why do we love Japanese cars?
What's behind our love for Japanese sports cars?
I feel as if every car fan has a love or appreciation for Japanese cars to some degree, whether they’re dreaming of a new GTR, charmed by the Datsun 240 of the early seventies, or just enthralled by just about any sports car built in Japan from the nineties. I wanted to figure out just where this idolisation for Japanese cars comes from, so here is a short list of the reasons I believe to be most predominant, starting with…
It’s hard to argue against the Japanese having the most flamboyant and colourful motoring culture compared to everywhere else on the globe. Excessively wide fender flares, towering rear wings and fluorescent paint jobs are things we associate with the midnight underground car meets of Tokyo, and this creates scenes we find impossible not to stare at in fascination.
Still, here in the west we can’t help importing them and simply admiring their iconic shapes. Basic designs but with a sporty edge to them, each carrying their own individual identity.
Japanese cars and tuning go hand in hand. There is a sentiment among these cars of building them with small, unsuspecting engines which only take a bigger turbocharger and revised ECU map to produce power and torque figures that you’ll be looking at in disbelief. A perfect example of this is the Lancer Evo with its 2.0 litre inline-4, a car you often see with over 500hp delivered to its wheels.
But of course, there is more you can do to an engine than just fettling with the ECU and swapping a few bolt on components. The famous 2JZ engine from the fourth generation Toyota Supra has been seen getting fully rebuilt and peaking at over 2000hp, with six cylinders! This is a feat that you don’t really see from any other kind of car, putting Japan on an automotive pedestal.
It’s no secret that if you buy a Japanese car, old or new, you’re probably not going to have any major issues with it. Every element of the car, from the engine right down to suspension bushes are designed and built so they will last. Toyota’s Land Cruiser and Hilux are famed for their ability to drive hundreds of thousands of miles with no major issues, Honda are noted for their bulletproof engines and just about every Japanese performance car has an engine which is rated to handle abnormally high power figures with stock internals. The point of reliability has certainly earned Japan a strong reputation and some healthy respect.
My final point here is somewhat of an elephant in the room, yet possibly the most valid. The idolisation of Japanese drifting and street racing culture through various video games, films and TV shows, such as, Initial D and Tokyo Drift play a big part in many peoples love for Japanese cars.
I’m going to put my focus mainly of Tokyo Drift here, since I know it caught my attention when I first watched it. The third instalment of the infamous Fast and Furious franchise, released in 2006 was based purely on the tuning and drifting scene in Japan during the early 2000s. Seeing past all of the poor acting and story line, the film truly sold a lifestyle to us all that I suppose we haven’t shaken off.