QotW: What JNC do you recommend for a car enthusiast?

We have danced around these types of questions before, but always with a stipulation that a JNC recommended to others needs to be dependable and safe. This week, the gloves are off! This time, we’re suggesting a JNC to someone who’s handy with a socket set (metric and standard). Since it may be hard to answer this question, please think of someone you personally know and go from there. Include him or her in your response. Maybe it’s someone who has dealt with JNCs in the past; maybe someone who has a domestic only mantra or diehard German engineering fan.

What JNC do you recommend for a car enthusiast?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “JNC Challenge, Part 4“.

Last week, I made a fumble on getting out the QotW question posted (kind of a big deal). Like being on a long expressway with nothing in sight except mile markers, you sometimes space out. But, you recovered the QotW Challenge by promptly giving an overwhelming chorus of “change those tires/tyres!” to our JNC challenge question of how to prepare for an upcoming gymkhana.

This week’s winner had a little something from everyone’s responses all rolled into one. It was none other than Randy, who able to upgrade the Shuttle and save us $70 dollars!

As this was the first gymkhana, a good set of tires on our stock 14 inch wheels would provide night and day performance from the Sunday paper deal-of-the-week tires currently on the Shuttle. Sure, they were technically made of rubber and had a round shape, but dependable they were not. Also, taking a few of the interior bits out (carefully!) adds to your knowledge base of your pride and joy!

Agree with the tires.

Do we have the 13″ or 14″ wheels? If we have the 14s, swap the 175/70-14s, for 195/60-14s. If they’re 13s, there really ain’t lots that I’ve seen… Maybe just get a set of GOOD tires, without worrying about the limits yet.

Assuming 14s, either Tire Rack or Disc. Tire works out to about $280/set, so no wheels this time.

While you have the thing off the ground, check the struts, bushings, brake lines, etc., for future reference.

Did these even HAVE a rear, anti-sway bar? If not, put it on the list for future “stuff.”

Estimating $70 left over to add to future incoming money.

I’ll also agree about the “easily removable” stuff. Make sure the bolts aren’t too tight to make your life a bit easier, as well.

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

JNC Decal smash

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24 Responses to QotW: What JNC do you recommend for a car enthusiast?

  1. Dave Patten said:

    Either a Datsun 510 (68-73) or Z Car (S30, 70-78).
    Both are going up in popularity and price, but one needing some hands-on love can still be urchased at a reasonable amount.

    The reasons why they are the best:
    – The cars were sold in volume, so they are not rare collectables, but are very popular.
    – The technology is not overwhelming and most repairs can be done with basic tools.
    – Service and restoration parts are available and in some areas used parts are an option.
    – There is stil a good supply of performance parts available, if this is the route for you.
    – The depth of knowledge found thru on-line social and technical sites is almost endless.
    – The best reason, be it stock or modified, is these cars are just a ball to own and drive.
    – And you will always get a thumbs-up or wave when traveling down the road in one.

    Dave Patten, Datsun 510 owner since 1983.

  2. Ant said:

    Since no budget has been stipulated, I’m going to shoot for the R32 Skyline GT-R, as it perfectly represents Japan’s ability to use technology to enhance the way a car goes and feels, and it’s an example of what’s possible when Japanese car manufacturers found the confidence to forge their own path. And if weaning someone off a US muscle car or German ‘bahnstormer is the goal, then a JNC needs to bring its performance A-game.

  3. Negishi no Keibajo said:

    If “car” includes trucks or SUV’s, I’d vote a Suzuki Samurai. Plenty of parts, support & a myriad od engines to swap in.

    If doesn’t include the above, a first generation NA Mazda is a good start for the same reasons minus the engine swaps.

    Practicle choices, mind you. Going exotic, I ‘d go for an Autozam AZ-1 in a heartbeat.

  4. Matthew Vona said:

    This is surelly a tough choice. But i will definatelly recomend the Toyota Corolla ae86 or the Nissan/Datsun Z (s30).

    The reasons are quite simple. They are both driver focused cars. They are not that rare and give you a very respective driving feeling from thei eras.
    You can easily work on them, learn from them and really enjoy driving. No electronics, no assists and they are both respected from all car community.
    They will bring you closer to many people along the way, who will help build, repair, restore or modify them.

