Home Cars Legendary Japanese Cars That Redefined Speed and Power

Legendary Japanese Cars That Redefined Speed and Power

Cameron Eittreim August 4, 2023

The Japanese sports car segment has redefined performance for decades. Enthusiasts around the world revere certain Japanese cars for their speed and performance. The market for sports cars isn’t what it used to be, but there was a time when Japanese sports cars ruled the roost. These cars were built for speed, handling, and the best performance in the world. A lot of these cars made it over to America and became legendary options.

Sports car enthusiasts are a different breed than average drivers as they yearn for extreme performance and speed. A car is much more than just a form of transportation for them, and that’s why these cars became popular. Many legendary sports cars came out of Japan, so we looked at some of the most iconic models that transcended everyday transportation. Buckle up, because these cars redefined speed and power for decades to come.

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Nissan GT-R R34 Z-Tune

Few cars have graced as many magazine covers as the Nissan GT-R. The R34 was one of the most iconic sports cars in history. Its design set it apart from every other sports car on the market. The performance of the Z-Tune makes it faster than just about every other variation of the car (via Supercar Nostalgia).

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The R-34 Z-Tune was one of the most notorious Nissan sports cars ever built. It had everything that true racing enthusiasts wanted in a street-legal package. The ordinary Nissan sports cars are legendary, but this one took things to a whole new level.

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Toyota 2000GT

The Toyota 2000GT was one of the most awe-inspiring vehicles Toyota ever built. There were only 351 units of the car ever built. It was a mid-engined sports car with a beautiful look and feel, but it was the performance of the 2000GT that made it truly legendary (via Hot Cars).

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Few Japanese sports cars were as legendary as the 2000GT. It has the reputation of being one of the most fun-to-drive cars ever built. While the Supra Turbo takes the crown as the most well-known Toyota sports car, it’s the 2000GT that paved the way for high performance in a Toyota.

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Honda NSX-R

Honda has built a lot of legendary sports cars over the years, but the NSX took the crown as the first supercar. The NSX-R took things to the next level, with added horsepower and a refined suspension. Anybody who knows about the Honda Type-R vehicles knows that these are true performance vehicles (via Top Gear).

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The unique style of the NSX gave off real Ferrari vibes, but it was actually an Acura. People were enamored with the unique styling of the car, and the performance was surprisingly good. The NSX-R was a bonified supercar and it redefined what we consider a legendary Japanese sports car.

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Subaru Impreza 22B STi

The Subaru Impreza 22B STi was one of the most iconic Japanese sports cars that came out of the 1990s. The company was riding high after winning a string of WRC titles and the 22B STi was the fruit of that labor. The special edition blue paint job and gold rims became an iconic part of Subaru advertising (via Car & Driver).

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The Impreza 22B was one of the most legendary Japanese sports cars on the road. Between its beautiful styling and fast off-the-line performance, the Impreza from this generation was one of the most well-known sports cars on the road.

Mazda RX-7
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Mazda RX-7 FD

The RX-7 was one of the most notable sports cars of all time and the FD took things to the next level. The sleek styling of the FD was one of the most prominent designs of the 1990s. The rotary engine was one of the most high-performance offerings in a car and remains a popular choice to this day (via EVO).

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The RX-7 revolutionized the way that we enjoyed sports cars, and everything about it was better than anything that came before it. The styling of the final generation coupled with the bulletproof rotary engine changed the way that we drove.

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Mitsubishi Evolution VI Tommi Mäkinen Edition

The Mitsubishi Lancer has had a long history as a successful racecar, especially in the rally circuit. The Tommi Mäkinen Edition was the epiphany of everything that the company was on the race track. The beautiful paint scheme and amazing performance gave the car handling and off-the-line numbers like never before (via Hot Cars).

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The Evolution VI Tommi Mäkinen Edition was one of the most popular versions of the Lancer. Although it wasn’t as well known as the later models, true enthusiasts know what this car brings to the table.

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Toyota Supra Mk4

Released at the end of the Supra lifecycle, the MK4 was the epitome of performance and style. Everything about this car screams sleek 1990s sports car even though the initial sales numbers weren’t impressive. Consumers just didn’t want sports cars in the late ’90s and Toyota discontinued it (via Export Japan).

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Nowadays, the Supra Turbo is one of the most wanted used cars on the road. Thanks to the over-engineered design of the car, there were very few that competed with it. The styling and performance were revered and the value of the MK4 only rises every year.

