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Samurai Warriors: Top Classic Sports Cars From Japan

Vukasin Herbez March 30, 2018

Today’s Japanese car industry is a widely respected giant of the car world and one of the leaders in the future of the automotive sector. But it wasn’t always like that. Not so long ago, people considered Japanese cars obscure and diminutive. But despite that, brands like Toyota, Datsun and Honda survived, thrived and became bigger than traditional names like Pontiac or Oldsmobile.

In the 1970’s, if you told an automotive expert that Toyota would sell more cars than Chrysler in America by the end of the century, they would laugh and call you crazy. There are several major reasons why Japanese manufacturers managed to rise to the top. One top reason is they offered products buyers wanted that the domestic and European brands didn’t have. Among those products are the most interesting are sports cars. Japanese brands had sports cars in their line up from the beginning.

Those models were smaller, slower and less powerful than what the average American customer thought a sports car should be. However, the affordable prices made them a popular choice. One of the first Japanese bestsellers in the U.S. were sports models like the Datsun 240Z, for example. This lineup of legendary Japanese models will show the evolution from small, inexpensive machines to modern-day supercars. This list will cover the cars from 60’s to ’90s.

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40. Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX

In most cases, the Eclipse was just an attempt from Mitsubishi to introduce a sports coupe. They built it on a regular car platform and it even shared an engine and front-wheel drivetrain with the rest of the Mitsubishi line up. However, there was one special model from the ’90s that was highly respected and worth looking for in the form of the Eclipse GSX.

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The Eclipse GSX is an all-wheel-drive version with a highly tuned 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine producing 210 HP. Best of all, with its relatively light body and AWD advantage, the Eclipse GSX is a rapid coupe.

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39. Gigliato Aerosa

When they presented it in 1997, the Aerosa was an interesting supercar from a joint venture between the Gigliato Design Company from Japan and Lamborghini. Lamborghini did the engineering work and fabrication of the prototype and Gigliato did the design and aesthetics, obviously.

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They sourced the power from Ford in the form of the 4.6-liter Mustang V8 producing around 300 HP. Even though the proposed price wasn’t so high, and the car had respectable figures, the project never advanced beyond the prototype/one-off phase.


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38. Toyota 2000 GT

Back in the ’60s, Toyota was an obscure little factory that had just started selling cars in the U.S., in small numbers. But in 1967 it introduced one of the most interesting sports cars of the decade – the 2000 GT. Think of it as a Lexus LFA of the 1960s and that is exactly what this little coupe was. It was a superb driving machine in a perfectly balanced package with a lively engine and astonishing build quality. They introduced the car in 1967 and turned the eyes of the car world to a small company from war-torn Japan. All car magazines of the period praised the ride and driving dynamics.

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Although it only produced 150 HP from a high revving 2.0-liter six-cylinder, the 2000 GT provided a decent performance and almost racecar-like handling. In the late ’60s, this car was in the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) championship where it had much success. Unfortunately, due to high prices and poor brand recognition, the number of 2000 GTs sold were low at 351 cars up to 1970. It didn’t even help that they featured the 2000 GT in a James Bond film. But, you couldn’t call it a failure. The 2000 GT did exactly what it was supposed to do. It showed the world that the Japanese car industry was the next big thing in the car world and can produce fantastic sports cars.

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37. Datsun Fairlady Roadster

Most people know Japanese manufacturers started selling downsized copies of European and American cars. One of the most interesting Japanese copies of European cars was the cute and compact Datsun Fairlady Roadster. They built them from 1959 to 1970 and people also knew these cars as Datsun Sports. Datsun borrowed the design, technology, and feel from British roadsters, especially from the Triumph and MG.

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However, Datsun did more than just copy the British. They gave the little roadster some significant power with a 2.0-liter engine, as well as better handling and driving dynamics. And, most importantly, they guaranteed the quality of the cars, which is something the British examples had difficulties doing. Datsun made over 40,000 of these cool little cars over an 11-year production period. They sold most of them in America with left-hand drive.

