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I've Never understood the hype for Japanese sports cars

Someone please explain why they're so popular

40w ago

17.5K

It's easy to understand why people love iPhones so much; they probably started out with a 5S before progressively moving up towards whatever X or Plus variant there is now. Apples have a rather nice sense aura of simplicity and always appear to capture the same buyers over and over.

I have an android myself after going through a couple of iPhones, simply because it felt more practical to me. But I'm not the one to slag off Apple users and create a little mini tech war. Because I completely understand why people will consistently go for the latest and greatest from what is - essentially - the same thing.

Image credit: Favcars.com

Image credit: Favcars.com

What I never really understood though, was the sheer enormity of love and passion that petrolheads have towards Japanese sports cars. Or to narrow it down a bit, those from around the 90s and early 00s period which appear to be synonymous with the Fast & Furious franchise.

Perhaps one or two of the main reasons is simply because I didn't even start watching the films until fairly recently in my mid-teenage years. Far before that, I was indulged in films and TV series' which had either European or American cars in them as stars.

This included Bullitt, Vanishing Point, The Italian Job, all the Bonds, The Avengers, The Persuaders and so on. All of which never really recognised Japanese cars as hero material.

Image credit: Favcars.com

Image credit: Favcars.com

Then there's video games; I've never had a Need For Speed game and only indulged very little in Granturismo. But even there, I was always more interested in the quirky Japanese classics from the 60s and 70s rather than the later stuff.

It's a blend of factors that just didn't lead me to understanding the incredible levels of hype for these 'JDM' cars (misused term in most cases, by the way). So, it's never been an area in the car world that I've been interested in.

Image credit: Favcars.com

Image credit: Favcars.com

There have been one or two major talking points in the car community lately that have further reinforced my misunderstanding.

First of which involves money: now, I actually wrote an article before in which I explain why some older Japanese cars are fetching collector-levels of cash - which you can read here: drivetribe.com/p/making-sense-of-why-90s-japanese-YkdFeJQMRvSaBni-Lt7i2Q?iid=U2JZfQ0PSf6gDy8HMTF7Aw.

To be honest though, I didn't demonstrate any real knowledge in that piece simply because I don't have much of it.

But anyway, it's understandable how collectors are after Skyline GT-Rs, Supras etc. because a lot of that purely stems from nostalgia - and anyone understands that! But what I don't understand is that certain Japanese sports cars are still dirt cheap which were as good, if not better than the famous F&F stars.

Take the Nissan 300ZX for example: you can look on the internet right now and find a decent twin-turbo one for around £5,000 (in the UK at least), yet a Toyota Supra twin-turbo from the same era is worth at least £30,000. I know the latter was famous for being in a film, but surely, that gap is far too unjustified? Both cars were rated pretty similarly by magazines at the time they came out.

Or am I wrong? Is there something apart from the whole F&F thing that people see in the Supra over a 300ZX...? Let me know, because I've found that example, among many others, quite puzzling.

Image credit: Favcars.com

Image credit: Favcars.com

Also, I don't know if it's just me; but the going prices for mint examples of famous Japanese cars is plain silly. In relation to Integra Type-Rs on Bring-a-Trailer going for $60,000+, I would honestly ask what the buyers were thinking.

Yes, I get that it's a very analogue little hot hatch with buckets of nostalgia, but 60k? Come on. Surely, you'd think about something more interesting for that kind of money. I'd personally be shopping around for old muscle cars; you can easily pick up a tri-power GTO or an average Chevelle SS for well-under 60k in the U.S.

Image credit: Favcars.com

Image credit: Favcars.com

Another thing I've never understood is that people keep saying these types of cars are popular because of their 'tuning capabilities'.

I get that these cars have a tonne of aftermarket support - and I'm guessing that's valuable to a lot of people - but plenty of cars outside of Japan are very tuner-friendly.

You can modify bits to MGBs, Fords, Saabs, Mercs etc. All sorts from outside of Japan, yet I haven't even covered the acres of things you can do with American cars.

My point is, when people say they like a 'tuner' car, what exactly do they mean? Because plenty, if not most cars, can take modifications without breaking sweat. Most of Jaguar's engines, for instance, are arguably more versatile than the majority of those made by the Japanese. You only have to ask Lister and Tom Walkinshaw Racing, regarding the insane things they did with the V12...

Thanks for reading

Image credit: Favcars.com

Image credit: Favcars.com

To sum up then, I just don't understand why people crave these things like they do. I don't get the whole tuner thing. I don't get why so many people dream about these cars over others. I don't get why the price gaps are so colossal between some (like the Supra and 300ZX).

But to be plainly honest though, I just don't think they're my kind of thing. But I could really do with some clearing up.

If you'd like to explain why these cars are so popular, then please leave a comment. This is an open article where I'm inviting you to convince me otherwise :)

Nevertheless, I hope you enjoyed reading.

Thanks.

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Comments (80)

  • They're easy to customize

    They're powerful enough to enjoy them

    And they're reliable af

      9 months ago
    • Hmmm, yeah. But that applies to so many other cars though. What would you say the appeal is from the Japanese stuff?

