Some JDM cars we remember with fondness, later to look back and wonder why that was the case. It is like looking back at old family photos and being surprised that bell-bottom jeans were actually cool. It can be difficult for automotive brands to predict which designs will be well received. People are so fickle nowadays. One minute Daytona rims are the hype, the next minute spinners are what is cool. Jokes aside, the point is that trends and demand are always changing.
There have been many JDM cars that were the very first to implement certain features. You would think that these accomplishments would seal these cars in the JDM hall of fame, so to speak, to be adored and worshiped for generations. This is not always the case. Being innovative doesn’t mean that a car will be timeless. Neither does playing it safe.
It is complicated, to say the least, but without further ado let us check out 7 classic JDM cars that are worse than you remember (and 8 that are timeless)!
15. Worse: 1993 Honda Del Sol
In 1992, the Honda Del Sol arrived on the shores of North America (not on the literal shores). It was an affordable sports car based on the Honda Civic and made to compete with entry-level cars like the Mazda Miata. The Del Sol was Honda's first car to produce more than 100 HP per engine liter. The B16a Vtec motor was made available on some models. One outstanding feature was the ability to let the sun in via the removable Targa roof, hence the name "Del Sol". The Del Sol was not a bad car, but it is not as sought after as many other JDM cars from the same era.
14. Worse: 2005 Toyota Corolla XRS
Maybe you remember the 2005 Toyota Corolla. The XRS version had the 2zz engine which is rated at 170 HP. The engine wasn’t inherently bad, in fact, the same engine and 6-speed transmission were used in the Lotus Elise. The XRS wasn’t particularly aggressive though. It is just is not a classic like other JDM cars. It can be easy to forget that it was supposed to be competition for the Honda Civic Si.
13. Worse: 1996 Subaru SVX
The Subaru SVX concept was co-designed with the famous Giorgetto Giugiaro. The SVX debuted in 1991 and was designed to compete with other grand tourers of the era while being more affordable. Power was delivered by the EG33 flat-six engine rated at 230 HP. Subaru never developed a capable manual transmission, so the SVX was available with only a 4-speed automatic. In 1997, the last year of production, Subaru sold less than 700 models leading them to abandon the SVX altogether. Sadly, the SVX will not be remembered in the same light as other legendary JDM cars of that decade. RIP.
12. Worse: 1994 Mazda MX-6
If you think the MX-6 looks like your "Plain Jane" Mazda, then, for the most part, you would be right. Its sister car was the lackluster Ford Probe. It was available with impressive options like 4WS. This coupe also had several engine options. The most powerful V6 produced 160 HP which is a far cry away from cars like the 300zx at the time. Of course, power isn't everything, but the MX-6 just never built a strong pedigree to be a sought after JDM classic today.
11. Worse: 1991 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4
The decade of the 3000GT was a great era for JDM cars. The manufacturer had lots of money, and could thus afford to make crazy sports cars. Mitsubishi showcased their skills with the 3000GT. This grand tourer had many special features built into it like active aero, electronically adjustable suspension, and four-wheel steering. Sadly, the influx of features added a lot of weight, hurting performance, and becoming a liability more than a luxury later on.
10. Worse: 2003 Toyota MR2
Remember the 2nd gen MR2 with the turbos? Or even the 1st gen MR2 that came with a supercharger? The 2003 Toyota MR2 was neither of those. It had the 2.2 liter 5S-FE rated at 136 HP. It was most definitely an MR2 as it stood for "Mid-engine, Rear wheel drive, 2 seater". Toyota even used it in their motorsports. The 3rd gen MR2 was not a horrible car altogether, but it could never live up to the name the previous generations had created.
9. Worse: 2005 Mazda RX-8
The Mazda RX-8 will forever be a classic as one of the last JDM cars with a rotary engine. It had cool suicide style pick truck doors. If it was the car you drove to high school than you were pretty cool. Like all rotary engine cars, it could make flames out the exhaust with little modification. It is all good on paper but is still disappointing because it never ended up outperforming the former FD RX-7 that enthusiasts had come to adore. Therefore, the RX-8 will mostly live in the shadow of its RX-7 predecessor.
8. Timeless: 1996 Toyota Supra
In 1993, the world saw the birth of the Mark 4 Toyota Supra. In North America, during its 5-year production run, it made quite a name for itself that is yet to be extinguished. It was the rival of the Nissan Skyline and is home to the legendary 2JZ engine. It remains one of the proudest accomplishments for the Toyota brand. Prices of these Supras have actually increased in the past decade.
7. Timeless: 2004 Subaru Impreza WRX STI
In 2004, North American markets began to receive their very own Subaru Impreza WRX STI. This was the forbidden fruit only known in Japan. No matter how old the Impreza WRX STI gets, it seems to never go out of style. It became famous for its gigantic front hood scoop. Subaru continues to use the same EJ25 platform in the newest models. The old “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality proves true in this case.
6. Timeless: 1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX
The Mitsubishi Eclipse shared the legendary 4G63 engine and all-wheel drive “know-how” that was in the successful Evo. For this reason, it has been tearing up the streets on every unsuspecting hot rodder for decades. Tuners have modified these cars to make 700 HP and up. This makes its appearance in The Fast and the Furious movie quite fitting. This classic is becoming increasingly rare today.
5. Timeless: 2003 Honda S2000
Honda is mostly known for its efficient and occasionally performance-oriented Vtec motors. Their specialty by and far is front-engine front-wheel-drive cars. In 2005, the Honda S2000 pulled up on the scene. It had all the things enthusiasts loved about Honda, but with the thrills of an aggressive RWD roadster.
4. Timeless: 1995 Nissan 300zx
Nissan has its fair share of classics. One that will always be timeless is the 300zx. It was available with a removable top like the Honda Del Sol. It had a twin-turbo V6 engine like the Mitsubishi 3000GT. It had all the luxury of its competitors. It shared similar performance features with the Skyline, like the braking capabilities. It accomplished this, all the while remaining an exclusive successor in the Z line up.
3. Timeless: 1995 Mazda RX-7
The Mazda RX-7 is one of the black sheep of JDM classics. It is one of the most sought after and misunderstood cars of the era. It is praised for its agile handling in the motorsports arena. It weighs very light at 2826 lbs. That is more than 600 lbs less than the Toyota Supra at that time. The RX-7 produced a jaw-dropping 255 HP from an engine that is only 1.3 liters. The 13b rotary engine is yet to be seen again in new cars today.
2. Timeless: 1987 Toyota Corolla (AE86)
At the end of an era, the Toyota Corolla AE86 was the very last RWD Corolla to ever be made. It wasn't particularly power which is why many prefer other turbo cars like the Nissan Silvia. What makes the AE86 so special was that it is truly a "driver's car". It has a perfect 50/50 weight distribution. All the power is in the high revs. It takes a skilled driver to master this car and make it shine.
1. Timeless: 1999 Acura Integra Type R
Everything that Honda graced with the Type R marque turned into gold, so to speak. In the '90s, North America was waiting for their slice of the pie when they got the Acura Integra Type R. The chassis was made to be more rigid. Unnecessary, weight was stripped. The B18 had a more aggressive powerband, making 200 HP, instead of the 180 HP. The most Acura thing about the Type R was the badge. Everything else was about pure racing.
Sources: automobile-catalog.com, Edmunds.com, carguides.com.au, motor1.com