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Top 10 Grey Market Cars Worth Bribing Customs For

Posted in Alfa Romeo, Audi, Car Buying, Cars, Citroen, Exotic Cars, Favorite Cars, Fiat, Ford, Foreign Cars, Holden, Pictures, Popular Cars, Racing, Rally, Renault, Sports Cars, Vauxhall by Suzanne Denbow | July 16th, 2009 | 42 Responses |

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Importing a grey market vehicle is a long, arduous, expensive task, which is generally why only those people employed by government-bankrolled investment firms or the Columbian cartel can afford to do it. Plebes like us are forced to make do with whatever the dealer has in stock or, more likely, whatever we can find on Craigslist for under 5 grand. If you have an “in” with the U.S. Department of Commerce and unlimited funds, however, there are 10 cars that are totally worth trying to smuggle through customs.

1. Ford Focus RS


This is not the same Focus that you see parked 10 abreast and 30 deep at the community college, this is the Ford Focus RS. Tagged a Lancer Evo-fighter without a trace of facetiousness, the Focus RS is a mean little machine thanks entirely to the low-pressure turbo genius of Volvo. Equipped with a 2.5L turbocharged inline 5, the Focus RS churns out a staggering 305-horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque. Ordinarily, that much power coupled with a FWD layout is a recipe for one ugly, habitual understeer, but amazingly the Focus RS cuts corners on the track with razor-edge precision. The real deal-clincher? All of this can be had for around £25k (not including any relevant bribes, of course).

2. Fiat 500 Abarth


The Fiat 500 Abarth has a turbocharged and intercooled 1.4L four cylinder that puts out 150-horsepower, which is laughable for a full-sized sedan but translates to a real white-knuckle experience under the hood of a 139.8 inch long, 65.0 inch wide, 58.2 inch tall, 2282 pound compact. It can break the 0-62 mph mark in 7.9 seconds while still averaging 44 mpg, and even when it’s optioned out its $23k price tag won’t break the bank. Basically, the Fiat 500 Abarth gives you all the benefits of a MINI Cooper without making you look like you’re big into dudes.

3. Audi RS6 Avant


In 1990, Volvo introduced the 960 turbo wagon with the slogan, “Until Ferrari makes a wagon, this is it.” When the 960 was discontinued in the late 90’s, nothing stepped up to take its place. To this day there isn’t anything in the U.S. that rivals the turbo brick,and blatant Volvo bias forces us to maintain that there isn’t anything that rivals it overseas either, but if it was possible to replace the 960, the RS6 Avant would be our number one pick.



Ok we admit, it’s a media whore, and for that we loathe it, but c’mon, look at it! Tearing up the asphalt around Piccadilly Circus while playing Gran Turismo Prolouge5 is one thing, but actually doing it behind the wheel of a full-scale, real-life model? That’ll earn you so much street cred, the ladies won’t even care that you live in your mother’s basement. Or that you’re 40 years old. And balding. And a little chubby.

5. Ford RS200 Evolution


An unfortunate crash during WRC Portugal lead to the sudden cancellation of the RS200 in 1986, but not before Ford had already introduced the RS200 Evolution. Designed by F1 engineers for Ford of Great Britain to blow the window nets off other rally racers, the RS200 Evo was basically an STi with extreme ‘roid rage. A beefed-up version of the already-chunky Cosworth BDA sat longitudinally mounted in the rear of the Evo and, depending on who you’re talking to and which factory upgrade they had, put out anywhere from 550 horsepower to an almost unbelievable 815-horsepower. What’s more, the most powerful RS200 Evos were able to sprint from 0-60 mph in 3.07 seconds, earning the Ford RS200 Evo a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for 12 years as the fastest production car ever.

6. Renault Mégane R26.R


Three words: Six-point harness. A limited edition Mégane Sport model, the R26.R comes with a 6-point aviation-style restraint system and a 4-point roll cage that looks as badass as it sounds. To cut down on drag, the tail lights and rear window are made out of polycarbonate tinted just dark enough to pass for glass. The 2-liter inline 4 cranks out 230-horsepower and 229 lb-ft of torque, which wouldn’t usually be particularly noteworthy were it not for the fact that the RS6.2 managed to lap the Nürburgring in 8m 17s. To achieve this, Renault dispensed with any frivolous accoutrements like the radio, the rear seats, and the airbags.

7. Audi A5 Sportback


There’s only one reason we covet the A5 Sportback: aesthetics. The average age of car buyers is apparently on a steady decline, and to appeal to the new emerging market both BMW and Audi have created this new, thing. It’s not the Avant your PTA president drives, but it could still haul just as many crappy cupcakes to the bake sale, and it’s not the coupe the douche in finance who lives next door drives, but it could still weave in and out of traffic with the same finesse.

8. Vauxhall VXR8


It’s the Pontiac G8. ‘Nuff said.

9. Alfa Romeo MiTo


Its engines only produce a range from 99 to 150-horsepower, the DNA drive switch that has critics salivating has been done countless times before in some form or another, and the car itself is just a rebadged Fiat Punto. It’s not much to speak of on the track, but gas mileage is great and the whole shebang can be had for under $22k, which means you can put a brand new Alfa Romeo in your garage for a fraction of the price of its predecessor, the 8C Competizione. So yeah, the performance might be mediocre, but it’s an Alfa Romeo for crying out loud…

10. Holden VE Ute


El Camino, anyone? Had Pontiac not been on such a treacherous road to ruin, we might have seen this stateside in the form of the Pontiac G8 Sport truck. Unfortunately, it was cancelled before it ever hit production and the Holden VE Ute is the only remaining evidence it ever existed.

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42 Responses

  1. Geoff says:

    Nice list.

  2. sketch says:

    If someone walked up to me on the street, handed me this list, and said “These and only these are the ten cars you will own in your life”, I would surely die a happy man.

  3. daniel says:

    bloody hell, i can’t wait for the fiat 500 to come here, i want that damn pc mouse on my garage now

  4. Di says:

    8. Vauxhall VXR8

    “It’s the Pontiac G8. ‘Nuff said” No its actually the Holden Commodore VE….

  5. Suzanne Denbow says:

    @Di: …which is the Pontiac G8. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pontiac_G8

  6. Josh says:

    In the Focus RS section – you say oversteer; I’m sure you mean understeer?

  7. jamie says:

    those are some pretty neat cars for sure… it’s amazing to see all the vehicles that don’t make it to north america

  8. I’ll take the GTbyCITROEN in black please.

  9. KD says:

    Suzanne Denbow: Pontiac G8: Yeah but was the Holden Commodore was First – its been in production since the 70’s http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holden_Commodore
    The Holden is Much better looking, the G8 grill is ugly.

  10. JR says:

    @Suzanna Denbow

    Which is a re-branded Holden Commodore VE….the original platform….this is not a chicken or the egg argument. The Holden is the original….nuff said.

  11. rcorrino says:

    Ford is an American company right? So how is it that their choice rides are available only OUT of the USA? Shouldn’t it be the opposite? Like JDM? I could understand not getting the Nissan Skyline but a Focus RS and An RS200 Evolution?

    And these companies wonder why they are going under…..

  12. mr patel says:

    The price of the new focus rs nearer to $50k than $25k.

  13. Annon201 says:

    Hey, that green Ute is made like 5km from my house. :D

    Commodores are the most common car on the road in SA. The ute body exists because they can be classed as a utility vehicle and then written off on tax as a work expense for tradies while still being a very powerful and fun to drive vehicle.

  14. crash47 says:

    Living in Europe this has to be the WORST list I’ve ever seen… Do you guys actually know anything about overseas auto markets? There are a LOT more cars out there that trump all the vehcles listed.

  15. Mike says:

    Missed the Ford Falcon XR6 Turbo as well……

  16. Suzanne Denbow says:

    @Everyone: I am well aware of the fact that the Holden Commodore came first, but the Pontiac G8 is the vehicle which has been discontinued in the States and which we would like to see revived. C’mon guys.

  17. Ryan Gliozzo says:

    I owned the RS but had to recently get a bigger car. The RS is on par with the EVO (ive owned both) The sat nav and carbon fiber interior is fantastic. It goes like stink as well! The only error with this article is that the price is not 25k $. It is 25K £ uk pounds so around $45K US. In other words, its more than an evo in the U.S. so it wouldn’t be worth it!

  18. JR says:

    The GTbyCitroen isn’t even a real car, yet! It’s only a concept, and as far as I can tell, hasn’t even been green-lit for small scale production.

    I second the Falcon XR6 Turbo, and I’ll raise you an FPV Falcon GT-P.

  19. Kane McNaught says:

    I have to agree with crash47 that this list could be better.

  20. Rob says:

    You forgot the Renault Clio V6RS – mid engined (in a hatchback!), supercar speed

  21. V-Star69 says:

    Uhh where’s the Skyline R34

  22. Tom says:

    Loooove my imports, I drive an import (Twin Turbo Galant VR4) at the moment :)

    The Holdens/HSV’s are awesome, but there are SO many around here (I live in Aus).. Same with Skylines and all that.. But bring on the Focus RS/and all those crazy powered small cars that Europe has! And the Audi RS6 is available here, but I still haven’t had the chance to see one in person.. That’s one major rarity hehe, but one day I’ll own one!

  23. Huw says:

    The G8 = Australian car its a Holden Clubsport! Best car around in Australia.. .fastest ever aussie production car.

