Canadians are a lucky bunch when it comes to a few things. We have our maple syrup, our fantastic beer selection, furs, Geddy Lee, and according to Jim Murray’s latest Whiskey Bible, the world’s best in our Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye. But for car lovers, we typically have a tough go at it. Five months of near-Arctic weather, secondary unveilings at auto shows, and not nearly enough automotive or motorsport coverage on television. While many of our friends in the south enjoy the benefits of living the opposite life, there’s one thing we Canucks can take comfort in; and that’s our fifteen-year restriction on import cars – a whole decade sooner than our American cousins.
So, what’s worthy on the most recent list of vehicles no longer restricted to Canadian importation? Have a look. Just don’t rub it in to your American friends. Or, if you do, just be sure to apologize afterwards.
2001 Alfa Romeo 156 GTA
Known as much for motorsport as it is for its spirited drives, the Milano automaker needed a worthy successor to the DTM-winning 155. The 156 was significant because it returned Alfa to the headlines as a premium automaker, while also capturing the 1998 European Car of the Year award.
The GTA was launched at Frankfurt in 2001, paying homage to the GTA of the sixties, and was fitted with a 3.2-litre V6 (the largest to come out of Alfa’s main factory) mated to either a six-speed manual, or an optional paddle-shift hydraulic robotized gearbox.
Competing in the European Touring Car Championship, 2.0-litre versions of the 156 captured four-straight series titles: the 156 D2 winning in 2000 and 2001, and the 156 GTA taking over in 2002-2003, cementing the 156 as one of Alfa’s all-time greats.
2001 ASL Garaiya
If you’ve played Gran Turismo 4 onward, chances are you recognize the Garaiya, built by Japanese automotive retail giant Autobacs Seven and Kikuo Kaira of Tommykaira.
Under Autobacs’ new ASL arm (which stands for Autobacs Sports Car Laboratory), this mid-rear engine, rear-wheel drive compact was praised for its superior handling and power-to-weight ratio. At just 800 kilograms (1,763 lbs), the 201-horsepower Toyota SR20VE propelled the Garaiya to 100 km/h in just 5.2 seconds.
Those numbers prompted Autobacs Racing Team Aguri (ARTA) to field the Garaiya in Japan’s Super GT series, where it celebrated a long career and podium successes using a 3.0-litre V6.
Unfortunately, only a handful of road-going Garaiyas were ever built, meaning if you can get your hands on this pocket rocket, you’ll likely be the only person on the North American continent to ever do so.
2001 Morgan Aero 8
The Aero 8 is loaded with old-school British styling and performance that might just leave your grandfather scratching his noggin. Now celebrating its 15th year, the opportunity to own the first edition Aero 8 is something to consider.
Sure, it’s cross-eyed front fascia is unconventional, and Morgan considered its independent rear suspension as “state-of-the-art,” but the Aero 8 has crowd-pleasing renaissance styling with the same 4.4-litre V8 found in BMW’s 540i and 740iL of that era. Tack on BMW’s Getrag six-speed manual and you’ve got a 997-kilo (2,200 lb.) time machine that hits 98 km/h in just 4.5 seconds. It’s the best from the Brits and the Germans all meld into one. Just remember that the Aero 8 is hand-built in England, so it may not be without its flaws.
2001 Nissan Stagea (M35 Series)
Canadians have been lucky enough to import R34 Skylines for more than two years, but what are the chances you’ve heard of its station wagon sibling, the Stagea?
Using the same V35 chassis as the R34 and Infiniti G35 (and sharing many of the same parts with the Skyline), these 2001 Stageas were available in naturally-aspirated 2.5-litre V6 rear-wheel or all-wheel drive variants (250RS or RX models), a turbocharged 2.5-litre rear-wheel drive model (250tRS), or a naturally-aspirated 3.0-litre rear-wheel drive (300RX). Nissan even released versions of the Stagea with aero/body kits, increased ride heights, and a 250tRS model with Nissan’s HICAS four-wheel steering system – the only model we’d be inclined to avoid.
2001 Renault Clio V6 Renault Sport 230 (Phase 1)
The ultimate hatch of hot hatches, nobody’s quite sure why the Clio V6 was built, but then again, nobody really cares either. Tom Walkinshaw Racing of Le Mans, F1 and British Touring Car fame built this first generation, and that’s good enough reason for us.
The rear seats were ripped out in favour of a burbling 230-horsepower V6, it’s rear-wheel drive, wide bodied, and handles like an old Porsche in the rain(!), but Renault’s not new to this sort of pomposity. Remember the legendary R5 Turbo? Think of this as its most modern iteration.
Even with all that work, the performance of the mid-rear V6 was only marginally better than the traditional Clio 172 Club. The engine relocation led to weight and handling issues and, as a result, the Phase 2, 255 model had a longer wheelbase and 255-horsepower engine tuned by Porsche.
Still, if you can get your hands on one of the 256 Phase 1 models built, we’ll bet you won’t regret it.
2001 Subaru Impreza UK300
Coming off a successful World Rally Championship that saw Richard Burns and co-driver Roger Reid win their first (and only) WRC title, Subaru U.K. and Prodrive had the brilliant idea to take their successes and put them straight into a limited edition road car.
Limited to just 300 editions at a price of £24,995, the Impreza UK300 stood out against standard Subarus with its UK300 cockpit and engine badging, 18-inch Prodrive/OZ Racing gold alloys, WRC cluster headlamps and a Prodrive front splitter and rear spoiler that actually increased aerodynamic benefit. For an extra £1,600, customer could opt for the Sport Performance Package which saw broader mid-range power and torque, and a horsepower jump from 218 to 227.
Which one will you choose?
Images courtesy of their respective manufacturers and Polyphony Digital.