My Favorite Forbidden Fruit Vehicles – Part 3
The sudden interest in non-USA market automobiles are on the rise – again.
We will be looking into the importation of cars that were once "forbidden fruit" thanks to Federal regulations and Customs law. In the meantime, one can do another list of cars I would love to import into this country – if given the chance.
Over the past seven years, I made similar lists. Vehicles on those lists include the Citroen CX, the Ford Granada/Consul, the Australian Ford Falcon, the "full-sized" Holdens of the 1970s, the Opel Senator/Monza/Vauxhall Royale, the Nissan Skyline sedan of the R32 generation, the Toyota Crown from the 1970s, and the Brazilian Ford Galaxie/LTD/Landau.
These models might not register with a lot of enthusiasts, but they could present some very interesting discussions. However, there are a lot more vehicles that still could be brought in – whether they meet the 25-year importation waiver or not. In Canada, that waiver is at 15 years. Maybe I should take up residence in Toronto…
Here's another list of "forbidden fruit" that I would love to see stateside. After all, variety is the spice of life.
HYUNDAI PONY: When it arrived for 1984 into Canada, it became a smash hit. Once project for 5,000 units sold turned into over 25,000 deliveries. This became the best-selling car in Canada. The humble Pony hatchback was not a barn-burning car. Nor was it highly efficient. It was a rear-drive, five-door compact hatchback that became the litmus test for cars made in the Republic of Korea on this continent. Could there be any still running anywhere between Victoria and St. John? If there is, it could be easily brought into the USA with the emissions waiver.
TOYOTA CENTURY G20/G30/G40: In terms of luxury, status, and importance, this is the ultimate Japanese car. If the Emperor of Japan has to be driven somewhere – it is in a Century. This V8-powered limousine first appeared in 1967 and quickly became a desirable car. A person of great wealth and status would want to be chauffeured, nestled in high-quality cloth (leather was considered a no-no for the Japanese royal family), and a smooth ride. The very conservative styling is a break from all contemporary Toyota products because the Century is supposed to be dignified, not flashy. That's what we want in a flagship sedan.
LANCIA THEMA: Our country had two Tipo Quattro platform products – the Alfa Romeo 164 and the Saab 9000. What makes the Thema something worth bringing over is not the Ferrari-powered 8.32. Though it would be a massive find. A simple solution is a V6-powered, top-of-the-line trim version that would be equal to a USA-spec 164 or first-gen 9000. Think of it as a bargain Giulia Ti or Maserati Ghibli – an Italian executive sedan that is both unique and anonymous to everyone. One could tweak the Thema to plunk Saab or Alfa Romeo components – save for a very expensive Ferrari Quattrovalvole engine to make it an 8.32. I could have mentioned the final Tipo Quattro vehicle – the Fiat Chroma. But, the Lancia had better build quality – a relative term for Italian cars of the 1980s and 1990s. I could see the potential for this car as a project.
CITROEN XM: Successor to the CX, Bertone turned the curvaceous French executive sedan into a study on lines and angles. Not that it is a bad thing since it retained plenty of the charm of its predecessor. Yet, it was quite advanced throughout. It did come with the Douvrin V6, but we're better off with one of the four-cylinder gas or diesel engines. Still, it provided executive luxury with a dash of French flair that competed well against contemporary German competitors. You would also get your share of those who appreciate the XM – and the haters. Screw the haters and dare to be different!
ROVER 75: It was designed to bring back that classic look that engaged the British middle class of the Post-World War II era. It was modern – developed before BMW walking into the building only to take MINI away from Rover Cars and saved the leftovers for the Chinese. The 75 reminded us of a lower priced, but better executed Jaguar X-Type – the Ford Mondeo-based one. Yet, the 75 had character – an Old English charm. You can also get this as the MG ZT – which is the sporty version of the 75. You could also get either with Ford’s Modular 4.6-liter V8. Hmmm…Coyote swap, anyone?
VOLVO 480: When Volvo Cars began to take over DAF’s automotive operations, it found an easy way to augment their iconic and larger redblock lineup. At that point, Volvo began to infuse their own designs onto DAF’s platforms. To continue the legacy of the 1800 coupe and hatchback, the 480 was developed on DAF’s old front-drive platform with four-cylinder power and a modern interpretation of the 1800ES' glass back design. Volvo was engineering this car for the North American market. Unfortunately, the US Dollar was weak in 1987, so the plans were shelved indefinitely. It would have been great to see this on our roads.
SEAT LEON: Yes, all three generations of the Leon were based on Golf platforms. But, its Spanish charm may still entice you to drive one. However, Volkswagen did German-ize the Leon to make it competitive across Europe and in other export markets. They did make their way into Mexico, for which we saw a few crossed our border. This would be a fun project if one would find a Leon with a contemporary specification. That way, parts would be easy to get for maintenance from your local Volkswagen dealer. The trick is to get a Leon in the first place.
Cover photo by By dave_7 [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons