Over the years, America has acquired a bad rap from European car enthusiasts for having a lazy, sedentary style of driving. This may be our own fault for producing the massive imposing land yachts in the 70’s, and modern muscle cars that still use leaf springs for rear suspension. The fact of the matter is they assume we all just like going fast in a straight line, or having cars with seats like sofas so we can lounge comfortably and eat our burgers while driving down Route 66. Times have changed in the States now, though. Despite what the rest of the motoring world may think, the U.S. is not stuck in the 50’s – 70’s. We have rally fans, Ken Block, Formula 1, road courses, and real driving enthusiasts! The fact is we got so bored over here we decided to make a Corvette that laps the Nurburgring in 7:12:13.
It took several years to bring the Lancer Evolutions, turbocharged Imprezas, and GT-Rs back to the states; let’s take a look at what else should be brought across the pond, in order from least deserving to most.
5. Alfa Romeo Brera
You don’t see many Alfas driving around in the U.S. and with good reason. They don’t sell them over here! If you go to Alfa’s website, according to them, the United States does not exist. Well I’d say it’s time for them to come back, with their whole fleet in fact! That way we don’t miss out on a great car such as the Brera again. This is possibly one of the best looking cars ever made.
The Alfa Romeo Brera had fantastic looks! It was the perfect understated town car, yet while driving through the brick roads of posh outdoor shopping malls, you’d be turning heads and getting noticed. But when the going gets rough, the AWD drivetrain will get you to your destination. The DOHC 3.2 V6 delivers 260bhp, which isn’t bad considering it will be taken to the shops and on holiday. There are some small issues, such as cramped space in the back seats, and body roll through cornering tightly. Then again… complaining about that is sort of like complaining about how practical your Italian supermodel girlfriend is to get around in heels. Why does America need Alfa Romeo? Just look at it.
4. Renault Clio Sport V6
This next car on the wish list is unlike anything else. It’s French, it’s fast, and it is completely insane! If you already know what this car is, then you know why it’s made the list, and if you don’t, well you aren’t a ridiculous car obsessed geek…yet. This is one of those cars you can’t bother explaining to your friends or co-workers, or one that will have the ladies attention. This is one of those rare cars, that only the most fuel diluted, piston-hearted, exhaust breathing, gear-head will recognize, and I am not talking about your average American car buff either. You will probably only be recognized with a nod of approval from the rare rally fan, or a Jeremy Clarkson “Padawan”, and that is what this car is all about!
If you open the hood on the Clio V6, you will not find an engine, but a tiny storage space. It has no back seats, because that is where the 3 liter V6 engine sits. So it is a hot hatchback, with the convenience of a Lamborghini Diablo and looks of a Ford Focus RS. You have 2 seats with a 6 speed transmission, and 255 bhp behind your head that will take you from 0 – 60 in a mere 5.6 seconds!
3. Ford Focus RS/Escort RS Cosworth
These are a couple no brainers. I think it is a little odd when an American company doesn’t make certain trim levels or models available in their home country. It’s a bad sign when even Ford thinks the RS and Cosworth models are too hardcore for the U.S. Let’s start with the RS Cosworth. With a turbocharged, 2 liter, inline 4cyl engine and AWD, it had similar ingredients to the Lancer Evolution. 217-227 hp takes you from 0-60 in just over 6 seconds! Couple that with the convenience of back seats, 25mpg, and that makes it the ultimate daily performance coupe. The looks are fun and unique, and just by looking at it you can tell it would be an absolute hoot to drive. This car would have been an instant classic in the states.
Now for the Focus RS which has a similar story. It’s another fun American-badge hot hatchback that never made it to the U.S. There is one difference though, and that is the engine. Not many cars can say they have an inline 5cyl engine, but the Focus RS can! Once again the lethal combination of a DOHC inline engine allows the turbo to force a lot of air quickly through one side of the engine, and expel it out the other. This configuration strikes with 300 bhp. The 300 horses max out at 163 mph, a little faster than your average BMW or STi. Front wheel drive or not, that’s enough to put a pep in your step. There are only two things it’s missing: AWD, and American buyers.
2. Holden Ute
Here is another gem made by an American company that was never made available over here. Granted, it is under GM’s Aussie brand, even still. When looking at Chevys lineup, Holden basically said, “That’s not a car, THIS is a car…”
You might not recognize the name, and that’s because it first thundered onto the scene as the Maloo pickup. Since 2010 it has gone under the Ute badge. It has quite a large range currently as well, going from the Omega model that has a 3.0L DOHC V6 and 190kW. That is about 255 American horses running under the hood of the base model. The SS V Z-Series Ute has a 6.0L V8 engine that if brought over here would have about 362hp! Nothing says American muscle like a 6 liter V8, am I right? Basically Holden’s performance line was Pontiac, and the GTO still lives on through the Commodore. What GM should have done was brought over the biggest maddest Commodore or Vauxhall VXR8 Bathurst supercharged model under the Pontiac GTO label to save that brand name. Then, here’s the biggest part, they should have scrapped the SSR pickup before production, and brought over the then Maloo or the current Ute models and sold those as an all new El Camino! Why GM never did this I will never understand.
1. Nissan Skyline GT-R
Now we come to the main attraction, Godzilla himself, the granddaddy of street running monsters, the Nissan Skyline GT-R. No quality is more perfect in a car than purpose. You can have snazzy looks, fancy gadgets, but none of that really matters to a driver. The only truly beauty a car can have is form following function, which leads to a purpose. The Skyline GT-R range was built for no other purpose than to be the fasted all around sports coupe on the market. The Twin Turbo inline 6-cyl engine layout is legendary, along with its AWD system and corner shredding differential. It was made to corner faster, handle better, and accelerate quicker than anything on the market and still be an “affordable” super car with back seats.
There are many theories why the Skyline Models never made it to left hand drive production, and beyond that, why they are so hard to import into the U.S., especially the R34 Skylines. One theory going around is that the police force could not keep up with the agile powerful skylines. That is a bit de-bunked because, after all, the R35 GT-R is available over here, and I’d like to see the Crown Vic cruiser that could hang onto that. Beyond that there are an abundance of cars that would leave police cruisers in the dust that are available here, such as Lamborghini Murcielago LP640, or the Japanese fighting fish Lotus Exige. A more sound reason is that they never met DOT standards to be imported, including emissions, seatbelt standards, and crash standards.
The bottom line is, when you ask anyone what cars they have in Europe that we want, the Skyline GT-R is the first on the list. It is a great shame that we have the car emissions standards that we do, and also that Nissan could not make a Skyline that could just barely squeeze into DOT standards. We can all take solace in the fact that the GT-R is back and available for us to drive off the lot, but unfortunately it will never be a Skyline, and that hole will always be left in the gear head community where it should be. I suppose that is part of what makes Godzilla such a legend.