The Land of the Free is famous for cowboys and cars…but now it’s mostly just for cars. And you would think that Americans with some money to burn would have their pick of any car in the world—but you would be wrong. Here are a few cars that you can’t drive in the United States.
Holden Ute SS-V
The Holden Ute SS-V is an Australian light truck that will never make it to the United States. And that’s a shame, because the Ute SS-V has the potential to fill the hole left in American hearts and garages by the El Camino. Built by an Australian subsidiary of General Motors, the Ute SS-V Offers both a practical cargo bed and a 6 liter aluminum V8 under the hood, which certainly checks a lot of boxes. But despite occasional rumors to the contrary, you won’t be seeing the “Ute” any time soon. This might be because way back in 1963 the USA created the “Chicken Tax,” which imposed a 25 percent import tariff on light trucks (among other things) in response to French and German tariffs on chicken imports from the States—which would add a prohibitive chunk of change to the sticker price.
Aston Martin Lagonda
The Aston Martin Lagonda is a so-called “Super Saloon” that will be available to buyers in the UK, Europe, and the Middle East—but not the US. The new Lagonda is a revival of a historic car make that aimed to combine opulent luxury with high performance, and it was manufactured in the UK between 1974 and 1990. While undoubtedly eye-catching, the new machine will probably also be eye-wateringly expensive considering that it’s for sale on an invitation only basis. Meaning you can’t just walk into a dealership and drop some cash to pick one up, because you need an invitation from Aston Martin first.
Land Rover Defender
This iconic off-road vehicle has been getting down and dirty without getting stuck for over six decades, starting out as the original Land Rover Series in 1948 before evolving into the Defender in 1983. A stalwart of the British army and deployed across the world, it has also become ubiquitous on African safaris and anywhere else a sturdy no-nonsense off-road vehicle is required. While the Defender was imported to the USA between 1993 and 1997, it was a heavily modified version and only sold in small numbers. Imports stopped when the modifications required to satisfy US Department of Transportation regulations became prohibitive, and will never be resumed. The last Defender rolled off the production lines on January 29, 2016.
Whenever you see news footage of a war in the Middle East, that truck with the big gun and a dozen troops in the back is probably a Toyota Hilux. Currently sold everywhere except the good ol’ US of A, the Hilux is legendary for its ability to soak up punishment and keep on running, with vehicles regularly clocking up over 300,000 miles on the odometer without trouble. Available in the United States until 1995 when it was replaced with the Tacoma, the Hilux is now only available outside North America, North or South Korea, India, and, strangely enough, Japan.
TVR sports cars
TVR is a small British manufacturer of nutty high-performance sports cars that eschew modern driver aids in pursuit of an authentic driving experience. Since 1956, they have produced a range of two-seater sports cars with a focus on racing, and almost none have ever made it to the US. The most recent iteration, the TVR Sagaris, produced between 2004 and 2006, stands out from its fellows by not looking completely awful. It sports a four-liter TVR Speed Six engine producing 405 horsepower. And contrary to European Union guidelines, it had no airbags or anti-lock brakes—because the company owner felt those luxuries promoted overconfidence. Okay.
There is a very good reason why the Tata Nano isn’t available in the USA—it’s a death trap. Receiving zero stars in NCAP safety tests, the 2009 Nano was billed as “the world’s cheapest car,” not a slogan that’ll inspire a lot of confidence. Intended to challenge popular two wheeled vehicles like scooters, the Nano was originally priced at $2,500, but the terrible safety rating and relatively high price (compared to a motorcycle) meant it sold poorly. An upgraded version is regularly rumored to be on the verge of release in the USA, but don’t hold your breath.
Wiesmann GT MF5
The Wiesmann GT MF5 is a handmade touring car built in Germany and it costs upwards of $200,000. Like many small manufacturers on this list, Wiesmann makes very few cars (around 180 per year) and although the company planned to make models available in the US in 2010, the difficulty of modifying the cars to satisfy US regulations delayed the release. And since the company was liquidated in 2014, that situation looks unlikely to change any time soon, denying car fans in the USA the chance to get up close and personal with a particularly lovely automobile.
