Log in   •   Sign up   •   Subscribe  feed icon

Ten Weird, Wild & Wonderful Japanese Cars We Never Got to Buy

Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda and more... Japanese cars have come a long way from the tiny, underpowered Toyopets and Datsuns many of us knew of or grew up with in the 1960s and 1970s.

Not all of Japan's cars made the trip across the ocean, however. Our top ten list, whle hardly definitive, manages to cover some of Japan's most exciting and interesting cars that, for various reasons, never left the nest.

Of such things are legends born...

 

 

 

Mazda Cosmo 110-S -- Rotary Club Founder



Mazda's groundbreaking rotary engine is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, and the 1967 Cosmo 110-S was the sleek & stylish platform that introduced the silky-smooth 2-rotor Wankel to the world. Its unique twin-rotor design virtually eliminated the harsh vibrations of NSU's single-rotor design and set the standard for other manufacturers.

The Mazda Cosmo 110-S combines styling elements cribbed from the Triumph Spitfire and, especially, the 1961-63 Ford Thunderbird. If you've never seen one before, that's no surprise: only 1176 were made between 1967 and 1972. (via JCN Network)

 

 

Toyota 2000GT -- Fast Far East Exoticar



Introduced in 1967, the Toyota 2000GT was a bonafide supercar in an era when nobody took Japanese cars seriously. Nobody except Carroll Shelby, who raced them on the SCCA circuit... or the producers of the Bond film "You Only Live Twice", which featured a custom convertible version.

Inspired by the Jaguar E-type and built to exacting production standards, the 2000GT paved the way for cheaper, more streetable Japanese sports cars like the Datsun 240Z. Only a baker's dozen 2000GTs were imported into the USA. Estimated cost for one today? A cool hundred grand... (via Motor Trend)

 

 

Nissan Skyline GTS-R -- Japanese for 'Raw Power'



Readers of car mags like Motor Trend and Car & Driver as far back as the 1980s knew about the Nissan Skyline - a series of road-going racers that were the pinnacle of Nissan's line yet never exported outside Japan.

Racing versions had engines pumped up to 700 hp and more! Even the milder GTS Skylines were impressive beasts and would have made effective image boosters for Nissan in the US. (via JB Carpages)

 

 

Honda Coupe 9 -- Air-Cooled Oddity



Honda will be remembered for the Accord, the Civic and other well made, solidly performing cars, but does anyone remember the Honda Coupe 9?

Honda's first attempt to build a larger car is largely unknown, no matter that the odd-looking vehicle wasn't exported. It was odd on the inside as well, with a 1300cc air-cooled engine that employed a fan attached to the flywheel. Cooling air wafted across the engine block while heated air was directed into the passenger compartment on chilly days. (via Wikipedia)

 

 

Nissan Figaro -- The Car That Made Retro Cool



In an effort to jump-start a little creativity in its design department, Nissan brought out a number of odd yet practical vehicles in the late eighties and early nineties, one of which was the cute "Escargo" minivan.

Another was the Nissan Figaro, which displayed rounded, inverted bathtub "nifty-fifties" styling complemented by a pleasing palette of pastel paint jobs. Under the hood, a turbocharged engine gave the Figaro's exhaust note an operatic timbre. (via Carfolio)

 

 

Toyota Sera -- Whatever Will Be, Won't Be (Here)



Toyota was really hitting its stride by the early 1990s, but one of their more interesting models never made it to these shores.

The Toyota Sera was fitted out with complex gullwing doors that featured a roll-down portion embedded in each sweeping curve of glass. With its concept car looks, the Toyota Sera found a small but loyal domestic market that bought up nearly 16,000 cars over a 5 year production run. (via Alt Tokyo)

 

 

Comments
Oct 8, 2007
by Steve Levenstein
Steve Levenstein's picture

Must be nice...

Must be nice to live there, my post was taken from the North American viewpoint though.

Oct 9, 2007
by Anonymous (not verified)

re: "Rike a Lock" China has

re: "Rike a Lock"

China has no R.  Japan has no L.  So, it's Like a Lock.  But, usually it's an L in the middle of a word or close to another consonant, especially quartery (quarterly). 

Oct 9, 2007
by Civicduty (not verified)

Japanese Micros

In addition to the rather cool vehicles the article mentions, there were loads of wonderful micro and mini cars that never made it anywhere beyond Japan or nearby Asia.  Among the best - the Mazda 360, a very neatly styled little coupe.  Also, there were many ultra-efficient little sub-660cc trucks that are just the thing we need in America today!

Fortunately we did get some of the really good early Japanese vehicles, like the 60s Datsun pickups, and the great 3rd generation Honda Civic (a wonderful car that unfortunately is prone to rust).

Oct 11, 2007
by Mr Funk (not verified)

Honda Beat

These things would never compete with the MX-5 (you call it a miata). They're miniscule, and pack a 600cc 3 cylinder engine. The mx-5 would wipe the floor with them, and rightly so at a bit more than double the price. They're not competitors at all. Its like saying that ugly daewoo thing would compete with the TT - totally different markets.

Oct 12, 2007
by Steve Levenstein
Steve Levenstein's picture

different markets?

I dunno, most of the MX-5 (or Miata, i prefer the original name contemporary with the early 90s Beat) i see are not driven as weekend racers but as cute commuters - a role in which the Beat would be extremely competitive IMHO. And at half the price? Honda made a rare mistake in not bringing the Beat overseas.

Oct 14, 2007
by Lee Gibson (not verified)

Majority doesn't rule.

Most people who own Miatas may not race them, but most weekend racers are indeed Mazdas (with a substantial proportion of them Miatas).

 It would be interesting to see what a Beat could do on an autocross track, but I would be pretty surprised if it outperformed the Miata. 

Oct 14, 2007
by Steve Levenstein
Steve Levenstein's picture

Name of the game...

Could we call the race "Miata Beat Manifesto"? Please?

Oct 16, 2007
by Matt Bishop (not verified)

Nissan Skykines outside Japan

Nissan did actually export the Skyline GTR outside Japan. The car gained a huge cult status as a very capable race platform both on the street and on the track in Australia. We (here in the land of OZ) were pretty much the only other nation to get them, compliments I think due to their use in the Bathurst 1000 racing series before the 'Big Two' OZ car makers - Holden and Ford - got a bit scared about competition and got the rules changed so that most other vehicles - except for their V8 engined, rear wheel drive, 4 door sedans - were inelligible to enter.

Jul 21, 2008
by Anonymous

JAPANESE AUTO MOBILES

THIS IS ONE VERY INTERESTING SITE THAT SHOULD BE VIEWED BY CAR AFFECIANADOES!!!

MAY I SUGGEST THAT YOU ALSO LOOK INTO THE FF. CARS THAT I HAVE SEEN ONLY IN JAPAN .

AS JAPANEESE FRIEND OF MINE ONCE SAID . THEY ARE FOR JAPANEESE CONSUMPTION ONLY.

1 TOYOTA CENTURY
2 TOYOTA MEGA CRUISER
3SUZUKI CAPPUCINO
4 I SAW THIS ONE IN MY LAST VISIT TO OKINAWA A DAIHATSU THAT LOOKS LIKE A SMALL HUMBEE
5 NISSAN PRESIDENT

KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!

M ANNY B.