Question of the Week: What is the most beautiful Japanese car?

This week’s QotW is one that anyone can answer, as it requires no knowledge of history, obscure Japanese trivia, or even an ability to differentiate between a sparkplug and a lug nut. All it takes is a pair of eyes.

What is the most beautiful Japanese car?

For our suggestion, we turn to JNC‘s art director and Art Center College of Design alum Yee Chan, who says that the 1967 Toyota 2000GT is not only the most beautiful car from Japan, but among the top five most beautiful cars ever built, period. It looks stunning from every angle, and the orgy of compound curves makes the sheetmetal dance before your very eyes as you walk around the car.

What do you, dear readers, think? As usual, best comment will receive a random JDM toy in the mail. Last week’s QotW, “What is Japan’s proudest marque?” raised much debate in the comments as well as at the JNC water cooler. Click through for the answer below.

Internally at JNC, the debate raged. Some of us spoke for Nissan, for its slate of incredible cars from Prince Skylines to Zs to Silvias to the R35 GT-R. Others advocated for Mazda, which, even if you ignore the rotary and Le Mans, manages to infuse every product with Miata-like sportiness. But the final vote went to, perhaps surprisingly, Honda, which is usually  poorly represented at nostalgic shows.

Yet Old Man Soichiro had the engineering gall to imbue cars like the EF Civic with double wishbone suspension and 16V when its competition had struts and single cams. He possessed a quasi-megalomaniacal determination to the Isle of Man and Formula 1 at a time when his company had only a few years’ experience building the very machines used to compete at the world-class level. Honda went from 600cc minicars to the NSX and ASIMO robot in 20 years, its rapid advancement captured in the most beautiful car commercial of all time, the Impossible Dream.

However, the prize goes to the best comment, not the one that most agrees with us! And as such, the contest been won, appropriately, by someone named Victor who wrote:

Mazda is a special case, they’re like that crazy uncle you have thats always experimenting and inventing stuff that you wouldn’t mess with. Frankly they are brilliant, in the 60′s they came out with the worlds first dual rotor engine, in the 70′s they were throwing rotaries in almost anything they could think of (even a bus…. which is the rarest rotary in the world) and on the racetrack they were the GTR’s competition. in the 80′s they created the legendary RX7 which in a time where most cars were boring because of emissions and other crap the RX7 was still a fun car to drive with plenty of power for the time. Then in 1991 Mazda gave Japan its only win in Lemans to date, with a quad rotor 26B(maybe if they didn’t keep banning our the rotary for being too good Mazda would have made a super car by now). Then they gave us the FD and the 20B Eunos Cosmo!

Mazda is they craziest Mark there is, but thats good. By being different they have inspired many to be inventive and creative, through their history we see that anything is possible with enough dedication.

Congrats, Victor! Your prize is a Real-X Toyota Sports 800 in GT-I race livery.

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59 Responses to Question of the Week: What is the most beautiful Japanese car?

  1. Ryan said:

    The RX7 FD, Batman drove one, cant argue with that!

    • Ben said:

      Which Batman series was this? I’ve only seen a Lincoln Futura, Lamborghini, and rocket-powered wang.

      • Ryan said:

        The nick name here in NZ for the FD is a “Batman” I thought the term was more widespread, my bad.

      • Ben said:

        Haha, no worries. That’s a hilarious and fitting nickname. I WISH Bruce Wayne drove one. The Lambo is such an obvious choice!

  2. Brian said:

    Stock I would have to say, the 2000 gt is hard to compare with. It truly does have gorgeous curves, and a respectable stance, frankly amazing for the time period. The only downfall is that toyota didn’t make enough of ‘em!

    If we enter the modified market, for pure beauty the the 240Z is hard to match. It has that strangely alluring surfline found on the hako, and the excess chrome has a charm of its own. Readily available means that it really gets a variety of variations, including really amazing iterations, although this also means it is subject to corvette tail lights, strange convertible hack jobs etc (although as an owner I am ridiculously biased). And with the right fitment with/without flares, ah, just breathtaking.

