The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is the governing body in the United States responsible for determining what defines a vehicle as being “safe.” Safe for its passengers, safe for other drivers on the road, safe for the environment and safe for the economy. In protecting all of those assets of American life, there’s a lot of legislation created, and a lot of rules for manufacturers to follow. For those who simply can’t get their car fix in the American auto market, foreign markets offer a variety of vehicles, unlike Uncle Sam’s favourites. However, if you continue to live in the US but have an extreme affinity for importing cars that are illegal in the US, there are some forbidden fruits you may never be able to taste.
As a result, many vehicles created by foreign manufacturers need an American variant able to comply with all of the regulations put forth by the NHTSA; otherwise, it is deemed illegal streetcars in the US. Of course, that becomes a large endeavour that many manufacturers aren’t necessarily willing to undertake, and as a result, there’s a significant number of vehicles that cannot be imported into this country.
There’s no question about the fact that the United States car market is missing some key European players. Whether due to lack of market interest, inability to comply with American safety regulations and emissions standards, or the simple inability to fund the import process, thousands of cars are produced every year that will never get the chance to burn rubber on Highway 52 or down US-1.
This list can change as the year’s pass, so be sure to check with the DMV or NHTSA regarding the legality of certain cars coming to the United States. You never know, maybe that car you have your eye on is now legal to drive on the streets of the US.
Since Europe remains Bugatti’s biggest market, when the automaker developed its 1500-horsepower hypercar, it couldn’t jeopardize the design to respect America’s hopelessly outdated bumper regulations. Needless to say, being the crown jewel of the Volkswagen Group, the Chiron is as safe as a car that can achieve 261 mph can get.
Yet the law applies to all, and now that the first U.S.-spec Chirons have arrived in New York City, we finally got a good look at what this country’s federal bumper standards translate to on a $2.6 million ride. These ugly tacked-on lumps, plus add-on amber side markers, are mandatory equipment on all U.S.-bound Chirons.
The Bugatti Chiron is arguably at the very pinnacle of what humans are currently able to to build has performance figures which almost match its somewhat high cost, which is currently around the $3m mark. The people who are in a position to own these types of car fascinate me. I mean, what must their houses be like if they’re driving around in a $3m car? In fact, this car is so fast it had to be limited to only 261 mph! This is because there’s currently no road-legal tire that can handle this velocity.
However, let’s say you win the lottery and you decide to update your Honda Civic for a Bugatti Chiron. Is this even possible in the US? Bugatti is based in Europe, where they have different regulations in the US.
Is the Bugatti Chiron road legal in the US? Yes, the Bugatti Chiron is road legal in the United States. However, there are physical differences to the car in the US that differentiate it from the car you’ll (rarely) see on the streets in Europe. Due to regulations in the US, Bugatti needed to make a couple of adjustments – the most notable being somewhat ugly rear bumpers.
Were changes required to the Chiron for the US market?
For the Bugatti Chiron to be sold in the US, Bugatti needed to make changes to the Chiron. Unfortunately, not only for Bugatti but for American car enthusiasts – the Chiron had to have some physical alterations to their European model. You will find that for the US version there are some side turn indicators, but these aren’t too obtrusive. Where the problem comes is with the rear bumpers! Stuck onto the back of the Chiron are two, rather thick, lumps of rubber which stand out like a sore thumb.
It’s like making Tom Cruise wear a Jester’s hat in Mission Impossible. It’s somewhat distracting, and once you notice it, it’s hard to see anything else! So, unfortunately, US customers can’t quite enjoy the lines of this thing of beauty as much as our European friends. Or can we?
Why were these changes to the Chiron necessary?
To be able to comply with US federal requirements, car manufacturers need to adhere to certain standards. Unfortunately, the Chiron falls foul of a couple of these standards. You see, for every car that is sold in the United States, federal bumper standards apply. For instance, let me share what some of these rules actually are:
Firstly, the construction of the bumper must be from rubber, plastic, steel or aluminium and is attached to both the front and the rear of a car. The purpose of it is to absorb some of the shocks during an impact which will reduce the damage to the car and also the thing (be it another car, a person or whatever) that it hits.
These bumpers are primarily designed to absorb the damage in low-speed impacts, such as around five mph and help to provide protection to some of the important components of a car such as the lights, cooling (such as the front fan), exhaust, fuel, etc.
The law states that it is intended to provide absorption for slow speeds such as a five mph impact into a car that is parked and is of similar mass. The protection this gives must be from 16 – 20 inches higher than the surface of the road. It doesn’t necessarily have to be the whole width of the car (as is the case of the Chiron), but it does need to provide this protection.
Can these rear bumpers be removed from the Chiron?
Technically, the bumpers can be removed from the back of the Bugatti Chiron. The bumpers have exposed screws, which is somewhat unusual for a car of this quality…or is it? Having the screws exposed means that they could be removed by anyone. So, would it be possible for the new owner to remove them as soon as they bought the car? Well, yes. Now I couldn’t, of course, recommend that owners did this but if it was me? Having just spent around 3 million dollars on a new car maybe I’d prefer the fine you get from the Polic rather than driving around with those large rubber things stuck on the back!
What’s so special about the Bugatti Chiron?
