QotW: What Japanese car did we get the better version of?

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Type Rs, GT-Rs, S20s, SR20s, and so on. So often we hear about how Japan kept the best stuff for themselves, while we cackling execs foisted detuned sissy versions on our shores. But that’s wasn’t always the case, and we’d like to know:

What Japanese car did we get the better version of?

Right from the start, our based versions of the S30 Z had no fewer than 2.4 liters, while Japan got 2.0. The second-gen Acura Legend was never sold with a 6-speed Japan. Our 2002 Infiniti M45 had a V8, while its equivalent Cedric in Japan had just a six. The list goes on and on. Perhaps the earliest example, however, came in the form of the Datsun 411 SSS. In America we got the “sleeper” version that wasn’t labled as such, but had the Datsun 1600 roadster’s 1.6L motor stuffed in a base model 411 without the chrome.

What say you, dear reader? As always, the most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of the last QotW, “What’s the next Japanese collectible?” 

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There were many great predictions on where the market is going from the likes of Nakazoto, Kuroneko, and pstar, but in the end the winner was Midship Runabout with the most entertaining comment, an apples to yuzu comparison between J-tin and E-tin.

1. 240Z. Already has cross-generational appeal. Will probably settle into the market niche currently occupied by the 2002tii and Alfa GTV.

2. FB RX-7. A step down from the 240Z in terms of broad appeal, despite being the finest affordable sports car of its generation. In terms of collector valuation, I’d figure on this being in the MGB/TR6 neighborhood.

3. R32 GT-R. Though not an apples-to-apples comparison, I think it’s easy to see this car attract the same sort of buyer who is into E30 M3s, and we all know what THEY’RE doing these days.

4. The Four Horsemen of the ’90s. Here’s where JNCs stand the best chance of being market-makers, instead of moving into niches already occupied by European collectibles. The reason is simple: the NSX, 300ZX, Supra and FD are so vastly superior to their contemporary rivals that when the appreciation curve really starts to kick in, they’re going to leave the 348, C4 Corvette, 968 et al in the dust.

I really want to include the AE86 on this list, but I’m having a hard time convincing myself that the unwashed masses will ever see this as more than a “warm Corolla.” In terms of where it might sit in the marketplace, I can imagine it being comparable to the Audi Ur-Quattro: a cult classic among a narrow band of motorsport cognoscenti, but never a huge mainstream hit. Pity.

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31 Responses to QotW: What Japanese car did we get the better version of?

  1. Stivva said:

    While it all depends on what you see as making a car better, as by reading the opening paragraph you would assume that is engine capacity, this does not necessarily make it superior. What with the Silvia coming out with the larger KA24 over the better SR20. It is often trim levels in Japanese autos that trump anything sold in the global market. Western versions of J-tin are oft sold with drab black and grey interiors and lose the on board computers, fragrance sprayers, seat warmers, coolers & massages. But the one thing cars bound for overseas didn’t have (on the most part) is the 180km speed limiter.

    That and the R31 Skyline in Australia was sold with an RB30… which is still imported back into Japan at a premium after being stripped out of a wreck and valued locally for less than a case of VB.

  2. Bart said:

    This is a great questions, as I feel we pretty much got boned when it comes to most imports…especially for me.

  3. Chris said:

    The Mazda RX-7 GSL-SE is a great example of a car that Japan didn’t get. It came with a 13B 6-port motor that was fuel injected. All american/Canadian S3 RX-7’s came with an upgraded quality interior that the rest of the world didn’t get. The even when as far to change the rear end suspension geometry so the car wouldn’t be as tail happy. The GSL-SE came with the upgraded brakes and wheels that all S3 Japanese RX-7’s got (the only thing Japan had better than us on other models). It also came with stuff like a full size radiator and a front mount oil cooler, different transmission (also a 5 speed but with different gearing), Lower rear end gearing, different sway bars, Pirelli P6 tires, etc. I can write out a full list if anyone wants it and I also have ads and Brochures.

    I used to have an ’83 RX-7 GSL and the difference with my ’84 GSL-SE is amazing. it actually has low end torque. It also feels like a completely different car in the corners.

  4. r100guy said:

    Same goes with the RX3s. All of our Rx3s came with the larger 12A engine where as in Japan, the lesser models came with 10A engines and only the GT came with the 12A. Rx4 and Cosmo also came only with the larger 13B rotary and no piston engine models were sold in the states. Rotary pickup was not sold in Japan but only in North America. CX9 is built in Japan but not sold in Japan.

  5. Invinciblejets said:

    I could be wrong but weren’t we the only one to get the eclipse gsx?
    I know it’s not nostalgic yet but awd turbo pop up headlights the 1g is close enough

    • daruma3gakoronda said:

      GSX was called GSR-4.

    • daruma3gakoronda said:

      Also, the 1G eclipse is nostalgic, given that it was first sold in 1989, no?

    • pstar said:

      Seeing as how it was manufactured exclusively in Illinois, for the North American market, on a Chrysler chassis, DSMs cannot be considered Japanese. Any more than a Ford Ka could be considered an American car. The Ford Probe at least has a Japanese chassis AND a Japanese engine, and do you know anybody who thinks its Japanese?