    For a more modern selection, although its not quite there yet, but at 22 years the NSX is frankly awe inspiringly stunning in all trims. It was instantly a head turner, and truly opened the door for the modern japanese supercar. If people could just look past the fact it was a japanese car, perhaps a bit underpowered for its price, they would have realized the absolute beauty of the vehicle. Still wanna slap someone when they compare it to a ferrari, no its a honda, and i’ll be damned if you call it anything else.

  3. gypsy said:

    I was thinking the 1899 Horsey Horseless then I remembered it’s not Japanese. The Mitsuoka Nouera gets my vote.

  4. Nigel said:

    The Datsun 240ZG.

  5. Josh said:

    S30 Z. Hands down. There’s just something about the way every single body line, every panel, every trim piece just gels to create one of the most drop-dead gorgeous cars known to man.

  6. E-AT_me said:

    the beauty about the 2000gt isn’t just on the outside.. much like a fat chick, there is so much beauty within. from the magnificent to look at DOHC engine to the wood trim interior. the car is beautiful all over, not just on the flesh.

  7. Lucien said:

    The 2000GT is the easy answer, but it’s never really done that much for me. Something about it’s derivative styling rubs me the wrong way.

    I have to say the FD3S RX-7. I’ve never seen a car that blends feminine beauty with a taught, muscular form so well. The FD is like a swimsuit model; tight and firm in all the right places, but ever so curvy and feminine.

    Oh, did I mention DAT ASS??

    http://i373.photobucket.com/albums/oo180/krayton444/399750_10100798818004212_10135122_57985283_337141411_n.jpg

    • Killua said:

      Exactly! The FD3S’ body is like a slender woman. It’s very pretty.

      Other beautiful Japanese cars that I would name are: Toyota 2000GT, Fairlady Z (S30), Eunos Cosmo (JC) and Cosmo Sport. And I think I may be forgetting a few…

    • Snake said:

      Indeed!^__^

  8. ra21benj said:

    Nissan 180SX Type X (RPS13) . The curve of the hatch matches the front wind screen perfect and balanced, plus cool pop-up lights. For the ultimate looker, just search for the old Video Option feature on Itai Teruaki’s blue180SX by Ricoh Racing/Hot Road.
    In addition to the180SX’s beautiful styling, the chassis has great balanced handling, lots of aftermarket support, and is affordable.

  9. bert said:

    Not only is the Toyota 2000GT THE most beautiful japanese car ever made, from it’s mechanical engineering to it’s handbuilt curves inside and out, it also made it onto the top ten list of cars that look like a giant penis! The clear winner obviously!

  10. sunny310 said:

    Thats a hard one…my top 5 would be …
    datsun 240z
    toyota 2000 gt
    honda nsx
    c10 skyline gtr
    mazda cosmo

  11. TyFc3s said:

    To me, this question is a no brainer, the Fd Rx7 is, to me the most beautiful car ever made, period. Its design is so simple and elegant, small and muscular, its just so perfect. To me the FDs beauty really is in how simplistic it is, I fear the the 458 italia, or the GTR will never be anywhere near as beautiful as the simplistic Fd Rx7. it wasnt gimmicky like a lot of Japanese car, and cars in general were and are. Just a simply pure sports car made with the proper mindset, to build a timeless design focused around the wheels, motor, and passenger.

  12. Jacob Anderson said:

    240ZG, that’s an easy one. Yes, there are very nostalgic and iconic cars to come from the world of Japanese cars, but this is a car that not only is beautiful in every facet, but also touts a very famous engine that was very advanced for its time, the S20.

    There’s my vote.

    • Yoshi said:

      I don’t think the 240zg came with an s20, only the z432 variation came with that engine for s30′s I believe, I could be wrong though! But I concur that the 240zg is gorgeous!

  13. Corey Bain said:

    The Toyota 2000GT. It is the only Japanese nostalgic that can roll with an E-type and not look like the ugly duckling.

  14. Isaac said:

    The most beautiful Japanese car by far is the FD3S Mazda RX-7. No other car is as admired for its beauty as it is scorned for its sheer impracticality. Simply remove the flip-up headlights and you could bring its design to market decades later. The FD3S Mazda RX-7 remains stunning.

