What is the Best JDM of the 1960's?
The 1960s, Japan has for the most part recovered from the devastation of the war and was finally released from allied occupation. The 1960s marked an era of economic boom and (in my opinion) the rise of Japan's motor industry, seeing the birth of quite a few iconic Japanese sports cars. So let's see which one is the best, based on the car's performance, iconic status, and influence.
Let's start with the most obvious contender. When discussing Japanese cars of the 1960s, the Toyota 2000GT is a car that would definitely come up. Often heralded as the most beautiful car to come out of Japan, the 2000GT is probably one of the most iconic Japanese cars of all time. Originally proposed by Yamaha to Nissan, Nissan rejected the 2000GT idea resulting in Yamaha proposing the design to Toyota. Wishing to leave a larger presence in the sports car market, Toyota accepted the offer beginning a short joint-venture with Yamaha. Insisting on using their own designer, Toyota employed Satoru Nozaki, who took heavy inspiration from the beautiful Jaaaaag E Type in its design. The 2000GT was a true luxury grand tourer with beautiful and exotic hand-built exterior as well as a luxurious interior, rivaling even European makers such as Ferrari and Jaguar.
Aside from its looks, the 2000GT also had the performance to match, producing 150bhp from a 2.0L straight six, the 2000GT was also the first Japanese car to come standard with disc brakes and a limited slip differential. Couple that with the amazing styling, the 2000GT was fit for James Bond.
Unfortunately, it wasn't,. Sean Connery was so tall (in Japanese standards) that he was not able to fit inside a normal 2000GT, so Toyota, or rather, Yamaha (since Yamaha was in charge of production) made ONE convertible 2000GT just for the movie. With only 351 ever made, the 2000GT is considered Japan's first supercar by many, showing the world that Japan could make more than just practical, gas saving boxes. With its rarity and impact on the motor industry, 2000GT's now go for around over $1 million at auction. Oh how Nissan must have regretted rejecting Yamaha's proposal.
Nissan C10 Skyline
It may not be the first Skyline, but the C10 is the grand daddy of possibly the most popular JDM car in existence today, Godzilla himself, the GT-R. Rolled out in 1968, the C10 was affectionately called the Hakosuka, derived from the Japanese word for box,箱(hako), and the Japanese pronunciation for Skyline. The Hakosuka succeeded the equally iconic S50 series Skyline (that even gave Porsche a run for its money with the incredibly quick S54 2000-GT), and is the first in the long line of Nissan GT-R's
Originally produced by Prince, the C10 Skyline debuted right after the merger with Nissan and became the first Skyline to be marketed and sold as a Nissan Skyline.
The GT-X model, shown above produced 135bhp with the GT-R, introduced in 1969, producing a whopping 160bhp! While the 2000GT was a great one-off by Toyota, the C10 Skyline created a lineage that would span generations.
Produced from 1964 to 1966, the S600 was second in the series of S roadsters produced by Honda. The S600 was the first Honda to come with two trim levels, with the standard model and the more luxurious SM-600. Producing 57bhp from a high revving engine, the S600 competed with the Datsun Fairlady and the Toyota Sport 800.
Being Honda's first widely marketed car, the S600 was also Honda's first car to feature left-hand drive for export , becoming the first in a long line of success in the export market.
The S600 would be succeeded by the S800 and subsequently the S2000 and S660. The S600 may not be produced in great numbers, but it was a part of many firsts by Honda and left a small lineage of Honda roadsters in its wake.
The predecessor to the modern Fairlady, the Datsun Roadster is perhaps the most iconic Japanese roadster of the 1960s, if not, of all time. The Fairlady is considered to be Datsun's first true sports car and was sold as a competitor to other European sports cars. With the final update being the Datsun 2000 in 1967, the Datsun Fairlady 2000 produced a maximum of 150bhp, the Datsun 2000 was able to outperform much of its European competition such as the Fiat 124 Spider and MG-B.
This is the last Fairlady roadster and it left a legacy of iconic JDM cars from the 240z Fairlady to the current 370z.