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36. Mazda 110 S Cosmo

Back in the ’60s, the biggest news among the car engineers was the Wankel rotary engine. The innovative concepts of a single-piston engine that were lighter and smaller than conventional units with more power and revving capacity captivated several major manufacturers. One of the first companies to introduce this engine in mass production was Mazda in 1967. They put the Wankel rotary engine in their sports coupe, the 110 S Cosmo. This was a sharp-looking two-seater with a modern design and a tiny 982 cc engine with 110 or 130 HP in later versions.

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Since the car was extremely small and light, the performance was vivid, especially for the standards of the day. They imported the Mazda 110 S Cosmo to the U.S., but the reception was nonexistent. Mazda was a new name to the American customers, so the Wankel-powered two-seater for Corvette prices was hard to sell. That is why they only made around 1,300 cars. Also, those 110 S Cosmos with left-hand drive are rare today.

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35. Honda S600/S800 Roadster

Honda was one of the first Japanese car companies to enter the American market in the 1960s. But the first Hondas weren’t cars because they made only small, durable scooter motorcycles in those days. However, Honda always had the ambition of producing cars. And one of their first models was the cute little roadster they introduced in 1964 they called the S600. The S600 was a two-seater convertible with extremely compact dimensions. It was also lightweight and powered by a small 600cc engine.

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It had 57 HP, but a lively performance since the car weighed just 1,500 pounds. Interestingly, the S600 had a chain drive, which was a primitive drivetrain system straight from motorcycle production. In 1967, Honda introduced the S800. It was an upgraded, more powerful version with a bigger 800 cc engine and 70 HP that was also available as a coupe. They discontinued production in 1970 after building more than 22,000 of these Kei car roadsters and coupes. The car wasn’t initially popular on the American market, but today, car collectors treasure it.

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34. Nissan Silvia CSP 311

You probably know the Nissan Silvia for its widely popular S14 and S15 versions they produced in the 1990s. They became the definitive drift cars, but the story of the Silvia as one of Nissan`s most legendary sports cars dates to the mid-’60s. In fact, the cool-looking Silvia CSP 311 coupe was one of the first modern sports cars from this brand. Nissan introduced the car in 1964 at the Tokyo Motor Show. The Silvia CSP 311 was a big step forward for this still obscure manufacturer.

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The car had European looks and proportions and it was luxurious by Japanese standards of the time. It was also a sports coupe with rear-wheel drive and a 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 96 HP, delivering a decent performance. However, the first Silvia was expensive for the Japanese domestic market. They sold just 554 of them, most of which stayed in Japan. Today, car fans regard the Silvia CSP 311 as one of the most influential early Japanese sports cars.

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33. Datsun 510

The Datsun 510 is an interesting car. Today, it is popular among Japanese Domestic Model (JDM) enthusiasts in America. However, it wasn’t a proper sports car. The standard Datsun 510 was affordable, compact sedans or wagons. They were popular choices for cash-strapped buyers in the late 1960s and early ’70s. But a small, lightweight body, lively engine, independent rear suspension, and rear-wheel drive transformed it into a performance car like the BMW 2002.

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The base engine was a 1.6-liter four-cylinder with 96 HP. But with the 1.8-liter unit with twin-barrel carburetors, this little car had some power and convincing performance. It was also available as a two-door coupe and became a popular basis for modifications. The 510 was one of the first successful racing cars in America. It was also an SCCA champion in the hands of John Morton from the Brock Racing Enterprises team.

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32. Nissan Skyline 2000 GT-R Hakosuka

One of the most famous model names in the whole history of Japanese performance and sports cars is Nissan’s Skyline GT-R. They introduced it in 1968. The Skyline GT-R started as a performance version of the upscale Skyline model. However, with so many significant design and mechanical changes, Nissan promoted it to a JDM performance legend. They called the first GT-R the Hakosuka, which is a Japanese term for “box.” They named the car Hakosuka since it featured square lines and a boxy profile. But underneath the sheet metal was sports car technology with a high revving 2.0-liter six-cylinder engine and 160 HP.