  15. Victor said:

    The FD3S for the sole reason that the design is nearly 20 years old, and yet with just tiny changes like wheels and a newer front bumper, and ride height, it can be made to look like a brand new car. Just because a car is new doesn’t necesarily mean that it is beautiful, but a car with a timeless design that can go decades looking better than half of the things being produced is. For this reason I choose the FD, and I’m interested to see when the day will come that the FD will look old.

    http://image.turbomagazine.com/f/10043498/turp_0807_08_z+2008_greddy_performance_festival+mazda_fd3s.jpg

  16. John said:

    And to pile on, all the JNC guys know that I think the FD3S RX7 is hands down the most beautiful car ever produced. No question in my mind. 8)

  17. John said:

    You can’t walk into any dealer in town and buy something this cool. 20 years later, it still looks like it could be sold new today…

    Exhibit A: http://www.supercarwheels.co.uk/Portals/2/LiveContent/543/Images/RX7%2019%20Inch%20ISS%20Forged%20FM%2010.jpg

  18. Max said:

    SA22-C RX7. Not only was it beautiful in works mode, but it was also the car that made Mazda a respected marque amongst racers, tuners, etc. In stock form, it gave the consumer a car that delivered on a wholly different level from other cars in it’s size range.

    Although Mazda had been trying to popularize the rotary for some time, it wasn’t perfected until the SA22-C came around. The fact that they came to America for the Daytona and absolutely dominated the competition was amazing enough, but for this to happen with the car’s debut is astonishing.

    So, to recap: we have incredible looks (especially with flares and the duck bill spoiler), racing pedigree, and ingenuity even in the face of absolute defeat. If beauty is sculpted lines and advanced (for the time) technology, then yes, the 2000GT is a clear winner. But if beauty can be applied to everyday usefulness and realistic ownership, the SA22-C wins. After all, how many 2000GT’s, KPGC10′s, or 240ZG’s do you see putzing around town still?

  19. Sf said:

    Classic

    2000gt
    240z
    Skyline KPGC10

    Modern

    LFA
    NSX
    Z32
    FD

  20. gypsy said:

    The resale values of FD Rx7s in Australia tell a very different story to all the FD comments above. You can’t sell them unless you have a super cheap price on them… impossible to move otherwise ! The only exception as far as FD Rx7s go is the Homologated SP that were specifically engineered to beat Porsche 968s. I don’t think the general public sees anything special regarding the FD. When was the last time you heard your wife, sister, mother say, “Oh wow look at that beautiful classic shiny FD over there, isnt just gorgeous !”

    It’s a tough contest between a Mazda Rx3 coupe and a 2 seater Datsun 240z. The Toyota 2000GT although is an iconic sports car is not proportioned right, the rear C pillar window area looks all wrong as does the rear end making it not so attractive. To be an eye catching classic, it needs to have lots of chrome brightwork and no plastic bumper bars !

    • IMO said:

      I lold at the FD comment, but I dislike that car. I do completely agree, 240z and Rx3 coupes are a tough two to choose from. Me being a Nissan person, I would say the 240z of those two. Though a low first gen cressida wagon is a work of art, Toyota or not it may be the most “beautiful” classic Japanese IMO. Modern Japanese I would say the s15, something about its lines.

    • john said:

      The resale values of FD Rx7s in Australia tell a very different story to all the FD comments above. You can’t sell them unless you have a super cheap price on them… impossible to move otherwise !

      Well, here in the states nice examples fetch insane amounts of money, sometimes more than they cost new. Both the FD and the Mk4 Supra have held their values better than any Japanese car, often selling for $25-30k+.

  21. Bob said:

    Alright, I’m throwing my hat in on this one.

    I’ve always felt that having a “most beautiful car” contest was basically a pissing match… it’s so objective. I will hold that, in my eyes, the most beautiful four wheeled hunk of sheetmetal ever built is the 1938 Delahaye Type 165 bodied by Figoni et Falaschi for the 1938 Paris Motor show, but that being said, it’s all up in the air past this.

    As for Japanese cars, for me, it will always be the first Celicas. The moment I first laid eyes on a picture of one, I knew I wanted it. And I fought like hell to get one. I lied to my family, drove a trashed Jeep 3,500 miles to get one, and I don’t think I can remember ever being as happy as those four days I had it, nor can I remember ever feeling so destroyed as I did standing on the I-10, watching the rear tire pop as it was dragged off the freeway by a tow truck.

