17 May 2017

Top 5 imports now legal under Canada’s 15-year rule

Canada continues stoking jealousy and envy among its south-of-the-border gearhead neighbours. While Americans must wait a frustrating quarter century to import cars that weren’t originally available in the North American market, Canadians only have to wait the equivalent of a Chihuahua’s lifetime to snap up the non-compliant car of their dreams.

Here are five 15-year-old vehicles that are newly legal, but eternally desirable:

  1. 2002 Mazda MX-5 SP — Conventional wisdom says there’s never been anything wrong with the Mazda MX-5 (Miata) that more horsepower couldn’t cure. Small-block Ford power created a modern-day Sunbeam Tiger in the after-market Monster Miata, but Mazda’s Australian arm had a more elegant approach. Turbocharging bumped the second-generation (or “NB”) MX-5 up to a healthy 211 hp, giving the car a blistering power-to-weight ratio and 0-100 kph time of under six seconds. They’re rare and, since they’re from the Australian market, they’re all right-hand drive.

  2. 2002 TVR T350 — TVR might be Britain’s most-lamented defunct specialty car manufacturer. And while a revived TVR is currently accepting deposits for an all-new sports car, nobody’s actually seen it. No matter, in Canada we can enjoy some of the best TVRs assembled in the old factory in Blackpool, England. The T350 was one of the final evolutionary steps to the last new TVR to date, the Sagaris. More subdued than that car, the T350 (with its TVR Speed-Six engine of 350 hp) was capable of over 240 kph, which isn’t surprising, since its power-to-weight ratio was an amazing 304 hp per ton.

  3. 2002 Daihatsu Copen — Kei-class Japanese cars (under 660-cc) like the Honda Beat are becoming more common in cities like Vancouver and Toronto as urban drivers. They’re certainly more stylish than Smart cars. The Daihatsu Copen is likely to become a popular import now that it’s legal to bring it into the country. With a respectable 63 hp from its four-valve three-cylinder engine, the Copen is one of the few Kei cars capable of 160 kph, and 0-100 kph comes up in a respectable 11.3 seconds. Like most Kei cars, it’s a bit of an odd duck, looking not unlike a half-scale first-generation Audi TT.

  4. 2002 Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R Nür — The 2002 Skyline GT-R is likely to be the most sought after of the cars now available via the 15-year rule. It marks the last of the fifth-generation Skylines. With over 340 hp (easily boosted by owners to 450+ hp), it’s irresistible (and now legal) to avid video gamers and people who grew up on the “Fast and Furious” franchise. For those who must have the ultimate, there’s the Skyline GT-R Nür, named for the famous Nürburgring race track, where every manufacturer goes in search of a sub-eight-minute lap time. Just over 1,000 were built.

  5. 2002 Alfa Romeo 147 GTA — Everyone needs a hot hatch in their garage, and for those who are tired of the garden-variety Golf GTI, the Walter de Silva-styled Alfa Romeo 147 GTA is now eligible for entry into Canada. The 147 may be the most desirable hot hatch ever. In GTA trim, the styling is even more aggressive with flared wheel arches, wider tires, and lower stance. With 247 hp, the car is capable of well over 240 kph, more than enough to hold its head up during Supercar Week in Vancouver.

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