single-minded sports cars. The most popular and striking of these, the Scimitar GTE, created a new market niche and enjoyed an 18-year production run (1968-86). This “Grand Touring Estate” (GTE) was a bold new idea at the time: a peppy yet practical 2-door station wagon which, with a Ford V6 and lightweight fiberglass body, offered both genuine driving thrills and sufficient space for a young family. Financial constraints prevented Reliant from ever federalizing this stylish shooting brake, but the mysteriously Scimitar-similar Volvo P1800ES (introduced in 1971) did cross the pond.