    It’s been 3 and a half years, and I still want another one. I’ve almost bought all sorts of cars, even ended up buying a Mazda 1800 in the process… and nothing does it for me. Nothing will until I get another Celica. Everyone who knows me knows that’s what I want. Something about the shape… it’s everything that makes American muscle cars of the late ’60s so good looking, distilled and perfected in a way only the Japanese can to it’s mere essence, and drawn into a more useable shape and size. It didn’t need ridiculous scoops and wings to ooze of sex and speed, it looks best in it’s most pure original form. I wouldn’t have put myself through the hell I did for any other car… no 240Z could make me do that, the 2000GT looks too phallic for my tastes and the rear lights always looked like an afterthought, and as much as I love the Cosmo, it’s an awkward looking tinplate spaceship on wheels.

    There’s a TA22 shaped hole in my heart. And that’s just how it is.

    • Toy_yoda said:

      Ditto! Give this man a prize. I just read through the 50 comments posted so far and this is the only one that speaks from the heart of a car lover.

  22. Krzysiu said:

    The LFA, its a pity that I will very likely never see one on the road.

  23. Bob said:

    Make that RA22. Oops. haha.

    Also, I’ve given it some thought. I’d be pretty tied between a CSP311 Silvia and an early Celica… but the market decided for me that I won’t be seeing a CSP311 in my driveway anytime soon.

  24. solidstripe said:

    What a good question! Makes one think…

    I was thinking that maybe the 1961 Prince Skyline Sport (BLRA-3) was the peak of this new line of thinking early in the 60′s.

    But in reality, in-my-honest-rose-tinted-glasses-opinion, I still think a 1966 Prince Gloria had all the right curves in all the right places…

    Or the 1966 Toyota Concept – staight out of the Jetsons – how much more “japanese beauty” can you get than bringing cartoon inspiration into a reality?

  25. www.JDMjunkies.ch said:

    i’d definitly say the “Datsun Fairlady 432-R”

  26. Sprinter 1969 said:

    Ironically, too many to pick from!

    Sadly most people who are outside the appreciative cohort of Japanese designed cars actually go a long way to discredit Japanese design. You’ll often hear about how the Japanese emulated western models, used imported (Italian, German and American designers), but what they all overlook is the simplicity of Japanese design management. At the end of the designers day a design decision was made by a very select few of executives. If they did not like what they did see, then mister designer was back to the drawing board.

  27. E-AT_me said:

    i’ll be honest..up there i said 2000gt. i have a strange secret fetish for a nicely modified Hino Contessa. i don’t know why. they just look so…. good. so much character in such a little car. may not be sexy, but sure as hell is cute..

  28. TomW said:

    Have to join in on the Mazda RX-7 FD.

    The best-balanced shapes are those that aren’t distorted by having to accommodate a huge engine. Think of how the Muira hides its V12 by slinging it sideways, and has yet to be bettered in the beauty stakes by any subsequent supercar. The FD does the same trick; the compactness of the rotary allows a short, low bonnet and a short rear deck. The basic proportion is the classic FR, but much subtler than something like an RPS13 or S30 with their long bonnets.

    With the basic balance in place, the FD then adds a skin that is shrink-wrapped around the mechanicals, with real three-dimensional curves beautifully covering the four wheels. The closer you look, the more you see – like the perfectly judged ‘double bubble’ roof. The FD is the classic GT shape, updated for the twentieth century. Like all the great shapes, it looks good in any colour, although light or bright metallics are best – silver or blue, for instance.

    Furthermore, in this case the balanced and athletic shape is a perfect example of beauty being the splendor of truth, since the car’s performance and handling perfectly fulfill the promises made by looking at it.

  29. Dutch 1960 said:

    The Z takes its inspiration from the Ferrari GTO, sharing all the hard point dimensions and proportions, and going for a slightly more angular package. The FD RX7 takes its inspiration from the Alfa Canguro, a 60s one off Italian show car, but in a larger and more rounded shape. Both the Z and the FD are icons, and took some inspiration from the best. Since this is totally subjective, my vote for most beautiful is the first Honda F1 car from the 1960s.

  30. Drive510 said:

    You guys know what I’m going to say.

  31. Brian said:

    I think the 2000GT has to be the all around winner, but I think there are some others that warrant mentioning.

