What is the Best JDM of the 1990s? Pt.2

Sorry for the hiatus, too many events and work to find time to plan this out.

2y ago

After about a month (sorry about that, I have been busy with events and work. However, all this meant that I had time to get some take some good pictures for this article!), here we have part 5 of my What is the Best JDM series. Since the 1990's was such a golden age for JDM, I decided to split it into different parts of its own. (Don't worry if you do not see your favorite, because they will appear in future parts). If you have not checked out part 1 of the 90's, check it out down here!

(All other links are embedded in this first link)

Now, without further ado, let's start!

Toyota Celica GT-Four

If you have been keeping up with this series, or if you are just any fan of Japanese cars, you may have noticed that the Celica had been around since the 70's and was one of the best cars to come out of Japan.

By the beginning of the 90's, the T180 Toyota Celica was introduced and featured a much rounder shape than its predecessors in the 80's. An exceptional rallycar, the top of the line T180 was the Celica GT-Four (All-trac in the US), shown above.

Featuring four wheel steering, four wheel drive and (for Japanese models) a 221bhp 3S-GTE straight four engine, the GT-Four was a force to be reckoned with.

With the model change in 1993 with the T200, the Celica featured further, much more futuristic styling changes. This also marked the end for America's GT-Four dream, as the GT-Four (or its equivalent) was no longer sold in the United States.

With only 2,500 models made to meet homologation requirements, the T200 GT-Four featured an upgraded 3S-GTE engine with an upgraded turbo charger pushing out 251bhp making it the most powerful Celica ever produced. (Europeans got a 239bhp engine).

The T200 continued on to be a successful rallycar, despite the controversy over its illegal turbocharger fixing in 1999. Regardless, this iconic car was in my mind the last great hurrah of the Toyota Celica and became one of the most iconic rallycars of all time. (Especially with this Castrol livery)

Toyota Corolla Levin/Sprinter Trueno

The first model I like to introduce is a bit of a push since it was introduced in 1987, but lasting until 1991, and being the direct successor to the famous AE86, I find the AE92 Trueno and Levin to be the best place to begin.

Although I feel that the AE92 was better looking than the AE86 by a long shot, the Trueno and Levin line saw its biggest change to its fundamental attractiveness beginning with this model and is in my opinion, what led to its downfall. Beginning with the AE92, ditched the hatchback body type and was only offered as a coupe. At the same time, Toyota decided to stray away from making rear drive sports cars and the Trueno and Levin were not given any special treatment and was made into an FF. Utilizing the same engine as the predecessor, the AE92 pushed out 140bhp.

(Sorry for the bad photo, I could never get a good picture of the local Levin AE101) Unfortunately for this generation of Trueno and Levin, this model became heavy and loss much of the same appeal of a lightweight, nimble sportscar as its predecessors had. It's styling was also less than desirable.

Despite this, the AE101 continued to use the iconic 4A-GE engine which now pushed out 160bhp.

By 1995, the Trueno and Levin was about to make its final hurrah with the AE111. With the AE111, the Trueno and Levin regained its sporty appeal and was upgraded with a more powerful 4A-GE engine pushing out 165 bhp.

The gearbox also featured an upgrade from a five to a six speed manual. Despite many upgrades to improve its sportiness, the AE111 failed to regain the same level of popularity its ancestors got, and by the turn of the millennium, was deemed redundant (due to the FF drivetrain) and was dropped from the Toyota lineup.

There ends the story of one of the most iconic car lines to ever come out of Toyota. Although the 90's variants were not particularly iconic or interesting, the fact that the 4A-GE pushed on through this rough decade means it deserves my respect and deserves a spot on this list. Good bye...

Toyota MR-2 SW20

After the success of the AW11 MR-2, Toyota was ready to tackle the 90's with a new MR-2 introduced in 1989, the SW20. Due to the market's change from more bareboned, lightweight sportscars to more luxury oriented sportscars, the SW20 gained a whole 400lbs over its predecessor due to all the new luxuries.

But, do not for a second think that this hampered the SW20's performance. Featuring the same engine as the Celica, the 3S-GTE , the (Japanese) MR-2 developed 242bhp and was a force to be reckoned with.

