Japan is the land of many weird and wonderful cars. Here are 5 awesome JDM cars you have never heard of
Japan is not only one of the top automotive manufacturing countries in the world, they also make some of the most bizarre and wonderful cars as well. Here are some of the most eccentric cars out of the land of the rising sun that were never sold in the United States.
And in no particular order…
Mitsuoka is a Japanese automobile manufacturer that designed, built and marketed the Mitsuoka Orochi. The Orochi was first introduced as a concept car in 2001 built on the Honda NSX platform. Its design underwent additional updates and revisions in 2003 and 2005 before being put into production in late 2006.
According to Mitsuoka, the car is designed “to gather the attention from everyone”. When asked to categorize the vehicle, the manufacturer calls the car a “fashion-super car”.
Named after a legendary eight-headed, eight-tailed Japanese dragon, a total of 400 hundred units were produced over its 8 year production run. Its production run was split into several different variants produced in limited numbers with prices starting at the equivalent of $100,000 and going up from there.
While the concept car was powered by the Honda NS-X, production vehicles had the 3.3 liter Toyota 3MZ-FE V6. This is the same engine that powered the Toyota Camry and Highlander, along with the Lexus ES330.
The Toyota Sera is a Japanese domestic market sports compact car produced between 1990 and 1996. At first glance, it is similar to the Toyota Tercel, Paseo, and Starlet from the same era. At least as long as the doors were closed.
Observers could see that the car was different the moment that the doors opened. It featured a mostly glass roof canopy and butterfly doors that tile up and forward when opened.
Powered by the 1.5 liter inline 4 5E-FHE engine, the Sera was marketed as an alternative to the Toyota MR2 in Japan.
A total of 15,941 units were built between 1990 and 1996 with most of those vehicles registered in Japan.
The Japanese love their retro cars. The Nissan Figaro is pretty much proof of this.
Looking as though it was built in 1965, the Figaro was actually made in 1991. Demand was so high in Japan that production of the quirky automobile was doubled. Even then, that was not enough to satisfy demand. A lottery had to be set up to select buyers for the vehicle.
The Figaro is a front-engine, front-wheel drive, two-door convertible. In its one-year production run, a total of twenty thousand examples were sold, all with right hand drive.
Because of its quirky design, the Nissan Figaro has a small following of enthusiasts not only in the Japan but in the United States as well. A JDM only dealer in Virginia has dozens of them for sale.
Related to the Nissan Figaro, the Nissan Pao was a retro-styled three-door hatchback sold between 1989 and 1991. Available with an optional textile roof, it was sold by reservation only for three months from January 15 through April 14, 1989. All 51,657 units produced in its three production run were sold in the three-month reservation window.
Reminiscent of the British Mini or Honda N600, produced 25 years prior, the Nissan Pao was powered by a water-cooled inline 4-cylinder engine producing only 51 horsepower.
The AutoZam was built exclusively for the Japanese domestic market, the AutoZam was a fun handling sports car. One of the more unique features were the gullwing doors.
The AutoZam is a Kei-car or “light automobile”. It is a Japanese legal category for the smallest and most limited power, road-legal motor vehicles. They include cars, microvans, and trucks.
In exchange for complying with certain requirements, they offer both insurance and tax benefits for their owners. There are additional benefits that extend to rural owners of these vehicles.
To qualify as a K-car to accrue all of the benefits afforded them, the vehicle length must be less than 11 feet and have a width of 4 ft. 10 inches, or less. The engine volume and power must be below 660 cubic centimeters with 63 horsepower, respectively.
The AutoZam is powered by a three*cylinder turbocharged engine mounted behind the driver. Displacement was 657 cubic centimeters and output was 63 horsepower.
There were several Japanese tuners who specialized in getting more power from the tiny engine. Now that these cars are eligible for importation into the United States, they are developing quite a small cult following.
These are but a small sampling of the quirky cars to come out of Japan. There are many more that I will write about in future posts.
What do you think about these cars? Do you like them?
Let me know if there is a unique car you would like to read about.