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The Hakosuka GT-R had race-tuned brakes and steering, and an independent rear suspension, making it capable on the street and on the race track, too. Unfortunately, they never imported this model to America. But today, it is highly collectible, expensive, even though Nissan only produced it in the right-hand configuration. They built the Hakosuka from 1969 to 1972, making almost 2,000 of them.

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31. Datsun 240Z

The Datsun 240Z was the first highly successful Japanese sports car on the American market. In fact, it is a legend that is still highly desirable, even today. The 240Z was a proper sports model featuring a bigger engine and better construction. It also had more power and performance than anything coming from Japan in those days. Critics say it was a copy of several European designs. Nevertheless, the 240Z managed to impress car buyers and create its own segment. Datsun introduced the 240Z to America in 1970, and it was a perfect car for the times. The muscle car craze was winding down. Safety regulations killed those domestic performance cars in the U.S.

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So people were looking for alternatives that could provide similar driving excitement with better handling and attractive prices. The European models were too expensive, so the Datsun 240Z was the right car for the moment. The early models had 150 HP from 2.4-liter six-cylinder, which delivered an impressive performance. Over the years, Datsun improved the original model with bigger 2.6 and 2.8-liter engines, and several restyles. The demand was always fantastic, so when they discontinued the first series of Z cars in 1978, Datsun had made over 300,000 of them. This made the 240Z one of the most successful sports cars in history.

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30. Mazda RX-3 Coupe

There was a limited appeal for Mazda’s Wankel engine offerings due to the problematic durability and unusual driving dynamics. However, the company continued to offer this type of engine in their models for U.S. buyers, even in compact pickup trucks. But in the early ’70s, the most interesting Mazda was the small but lively RX-3 Coupe. This tiny car was a fastback coupe with modern design cues, although on a much smaller scale than U.S. or European cars. The most important feature was the engine.

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Under the hood was a two-rotor, 1.1-liter Wankel unit with 91 HP. This may not sound like much because most foreign markets got the same engine with 115 HP. However, the domestic emissions regulations choked this little rotary motor. The light 2,300-pound weight, manual gearbox with short gearing, and high revving engine made this tiny coupe capable. The car even broke a few records at Bonneville in 1974.

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29. Nissan Skyline 2000 GT-R Kenmeri

The first GT-R they called the Hakosuka proved to be a good halo car for the Nissan corporation. It showed Nissan was competent and could build fast cars, even though it limited their appeal on the domestic and a few Asian markets. So, in 1972, Nissan introduced the second generation of their fantastic 2000 GT-R. They called it the Kenmeri. It was a redesigned car with unchanged mechanics. This means the high revving 2.0-liter six-cylinder retained its 160 HP rating. But the suspension, brakes, and steering received some minor modifications.

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The Kenmeri nickname came from a popular Japanese TV commercial showing a young couple, Ken and Mary, and the new Skyline. Viewers found this ad interesting, so the car got its name from two characters from the marketing campaign. This generation is extremely rare since they only produced it for one year in 1973. They only built 197 GT-R Kenmeris.

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28. Mazda RX7

The resurgence of interest in Japanese sports cars from the ’70s has been one of the biggest news in the classic car world in recent years. The forgotten models, some even with RHD-only configurations are becoming popular. In fact, some U.S. enthusiasts are importing them from Japan or Australia. If you are looking for a genuine JDM example, you are late since the prices are stratospheric and choices are limited. However, there is an alternative in the form of the Mazda RX-7. The first generation of compact Mazda sports car has all the right ingredients to become a cult classic.