Although the SW20 gained a bit of weight, the MR-2 was still incredibly light compared to its predecessors. In fact, the SW20 was so efficient with its power to weight ratio, it was able to complete a quarter mile faster than the Honda NSX, Supra RZ, and even the Ferrari 348. This meant the SW20 inherited all the things that made the first MR-2 great.

The SW20 was also incredibly good looking and was technically the last MR-2 (the third generation was sold as the MR-S in the Japanese market) making it a definite contender on this list.

Mazda MX-6

Developed during Mazda's joint venture with Ford, the Mazda MX-6 is perhaps one of the most obscure Mazda cars along with the MX-3. However, the MX-6 looks incredibly sleek and I believe that it deserves some recognition.

With production between 1991 and 1997, this second generation MX-6 was a front drive Mazda luxury sports car and was the sportier counterpart to the Mazda 626. (Also badge engineered as the Ford Probe). The A-Spec (featured above) was the North American variant, with the top of the line LS model producing 164bhp from a KL-DE V6 engine.

Unfortunately for us in the US, the A-Spec never received four wheel steering. The Japanese version was vastly superior, making it quite a good contender in its class. First of all, the Japanese spec featured four wheel steering. Then, there is the engine. The KL-ZE engine produced 199bhp and was more efficient than that used in foreign MX-6's in developing that power.

The four wheel steering system is quite standard and made the car incredibly nimble in corners and makes this car quite capable at speed.

Honda Prelude

Produced between 1991 and 1996, the fourth generation Prelude featured a radical stylistic change from its predecessor. It's sleeker and much more futuristic styling made the Prelude appeal to many youths of the day. (Although I do not have a picture), the fourth generation Prelude has one of the coolest heads up displays of any car of the era, with a completely digital speedometer as well as other guages.

While the VTEC American version made 190bhp, the Japanese Si-R VTEC produced 200bhp from an H22A six cylinder engine. The Prelude was also most famous for its four wheel steering system, making the car quite maneuverable.

By 1996, the Prelude reached its fifth and final generation. While in the US, we got the Type SH, which did not increase its power from the base model and produced 203bhp, the Japanese had the coveted Type S Prelude. Producing 220bhp, the Type S was the ultimate (non-edition) Prelude.

The Type S also featured better suspension, and lightweight parts making the Type S quite a track ready car. Unfortunately, the Prelude was unable to survive the Japanese bubble economy in the 90's and was killed off in 2001, ending one of the best full sized sports cars in Honda's history.

Honda Integra DC2 Type R

Along with the EK9 Civic, the Integra DC2 Type R offered the common man a chance to taste the Type R. Produced between 1995 and 2001, the DC2 Type R was produced only for homologation purposes. In fact, Honda lost money on all DC2 Type R's sold.

Luckily for us plebs in the US, we also got the DC2 Type R and was our first and only Type R Honda until the recent FK8 Civic. (Although we got a different front end for some strange reason).

Despite losing money on each unit sold, Honda decided to sell the Type R in the US through its Acura dealerships as a way to bring fame onto the brand. The DC2 Type R produced close to 200bhp from its B16 engine and in the US was the most powerful car per liter with 108bhp per liter. In fact, it held the title until another Honda, the S2000 came around.

Focusing on lightweight and body rigidity, losing 39kg in total from the base model. The DC2 Type R performed incredibly well in motorsports and was named the best front wheel drive car of all time by Evo Magazine and also the best handling front wheel drive car by Autocar. Oh how lucky we are in the US to get this car on our shores.

Mitsubishi GTO

Sold as the 3000GT in the US due to trademark issues, the Mitsubishi GTO was Japan's most powerful, and most advanced car of its day. Built by Mitsubishi to rival the likes of the Nissan GT-R and the Honda NSX, the GTO was a true monster of a car which even rivaled the Ferrari 348!

Offered with four wheel steering and either AWD or FWD, the GTO was remarkably maneuverable despite its immense weight. Weighing in at well over a ton, the GTO needed a powerful engine and boy did it have one. By the time the facelift came in 1994, the GTO VR-4 produced 320bhp from its twin turbo V6, more than enough to power this spaceship of a car.

Aside from having a powerful engine, the GTO was also incredibly advanced for a car of its time. While active aero parts are a dime a dozen amongst high end sportscars, the GTO was the one who started it all. With a moving lip and wing that adjust based on speed, the GTO was one of the first and definitely the first everyday road car to feature such high tech aero.

