The NHTSA and the EPA tend to be pretty strict about what's safe enough or clean enough to be driven here. Generally speaking, anything that wasn't originally sold in the United States can't be imported if it isn't at least 25 years old. Don't even think about sneaking a car in, as your insurance would be void, and you may end up in jail ? which wouldn't be nearly as awful as watching the feds crush your beloved Nissan Skyline.
The question of whether such concerns are legitimate or simply protecting special interests ? not to mention whether an increasingly globalized automotive market makes country-specific regulations anticompetitive ? is a debate for another time for one reason.
There's a loophole.
OK, it's a loophole that's been around since 1998, when wealthy Porsche 959 owners like Jerry Seinfeld and Bill Gates made a big enough stink that the feds created a "Show and Display" exemption into import regulations, allowing newer cars to be imported for the sole purpose of displaying historically or technologically important vehicles. These brilliant bits of Teutonic engineering had been impounded by customs agents for close to 10 years when the regulation was passed, and even then they weren't home free. "Show and Display" still only waived NHTSA safety requirements, so the cars still have to be modified to pass EPA regulations because they are newer than 21 years old. When all was said and done, they can be driven no more than 2,500 miles in a calendar year.
To simplify the process, NHTSA released a list of cars eligible for the exemption. Your garden-variety VW Scirocco or Alfa 159 is still banned, but if you have the money to buy any of the cars on the list, you might as well just fly to Europe when you want to get behind the wheel.
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1985?1995 RMA Amphi-Ranger 2800 SR.jpg
1986 Ford Sierra Cosworth RS 500.jpg
1987?1988 Porsche 959.jpg
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1988 Italdesign Aztec.jpg
1990?1992 Lotus Opel Omega, LHD Version.jpg
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1993?1998 McLaren F1.jpg