    I have always loved the NSX, not just for how it looks but for what it symbolizes. It was Honda standing up and saying that we can build a supercar just as good as yours and we can do it in our own way and in many ways do it even better. It had distinct styling that held up with only minor redesigns for 15 years and it had the performance to match. As a kid I remember having an exotic car calendar and there nestled on top of June, between months of Ferrari’s and Lambo’s was the NSX. It was love at first sight and to this day I still have that page.

    However, if we are going no holds barred, I think I would have to offer up Tommy Kaira’s ZZII. While the original ZZ had incredible performance, its looks were a bit polarizing. The more recent ZZII kicks up the performance a notch, but its styling is unparalleled. It looks good from every angle and while it may look extreme, all of that bulging bodywork serves a purpose. I think it is the ultimate union between form and function. Unfortunately, it never hit production.

  32. F3ARED said:

    Bit more modern then what usually occupies this spot, but it would have to be the first gen MX5. Despite Mazda openly admitting the original Lotus Elan was the inspiration for styling and driving ideals, it is in a nutshell a modern interpretation of what was good about motoring in general – affordable, rear wheel drive, sporty but easy to live with and cheap to maintain – values that were a well known characteristic of Japanese sports cars in that time period, but with the styling flair of the European offerings of that time.

    As a compromise it is the ultimate. It still retains the fun and reliable side of the deal, and the styling while an obvious throwback to the Lotus was well recieved – it was simple, cute to look at despite being feminine [lets face it - beautiful is a term typical applied to females] and as a design it has stood the 20 odd years and aged gracefully.

    Guess thats why it is THE benchmark for affordable convertibles.

  33. Kevin T said:

    I’d say the Fairlady Roadster 1600/2000. It’s small, lightweight, gives you that awesome feeling top down and banks turns like it’s on rails. Allows you to take out a lady, watch the damn sunset and bang her til the sun comes up. It’s really an awesome little car. If modded right with some Mikuni/Solex carbs, and tuned with some nice headers, it sings wonderful tunes shifting through the gears. With almost no heavy interior pieces, you can just friggin hear those throttles wop wop woping! This little beauty was also raced in everything Datsun was able to throw it into like the Z. If this beautiful car can’t make you feel young and free, I don’t know what else…

  34. banpei said:

    i always go for something not named before and since the Mazda Cosmo and Toyota 2000GT were already covered in the blog post I’d like to suggest the kujira Crown S60.

    Back in the early 70s it may have been too avantgarde for its time but nowadays it is a very good representation of the space-age in Japan. It blends nicely into a Expo ’70 background and it features beautiful lines on both the sedan and hardtop coupe. And nowadays it still is capable to draw immediate attention from anyone in a 100 yard radius.

  35. Tyler said:

    Isuzu Vehicross. Never has an SUV looked so fluid and yet aggressive. They are so cool and yet still have that proportional quirk that makes them unmistakably Japanese. The rarity and Isuzu badge just add to the appeal. I’ve wanted one for as long as I can remember. You all can make points for your pretty sports cars but at the end of the day they look like so many other pretty sports cars from Europe and America. The Vehicross looks like nothing else. A stunning piece of sculpture.

  36. Gauthier said:

    you gotta love the hachiroku. 25years after its run its still a popular choice for tuners,drifters or any car people. the black&white(panda) color scheme is an iconic look in the car world. go ask the fans of initialD what they think. even in canada you can see some in events. but my definitive answeer would really be the toyota hachiroku in black & white(panda style).
    just looking at it makes me wanna drift my dad’s ae86 on mount Haruna or maybe somewhere in montreal since japan is a bit far.

  37. buzzin said:

    SA22C

  38. dave said:

    how the hell do you beat the 2000GT?

    the FD comes close

  39. Harrison said:

    Prince Skyline 1900 Sprint. Absolutely gorgeous. :O

  40. I vouch for Toyota Sports 800. Which also known as yotahachi!

    This car design it self exceed its era. A beautifuly made small japanese roadster, and also one of the first japanese sportscar.

    It is the pure light weight no need of big engine sports car. And also economical!

    It predates the targa roof before porce! It deisgned with aeroplane aerodynamics which is uncommon at the time.

    It is simply the car which is ahead of its time.

    Cheers :)