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Mazda MX-5 (NA)

The Miata changed the game when it hit the market because it was an affordable, fun-to-drive convertible. The beautiful styling was ahead of its time, and the performance was exceptional for the price. The MX-5 was designed to handle well which is why the wheelbase was extremely short (via Car & Driver).

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In terms of a quintessential 1990s roadster, the Miata was at the top of most auto fans’ lists. It made an undeniable mark on the auto world at the time and will be remembered forever due to that.

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Lexus LFA

Putting the words Lexus and Supercar in the same sentence doesn’t happen often, but that was the case with the LFA. With a whopping 300K price tag, this car was designed to compete with the likes of Ferrari. The production numbers of the LFA were extremely low and the car was designed for true enthusiasts (via Car & Driver).

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The Lexus LFA was unlike anything else that the company has built, and it resonated with performance shoppers. Although the model didn’t last very long on the market, it was still iconic. Between the beautiful styling and the one-of-a-kind performance, the LFA was a true gem.

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Nissan GT-R R34

The Nissan GT-R R34 was another well-known sports car that made waves in Japan. The sleek styling and stellar performance pushed the GT-R to the next level. The R34 was one of the most notable Nissan sports cars ever built, because of the high performance and the amazing detail in every inch of the design (via Motor Trend).

Nissan Skyline GT-R - Nissan GT-R
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The R34 was a purpose-built Skyline in every sense of the word. Now that it can legally be imported into the US there are going to be more of these on the roads. The price tag for them is also going to increase dramatically as time goes on. When it comes to verified Nissan performance, there aren’t a lot of cars that can really compete with the R34.

Toyota MR2 (SW20)
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Toyota MR2 Mk2 (Turbocharged)

Known affectionately as the “poor” man’s Ferrari, the MK2 was the phony of Toyota’s design. The mid-engined design gave the car a great deal of performance for the price.

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This was also the generation of the MR2 that sold the worst out of all of them, so these models are becoming increasingly rare as time marches on (via Car Throttle).

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Honda Integra Type R DC2

Few cars have become as much of a cultural phenomenon as the Integra Type R. The car had the performance that people craved at a time when compact sports car wasn’t popular. The Type-R is one of the rarest versions of the Integra and it’s also one of the most expensive ones you can get (via Car & Driver).

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Enthusiasts like the Type R because of the excellent performance and the one-of-a-kind design. The bulletproof reliability of the car was also a strong selling point, and the parts are still easy to come across. The Integra has gone on to become one of the most iconic Honda nameplates of all time.

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Mitsubishi GTO/3000GT (Twin Turbo)

Mitsubishi is no stranger to building super powerful twin-turbo cars, and the 3000GT was at the forefront of that revolution. The beautiful styling of the 3000GT was the first and main selling point of the car.

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The twin-turbo had comparable performance to the Supra Turbo and the Nissan 300ZX, although the 3000GT doesn’t get as much credit.

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Nissan 300ZX Z32 Twin-Turbo

Nissan has a long history of building amazing performance cars, and the 300ZX Twin-Turbo was at the forefront of that. But the 1990s model was an especially beautiful example of excellent engineering. Available in a coupe or a convertible, this was a modern-feeling sports car that pushed out some of the highest performance numbers of the decade (via Car & Driver).

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The twin-turbo-powered 300ZX broke a lot of records in the automobile industry and people revered the design. The car ended up being discontinued like a lot of sports cars in the 1990s but it continues to rise in value. When it comes to rare performance-oriented coupes, you can’t go wrong with the 300ZX.

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Honda S2000

The Honda S2000 was a surprise sports car when it hit the market because it was a departure for Honda. Under the hood of the S2000 wasn’t a fancy turbo, it was all stock. The engine was naturally aspirated and the performance that the car pumped out was more than acceptable for most enthusiasts (via Car & Driver).

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The S2000 didn’t stay on the market for a long time and there hasn’t been a successor to it. Indeed this was truly a once-in-a-lifetime offering from Honda. The S2000 had everything that a true enthusiast wants and it handled itself quite well on the track. The value of the S2000 is going to steadily rise as time goes on.

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Nissan Fairlady Z (Datsun 240Z)

The Datsun 240Z was one of the most iconic cars ever released, especially in a sports car. It had all the right characteristics to make it stand out from the crowd. The design of the car was very modest but it did everything right in terms of performance. The engine was one of the best that Nissan ever put into a car (via Car & Driver).

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The Z car has become an iconic part of the automotive industry and history, and it continues to rise in value. Few car companies have built as iconic of a car as the Datsun Z, it’s the car that set the stage for the rest of the automotive industry. The style and performance of the car were the quintessential fusing of quality and performance.