Morgan Aero 8
The Morgan Aero 8 is the great-grandchild of the traditional Morgan released in the 1940s, and although it shares some outward appearance with its predecessor, on the inside it is a very different beast—not least because it’s not made from wood. Now featuring a five-liter V8 from BMW, the Aero 8 has seen some success in endurance and GT racing including a 20th place finish at the 2004 12 hours of Sebring event. As with almost every other car on this list, rumors abound of its imminent US release, but (as ever) believe it when you see it. But if you do see it, you should probably buy it.
The Lada Niva is an off-road vehicle produced in 1977 by the Russian automaker AvtoVAZ. While it’s now seriously dated, the Niva possesses some definite suburbanite-daytripper-to-the-country off road potential—it was designed to handle the Russian Steppes after all. In fact, the word “Niva” actually means “cornfield,” which is interesting, if not terribly inspiring.
The Niva is one of Russia’s best-selling export vehicles, and continues to be manufactured and sold almost everywhere. Almost — the USA is never slow to say no to bad influences, even if they’re good ideas. This might explain why a formerly Soviet vehicle of otherwise solid, even inspired design (functionally speaking), never saw the light of day in the land of Purple Mountains’ Majesty.
The Noble M600 features a carbon fibre body and fittings to reduce weight — since anyone buying one is shelling out £200,000 ($300,000) for the privilege, everything else is entirely up to them. Paint color, upholstery, stitch pattern — that’s all your choice to customize if you have the cash, and have less than the Atlantic Ocean between you and the factory in England. Yep — because every single one is built bespoke to suit the client’s particular desires, you won’t see any in the US of A.
With an estimated top speed of 225 MPH, and needing only nine seconds to reach 120 MPH, the Noble M600 was definitely designed to run with the big guns in the world of fast, loud, and expensive transportation. Too bad Lady Liberty won’t ever go near one.
Donkervoort D8 GTO
The Donkervoort D8 GTO might not win any catchy-name prizes, but it doesn’t need to, because it’s winning prizes for going really, really fast instead. Featuring a 380-horsepower Audi engine in a surprisingly light hand-built car, this little monster will take you from zero to sixty in just three seconds! But that shouldn’t be unexpected, considering this car was built for the track from the ground up. In order to save weight, it’s stripped of anything considered unnecessary, like ABS, creature comforts, and inhibitions.
If you happen to be a racer and a Batman fan, there’s even a “Bare Naked Carbon Edition” that wouldn’t look out of place in the Bat Cave … so long as Gotham is actually in Europe.
Alfa Romeo Giulietta
Although Alfa Romeo has their its feet firmly planted on American soil, they must have left the Giulietta in their other pants. This little Italian hot hatch makes up in looks what it lacks in legs, because it’s seriously pretty. Who needs a few extra MPH anyway? If you drive a car that looks this good, you’ll want to slow down anyway, to make sure everyone sees you—at least you would, if you could buy it here.
See, Alfa Romeo are struggling to sell the cars they already offer in the Sweet Land of Liberty, and while one sort of logic would advise against offering another model to a limited market, another logic would suggest that the cheaper, more practical, and way prettier Giulietta might be just the temptation American car buyers are looking for.
Toyota Century Royal
If you make something really good, you probably want to keep it all to yourself. This might be the reason why you can’t buy a Toyota Century Royal in the United States, or anywhere outside of Japan.
The Century Royal is a limited-production Japanese luxury limousine — they’ve been hauling the Imperial Household around since 2006, so they must have something going for them. Originally introduced in 1967, the current model has a five-liter V-12 engine that produces 315 horsepower. But since it weighs three times more than the previously mentioned Donkervoort, speed probably isn’t the ruler you should measure it by. Yards of leather interior might work, or bottles of whisky contained in the mini bar, or just count the number of heads turned as you roll by in exhorbitantly expensive luxury.