Pact 276: The Gentlemens' Agreement

Today, I'll be uncovering the truth behind the pact between the Japanese car makers.

6w ago
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Have you ever wondered why your favorite Japanese car in Gran Turismo was "officially rated" at 276 hp? We all know it clearly had more. So why'd they continue to do it anyway?

The 4th generation of the Toyota Supra, known as the JZA80. The RZ/Turbo model was sold with smaller turbos making 280 PS (276 hp) in Japan, and with larger turbos making 325 PS (321 hp) for the United States. Image is from Japanese Nostalgic Cars.

The 4th generation of the Toyota Supra, known as the JZA80. The RZ/Turbo model was sold with smaller turbos making 280 PS (276 hp) in Japan, and with larger turbos making 325 PS (321 hp) for the United States. Image is from Japanese Nostalgic Cars.

It all dates back to the 1970s. The Bosozoku posed a threat to the safety of the civilians driving on the expressways. The speed limit imposed at the time was 100 km/h. This changed in the middle of the decade, when all Japanese car manufacturers came together (via JAMA, or Japanese Car Manufacturers' Association) and agreed to restrict the top speed of their vehicles to 180 km/h. This was a way to take action against the antics of the Bosozoku gangs. Of course, power had to be restricted as well since this was linked to the rising amount of road accidents, fatalities, and injuries in the late 1980s, when street racing clubs/syndicates were prevalent and speeding in long stretches of highways. And so, the agreement was born years later in 1988.

There's a theory that suggests that at the time, the only available type of dynamometer was the Bosch-type dyno. This particular dyno could only measure up to 280 PS. And so this was the chosen limit amount. Cars such as Nissan's Fairlady Z, Skyline GT-R, Mitsubishi's GTO/3000GT and the like were either "rated" or detuned to meet the required specifications brought about by the pact. Of course, this only applied to the cars sold domestically in Japan. For example, the North American-spec Mitsubishi GTO/3000GT had the exact same engine as the Japan-spec GTO yet its power was rated higher at 320 hp.

The Mitsubishi GTO, sold as the 3000GT and Dodge Stealth in the United States and Canada. "Rated" at 276 hp in its home market and 320 hp in the North American market. Image is from Japanese Nostalgic Cars.

The Mitsubishi GTO, sold as the 3000GT and Dodge Stealth in the United States and Canada. "Rated" at 276 hp in its home market and 320 hp in the North American market. Image is from Japanese Nostalgic Cars.

The Nissan Fairlady Z (Z32), sold as the 300ZX outside Japan. Also "rated" at 276 hp but really it had around 300..... Image is from UltimateSpecs

The Nissan Fairlady Z (Z32), sold as the 300ZX outside Japan. Also "rated" at 276 hp but really it had around 300..... Image is from UltimateSpecs

So why'd they do it? One theory suggests that this was to prevent an arms race between the manufacturers over horsepower, similar to the Muscle Car Wars in the United States that occurred in the mid-1960s to early-1970s. They didn't want to spend millions or even billions of yen/dollars trying to outdo one another simply by power. It just wasn't worth it.

The agreement also put an emphasis on the technology and innovation incorporated in the cars. There was also another speculation that it was to meet the desired specifications needed to enter a car in a certain racing category. One obvious example is the Nissan Skyline GT-R, particularly the R32 generation from 1989-1994. Designed with the sole purpose to compete....and maybe dominate the now defunct Group A class, it was restricted to 276 hp/280 PS but once the boost restrictor is removed, it can put out ~300 hp or even more. Thanks to the ATTESA E-TS which splits the torque sent for up to 50% to the front wheels (yes, the Skyline GT-R is technically rear-wheel drive under normal conditions) and the HICAS four-wheel steering, it turned the R32 GT-R into something of a marvelous rocketship.

The R32 generation (1989-1994) of the Skyline GT-R, made to dominate Group A at the time. Restricted to 276 hp due to the agreement. Image is from Japanese Nostalgic Cars.

The R32 generation (1989-1994) of the Skyline GT-R, made to dominate Group A at the time. Restricted to 276 hp due to the agreement. Image is from Japanese Nostalgic Cars.

By the mid to late-1990s, safety improved and road accidents lessened. It was beginning to be clear that the Japanese car makers were lying to everyone about the true potential of their sports cars. People started to speculate on this issue, but the companies still continued with their own businesses. The so-called agreement was pretty much null and void since year by year, the cars got more powerful. For instance, the Mazda RX-7 had an increase in power in 1999, when the Series 8 FD3S was released and "rated" at 276 hp. In reality, it would've made around 290-300 hp.

The Series 8 Mazda RX-7 (FD3S), introduced in 1999. Its power increased to "276 hp". Image is from PrestigeMotorsport Australia.

The Series 8 Mazda RX-7 (FD3S), introduced in 1999. Its power increased to "276 hp". Image is from PrestigeMotorsport Australia.

And as foreign competition got better and created a gap between the Japanese car makers, it was time for the companies to finish the act. In 2004, former JAMA chairman Itaru Koeda revealed the truth. There was no relationship between power/speed and road fatalities. He called for an end to the make-believe pact. Finally in 2005, Honda Motor Company revealed the fourth generation Legend (sold in North America as the Acura RL) with its new 300 PS (296 hp) 3.5 liter V6. This signaled the end of the null and void "gentlemens' agreement". They had stopped lying to everyone.....and amongst themselves.

Now we have a 600 hp NISMO GT-R, a hybrid 573 hp NSX, and many more that aren't limited to just "276 hp". Turns out spending millions or billions over power isn't such a bad thing after all...........though that has its own problems ofc :P

References: honda-tech.com/forums/general-discussion-debate-40/truth-about-%22mythical%22-japanese-car-manufacturers-276-hp-limit-%22agreement%22-561076/page2/ www.rx7club.com/3rd-generation-specific-1993-2002-16/1988-japanese-car-manufacturer-agreement-215233/ www.caranddriver.com/news/a15131963/japan-dumps-276-hp-pact-car-news/ www.reddit.com/r/cars/comments/3lamm9/does_anyone_know_what_the_real_power_outputs_of/ thenewswheel.com/moments-in-car-history-the-japanese-gentlemans-agreement/

NOTE: I don't know if some of the info I looked for is correct or verified. Some are, others aren't. This was supposed to be written differently, but I thought I'd improve it since I thought there might be some inaccuracies or words I must've incorrectly stated. This is my first time doing this, and I'm pretty new to DriveTribe. All I know is that I did the best I could. Has anyone even talked about this before? Let me know if I got it right or not, thanks! ^^

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