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It’s 40 years old, has rear-wheel drive, a specific design, pop-up headlights, and interesting technology. The RX7 is affordable and plentiful and even had some racing success. Mazda introduced the first generation in 1978. It stayed on the market until 1985. During that period, they built almost 500,000 RX-7s, selling most of them in America. Under the hood was a 1.1 to 1.3-liter Wankel rotary engine that was the RX-7’s most notable feature. Its extremely compact and light engine produced 102 to 135 HP, which delivered a lively performance.

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27. Toyota Celica A20/A30

After the sales flop of the advanced 2000 GT in the late 60’s, Toyota still wanted to enter the American sports car market. They realized they needed a conventional model with a much lower price. However, the design needed to be similar to the already known form. And that is how the first generation 1970 to 1977 Toyota Celica came to be. They built it on the standard Toyota Carina chassis. But the Celica was one step above the popular Corolla in size, technology, and engine power. They presented the new Celica to the American buyers in 1970 with two body styles, a regular two-door coupe and hardtop fastback.

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People immediately compared the new Celica to the Ford Mustang because Ford’s pony car was the inspiration for it. The A20 was also a sportier version of their regular production sedan, just like the Mustang was for Ford. The Celica proved to be popular, so by the end of 1977, Toyota sold more than 200,000. The best versions were with the 2.0 and 2.2-liter engines that delivered solid performances and satisfying driving dynamics at a modest price. Did you find your favorite from this list of top classic sports cars from the land of the rising sun? If you did, you’d better hurry up and snap it up before they become even rarer and more expensive.

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26. Toyota Sports 800

This was the first Toyota sports car they introduced in 1962. In those days, Toyota was a small unknown company, so it is not strange that they limited their sales to Asian markets only.

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It had a diminutive 800 CCM engine with 45 HP. But, despite its extremely modest displacement and power, the Sports 800 had performance credentials because it was extremely light and agile. They ceased production in 1969 after over 3,100 examples were built.

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25. Mitsubishi Starion

The Mitsubishi Starion is a forgotten JDM legend from the early ’80s. It featured a turbocharged engine and cool period styling with mandatory pop-up lights. It had rear-wheel drive and composed handling, making it Mitsubishi`s answer to the Mazda RX7 and Nissan 300 ZX.

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Buyers could choose between 2.0 and 2.6-liter engines. Although both had the same power level, the 2.6-liter had much more torque. On the American market, they sold the Starion as the Chrysler Conquest.

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24. Toyota Celica Supra

For those customers who found the standard Celica not agile or powerful enough, Toyota introduced the 1978 model year Celica Supra. It came with a cool-looking hatchback body style and a six-cylinder engine to power the rear wheels. The main engine for the Celica Supra was a 2.5 liter straight six with 110 HP.

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But for those who wanted more power, the 3.0-liter with 116 HP was also available. Although it wasn’t anything special in terms of output, the Celica Supra provided sharp handling. Also, it had an optional limited-slip differential that helped with drifting and spirited driving. The model proved popular, so the Supra later evolved into a separate model.

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23. Mazda Miata

Nobody expected the Miata to become so successful and influential when Mazda announced it in the late ’80s. But soon the industry realized the roadsters were coming back in style. So, the Miata completely dominated the market. The Miata’s secret was simplicity, as well as its light weight and balance.

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But Mazda didn’t try to invent something new. They just copied the basic concept of a classic British roadster, added modern materials and designs. This made the whole car dependable and agile. With 116 HP from a twin-cam 1.6-liter engine may not sound as much, but in a 2,200-pound car, it’s more than enough.

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22. Mitsubishi Galant GTO

To fight other Japanese companies in the profitable compact sports car market, Mitsubishi introduced the Galant GTO in 1970 as an affordable sports coupe. They built the car on a Galant sedan platform, sharing all key components and dimensions.

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However, the Galant GTO had its own four-cylinder engines ranging from the diminutive 1.6-liter to the 2.0-liter they fed through multiple carburetor setups. The power output was 100 HP, but since the Galant GTO was so light, most owners experienced a vivid performance from this little coupe.

