The Japanese sports cars from the 1960s-2020s that I would love to own
I wrote a bunch of articles about mostly American Muscle Cars I'd love to own as well as some classic sports cars and one article about some awesome Restomods.
I mentioned it before in a few of the articles, but I have been living in Japan since 2003 and haven't owned a car since then. I haven't even driven since 2016. But before I moved to Japan between 1986 and 2003 I owned nine different cars. None of them were super fast or super expensive, but a few of them were pretty fun cars to drive at the time. And seven out of the nine were Japanese (technically two of those were Japanese cars with the Dodge and GMC names).
So, I decided I should write this article about all the cool Japanese sports cars from the 1960s up to the present (2022) that I would love to own.
The first car built in Japan, a steam engine powered one no less, was produced in 1904, the same year Japan invented Crystal Meth incidentally. Three years later in 1907 the first gasoline powered car was produced. Arguably, since at least the 1970s Japan has been building some of the best cars in the world. If not the best cars in the world, Japan has certainly built some of the most durable ones. I don't think many car companies can boast of building cars that regularly run for 200,000 miles or more. My dad put 145,000 miles on a 1990 Mitsubishi pickup truck and only changed the oil once.
I have to admit I didn’t and still don’t know a whole lot about Japanese sports cars, though I did own a 1984 Toyota MR2. A car that I absolutely loved. I also owned a 1998 Subaru Forester and a 1998 Subaru Outback Legacy, not sports cars of course, but they did at least get me really interested in the 90s era Subaru WRXs. So, when I started writing this article that was about the extent of my knowledge concerning Japanese sports cars. Strange in a way, since I have lived in Japan since 2003 and there is a used car dealership near my house that specializes in the legendary 80s era Nissan Skylines. I have learned a lot of cool stuff though about some of the amazing sports cars that the Japanese car companies have produced and of course, that I would love to own.
1969 Datsun Roadster 2000
This is a cool looking little roadster and from what I've read, one that was winning its fair share of races at the time all over the world.
1969 Mazda Cosmo
This is the first rotary engine powered sports car. It looks to me like a super pricey high end Italian or French sports car, but nope, it is an awesome little Mazda! The one Jay Leno's Youtube video is a 1970 with some modifications that had to be done to get it running apparently, but I think it looks and probably drives very similarly to an original 1966 would have when it was brand new.
1978 Datsun 280 Z
As a kid living in the Seattle area, I remember there was briefly a dealership that sold Datsun Z cars that had a Seahawks theme on the side of them. I think 100 were given to Seahawk players and 100 were sold to the public. Kind of cheesy now, but at the time I thought those were the coolest looking sports cars ever made. Cheesy paint jobs aside, in the 1970’s the Datsun Z cars were stylish, fast, and a great handling car for their day.
1979 Mazda RX7
My downstairs neighbor in the late 80s had a 1979 Mazda Rx7 that he used to race. He was a mechanic and knew cars very well. One day I was bragging about the new engine I had just dropped in my 1975 Firebird. He just sort of sniffed and said, "Believe it or not, but my little RX7 can run circles around your Firebird." I didn't believe him at the time and because his RX7 wasn't street legal he never got to prove it to me, but now I have no doubts that his RX7 would have destroyed my Firebird in just about any type of race I challenged him to.
1984 Toyota MR2
It was 1994 when I bought mine used, but I can say for sure that these were fun cars to drive. In 1987 I raced a 1986 MR2 that I think had the supercharger in my 1975 Firebird right after I had a new 350 dropped in it and the MR2 kept up easily. We were just racing in a straight line from stoplight to stoplight. I know if we had of been on a winding road I would have gotten stomped badly by that quick little car.
1989 Nissan Skyline GT-R R32
This is one of those cars that took on nearly mythical proportions in the US at the time mainly because you couldn’t get one. Even though I have lived in Japan since 2003 and there is a used car dealership near my house that specializes in classic Nissan Skylines, they still pull a serious and appreciative doubletake out of me every time I see one.
1991 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4
This one might seem like a strange choice since I think there is a strong argument to be made for several better Japanese sports cars from the 90s, but this one has a special place in my heart. My uncle, through his business, knows Roger Penske and attends the Indianapolis 500 every year. Because my uncle's company buys auto parts from companies all over the world he would often receive tickets to various motorsports events to my uncle. One year my uncle was given VIP tickets to an Indy car race at Laguna Seca, but couldn't go because of other obligations. So, he gave the two tickets to me and I took one of my gearhead buddies. Part of the VIP package was getting to ride around the race track in one of the pace cars they had there before the race started. I took a ride in a 1991 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4. It is the fastest I have ever gone in a car. In the straightaways, we were doing at least 140 mph. It was an amazing ride, so I included the 1991 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4 here.
1995 Subaru WRXsti
Subaru seems like it gets no love from Japanese sports car enthusiasts. I never see any of their cars included in any of the top ten lists. But I love Subaru. Before I moved to Japan my last two cars in the US were a 1998 Forester and a 1998 Outback Legacy, both great cars. And the first gen WRX sti was a great performer for its time. This is a video of a 1996 WRX sti and the dude in it is a bit of a wanker at the start of the video. Apparently, he can't properly pronounce Subaru (SooBahRoo). He keeps calling it a SawBahRah, whatever the hell that is. But the test drive still shows what these cars were capable of in the mid-90s.
2005 Acura NSX
This was the last year of the first gen NSXs. I think any fan of the movie Pulp Fiction remembers the scene where The Wolf speeds off in his silver 1992 NSX. A cool car for a cool character in a cool movie.
2010 Lexus LFA
This one is actually a true Supercar, some would say the best Japanese Supercar ever built. And that engine, oh the beautiful sounding engine!
2013 Subaru BRZ
I already said it, I'm a Subaru fanboy! This one also works for Toyota fans as well since it was a joint venture by Subaru and Toyota. Their version is the Toyota 86.
2020 Toyota GR Supra Launch
The Toyota Supra is a much loved classic Japanese sports car that started out in 1978, but actually traces its roots all the way back to the 2000GT. I think this one is a very impressive edition in both looks and performance.
2022 Nissan Nismo GT-R
0 to 60 in 2.9 seconds! Nuff said!
Well, I hope I did all these amazing cars from my adopted home country Japan proper justice with this article. As I said, I'm mainly just a car Geek/fan, so apologies to any of the true car aficionados or experts out there if I got some stuff wrong, but I'm confident my excitement and appreciation for all these cars comes through in these somewhat silly articles.