Eligible Imports: Class of ’96

February 1, 2021
by: Keith Edwards and Brian Cotter


For many, the New Year means resolutions, ball drops, and reflection. For us enthusiasts, it means a whole new batch of once-forbidden cars becomes eligible for import to the United States. 

To ring in 2021, we at Wagon Source have compiled a list of 25-year-old estate cars from around the world that were never originally sold in the USA, but can now legally be imported. Are they all worth sending on an ocean voyage? Not our call. Would we love to see them on American roads anyways? Absolutely.

Check out 8 (technically 9!) of the eligible class of 1996 wagons in the gallery below:

1996 BMW 3 Series Touring

Though the E36 3 Series falls between the beloved E30 and E46 generations, it’s still a competent sports sedan with direct steering and famous BMW inline-6s. While US buyers could get a sedan, coupe, convertible, or even the South Carolina-built 3-door hatchback – the Touring wagon was never seen on our shores. Before you go looking for a Touring M3 though, know BMW never produced this 3er wagon in M-guise. Anyone in need of a project wagon idea?


1996 Holden Commodore / Toyota Lexcen Wagons

Australia’s all-star, the RWD Commodore was offered in an array of trims and powertrains, including the performance-minded HSV Manta shown here. The Commodore was even Australia’s best-selling car in 1996, making the search as simple as a trip to carsales.com.au. For lovers of obscurity or Japanese brands, the Commodore was even offered as a lightly rebadged Toyota Lexcen.


1996 Lancia Kappa SW

Based on the Alfa Romeo 166, the luxury-oriented Lancia Kappa SW was brand new for the ’96 model year. A rarity even at launch, the Kappa offered a range of engine choices, including 5-cylinder options. Add the spacious interior and available self-leveling rear suspension, and you have a perfect estate just ready for a second life in Napa. Bellissimo!


1996 Nissan Stagea Wagon

A mechanical relative to the R33 Skyline, Nissan’s RWD or AWD Stagea Wagon is well known to the JDM crowd. Its underpinnings promise sports car dynamics, especially when paired with the available 5-speed manual transmission. The Stagea was also offered exclusively with inline-6 cylinders, including the range-topping 276 hp 2.6L turbo. Some Stageas also made it to the UK, so scour the globe if a ‘Skyline’ wagon is in your future!


1996 Rover 400 Series Tourer

Rover, the original parent brand to Land Rover, didn’t survive in the United States after relaunching itself as Sterling. Even so, their partnership with Honda in the 80s and 90s gave way to the 400 Series that proved to be reasonably popular in the UK. Closely related to the Honda Concerto (and 4th-generation US-market Civic), the 400 Series Tourer featured the well-regarded K-Series engine and was complimented in its day for handling and cabin appointments.


1996 Citroën XM Break

The Citroën XM was conceived as the then-modern successor to the iconic DS. Full of French style, equipped with a sophisticated hydropneumatic suspension and passive rear-wheel steering system, the XM Break offers enough quirks to catch even SAAB fanatics attention. By 1996 the XM was also near the end of its lifecycle and enjoyed benefits carried over from the 1994 facelift.


1996 Mercedes-Benz C-Class T-Model

Along with the BMW 3 Series Touring above, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class is a staple of the compact sport wagon segment. The C-Class T-Model was brand-new for 1996, and was praised for its refinement, safety, and handling. Wagon Source would even argue there are few cars as sophisticated and stately as a Mercedes estate. With strong C-Class sedan sales in the United States, there is also strong parts availability is also as long as you choose a C 220 or C 280.


1996 Peugeot 406 Break

Is the 406 Break a performance wagon? Definitely not, though Robert De Niro did famously prove the 406 could keep up with an E34 BMW 5 Series in Ronin. Instead, the 406 is a quiet, comme ci comme ça FWD wagon for the francophiles that aren’t just yet ready to commit to the strangeness of a Citroën. Diesels were extremely popular among 406 Break buyers, and the 406 has even proven durable in taxi use around the globe.


Which wagon would you bring stateside? Did we miss one? Let us know in the comments below!

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