Imagine driving this in 'Murica… 1978 Opel Senator – Photo (c) 1978/2013 GM
Want to stand out in a crowd? How about driving in a car only a few have ever heard of.
How? According to the United States Customs and Border Protection agency, if you happen to find a vehicle that is 25 years or older outside of our borders, of course you can! In doing so, you are signing your life away. The Federal Government may also want to scrutinize your purchase to make sure it can waive you through making it from ship to your driveway.
Keep in mind some vehicles may not be allowed in the USA for various reasons. Before you import, check the pertinent websites for those lists. If the car you want to bring over is ineligible – find another car that will pass muster with the CBP.
If you are ready to import the one car you wished was here – albeit 25 years or more later – and have all the money in the world to sail through Customs…then, I have a few suggestions…
OK, we know this is a Five Favorites, so I will be the one that will provide the ideas – from a personal point of view.
This could spell trouble. But, here are my five over-25-year-old importable vehicles to pass Customs into the USA. But, first, let me peruse the classifieds…
CITROEN CX: I used to think these were the coolest cars in the world. They were futuristic – just like their predecessors, the DS and ID – and provided some of the most interesting technologies known in the world. They arrived as grey market imports with compromised Federalization to pass muster here. They are now at an age when you could simply import one without going through hoops to modify them heavily. In 1982, a ZF automatic was added to the 2.4litre petrol engine, which makes them a good target for around US$8,000. The larger 2.5litre can be found on Prestige and GTI models for up to US$13,500. They seem pretty fun, though you will risk even higher stakes when trying to find service for them.
OPEL SENATOR/MONZA: These big Opels from the 1980s were not as popular as their richer counterparts, but they provided enough interest for General Motors to sustain their European operations. They were rear drive and had nice six-cylinder petrol engines with four-speed automatics. Plus, they offered good room and comfort. Average examples run average US$6,500. Some of these examples were already modified with body kits, rims and such. I would prefer more original examples of either the sedan (Senator) or coupe (Monza).
HOLDEN HQ/HJ/HZ: The HQ was the apex of the big Holden in the 1970s. They offered room, comfort, a sturdy build, compliant suspension even in the deep outback and strong motors. No matter whether it is a six or a V8, one cannot go wrong with a solid Kingswood or Premier sedan. Good examples are running between US$9,000 up into the US$27,000 range for sooped up versions. I would avoid the modified ones, as it would draw attention to Customs agents. Though they are right-hand drive, these Holdens are at a certain age where they would pass off with Collectors or Historic tags, depending on your state’s licensing rules.
FORD FALCON: In the similar vein as the Holden, getting them from Australia would not only be a prize, but an interesting proposition. Ford engines are actually closer to their North American counterparts than Holden's – which makes spares a bit easier to manage. Still, they are right-hand drive and almost look like stateside counterparts. The XA, XB and XC Falcons are the more desirable, in my book. These also include the upscale Fairmonts, as well. Pricing is about the same – averaging US$14,000 for classic examples. If you are still leery on how a Falcon would start conversations here – think "Mad Max." That will get the ball rolling!
FORD GRANADA/CONSUL: If you must, there is a theme happening here. Big Fords that are not available in the USA in their time have always been attractive to me. Like the Falcons, the Mk I Granada/Consul from the 1970s had that Ford look that had one foot in North America, but the other in their home market. They were attractive then, as they are now. I am familiar with the engines – Cologne V6s. The automatics were made differently than the ill-fated ones we had stateside. Examples found range from around $7,000 to $11,000. Keep in mind, these were very clean examples in the UK. Another thing to consider – there are truly a few of these left across Europe.