    And the VE Ute u have there is no way near the best ute u could buy in australia..

    The Holden Maloo is MUCH better :)


  24. pleb says:

    the citroen looks like a transformer that didn’t quite finish transforming.

  25. Miguel says:

    What about this then: rare, and with a sound that will make your spine tingle:


  26. Tim says:

    the gtbyCItroen is a concept there not making it for real

  27. Wayne FitzSimons says:

    The Holden VE Ute:
    Yous say “Unfortunately, it was cancelled before it ever hit production and the Holden VE Ute is the only remaining evidence it ever existed.”.

    It always was a rebadged Holden VE Ute. Not the other way around.

    Similarly the Vauxhall and Pontiac G8 are merely rebadged Australian Holden Commodores.

  28. Waddauno says:

    The Vauxhall VXR8 is a top of the range Holden too …Pontiac my arse

  29. Castillo says:

    Can’t find a “contact us” link on this site, so I guess it’ll have to stick to the comments area, but this is for the writer:

    Hey, Ms. Denbow. If you’re going to make a reference to my country’s drug problems (which have really decreased in the last few years, by the way), could you at least bother to google it so you get the spelling right?
    It’s COLOMBIA, with an O. Unless you’re referring to those drug cartels in South Carolina, in which case I apologize for the misunderstanding.

  30. samuel!! says:

    I am slightly confused as i have had the pleaure in driving the focus rs and the fiat 500 abart and understand that america doesn’t have them or why u cant get them through customs…?
    also why isnt the Civic Type R GT on there (FN2 The english made one….?) i dont think you have those…..??
    i do tho!!!!!

  31. Phillip says:

    i agree with the Alpha romeo MiTI (i will seriously consider bribeing for a MiTo GTA if it lives up to the hype .. .and even if it doesent have you HEARD the STOCK exoust on the teaser clip?) and the ford focus RS.

    where is the skyline R34 or the honda versions of basicly any acura would be a very cool item to have. Vauxhoul has a coupe with the large v8 and the limited slip diff that would be killer to have and audi a5? ewww

  32. Affmeister says:

    Sure, there are some cool cars in the European market that are not available in the US. The root to this issue can be found in the American’s love affair with cars with stronger engines which excludes some of these European cars that are seen as underpowered in America. Although I believe there could be a market even for these cars here, many importers are not willing to bring them over here since they believe they will only be sold in very small numbers. Now one can I argue about this back and forth. One question that arises is: how could they possibly be sure about that when they even don’t bother to bring them here in the first place? The same can be said about the diesel-powered vehicles or the four-cylinder BMWs.

  33. John Boy says:

    Personally I don’t care whether the badge is Pontiac or Holden. I currently drive a SV6 version of the sedan and it is a top car and the SS Holden Omega ute (foreigners call them sports trucks) will be my next buy. That is the model with the V8 for all of you foreigners. I only said that for the bite. I was a teenager in the 70’s when we dreamed of buying a Pontiac as cars at the time here were very different. Our hobbies included buying holdens (and ford’s) of all types and putting big block motors in them for the muscle roar. I’m going now so I can take a trip down memory lane. Cheers from OZ.

  34. Dana says:

    I like GTbyCITROEN. It is pretty impressive!

  35. Brian says:

    no scirocco = no list

  36. Muscle Cars says:

    You are right, when you lose your hair and your belly swells, buy a Citroen… LOL

  37. MJ Posner says:

    Great list and I would also love to grab the Audi RS6. But one nit, there was a better sport wagon in the 90s, the Audi RS2:


    Audi/Porsche wagon

  38. That focus RS looks pretty sweet, and I’ve never liked focuses, dunno about evo killer though… maybe the new evo. Anyway the evo is still cheaper, oh and I love livin in the USA.

  39. focus ST170 engine says:

    although I live in the USA, there’s WAY MORE than that to bribe the STUPID U.S. Customs for. Plus I think this listed shuld’ve added the Focus RS500, Honda Civic Type R, and more. I still think this list is worth it. Who cares what Customs has to say, FUCK the customs! Get your dream grey market car(s), no matter what!

  40. Oakland Taxi says:

    Living in EUROPE this page is pretty useless for me except to peer down my nose at a few of these cars, that Renault and Fiat for one are actually made out a significant amount of plastic rather than metal and glass

  41. shawn says:

    1. Fiat ugly ugly ugly…and guess what nobody is buying here in the states
    2. I’m pretty sure the Volvo V70R wagon did a find job of replacing the brick…every driven one? Didn’t think so…you have to spend twice as much on an audi to have half the fun
    3. Holden UTE…I’ve got an Aztec to sell you and I’ll put a LT1 in it just to make you happy…ugly that goes fast.