Howver, by 1999, the Japanese economy had burst and Mitsubishi decided to "update" the GTO with some weight shedding, by getting rid of the active aero and giving the car this ridiculous wing. With only 287 VR4's made in 1999 (only 1999 models have this wing), these VR4's were amongst the rarest, while also being the least capable due the loss of its active aero. (If you are wondering, the rarest VR4's is the VR4 Spyder)

Although the GTO died a quiet death by the turn of the century, this car revolutionized the car industry and was an engineering marvel. To add to the cool factor, Jackie Chan was given one by Mitsubishi!

Nissan Fairlady Z32

The Z car of the 90's the Z32 was incredibly underrated. With the most powerful variant producing 300bhp from a twin turbo V6, the Z car was powerful enough to take on even its older brother, the GT-R.

The Z32 featured the same active rear wheel steering as the Skyline and helped the Z car become the best selling sports car in the US market. While the car was quite capable, hardcore enthusiasts of the Z car did not feel this car to be a true successor to the original S30.

In terms of styling, the Z32 is incredibly futuristic, and looks modern even today. I would not be surprised if this was sold as a new car right now. Definitely a car that needs more recognition.

Nissan Skyline GT-R

Now, we have the Skyline GT-R. Resurrected from the dead in 1989, the GT-R needs no introduction. The BNR32 produced "276bhp" from its RBB26 engine and featured an ATTESSA variable four wheel drive system and four wheel steering. However, the wonders of the RB engine meant that it can push out upwards of 600bhp with just a tiny bit of fiddling.

The GT-R also performed incredibly well in motorsports and earned the nickname, "Godzilla" from its blistering performance.

NISMO R32. Identified through engine number since original owner removed the secondary lip spoiler for whatever reason

NISMO R32. Identified through engine number since original owner removed the secondary lip spoiler for whatever reason

The ultimate version, the NISMO featured the same RB26, but had an updated engine and weight shedding. With only 245 units made, this is the rarest R32 and definitely the coolest.



By 1995, the R32 was replaced by the R33.

Apart from the styling and updated oil pump, the R33 was mechanically the same as the R32.

Because of this, the R33 had been criticized by many for having bad handling and being too heavy. However, the R33 was special in another right.

The R33 debuted just in time for Nissan to celebrate the Skyline's 40th anniversary and as a celebration, Nissan collaborated with Autech to create this rare 40th anniversary edition GT-R. With only 416 ever made, this is the first and only four door GT-R since the original Hakosuka.

I feel it controversial to include this in the 90's list, but by 1998, the R34 GT-R made its debut and is probably the most iconic GT-R generation. While the base model produced "276bhp", the R34 GT-R Z-Tune produced 500bhp and a top speed of 203mph. With only 19 models ever sold, the Z-Tune was perhaps the rarest GT-R and is considered the epitome of the "R".

And the winner is.......the GT-R

It is no surprise that the GT-R would make it as the winner. It fits all the criteria, from iconicism, to performance, the GT-R is more than a worthy car to be named the best car of the 90's. Now that part 2 is done, stay tuned for part 3 and the final battle between the best of the best.

What do you think of my choice? Do you agree? Comment your thoughts down below and as always thanks for reading!

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Comments (17)

  • My God! Maybe you should set up a quiz so it can answer the question for us? Part 3?

      2 years ago
    • Hmm. That might be a good idea. I might use it for the final one. Yeah. 90’s has a lot of stuff. I need a few parts to complete a thorough rundown like I did with the other decades

        2 years ago
    • That's a LOT of information. I hope you can set it up so that you sell me the right car lol!

        2 years ago
  • Where is the Honda S2000

      2 years ago
    • I consider that a 2000’s car haha. It was kinda built to commemorate the company anniversary as well as the new millenium

        2 years ago
  • Suuupraaaaaaa

      2 years ago
  • Honda CRX Is My Choice

      2 years ago
  • Mate, Ryan DeClue down below makes a completely valid point. Even in the first half, there are so many great cars out there, but when it comes down to these, there's so many engineered in many ways that there's almost no true winner even. Sure one can completely outperform the others, but when it comes down to all the aspects of what the cars were built for, that's what makes them all unique and a winner in their own special ways.

      2 years ago