  6. Michael McDonald said:

    That’s my RL411 and I have to say that even with its British Borg Warner automatic transmission it has embarassed many a BMW 1600 and 2000. Of course I don’t do that anymore.

    • Pete240z said:

      Were all the 411’s in the states SSS’s? There is one for sale by my house.

      • Michael McDonald said:

        No. There are PL411s and RL411s. The PL411s had the 1300 J13 engine and a manual floor shift transmission. The R version had a modified Roadster 1600 cc engine,]. Even then, all RL411 were not badged “SSS”, the default badging was “1600” on the radiator grill and trunk lid. It had 4 on the floor gear shift or a British Borg Warner automatic transmission. Actually moreautomatic than manual transmission cars were shipped to the USA.

    • Michael McDonald said:

      And, I got an insanely, by my recoming, firm cashbid or my RL411 at the last 2013 Queen Mary JCCS Meet, It al depends on who wants to sell and who lusts for that vehicle.

  7. Rayson said:

    Not quite japanese nostalgic but I think we did get a more powerful 2.5L 300hp engine on the earlier USDM Subaru Impreza STi than the usual 2.0L 280hp one in Japan and Europe. correct me if I am wrong tho!

    • Stj said:

      More liters doesn’t mean better, the JDM engine is far superior being stronger and also making more hp only not on paper.

  8. ryan said:

    The Starion springs to mind. NZ’s suply of japanese delivered starions were 95% flat bodies. But in US there’s a lot more widebodies I believe?

    • ryan said:

      Actually you guys dont have the rotary tax we have either. I mean an rolling bodie rx3 is over 10k! A clapped out fb…5k!

    • John said:

      Also came with a smaller engine, I believe? So Japan mostly got flat-side 2.0s and the US got 2.6L wide bodies.

  9. Kane said:

    Yes this is a good one, but im gonna have to answer the question from my perspective. And that is ‘what car did we (In Australia) get the better version of’?.

    Im going to have the go with the same answer that I gave for last weeks QotW, and also learnt last week from someone replying to my question ( thanks again).
    That answer is the Mazda RX7 FD SP, Only Australia received this version of the FD RX7. It is the lightest, fastest and the rarest of the FD’s, And its has more performance extras than you can think of (also there is too much to list haha). But with only 25 genuine SPs ever made, the rarity is amazing. there where a few more made by mazda australia but they where only made of spare parts and dont quallify as genuine SPs (there where 28 made in total). Thats not the reason I chose the rx7 tho. I chose it becouse its the only car that I can think of that came out over here in australia that is better than any japanese version they have over there, its was realy suprising to find that out.

    So im going to have to go with the Mazda RX7 SP, becouse australia got it and its awsome-ness and no one else did.

  10. Gary said:

    Got to be careful when start talking about Japanese imports into Australia…

    I can’t vouch for the RX7 FD; but can say most if not all of the early ‘special’ cars were actually manufactured here from CKD with the local parts bin raided. I believe that’s the case with the Corona 1600S – which Australia built in both coupe and four door variants.

  11. gaijinshogun said:

    I want to say one word to you. Just one word.
    Are you listening?

    “REPU”

    Let’s take a basic truck, stick in the most exotic high revving torqueless engine around, slap on some huge tires and overfenders, put in a slick interior….and wait, don’t forget to add a tach. Just make it fast and forget about gas mileage.

    You taking about the kid down the street building what again? NO No no….this is the 70’s. I’m talking about a factory built truck.

    Don’t you think that idea is a little half-baked?
    Oh no, son, it’s completely baked.

  12. cesariojpn said:

    The Mitsubishi GTO had the wing in the proper area. Dodge nudged the wing more to the back windshield, and in the process, made the Dodge Stealth look more aggressive. So we “muricans got the better Mitsubishi GTO.

  13. Alvin said:

    Maybe the Accord Coupe? Since Honda split the Accord into the Accord Euro and the USDM Accord, to my knowledge the Accord coupe wasn’t really sold in Japan. The Accord sedan was sold as the Inspire.

  14. Mike Moore said:

    You in the US got the REPU.
    Rotary Engine Pick-up.
    In 1974 for some strange reason Mazda decided to release what I consider is the one car that has been missed the most in Australia.
    For those that don’t know that was a small pickup with a 13B rotary engine.
    This is the same engine that Mazda occasionally put into a bus and a thing called a Roadpacer the car with the worlds best interior trim in my humble opinion. The REST of the world including japan in the same year got a 1600cc 4 cylinder ute.
    Why this combo ( small ute big rotary)was never sold to the rest of the world or produced in anything but left hand drive will always remain a constant mystery to me!

  15. Yoda said:

    Another vote for the REPU. Runner up would be anything with a stick that’s saddled with a mandatory automatic spun by a few hundred fewer cc’s back home (Honda Fit Base, anyone?)

  16. AKADriver said:

    B13 Sentra SE-R. The top spec version of the B13 Sunny in Japan was the 1800 GT-S. It had nicer bumpers and reasonably capable SR18DE… but didn’t get the SE-R’s suspension magic.

    The Mazdaspeed Protege was also a US exclusive.

  17. LB said:

    The Supra guys would say that the US-spec 2JZ-GTEs had a stronger bottom end than the Japanese versions.

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