Due to incredibly lame laws and regulations, the rest of the world gets a lot of cool cars while the U.S has to wait 25 years to import them. It’s a long time to lust after a car, but the ones worth importing are worth the quarter-century wait.
But, even when cars do become eligible to ship over, the import process itself isn’t exactly cheap or terribly straightforward. Therefore the easiest route to take is to look for the cars other people have already imported, lame legwork done. Sure, it’s the lazy method, but it’s certainly the more economical approach. Japan, specifically, always seems to keep the greatest, if not the quirkiest cars for itself. Between the high-performance sports cars and cartoonish Kei cars, some of the most uniquely desirable cars in the world came out of Japan in the early ’90s — just be prepared to learn to shift with your left hand.
1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R
What we like: The third generation Nissan Skyline GT-R is arguably the most iconic of the GT-R line. It was the first of the modern Skylines and marked the return of the nameplate after being canceled in 1973. Although it’s easy to jump at the chance to own a 1990 GT-R, with a closer look, even though the car comes with an odometer certificate of inspection, the interior, under-hood area and undercarriage seem to have a level of wear and tear more akin to a high-mileage vehicle.
From the seller: This 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R was imported by the seller to the US from Japan in January 2017. Reported to have received a new timing belt and water pump by the previous owner, the car has been serviced by the seller with a new clutch, clutch slave cylinder, spark plugs, full fluid change and conversion of the A/C to R134a.
Location: Plano, Texas
1992 Autozam AZ-1
What we like: It might look like an ’80s Italian supercar that’s been washed in hot water, but the Autozam AZ-1 is the result of joint-project between Mazda and Suzuki. A mid-mounted engine, gull wing doors a (relatively) big wing, the AZ-1 has few of the outlandish supercar hallmarks too, but the tiny Kei car’s performance numbers are far, far from exotic. Thankfully, since the car is under four feet high, under five feet wide and weighing just over 1,500lbs the tiny 63-horsepower, turbocharged 657cc three-cylinder doesn’t have to work hard at all. The Mazdaspeed version here comes with sport suspension and limited slip differential, combined with AZ-1’s go-kart-like dimensions, there are few cars more perfectly suited for city life that’ll also permanently tattoo a smile across your face.
From the seller: This example was imported to the United States about three months ago, and it is finished in Classic Red with a Mazdaspeed rear spoiler and Volk TE-37 wheels.
Location: Fort Myers, Florida
1991 Toyota Mark II Cressida
What we like: The Toyota Mark II Cressida looks like the most sedated and subtle pick on this list, but underneath it shares a lot of architecture with the Toyota Supra, including a double wishbone suspension. The rear-drive platform also placed it in a different league from the rest of Toyota’s front-wheel-drive lineup. It’s exactly the type of sedan the brand needs today.
From the seller: This 1991 Toyota Mark II Cressida shows 36k kilometers (~22k miles) and reportedly had one private owner in Japan prior to being imported to the US by the seller in 2017.
Location: Silver Spring, Maryland
1992 Honda Beat
What we like: The Honda Beat, like the aforementioned Autozam, is a fantastic mid-engine Kei car. The Beat lacks gullwing doors but makes up for the lack of glam with an 8,100 rpm redline and a zebra stripe interior. One problem to keep an eye out for with Honda Beats is rust. Luckily, it doesn’t tend to be serious, structural rust, but cosmetic rust can always run the risk of escalating if it’s not properly cared for.
From the seller: Washington State from Japan in 2017 and purchased soon afterward by the seller, the car shows just under 19k indicated kilometers.