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21. Honda CRX

Available between 1983 and 1991, they based the CRX on the Civic. However, it came with a lower, sportier body and only two seats. Since it was light, nimble and came with precise steering, the CRX was a true sports car. This was even with its front-wheel drive and 140 HP. The biggest selling points of this model were the extremely light body, as the whole car weighed 1,800 pounds.

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Also, it had a high revving four-cylinder engine. Even though the CRX only produced 140 HP in its most powerful version, you could feel every one of those horses when you pressed on the gas pedal. Also, since the car was so light, its handling and fuel economy were exceptional. The only downside was safety. Since it was so light, the car was fragile and dangerous in a crash because it couldn’t provide protection for drivers.

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20. Toyota MR2

Back in the mid-80s, Toyota shocked the automotive world by introducing the MR2. It was a small mid-engine sports car delivering a great performance. The MR2 also delivered superb road holding and an affordable price.

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They introduced the first-generation MR2 in 1984. It featured 1.5-liter and 1.6-liter four-cylinder engines mounted centrally behind the driver and between the cabin and rear axle. This setup gave this little car fantastic handling. The second-generation MR2 lasted into the ’90s. It was more modern-looking and came with better technology and sharper handling.

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19. Toyota AE86

The Toyota AE86 story is quite interesting since they never intended this model to be a proper performance machine. However, it became one of the biggest JDM legends of the ’80s. The trick was that the AE86 was a version of the standard Corolla model. But since the eighth generation was also the last rear-wheel-drive model, the engineers thought they should add a high revving 1.6-liter engine to transform the car.

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The results were fantastic and the AE 86 wasn’t a boring, slow Corolla any longer. Instead, it was an agile, light, and nimble machine. And it appealed to driving enthusiasts who wanted a precise driving machine but didn’t have the money for a new BMW E30 325i. Due to the rear-wheel-drive platform, stiff suspension and optional limited-slip differential, the AE 86 soon became a drift legend they still use in drift events all around the world.

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18. Isuzu 117 Coupe

They never offered the gorgeous Isuzu 117 Coupe on the American market, which is a shame. But even with its limited production, the 117 managed to become one of the early Japanese classics as well as an influential model. Back in the late ‘60s, Isuzu was building and selling passenger cars they later abandoned in favor of trucks and pickups. However, they knew they needed a halo car. And it had to be something to turn the attention of the industry on Isuzu as well as present them in the best possible light.

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So they used their existing passenger car rear-wheel drive platform. And then they paired it with a 1.6 liter, and later, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. After that, they went to Italy to find a fashionable suit. There, Isuzu contacted the famous designer, Giorgetto Giugiaro, who provided them with an elegant, cool-looking coupe design. This was the final piece of the puzzle so in 1968, the beautiful Isuzu 117 Coupe debuted. The car stayed in production until 1981 selling in reasonably large numbers. Despite the fact it wasn’t particularly fast or agile, the 117 Coupe was a comfortable GT perfect for relaxing cruising.

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17. Autozam AZ-1

If you don’t know what this is, nobody could blame you. It is a tiny sports car powered by a turbocharged three-cylinder engine with 660 ccs and 64 HP. Although Mazda built it, Suzuki sold it in limited numbers, from 1992 to 1995. During that time, Mazda built less than 5,000 of them.

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Despite its size and 1,500 pounds of weight, the Autozam AZ-1 was a proper sports car. In fact, some people consider it the only supercar in the Kei Car segment. It comes with a perfect chassis, gullwing doors, and decent performance, making it the favorite driving machine in Japan at the moment. The bizarre styling but lively driving dynamics give owners a unique driving experience. And that is one of the main reasons you should consider importing this little gem. Even though they never officially sold the AZ-1 outside of Japan, you can now import it to the USA since it is older than 25 years.

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16. Toyota Supra Mk4

Although the new 2019 Supra if finally hitting the showrooms, the last model and fourth generation, which they introduced in 1993, is infamous. This is one of the most iconic Japanese sports cars that has reached legendary status by appearing in many street racing movies, including the Fast and Furious franchise. Also, you’ll see it in numerous racing games and music videos.