Oh, there are many things that are special about Chiron. Would you expect anything less though from Bugatti? The Chiron has an 8 litre (yes, 8!) W16 engine that produces 1,500 PS, around 1,500 hp. It can get to 60 mph in just 2.4 seconds, will reach 249 mph in 32.6 seconds and has its top speed limited to 261 mph as there are no road-tires that can currently handle the energies that would be transferred through them at this speed. To go any faster than this, you need to use a special key that will unlock the higher velocity if this wasn’t quite fast enough for you.
Then, there are the somewhat special services that you need to have. When I say ‘special’, what I actually mean is ‘expensive’. Your annual service will set you back about $20,000. Sometimes more. Insurance will depend on your age and experience but regardless, will cost you as much as a small house every year. Tires for the Chiron’s predecessor (the Veyron) would require changing every 2,500 miles and cost in the region of $30,000, however, the Chiron might be a little less than this.
To own and drive a Bugatti Chiron is to say that you’ve done pretty well for yourself and you certainly don’t have any financial problems! I wish we could get all the owners of Chiron’s in a room and just ask them all, ‘what do you actually do?’ – I just don’t understand how people can afford these cars!
What other supercars required changes for the US market?
The Bugatti Chiron isn’t the first supercar/hypercar that has had to have changed in some way to accommodate US regulations. Usually, or should I say, ‘always’, it is to the detriment of the physical appearance. Take the Lamborghini Countach. This was/is an iconic supercar for so many of us during the 1980s and mainly because of its appearance. It just looks fast. Well, at least it did in Europe. To be able to accommodate the US market, Lamborghini had to stick a monstrously ugly front bumper on it – it sucks and ruins the looks in an instant.
Just when you thought you could have it all in the USA, there are still things you can’t get even if money were no object. As an American consumer, you may think that you can just buy anything you want and own whatever you desire as long as you have the cash for it. There may be a lot of products in the USA, and virtually anything you desire is at your fingertips. You can even easily export something if it’s not available locally and just have it shipped to your home. However, that isn’t the case for these vehicles. Even if the sky’s your limit when it comes to the budget, you still can’t have these cars below because they’re banned in the USA.
Why are these cars banned in the USA? Well, the topmost reason why these cars are banned in the USA is they’re too dangerous to drive. Most of them might be too fast and too powerful for American roads, so the government made them illegal to purchase and own.
So, if you’re in the market for a new ride, you should get to know the cars below and avoid them at all costs. They may be very attractive, and with their powerful capability, they’re truly desirable, but you should never consider getting them, or you might end up getting a hefty fine and spending some time in prison.
Let’s take a look at what cars are banned in the USA. Here we go.
Volkswagen Beetle ‘Ultima Edicion’ (2004)
Almost any Volkswagen Beetle is street legal in the USA. So, you can just go to a dealership, shop for one, and drive it home on that same day. However, this isn’t the case for a specific Beetle. The Volkswagen Beetle ‘Ultima Edicion’ (2004) was declared illegal in the USA because of safety reasons. Although it isn’t as fast and as powerful as other banned cars, this Bettle was banned because, weirdly, it has a trunk in the front.
The Volkswagen Beetle ‘Ultima Edicion’ (2004) may look cool and all, but this setup was the main reason it was banned in the USA. So, if you want a Beetle, you have to settle for the other versions because this one is impossible to legally own in the USA.
Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R (1999)
The Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R (1999) has a nickname “Godzilla,” and we all know what we can expect from a car like that. The Godzilla is a super powerful car, which means it’s super fast to drive on the streets. Apparently, due to its performance, it’s become one of the most epic cars in the world. Some of the two popular versions of the Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R (1999) are the Nissan Skyline GT-R V-Spec (1999) and GT-T (1999). Unfortunately, if you want to own either of the two in the USA, you can’t because they’re banned in the country. The cars are just too powerful for the US roads to handle, so they made them both illegal.
The TVR Tuscan, which was produced between 1996 and 2006, was banned in the USA from its time of production until its demise. The most popular version, the TVR Tuscan (2003) was featured on John Travolta’s movie Swordfish. Since its feature, it became a popular car that many Americans wanted to have but can’t.
The car was banned because of its security features. Had the manufacturer put good airbags and antilock brakes, the government may have considered making it legal in the USA. Moreover, improving its acceleration to make it street-legal would’ve also helped.
These improvements would’ve allowed Americans to buy and own this car. However, since it was missing a lot of the security features, it was a no-no to drive, let alone own, the TVR Tuscan.
Jaguar XJ220S (1993)
At one point in time, the Jaguar XJ220S (1993) had the title “fastest car in the world.” If a car has that kind of title, it probably is one of the most sought-after cars in the whole world. However, this car is also a rare gem. Jaguar only built six units of this vehicle, so getting your hands on one might be virtually impossible. Still, even if you can get your hands on one, you can’t drive it home because it’s banned in the USA because of its lightning-fast speed, making it dangerous to drive on the streets.
It would’ve been nice to own this car, but unfortunately, you can’t, so you just have to settle for its slower but safer siblings.
It’s always a shame when boring laws get in the way of things that are so beautiful. There should be some kind of an exception to these laws when it comes to these types of cars. I mean, if you want to stick a couple of extra bits of rubber to the back of a Honda Civic, then be my guest! I probably won’t notice. But cars such as the Bugatti just weren’t meant to look like this, and you can imagine the frustration the original designer feels. Fortunately, at least with the Bugatti, you can take them off – but obviously, you wouldn’t do this on public roads.