Trend Japanese classic cars have flooded the market thanks to designers from Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi, Mazda, and Toyota. High performance is blended with refined, yet fluid styling to create classic figures that grab the attention of global car collectors. Here are some of the greatest.
1. Mazda Cosmo 110S (1968-1973)
The Mazda Cosmo is another late 60’s early 70’s ultra rare Japanese gem. Although this little Mazda coupe didn’t make the same impression on the world as the Toyota 2000GT doesn’t mean it was any less important or exotic. The Cosmo is a sensation in its own right. Mazda as a company was going through a transformation during the ‘60’s and they wanted a halo car to differentiate themselves from other manufacturers. To accomplish this Mazda needed a car that possessed futuristic engineering technologies. You see the Cosmo was the first ever Mazda to use the Rotary engine as its power plant. At the time the Felix Wankle designed engine was somewhat of a wonder and an exotic piece of technology. Some even predicted that the Rotary was the engine of the future.
2. Toyota 2000GT (1967-1970)
Toyota’s brand new coupe was produced in 1967 until 1970. The Toyota 2000GT was the first ever Japanese super car and with it came a complete change in the company’s global image. With just 351 units built in a three year period the 2000GT had the looks of an American film star. The Toyota was the Japanese equivalent of the British Jaguar E-Type although current values of the Toyota 2000GT are much higher. Performance for the super car was tame but good for the era and by far the quickest production car ever produced by Toyota in the late sixties.
3. Datsun 240Z (1970-1973)
When Datsun released the 240Z here in 1970, Road & Track predicted it would force other manufacturers to play catchup in a market arguably inhabited by the Triumph TR6 and Toyota 2000GT. Datsun launched with the Z its new 151hp solid-lifter overhead-cam six-cylinder–essentially a six-pot version of the 510’s 96hp four-cylinder. The 240Z used a MacPherson strut front suspension, a four-speed manual gearbox and an independent Chapman strut rear suspension. Though it suffered from the same emissions restrictions and compression ratio drops that afflicted American cars in the early 1970s, Datsun responded not by reverting to a smaller engine, but by increasing displacement and power for the 240Z’s successor–the 260Z.
We recently found an original-owner 1970 240Z in Hemmings Motor News with 21,000 miles for $10,000 or best offer.
4. Mazda RX-7 (1978)
Mazda , like Honda, made its name in the automotive world by building innovative, excellent engines. In Mazda’s case, the first big hit in the U.S. came with the twin-rotary-powered RX-7, a car that had only 105 hp but, with a 7,000-rpm redline, could hit 60mph in ten seconds. That made it good enough to duel with Datsun’s Zs and even Porsche’s 924s, and more importantly, because these cars stayed reasonably cheap throughout the 1980s, Mazda was able to sell enough RX-7s to build a worldwide reputation and sell more of its other models.
5. Nissan Skyline GT-R (1973)
The Nissan Skyline GT-R made its public debut in February of 1969. A sportier two-door coupe made its introduction a year later. In November of 1972, a redesigned Skyline Coupe (Type C110) was introduced followed by the high-performance 2000 GT-R version in January of 1973. The new Skyline was given the nickname, the ‘Kenmeri’, dubbed after Nissan’s marketing campaign that featured the ‘neo-American’ couple Ken and Mary. The GT-R was powered by the same powerful S20 engine, but stricter emissions regulations for 1973 quickly put an end to GT-R production. In total, just 197 examples were built over a four-month period and fewer than 40 survivors extant, less than a handful of which never left Japan.
6. Mitsubishi Colt (1962
One of the first compact cars from Japan to receive international fame and popularity was the Mitsubishi Colt. They released the Colt in 1962 as a Kei Car, but only for the Asian market. But in 1970, Mitsubishi presented the Colt to America and Europe. And soon, it gained a cult following due to its low price, lively engines and dynamic handling. Over the years, Mitsubishi has produced numerous generations. In fact, they renamed the Colt model the Mirage, which is still in production today.