Are you the type who can’t get enough of Japanese cars both modern and classic? These five Japanese legends seriously shook up the auto industry upon each car’s release. Whether ultra-rare classic sports car or big, V8-powered luxury sedan, each car on this list was far ahead of its time and should be placed in the history books right there next to top classics from other world regions.
Toyota Supra MkIV
Conceived and released during the height of the Japanese “horsepower wars” of the early 1990s, the fourth-generation (MkIV) Supra featured an available 2JZ-GTE twin-turbocharged inline-six-cylinder engine that has consistently been placed among the greatest automobile engines ever created. With aftermarket tuners easily coaxing more than 1,000 horsepower out of Toyota’s monster, the Supra terrorized race tracks, stoplights and drag strips throughout its production life. Today, they are a rare and welcome sight for Japanese car enthusiasts.
Datsun 240Z / Nissan Fairlady Z
More than any foreign car before it, the Datsun 240Z – called the Nissan Fairlady Z in Japan – introduced American consumers to the idea of a low-cost, fun and powerful sport coupe that was also quite reliable. At the time of the car’s 1969 introduction, enthusiasts and the motoring press called it the “Poor Man’s Porsche”, as the 240Z offered most of the performance of its contemporary Porsche models at less than half the cost. Though many early examples have been destroyed by rust, a showroom-quality 240Z can easily fetch tens of thousands of dollars today.
Toyota’s beautifully designed 2000GT holds the distinction of being the most expensive classic Japanese car to have ever been sold at auction, where in 2014 one example fetched over $1.1 million. With only 351 units ever produced and less than 60 of those sold in North America, seeing a 2000GT on public roads today is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The car’s low-slung, coke-bottle design with influences from the Jaguar E-Type is often included on lists of the most beautiful cars ever. Its driving experience as a powerful yet easy-to-control GT sports car was far ahead of its time.
Sold as a Honda in Japan and other markets outside the U.S., the 1990 Acura NSX mid-engined supercar immediately made Ferrari and Lamborghini change the way they did business. The NSX was as quick and sharp-handling as the other rare sports cars of its day, but its admirable reliability, daily drivability and build quality set it apart from Italian machines that looked great but tended to spend half their time in the shop. Though the NSX was outdated by the time it was retired in 2005, today it is highly sought-after by Japanese car collectors. A brand-new hybrid Acura NSX supercar launches in 2015.
Lexus LS 400
When Toyota Motor Corporation decided to launch a new luxury brand in the U.S. and other world markets, it spent over $1 billion and 6 years of development to create a flagship sedan on the scale of the BMW 7-Series and Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The resulting Lexus LS 400, launched in 1989, took the luxury car world by storm for its comfort, quietness, reliability, and outstanding interior build quality. By 1990, the LS 400 was out-selling the two aforementioned German luxury sedans it was built to target. Its quality and reliability single-handedly launched Lexus’s sterling reputation, one that survives to this day.