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And if you think the Supra’s popularity is purely due to its media appearances, think again. This is one serious machine, especially in the Turbo version. The base model is naturally-aspirated, and despite being quick, the most sought-after model is the 3.0-liter straight six twin-turbo variant pumping out 276 HP. Even though 276 HP may not sound like much, the engine produces somewhat more than is advertised and has fantastic tuning potential. So much so, that today it is hard to find a stock Supra, because with just a few bolt-on power adders, and a bigger turbo and intake system, you can send all the way to 1,000 HP to the rear wheels.

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15. Acura NSX

Honda planned this model for a long time. The basic idea was to introduce a sports car with the technology of a supercar. And it had to have uncompromised performance, power, and design. To say that Honda succeeded in all of that would be an understatement since the NSX was all-around brilliant.

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Basically, the buyers got Ferrari performance and look for supermarket prices, along with Honda’s signature reliability and low maintenance costs. The heart of the NSX was a 3.0-liter V6 with 274 HP and a 3.2-liter V6 with 290 HP later. Since the car was light, the 0 to 60 mph time was a lightning-quick five seconds with top speeds of over 170 mph. The introduction of the NSX stunned the competitors as well as the entire car market. Nobody expected such a bold move and such a composed and complete car. The NSX was not only capable but also extremely balanced thanks to the mid-engine layout and clever engineering.

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14. Nissan 300 ZX

One of the best cars in a long line of Z-named Nissan sports coupes was the 300 ZX. Nissan introduced it in 1990 and discontinued it in 1996. Car enthusiasts respect this model since the 300 ZX was a proper sports coupe. It had the technology and performance to rival those much more expensive, exclusive cars. The twin-turbo V6 engine pumped out 300 HP and the 300 ZX could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just 5.5 seconds and top 150 mph.

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Those results are still impressive today. Although the maintenance costs can be a little higher than its competitors, the Nissan 300 ZX is still a great choice. Not only is this car fast, it also has decent comfort and equipment. The tuning potential of the turbo V6 is great. Aftermarket components are plentiful for this model. If you want your 300 ZX to be even faster and quicker, you can do it quite easily. The prices for this model are currently at around $10,000 for pristine cars with a full service history and no accidents. You can find them for less, but it is possible these will not be as dependable. Since the 90’s Japanese cars are slowly becoming more desirable, hurry up before the price of the Nissan 300 ZX explodes.

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13. Nissan Skyline R32

Anybody who played racing games in the last 20 years will know about the R32. This crazy powerful all-wheel-drive Japanese coupe was on top of many American enthusiasts’ wish lists for a quarter of a century. But now it is finally eligible to import. They presented this model in 1989 but introduced the best versions in the early 90s. This makes the GT-R version a quintessential 90’s car.

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For those who want the facts, it was a two-door coupe with intelligent all-wheel drive. It had a 2.6-liter turbocharged engine with 276 HP stock and a lot of tuning potential. Unfortunately, all R32s are right-hand-drive models since Nissan produced them for Japanese and Australian markets mostly. But for true JDM fans, this just adds to their appeal. American fans of the Skyline R34 will be pleased to know they can now import this car legally. Their time is limited because the prices are sure to go up.

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12. Honda Civic Type R

Japanese manufacturers were always active in the hot hatch class. However, only a few of their models received cult status and a place in hot hatch hall of fame. One of those cars is the first Civic Type R they introduced in 1997. This car was especially well received in America. Its performance, driving dynamics, road holding and light weights were famous with budget-minded enthusiasts who wanted performance.

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The heart of the EK9 generation Civic Type R was a 1.6-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder with the famous V-Tec system, which delivered 185 HP. This high power output was legendary. Even though there wasn’t much space for engine tuning, you could take the rear seat out and make your Civic lighter and faster. The car stayed in production until 2000 and still is a popular model amongst the hot hatch fans in America.

