Log in   •   Sign up   •   Subscribe  feed icon

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

Autozam AZ-1 -- Bug Eyes & Gull Wings



What's Autozam, you ask? Well, take one part Mazda, mix with a hefty helping of Suzuki and shake vigorously. Result: the Autozam AZ-1.

This rakish two-seat coupe packed a lot into a little, including a peppy 657 cc turbocharged midship mounted engine. While the frog-like headlights are a turn-off, way cool gullwing doors are an unexpected surprise (and useful in tight parking situations). Likened by some to a "mini Testarossa", the AZ-1 was made from 1992 through 1994. (via Japanoid)

 

 

Honda Beat -- Mr. Honda's Curtain Call



Company founder Soichiro Honda went out on a high note, approving the irresistibly cute Beat shortly before his death in 1991. Good one, Mr. H!

Over 33,000 of the mid-engine, two-seat convertibles were made before production ceased in 1996. The Honda Beat would surely have stolen a beat on the Mazda Miata had it been exported here. (via IGN)

 

 

Chevrolet MW -- "Rike A Lock"



Yes, a Chevy that's not sold in the USA! This badge-engineered version of the 2006+ Suzuki Cervo adds a glimmer of bowtie bling to Japan's boxy "high wagon" minicar market. Check out this Japanese TV ad for the Chevy MW...



Would the Chevy MW sell well for GM on America's mean streets and, more notably, wide-open highways? Just a single encounter with a speeding semi on the interstate might sour one on the MW, but city commuters who've been lusting after the Smart Car might think otherwise.

 

 

Eunos JC Cosmo -- Power, Luxury, Rarity



I saw a Eunos JC Cosmo "in the flesh" when I first visited Japan in late 1990 and was blown away by its beautiful, sweeping lines and obvious luxury touches. Eunos - Mazda's domestic up-market brand - had a formidable Benz & Bimmer killer with the JC Cosmo yet didn't throw down the gauntlet by directly competing with the German luxocars outside Japan.

Outstanding features of the JC Cosmo included a powerful 3-rotor Wankel engine and a GPS touch screen navigation system - in 1990! Exclusive and expensive, the meticulously crafted JC Cosmo was made in very small numbers from 1990 through 1996. (via 3rotor)


And there you have it, Ten Weird, Wild & Wonderful Japanese Cars We Never Got to Buy. Did I miss any? "Ten" is an arbitrary number, so if there's a fave of yours I missed, please let us know by leaving a comment!

Steve Levenstein
Japanese Innovations Writer
InventorSpot.com

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.