The Japanese make excellent technological products, with a level of quality rarely seen in today’s mass-produced world. This rigor extends to their auto industry, with Japanese companies making some of the best cars ever made.
JDM cars, while brilliantly made, are usually so overdeveloped that the car’s full potential cannot be unleashed without the help of a few tweaks. Take for example the Toyota Supra MK4† A new owner could get around 600 horsepower out of a stock engine with relatively simple mods, making the Supra MK4 extremely rare. While it’s fun to customize and modify a car and outfit it with a striking body kit, bigger turbos and generally go crazy swapping parts, some Japanese cars just don’t need to be modified . This is because they are already pretty good, or have become so legendary that the factory cars are worth a lot of money.
So while it’s nice to equip your Japanese car with big spoilers, dumb wheels and Bosozoku exhausts, some cars just need to be left alone. Here are 5 Japanese cars that we would never dare to modify, and 5 that would make excellent projects.
10 Would not dare to change – Toyota 2000GT
The Toyota 2000GT is one of the coolest cars ever made† It was Toyota’s first attempt at building a sports car, and it was the starting point of all the legendary coupes that graced the Japanese brand’s dealerships. The 2000GT wasn’t fast, but it had character and an impressive 2.0-litre inline-6 lifted from the Crown sedan. The 2000GT produced 148 horsepower and 129 lb-ft of torque, with power going to the rear wheels via a five-speed manual transmission and a top speed of 235 mph.
The best thing about the 2000GT was the story of the lead role in a James Bond movie. Everyone got the green light, but when Sean Connery arrived in Japan to film, he was too long for the car. Toyota then chopped the roof off two cars and named it the 2000GT Roadster – only two of which exist. We would never dare to change anything about a 2000GT.
9 Would not dare to change – Lexus LFA
The Lexus LFA has been named the best sounding car in the world, with some arguing that it was the best car ever made. While the second statement may spark some debate, the first is certainly true. The entire LFA experience has been carefully designed and tested to create the glorious sound it does.
The LFA isn’t the fastest, not the most agile and not the most beautiful supercar ever made, but it is one of the most perfect. Yes, cup holders are missing, the infotainment system leaves a lot to be desired and the seat belt situation is crazy complicated, but the rest of the car is custom made – designed specifically for the LFA. It’s a supercar that doesn’t need anything extra to make it perfect, because when you drive it, all the little niggles become an afterthought next to the screaming V10.
8 Would not dare to change – Toyota Century
The Toyota Century is a car that many people have probably never heard of† It’s the Japanese company’s most luxurious model, even more exclusive than any Lexus, and it rivals most other über-luxury sedans from Germany, Britain and America. It’s a car that’s the opposite of any other Toyota model on the market – built without cutting costs.
The Century is a one of a kind car, with the second generation being the first, and to date only, Japanese V12-powered production car ever made. The latest generation ditched the V12 in favor of a 5.0-liter hybrid V8, which produces 425 horsepower, mated to an eCVT with power going to the rear wheels only. The second-generation Century was the only model sold outside of Japan. However, the current model is only available at select dealers in Japan.
7 Would not dare to change – Honda S800
The Honda S800 was the predecessor of the legendary S2000 and was produced between 1966 and 1970. As the name suggests, it was a small sports car with a 0.8 liter engine, producing about 70 hp. The S800’s party trick was that it could spin up to 10,000 rpm – in 1967! The S800 was Honda’s first car to hit 100 mph, while returning an impressive 35 MPG.
When the car came on the market in Britain in 1967, Honda had redesigned the car with normal drivetrain components, rather than using motorcycle chains and suspension. The S800 was a hit and best of all it was cheaper than the Mini Cooper and the Triumph Spitfire. The S800 is a classic car that needs no modification as it is already quite good.
6 Would not dare to change – Mazda Cosmo
The Mazda Cosmo – also called the 110S. called – was one of the first Japanese cars to be powered by a rotary engine. It was equipped with a 982cc (60 cui) twin-rotor engine that produced 110 horsepower. The rotary engine was chosen because it produced more power than the equivalent inline engine, but ignored the higher Japanese road tax on engines larger than 1.0 liter.
The original Cosmo was updated in 1968 to the Series II, which had a longer wheelbase for more interior space, a modified suspension and 20 horsepower more. The front was also improved for better cooling. The Cosmo Series II was also equipped with a 5-speed manual transmission, unlike the 4-speed in the Series I. The Cosmo is a unique classic car because it looks like a spaceship and sounds like a race car. Definitely not a car that needs adjustments.
5 Would be a great project – Toyota Hilux
The Toyota Hilux is one of the most popular vehicles in the world. Known for its reliability and durability, it is used for everything from luxury transport to farm workhorses. The older generation Hilux is a great project car because it has a multitude of aftermarket performance parts to choose from.
Many owners have even swapped out Hiluxes’ engines and replaced them with Lexus V8s. This improved the truck’s overall performance, but also required some powertrain strengthening – easy to do with aftermarket tuning. The Hilux is a versatile pick-up that is just as at home in the city as it is in the great outdoors.
4 Would be a great project – Nissan 300ZX Z32
The Nissan 300ZX is one of Nissan’s best-known sports cars in the JDM world. The 300ZX Z32 available in the US was equipped with a 3.0-litre V6, naturally aspirated or twin-turbocharged – the former producing 222 horsepower and the latter 300 horsepower.
Like many other JDM cars, such as the Toyota Supra Mk4, Mitsubishi 3000GT and Subaru Impreza WRX STI, there is a whole host of upgrades available for the 300ZX. Popular improvements include a sportier body kit, a re-tuned ECU, larger turbochargers and a better clutch. The 300ZX is a great sports car and marks one of the coolest eras for the JDM market.
3 Would be a great project – Lexus LS400
The Lexus LS400 was the first model to be launched from Toyota’s new luxury division. It was equipped with a 4.0-litre V8 engine – one of the most reliable V8s in existence, undermining the competition in the luxury sedan segment, while still offering most of the same features and options.
The LS400 is a great car to buy as a project or for everyday use. The LS400 started and cemented Lexus’ incredible customer service and reputation for reliability, which means that when the car is taken care of, it won’t let its owner down. It’s also part of the old-school luxury segment and definitely holds up better than the comparable German cars.
2 Would be a great project – Honda Accord Coupe
The Honda Accord Coupe may not sound like the most exciting car to customize, but surprisingly there is a market for it. The Accord Coupe is a slightly more luxurious version of the normal Accord sedan, but mainly because it is in a different body configuration.
The Accord Coupe, like most other Japanese cars, has many aftermarket replacement parts available, from new carbon inlay steering wheels to bodywork and forced induction kits. The Accord Coupe makes for a pretty good project car.
1 Would be a great project – Toyota Celica
The Toyota Celica can be seen as the smaller and cheaper version of the Supra. The two most popular generations of the Celica were the sixth and seventh. The sixth generation was famous for its racing history, even if Toyota cheated. The seventh generation was completely redesigned and was only available with front-wheel drive and a 1.8 liter engine.
The Celica has some great aftermarket upgrades available, from monstrous rear wings to forced induction kits like turbo and superchargers. Many owners also go for the rally look with the classic Castrol livery, or give it a body kit, huge wheels and a striking color change to make it stand out. The possibilities for customization are endless.
Cheap and easy project cars that will go unfinished for years
About the author