        9 months ago
    • The looks mostly

        9 months ago
  • This applies to any generation's preferred fan service cars, people actually pay money for things like MG's and Cortinas. They're garbage, hot stinking garbage. Slow, unreliable, boring to drive, no character garbage. The difference is the Japanese sports cars of 80's/90's/00's is they're good. They're fast enough to keep most happy, they don't break down every single time you look at them and they have real room for improvement to make them hypercar fast and there is nothing better in this world than freight training some barely competent old shit in a car he can't extract a 10th of it's potential.

      9 months ago
    • You do run into the dilemma that you can buy a much newer (cars in the last decade) for similar money and you get a car that is much safer. but that is the same for a lot of classic and near-classic cars.

        9 months ago
    • Hypercar fast, you say. So, is extracting mental levels of power really that valuable to people even if it's hardly usable on the road? I'm genuinely curious.

      (Also, my dad had an 1966 MGB GT, so watch out son... it actually looked after us...

      Read more
        9 months ago
  • For me understanding why people love older Japanese cars it all started when I was in high school. I graduated in '86. My parents splurged on a used 1982 Honda Prelude my sophomore year and I got to drive it a lot before buying my first car a year or so later. Those first-gen Preludes may not have looked like much compared to today's cars - but they handled amazingly well and were quick enough to feel like a real sports car, which they essentially were.

    Within only a few years, Honda was able to advance their engineering for the Prelude to become the best handling car on the market, second only to the Porsche 944. That was huge!

    In the '80s, Honda ruled Motor Trend's - "Car of the Year Award" (back when it was a reputable and somewhat prestigious magazine, not a Youtube TV channel). The success of the Prelude and a couple of other cars, Honda started Acura, which became their brand name for higher end cars to compete with the BMW and Mercedes markets (Toyota and Nissan followed suit with Lexus and Infinity).

    Why all that matters for my generation in the 80's living in America, is European cars were too expensive (not only to buy but also to maintain because of how unreliable they were and expensive to repair), Chrysler was putting out their dreaded POS K-Cars, Cadillac's were still three miles long and the Chevy Camero was going through their decades long ugly period. Porsche and Ferrari were the dream cars everybody wanted - but only rich people owned and drove.

    Along came the Nissan 300ZX, Mazda RX7, Toyota Celica GT/Supra and the Honda Prelude. ALL of which were great performance cars that were also extremely reliable and well made. If we were lucky, maybe our parents were cool enough to have bought one of these Japanese sports cars for us to drive once in a while. If not, fast forward several years when we were able to buy one of them for ourselves, used.

    Japan revolutionized the auto world. They forced Europe to be more reliable and America to stop making crap...

    ... if either wanted to compete.

      9 months ago
  • It seems you and I have found something that we both agree on XD

    I never understood the hype for Japanese cars, and I'm not saying that they're garbage and I do love some Japanese cars, but the price tag is just unjustifiable. The Supra(not only this, but multiple other hyped JDM cars, such as the R34) definitely lacks performance figures compared to German counterparts, and fanboys say that they have great tuning capabilities which are also bs. For example, JDM fans hype about how a Supra can handle 1,000hp, but when you see companies like RUF, they managed to build 911s that literally broke speed records(the BTR, CTR) while still being reliable as an AK47. Let's admit it, these JDM cars don't really deserve the hype and the price tag.

    But still, there are some slight exceptions. The first-gen NSX, the Yodahachi(Sport 800), MX-5s, and the LFA(although this is a bit more modern) do deserve the 'name-value' they have. So haters, before you start whining how I'm 'biased' reflect on yourself and the cars whether "They're really worth it"

      9 months ago
    • I'm in full agreement pretty much. Though Porsches are expensive new, used ones (I.e. Boxster or 944) are fantastic platforms for modifications and you can undoubtedly have some great fun with them.

        9 months ago
    • Well said! Also, let's not forget the old 80s to 90s Beemers too!

        9 months ago
  • Nice clickbait headline Aaron, and I took it! Now if you had said that you didn't get the hype for SUVs, or estates / wagons, I would have agreed with you, but Japanese sports cars? The Fast and Furious moves, Initial D television series, and the sport of drifting have certainly elevated the Rising Sun machines to a high level in the car world. I believe it comes down to personal taste, and affordability. I love the 911, and everything that is red from Maranello, but a 350Z, or an MX5 Miata is fun and more affordable for the masses. Most petrolheads can only dream of owning a supercar, but something sporty from Japan is within reach.

      9 months ago
    • I'm not quite seeing what you mean by clickbait; I literally don't get the hype and I explained my reasons the best I could.

      I get what you're saying about the attainability though - makes perfect sense. Though it has to be said, I have never...

      Read more
        9 months ago
    • There are over 9000 members of the JDM Community Tribe (Japanese Domestic Market) so let's just say that a lot of people do get the hype. As for Initial D, it is a Japanese street racing manga series, and a movie, that has a cult following. It's...

      Read more
        9 months ago
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