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11. Mazda 323/Familia GTR

The early `90s were a perfect time for the introduction of rally homologation specials and many European and Japanese companies did just that. Almost all those models became successful on the rally stages and legends of the hot hatch segment.

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However, some of them remained popular all those years and some fell into oblivion. This car is one of the latter. Called Mazda Familia GTR for Asian markets and 323 GTR for the European market, it was a very competent and fast version of the popular Mazda compact car. But GTR meant more than just a cool nameplate. That meant a highly tuned version of a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and special all-wheel drive. The power output was pretty high at 205 HP, and AWD system meant that this little compact handled like a dream. Today, they are pretty rare and not so expensive so hurry up and snap this obscure piece of rally history.

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10. Honda S2000

Honda introduced the S2000 in 1999 and discontinued it in 2009. The S2000 is a 90’s model, even though they presented it at the end of the decade. This model was a true driver’s car with all the important features. It had a lightweight construction, ideal weight distribution, and a powerful, rev-happy engine. It also provided razor-sharp handling in an elegant open-top package.

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Under the hood was a 2.0 or 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine with 240 HP, which was the main selling point of the car. This little gem of an engine featured a 9,000-rpm redline and four valves per cylinder. It had the famous Honda’s V-Tec system, which provided power in high rpms and a wonderful screaming sound. Thanks to intelligent engineering and light weights, the S2000 had a respectable performance and perfect handling, earning it universal praise. During its 10-year production run, Honda sold over 110,000 of these fast, little roadsters. You will be pleased to know you can find one today at around $6,000. However, there is one thing you should know. The S2000 is a small car with limited interior space, so if you are over six feet tall, you will probably have problems fitting inside.

Photo Credit: Mitsubishi Motors

9. Mitsubishi 3000 GT

The 3000 GT is another 90’s legend that mainstream sports car enthusiasts have forgotten, which is a shame. With pop-up headlights, rear panorama glass, and a big spoiler, the 3000 GT screams early ’90s car design. But there is much more about this car than contemporary nostalgia since this is one serious driving machine. Under the hood is a 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6 with 300 HP, which sends power to all four wheels over an intelligent AWD system.

Photo Credit: Mitsubishi Motors

This layout makes the 3000 GT a capable coupe that can tackle any road conditions and provide extra grip in extreme situations. The only downside is the weight. Since they packed the 3000 GT with technology, it tips the scale at almost 1,8 tons or 3,800 pounds. However, with an acceleration time of just over five seconds, it seems like the 3000 GT carries it with ease.

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8. Prince Skyline Sport Coupe

The car industry in post-war Japan was modest, so they concentrated on small and Kei Cars. But there was one factory that produced luxury vehicles that looked like high-priced European models. And that was the Prince Motor Company.

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The best, most influential model was the Skyline Sport Coupe with its sleek design. It had a perfect stance and a luxury feel, too. They powered it with a 1.9-liter four-cylinder engine with around 100 HP. Despite its effect on the market, the price was high, so they made just a few hundred of them.

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7. Nissan Silvia S14

Known as a Silvia or 240 SX on other markets, this was Nissan’s most affordable sports car in the mid-’90s. Nissan introduced it in 1993, and the car world instantly praised it for its handling, rear-wheel drive, and sharp steering. This was a light car with good weight distribution and decent power from four-cylinder engines.

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In stock form, S14 had from 150 to 220 HP if you chose the optional turbo engine, which were decent numbers for the period. Like all Japanese sports cars from the era, the Silvia had fantastic tuning potential, as well as dependable mechanics. This meant enthusiastic owners could easily up their power levels to over 300 HP or more and transform the Silvia into a supercar. Since it was so light and well balanced straight from the factory, the Silvia soon became a favorite car for drift races. It is still is one of the favorite choices, even 20 years after they produced it. This is a fantastic achievement for any car.