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Honda Civic Type R

The Civic Type R was one of the most well-known sports cars of the late ’90s. The car had everything you could want in a bargain-basement Civic. With the iconic blue paint job and the unique stance of the car, it became a sales success for Honda. There were very few cars from this era that was as fun to drive as the Civic Type R (via Super Car Nostalgia).

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The Civic Type R was another well-known offering from the period and went to show that Honda wasn’t playing when it came to performance. The car had every bit of performance and style that you’d expect without going too far overboard and it was what buyers wanted.

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Nissan Nismo R35 GT-R

When the R35 was released, it was a groundbreaking car that brought the legendary Skyline name back. There was a lot of hoorah around the car initially and the performance was groundbreaking. The rarity of the GT-R R35 is what makes it such a great sports car. Coupled with the modern interior and engine, the car is every bit a modern supercar (via Nissan News).

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The R35 is the quintessential sports car in every sense of the word, the beautiful styling and the one-of-a-kind performance shouldn’t be overlooked. The car is beautiful from top to bottom and it will only become more of a classic as time goes on. This could very well be one of the last gasoline-powered Japanese sports cars ever built.

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Toyota Celica GT-Four ST205

Surprisingly to some enthusiasts, Toyota has had quite the reputation in the rally car world. The GT-Four ST205 is the Celica that won a great deal of titles in the ’90s. The car had the modern styling of the Toyota brand at the time and the added performance of a stellar engine. This is one of the rarer Celica models from this generation (via Motorious).

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The GT-Four ST205 had several improvements over the standard Celica model. It had a much more powerful engine and enhancements to the suspension. The handling of the car was much better and the performance out of the gate was much improved over standard models.

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Nissan Nismo 400R R33 GT-R

There are a lot of rare variations of the Nismo GT-R, but one of the most well-known offerings is the 400R. This was a performance-oriented GT-R that is built exclusively for drifting. The car had a lot of great attributes to it that made it stand out from the standard fare. The engine under the hood of the 400R is a vast improvement over the base models.

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The design of the car is the thing that sticks out the most, but the performance should not be overlooked either. It is a grand example of engineering at its best. Anyone who liked the other variations of the Skyline will like this one as well.

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Toyota AE86

The AE86, or Sprinter, is one of the most well-known Toyota sports cars on the market. The car had a short wheelbase and an AWD design that made it a blast to drive. The style of the car is also an iconic point in time as it is one of the few Toyota models that looked like it did. The notable performance of the Sprinter gave it an edge on the racetrack and in general driving (via Hot Cars).

1984 Toyota Corolla SR5
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The unique style and performance of the Sprinter gave it a unique look and feel. It became an iconic sports car that enthusiasts still loathe today. The car had everything that you could want and a price tag that didn’t break the bank. Like most Toyota sports cars from this era, it was a bargain.

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Lexus SC400

The Lexus SC400 was one of the most notable luxury coupes that came out of the 1990s. The car was designed to be the flagship sports car for the new Lexus luxury brand, and it caught on quickly. The sleek styling of the car was popular with buyers who wanted something other than a Mercedes or a BMW. The build quality of the car was a major selling factor and today the SC400 was one of the highest-quality cars from the decade (via Car & Driver).

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The SC400 was sold for almost a decade without changes and it managed to sell quite well. The beautiful styling and V8 performance were the perfect blends for a sports coupe. The SC400 is definitely going to be a classic in the future and the prices for one continue to rise.

Dodge Stealth
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Dodge Stealth

The Dodge Stealth was one of the most underrated Japanese sports cars of the ’90s. The platform was shared with the Mitsubishi 3000GT and almost every inch of the car was the same. The styling was a lot more discreet than the 3000GT and in the R/T trim the Stealth was a silent beast on the race track (via Driving Line).

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The Stealth was one of the most advanced sports cars of its time and still offers a great deal. But there’s no doubt that the price will rise more as time goes on. This car is an instant classic and with the turbo-powered performance and sleek styling, you can’t go wrong.

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Nissan 240SX

The Nissan 240SX wasn’t the most technologically advanced sports car when it hit the market, but it had one of the best naturally aspirated engines on the market. The styling of the 240SX was extremely modern considering the time that it hit the market. It didn’t need all of the extra horsepower like the 300ZX (via Top Speed).

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The 240SX was one of the most notable cars on the drift circuits because of its sleek design and great driving characteristics. The car was an excellent addition to any garage and it continues to be a rising star in the classic community. Nissan has made several great sports cars over the years and the 240SX was one of the most underrated models.

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