Forbidden Fruits: Top cool cars that you can now import

As each year passes, American car enthusiasts look forward to certain foreign vehicles hitting their 25-year birthday. And since the New Year has passed, the low-hanging fruit is ripe and ready to pick. Here are five favorites that forbidden fruit lovers are ready to sin with.

Lancia Delta Integrale Evoluzione I (1991-1992):  Later in 2016, there will be excitement for U.S. rally fans and drivers. In 1991, Lancia released the Evoluzione as an update to the Integrale 16V for the Lancia Rally Team. Upgrades included a re-mapped Garrett turbocharged Inline-four engine that spooled up to 210 horsepower, a larger steering box, updated brakes and suspension and several changes to the body in order to meet rally regulations.

Lotus Carlton/Omega (1990-1992): Horsepower addicts, this one is for you. What’s not to love about an intercooled twin-turbo straight-six that produces 377 horsepower and 419 lb.-ft. torque? Additionally, the six-speed manual ZF transmission and tall gearing allows it to achieve approximately 55 mph in first gear. This car held the title of the fastest four-door saloon car for several years, and its top speed created some push-back among the automotive and general press, resulting in threats to ban the car or electronically restrict its top speed. Alas, it wasn’t the car’s impressive power, but the recession that led to the car’s demise in 1992. Yeah, you could’ve imported one last year too, but you didn’t did you?

Mazda RX-7 FD (1991-2002): It’s a rear-wheel-drive sports coupe with a strong cult following, and when you take a look at its divine feminine curves, you’ll understand why. The third generation retains the Wankel rotary engine, unique in a world of piston engines, and is known for its world-class handling thanks to its 50/50 weight distribution. And while the only difference between the 1991 JDM-spec and later US-spec cars is the fancy badge, hardcore Mazda fans will want the exclusivity of owning one of the few ’91 RX-7s in the US. There are some special editions like the Type RZ to consider, though…

TVR Griffith (1991-2002): Perhaps one of the best-looking post-war British sports cars, this riveting roadster packs a punch with its 240 horsepower 4.0-liter Rover V-8 engine (which began life in the early ‘60s as a Buick engine). The lightweight fiberglass body is not only molded for superior sexy lines, but it allows for a low 2,310-lb. curb weight. In late 1993, TVR released a 320 horsepower version, the Griffith 500, which also came with upgraded brakes and suspension — just another car for the U.S. to look forward to.

Honda Beat (1991-1996): It’s not particularly fast and parts availability in the U.S. market could be an issue, but the Beat was the last car approved by Soichiro Honda himself before he passed away in August 1991. To a Honda nut, this gives the car some serious credit. The teeny-tiny Beat resembles a 1990s Toyota MR2 that shrunk in the wash. It is nimble, well-engineered, and feels quick. This is one car that embraces the “less is more” philosophy.

Honorable mention:

Audi S2 Coupe (1990-1996): A spiritual successor to the original Quattro, the Audi S2 Coupe may not look as aggressive as the original, but its well worth the trade-off for superior aerodynamics. The 2.2-liter 20-valve turbocharged engine ignites up to 220 horsepower, and the five-speed manual transmission with the exclusive permanent all-wheel-drive system fully honors the Quattro’s legacy. A truly fun car, but like the Lotus you should’ve already imported one as it was eligible last year too!

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