The 10 Greatest Japanese luxury saloons
The land of the rising sun did luxury too!
Perhaps with the exception of Lexus, you don't usually think of Japan as a place of opulent, luxury limousines. Almost in the same sense that Japan isn't really known for anything too large or unnecessary. It's an efficient country with people who like to use things in a more practical manner.
Kei cars are ideal for navigating the pedestrian-like streets in the cities; and post-war throughout the 50s, 60s (even now), the Japanese champion small cars like the Americans do with burgers.
However, throughout the post-war period, Japan was a wash of new technology companies; their engineering and electronic exports were huge. Just look at Sony, Canon, Casio etc. It was insane!
Those who benefited from the various successes obviously wanted something cool to get to the office in that wasn't some puny Honda Z. And as there was a clearly a market for larger Japanese executive cars, here's 10 of the greatest (in my opinion).
This was the henchmen's weapon of choice to pursue 007 while he hopped in the passenger seat of Aki's Toyota 2000GT.
That Crown may have been dropped in the ocean, but Toyota didn't drop the Crown. With production starting from the 50s right up until today, it remains one of the longest-lasting saloons Japan has ever made.
The Crown proved to be a hit not only in Japan, but overseas as well. The British for example may have had very few Japanese cars in the 60s, but some Crowns made it over and even more arrived throughout the 70s and 80s with later generations.
Styled to look like a Lincoln Continental, this was Mitsubishi's rare competitor to the Toyota Crown but didn't share quite the same success story.
Despite the fact they made the first generation between 1964 all the way up to 1986, with not too many units being sold. With that said, it was only available in Japan unlike its competitors - which probably suggests its lack in sales.
Later ones however, were. And even the German tuning company, AMG, got their hands on a Debonair at one point.
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/hugo90/
This was the last car to be independently built by the Prince Motor Company before they merged with Nissan in 1966.
Introduced in 1962, this striking-looking thing was heavily influenced from GM designs at the time; such as the Chevrolet Corvair and the front end is vividly similar to Buick's lineup from 1959.
It wasn't just a pretty face either, it was incredibly competitive in Japanese motorsport. This included the Super 6 version racking up 1st and 2nd place at the T-IV race in Japan. (Basically, their equivalent of the BTCC).
Nissan Prince Gloria
And in an almost seamless transition, we move straight onto the successor. This is the Nissan-branded Prince Gloria and - once again - used a lot of American styling influences. The front end alone is incredibly similar to that of a 1967/68 Plymouth Fury!
Like the predecessor, it was available with both four and six-cylinder engines and proved to be a solid, competitive choice for the Japanese businessman who had dozens of yen in his pocket.
This was more of a compact saloon car, but nevertheless, the Bellel represented the entry level 4-door saloon if you wanted to step out of a little Kei car. It was real first for Isuzu too, as they were making trucks and previously (under license) a re-badged Hilman Imp!
It was also the first Japanese car to come with a diesel engine. It had two on offer; both 2.0 litre four-cylinder units kicking out around 50bhp, alongside a couple of petrol options as well.
Image credit: Favcars.com
Introduced in 1967 and still being produced to this day under roughly the same design, one could say the Century is timeless. I would be in full agreement, as this is one of the greatest-engineered cars to come out of Japan.
It took a majestic stand of presence against the usual Mercs, Jaguars and even Rollers. It once housed Japan's only production V12 engine and oozed luxury more than Tokyo's finest spa.
From launch, they were always the official state cars for the Japanese Emperors - even to this day!
3rd generation model. Image credit: Favcars.com
Not to be confused with the Prince Gloria, the Cedric was essentially the lower-tier version of Nissan's executive saloon. But this was a car that proved to be popular overseas as well as Japan.
The third and fourth generation Cedrics were notably cool due to their 'coke bottle' styling which, you've guessed it, was heavily influenced from American cars.
From the second gen onward, they shared the same six-cylinder engines as the Datsun Z sports cars. This meant in the aftermarket world, tuners had plenty of bits to play around with.
Mazda 929 L
Bearing a variety of different names, the 929 was what Britain got and was Mazda's top-of-the range car. It was produced between 1973-1991, but my personal favourite is the 929 L from 1978-80.
A couple of the rotary engines which were available - in the form of the 12A and 13B - and a couple of 4-cylinder options and a 2.2 litre diesel could also be chosen. It wasn't unusual for Mazda to offer rotary engines at the time, but it's nostalgic to look back and see what engineers thought was suitable.
Heck, Mazda even put a rotary engine in the Holden Premier at one point!
Mugen Honda Legend
Image credit: Favcars.com
The Legend was already an excellent car from launch in 1985. Well-engineered, reliable, conservative and a level-headed choice for someone who wanted a plush commute, but didn't want to shout about it.
That is at least until tuning company, Mugen got their hands on it... it then became quite a cool sleeper.
Sadly, I couldn't find any specs on how fast it is. But I'd imagine the 3.2 litre V6 has quite a bit more than the 230bhp from factory. Perhaps it depended on what the customer wanted to install, but if you know more, get in the comments!
The LS400 was the beginning of Toyota's new luxury brand and unlike other niche luxury brands, Lexus was here to stay. How exactly did they nearly crush the competition from BMW, Mercedes and Jaguar?
The answer is simple: they made one of the best-engineered cars, period.
If you scrutinise an LS400 today, I can guarantee most - if not, everything - will work as intended back in 1990. Thanks to its durable build quality and bulletproof 4.0 litre V8, the Lexus is still widely recognised as one of the most reliable cars in the world.
Thanks for reading
Well, there we are. I thoroughly hope you enjoyed reading this article. If you have anything to say, don't hesitate to throw something in the comments.
Note: this was entirely opinionated.