Top ten Amazing JDM Cars We Missed Out On
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During the 1990s, North Americans could buy a lot of outstanding machinery. Dodge Vipers, BMW 850is and Toyota Supras were available for mass consumption. But even with our mitts total of high-performance vehicles, we still dreamed more.
We dreamed what Japan was getting. It was the tail end of an economic boom and the Japanese automotive industry was pumping out an endless stream of high spectacle, specialized automobiles. A few of these made their way to our shores, like the Toyota Supra, Acura NSX and Mazda RX-7. But many more never made the journey across the Pacific and we were worse off for it. If only we could switch history, here are ten Japanese cars, in no particular order, we wish we could have bought.
1996 Mitsubishi Legnum VR-4
The Mitsubishi Galant that was sold in Japan may have looked similar to the one available in North America, but under the skin, it was actually very different. With a large diversity of engines and drivetrains, it was the VR-4 that indeed sent our hearts racing.
Fitted with a Two.5-liter turbocharged V6 engine, the VR-4 made two hundred seventy six hp and two hundred seventy one lb-ft. of torque. It sent power to all four wheels through a five-speed manual transmission or optional five-speed semi-automatic. The VR-4 could even be had with active yaw control, borrowed from the Lancer Evolution.
Best of all, the Galant wagon, known as the Legnum, could also be had with all these goodies.
1992 Mazda Autozam AZ-1
In Japan, there is a special city car category of automobiles called Kei cars that are exempt from certain tax and insurance regulations. Designed to be affordable commuter cars, some manufacturers took the Kei car specifications and made serious sports cars.
The Mazda Autozam AZ-1 was one of those vehicles. Powered by a class-regulated 657-cc three-cylinder engine, the lil’ turbocharged powerplant produced sixty three hp and sixty three lb-ft of torque. This may not sound like much, but the AZ-1 was only 129.7 inches long and weighed a mere 1,587 lbs.
The engine was also placed mid-ship behind the driver, powering the rear wheels. For anyone who dreamed an NSX, but couldn’t afford one, the AZ-1 suggested a Four/Five scale model alternative.
1998 Toyota Chaser Tourer V
Imagine for a 2nd what would have happened if if we got the Chaser instead of the Camry in North America. Measuring toughly the same size, the Chaser was a mid-size sedan that strayed from convention at the time by sending power to the rear wheels.
Available in many different configurations, the Chaser Tourer V was the top dog of the lineup. Featuring a turbocharged 1JZ-GTE Two.5-liter V6, the Tourer made two hundred seventy six hp – a number no Japanese auto-manufacturer would exceed at that time thanks to a gentleman’s agreement. A five-speed manual transmission could be tooled, further emphasizing this sedan’s sporty nature.
1999 Nissan Silvia Spec-R Aero
North America did receive the Nissan 240SX during the 1990s, but if you knew what was hiding across the ocean, you were disheartened. Called the Silvia in Japan, the compact rear-wheel-drive coupe was suggested with a Two.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that significantly enhanced spectacle.
In 1999, the ‘S15’ generation of the Silvia was introduced with Spec-R models boasting two hundred fifty hp from the turbocharged engine. Weighing well under Trio,000 lbs for regular coupe models, the Silvia was a beloved budget spectacle vehicle. And if you desired a little more, there was the Aero package that added, you guessed it, aerodynamic bits and chunks.
1998 Honda Civic Type R
The EK Type R Civic may well be the best Civic ever made. The three-door hatchback came with a frantic B16B 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that put out an extraordinaire one hundred eighty two hp thanks in part to an 8,500 rpm redline.
With a curb weight around Two,400 lbs, the Type R was light. It also included all the decent go-fast goodies like a limited-slip differential, re-enforced bod structure, Recaro bucket seats and even a Momo steering wheel. For those who dreamed to take the Civic Type R to the next level, air conditioning, power windows, power steering and the radio could all be deleted when ordering the car for further weight savings.
1998 Nissan Stagea Autech 260RS
Imagine taking the mechanics of a Dodge Viper and putting a wagon assets over them. That’s basically equivalent to what Nissan did with the Stagea Autech 260RS. Essentially a Nisan Skyline wagon, the Stagea came with either rear- or all-wheel drive and a entire lot more.
Just like the Skyline GT-R, the top-of-the-line Stagea included the legendary Two.6-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine that produced a very underrated two hundred seventy six hp. A manual, all-wheel-drive, turbocharged super-wagon sounds like the stuff enthusiast fantasies are made of – too bad we never got it over here.
1992-1999 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
Long before the EVO ever made landfall in North America, it was tearing up the mountain passes of Japan for years. Very first introduced in 1992, the compact super-sedan made around two hundred forty five hp from a Two.0-liter turbocharged engine.
Instantly used for rally racing, the Evolution would evolve across the 1990s to include more power and better spectacle. By 1999, the Lancer Evolution was on its sixth iteration and better than ever. It was highlighted by special Tommi Mäkinen edition that upgrade spectacle parts inwards and out, making the EVO ever quicker.
1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STI
Right around the time the Lancer Evolution demonstrated up, so did its arch nemesis, the Subaru Impreza WRX STI. Using the same WRC-mandated formula, the WRX STI featured a Two.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine powering all four wheels through a manual transmission.
Like the Lancer Evolution, the WRX STI continued to improve via the decade. But the ultimate 1990s WRX STI is lightly the one thousand nine hundred ninety eight 22B STI. With broader assets work, an adjustable rear wing as well as a unique bondage mask and bumper, the 22B is instantly recognizable as a special STI. Basically, every mechanical component received a significant upgrade including the engine, which was punched out to Two.Two liters in displacement, enhancing power to two hundred eighty hp.
Very few of these cars were ever produced and, sadly, even fewer are still around today.
1992 Honda NSX Type-R
We may have received the NSX in North America, but Honda saved the ultimate version for Japan only. Called the Type-R, it was the highest spectacle NSX of the 1990s, thanks to extensive weight reduction that dropped the NSX’s curb weight from almost Three,000 lbs. to just a hair over Two,700 lbs.
This was achieved by removing anything that didn’t aid in spectacle like the radio, speakers, spare tire, air conditioning and various sound deadening materials. To further enhance its track capabilities, the suspension was upgraded and lighter wheels were installed. A brief gear ratio was installed for better acceleration and Recaro seats were installed for lighter weight and better support. And as a final touch, every one of the Three.0-liter V6 engines used in the Type-R were put through the same mechanical scrutiny as Honda’s racing engines.
1990-1999 Nissan Skyline GT-R
Man, did we ever miss out with this one. The Nissan Skyline GT-R may well have been the best “everyday” spectacle vehicle of the 1990s, and we never got the chance to drive one – fresh anyway. The decade would see three different generations of the GT-R come along, each earning a legion of loyal fans.
For the most part, all Skyline GT-Rs were powered by the RB26DETT Two.6-liter turbocharged six-cylinder engine that produced a lot more than the official two hundred seventy six hp ratings would have us believe. With a killer all-wheel-drive system and track-ready suspension, the GT-R couldn’t be touched by many cars during its time. And, the GT-R was very tunable.
For those who wished a little more factory-backed spectacle, there was the one thousand nine hundred ninety seven NISMO 400R that featured a plethora of spectacle upgrades, highlighted by an enlargened six-cylinder engine that pumped out a staggering four hundred hp.
Why did Japan get to have all these amazing cars?!