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6. Mazda RX-7

Mazda introduced the first RX-7 model in the late 70’s, but the car on this list is the third generation. They presented it in 1992 and discontinued it in 2002. If you know a thing or two about Japanese sports cars, you know that the RX-7 has a special place in the nomenclature of performance cars from the “Land of the Rising Sun.” The reason is the engine. In contrast to other cars on the market with conventional piston engines, the RX-7 had a rotary Wankel engine since the beginning. The rotary engine has many advantages over regular engines. Wankels are much smaller, simpler, capable of higher rpm and when equipped with a turbocharger, extremely powerful. The third-generation RX-7 had several versions on offer.

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It produces from 252 to 276 HP and a vivid performance thanks to its small weight and perfect balance. Of course, tuners have developed numerous add-ons and aftermarket parts for more power and torque. But, this interesting feature can be the biggest problem of the RX-7 since Wankel engines are not regular engines. Sourcing parts and service could be a problem. On the other hand, Wankel engines were always unreliable, so maintenance is a problem. However, great looks, fantastic performance and innovative technology make the third-generation RX-7 one of the greatest Japanese sports cars of the ’90s. You should grab this true modern classic before the prices start rising fast.

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5. Dome Zero

You might remember this car if you grew up in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s as one of the first Japanese supercars and a memorable wedge design in its own right. The Dome Zero was a small Japanese car company dedicated to producing expensive road-going and race models. But although they began production in 1976 and continued until 1986, it is unclear how many cars they built.

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The Dome Zero came with a 2.8-liter SOHC six-cylinder engine that produced 147 HP. Although that doesn’t sound like much, the car was extremely light and the performance was respectable. Unfortunately, they never completed the homologation process, so the Zero’s racing career was short and unsuccessful.

Photo Credit: Super Street Online

4. Acura Integra Type R

If you are a fan of the Japanese car industry and you want to own something equally important historically and a blast to drive, the Acura Type R is the car for you. As one of the most brilliant front-wheel-drive cars they ever produced, the Acura Integra Type-R is the definitive JDM legend. It is still especially popular among enthusiasts for its swift performance and fantastic handling.

Photo Credit: Super Street Online

The front-wheel drive train was the main reason the Integra Type R is so universally loved and sought after. Despite getting just 187 HP from its high revving 1.8-liter engine, the Integra Type R has a great performance, even by today’s standards. This is a definite future classic and a car you should buy today.

Photo Credit: Dna Collectibles

3. Subaru SVX

Back in the early ‘90s, Subaru wanted to enter the sports car market to promote their biggest assets, all-wheel drive, and flat-six engines. So, the company hired Italdesign to design a sleek and modern coupe. So, in 1991 the SVX debuted with strange styling like its complicated side window patents.

Photo Credit: Dna Collectibles

However, it offered sublime handling and a great performance. Under the hood was a 3.3-liter flat-six that propelled this rare car to a 7.3 second 0 to 60 mph time. But sadly, they only sold about 14,000 in America until 1996.

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2. Honda Beat

The spiritual successor to the classic Honda S600 roadster is the ’90s Honda Beat. Honda presented it in 1991 and sold it until 1996. The Beat was a small, nimble roadster with just 660 ccm of displacement and 63 HP.

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In typical Honda fashion, the car was naturally aspirated and came with a five-speed manual transmission. At just 1,656 pounds, it was immensely fun to drive. They produced over 33,000 in the five-year production run.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

1. Nissan MID 4

The 1985 to 1987 Nissan MID 4 is a brave and competent mid-engine sports car concept that unfortunately didn’t become a production model. Even though it is mostly forgotten today, it is still an interesting piece of engineering that deserves a closer look. The MID 4 had a mid-mounted 3.0-liter V6 engine producing around 200 HP.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

Nissan equipped it with specially-designed all-wheel drive and an almost perfect weight balance. Nissan envisioned it to fight sports cars from Ferrari and Porsche. Unfortunately, the company pulled the plug at the last moment, leaving the MID 4 as a concept that influenced the Honda NSX.

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