Toyota Sports 800
While the 2000GT may be the more famous car, the Toyota Sports 800, or "Toyo-hachi" was Toyota's first production sports car. Producing a measly 28bhp, the Toyota Sports 800 was a slow car even for its time. The looks of it however, makes up for the lack of oomph in my opinion. However, the 800 was designed by an aircraft designer with lightness in mind resulting in an incredibly aerodynamic car that has a surprising 100mph top speed despite the 28bhp engine.
Looking like a miniature 2000GT, the 800 is indeed a good looking car. It is also one of the first targa top cars pre-dating even the Porsche Targa.
The 800 was also rather rare, with 3,300 units produced. What makes this particular 800 even rarer, is that it is a left-hand drive model produced primarily for use by American soldiers stationed in Okinawa. No Toyota Sports 800 was ever officially exported making it one of the few, if not the only Japanese only market cars with a left hand drive option.
Nissan CSP311 Silvia
There are few names in the world of JDM cars that are more widely known than the Nissan Silvia. The first Silvia was produced in 1965 and was originally intended to be the coupe version of the Fairlady introduced above. Producing 97bhp, the Silvia featured similar performance to the 1600 Fairlady roadster.
Designed with inspiration from the Lancia Fulvia, I would consider the first Nissan Silvia to be Nissan's first exotic car. The Silvia featured quite an exotic look for the 1960s and was entirely hand-built by Yamaha during Nissan and Yamaha's partnership. Being a hand built luxury coupe, only 554 were ever made for the entire world and was offered only in right hand drive.
Intended to be a one-off car, the Silvia ended production in 1968 with its rarity rivaling even the 2000GT resulting in average asking prices of over $100,000 today. A decade later, however, the mighty Silvia would be revived with the first S-Chassis and would become one of the premier tuner cars in the world.
Mazda L10 Cosmo
Mazda's answer to the luxury grand tourer market, the Mazda Cosmo. Produced to rival the 2000GT, the Mazda Cosmo was Mazda's first production car to feature a wankel-rotary engine. Like the 2000 GT, the Cosmo was hand-built at a pace of one vehicle per day, with the final total output of just over 1,176 built in its four year lifespan. (343 Series I Cosmos as shown above produced)
Designed to showcase the efficiency and reliability of the rotary engine, the Cosmo was entered in the 84-hour Marathon de la Route in 1968 with one example only exiting the race in the 82nd hour due to axle damage. Having proved its worth, the Mazda Cosmo went on sale to the public, though it had its power reduced to 110bhp from 130bhp (Though post 1970 models produced 130bhp) However, with the lightweight rotary engine, the Cosmo was still quite a fast car. Due to the efficiency of a rotary engine, the Cosmo was also in a cheaper tax bracket as other cars with conventional engines while also being just as powerful.
While the 2000GT featured a more elegant and refined look, the Mazda Cosmo looked like how someone in the 1960s would imagine a car in the future. The aptly named Cosmo featured a very space age design, giving it an instantly recognizable and distinct look. Due to its futuristic styling, the Cosmo was featured in the Ultraman Jack TV show in the late 60s and have left a deep impact on the youth back then. The Cosmo would eventually lead to the production of many many iconic rotary beasts such as the Luce, RX-3, and the iconic RX-7. Due to its rarity, collectability, and impact on the motor industry, the Mazda Cosmo can fetch quite a fancy penny at auctions with examples selling for more than $100,000.
I love all these cars and they are all special in their own right, but, for the sake of trivial comparison, I will have to name what I feel is the best car out of these seven. With careful consideration, I would have to say the most iconic Japanese sports car of the 60s to be......
The 2000GT! I am sure many of you reading would agree that this miracle from Toyota is the definitive classic Japanese sports car. Not only did it show the world the might of Japan's automotive industry, but it also left a lasting impact in popular culture and the perception of Japanese cars. Though the other cars have left their own lasting legacies, I believe it is the 2000GT that set a benchmark for all other Japanese manufacturers eventually leading to the golden age of Japanese motoring in the 1990s. BUT, that is just my opinion.
What do you think of my choice? Would you have chosen differently? Was there a car I should have considered but was not included in the list? Comment your thoughts below and as always, thanks for reading!