    In conclusion they will be a blast to drive, work on them and will surelly be an interesting adventure owning them.

  5. Mark Newton-John said:

    Coming full circle from a TE27 Corolla to a number of Audis, and assuming the enthusiast is NOT a 20-something with a primer grey Civic with an unpainted body kit, an untouched Supra would be a good start. Good luck finding one, though.

  6. BlitzPig said:

    First gen MR2, good luck finding one in my area though…

    First gen RX7. Still a few around and they are a great car.

    First gen Mx 5, lots of them around, lots of support, the best traditional 2 seat sports car ever devised. Period.

    For the more adventurous… Honda S800. They do exist on this side of the Pacific, and a 10K red line… What’s not to love?

  7. Cho said:

    Datsun 510 or 620. Toyota Starlet or Corolla hatchback(FX16). Even 80’s era Celica and Supra.

  8. Randy said:

    Wow, I won! Thanks! These are a good mental exercise for car people!

    Now, on to the “first enthusiast vehicle…”

    Okay, so in my “immediate circle” of people, I have an uncle who’d just about kill for a ’62 Chevy, and a friend’s daughter who has a Tiburon (nice; LOADED – the car); that’s about it for the “enthusiast” crowd… That makes ME the enthusiast of the bunch. Yay – the sheep is a darker shade of black.

    I can go in 2 directions here, with my only real requirement being that I have to be able to get parts without scouring ads in Australia.

    What’s the person’s lifestyle?

    For a CAR, I’d say first-gen Miata, or an old-enough Corolla.
    – Stupid-common, and parts are easy to get, with the possible exception of the (Miata) headlight doors.
    – Corolla could be done as a TOURING car; not a TUNER. Think scaled-down executive hotrod. I’m looking at the FWD models, here. Y’all know how I am about butchering up the increasingly-rare classics. (For some reason, I’m seeing charcoal grey, black interior, with black Enkei mesh wheels, and side stripes. Subtle.)
    – Small enough to not hog up ALL OF the garage or driveway, since we ARE just starting out here.

    How about a TRUCK?
    – Off-roader, or street truck? If street, either wide wheels and tires on the back, OR duallies.
    – Could do a 4WD, lowered to be a streeter, or a trail toy.
    – Toyota or Nissan is the easy answer – again for the parts-availability.

    A lot more “less-common” vehicles would be on the street if the aftermarket was bigger, hence the call on the above vehicles. It may be okay getting 1/4 panels for the ’76 Celica GT, but for an ’86 Sapporo, not so much, and I know *I’d* hate to see a project fail because parts are just not there… Too many cars go to the yard because of that; don’t wanna add to the casualties.

  9. Fifty5engineering said:

    Pretty simple answer for me. I’d recommend almost any Japanese classic as long as:

    1. It has a manual transmission.
    2. The rust monster hasn’t yet destroyed it.

  10. ahja said:

    I think the desire to evangelize Japanese classics to enthusiasts who aren’t already interested in them on their own isn’t healthy. And maybe pathetic. You don’t see someone “recommending” a 911 to a Corvette fan or vice versa is just …silly. Everyone is fully aware of the other, and they have made their choice, most likely a long time ago. And anyone who is out there who can be persuaded by a “Hey have you heard of a 240Z/AE86/Supra? They’re great, you should totally get one!” is NOT an enthusiast. …And even if there are Camaro guys out there who have never heard of an MR2, why would it even be desirable to have them go JNC? So more classic cars can be ruined with Chevy V8 swaps and retarded 18″ wheels?

    Anyway, I think the realistic “enthusiasts” for this question would be people who already like Japanese cars, are decently aware of the classics, but have never owned one themselves. Its not really that there is a model to recommend to them, as they should and probably do have a few that they particularly like. Its convincing them that having an impractical classic car is worthwhile and fun and something they should do. We aren’t new car salesmen. Classic cars aren’t for fulfilling somebody’s needs or a checklist of features. They aren’t utilitarian. Their sound systems suck, if they even have power-stuff it is antiquated, clunky, and slow compared to modern cars.

    So, its about encouraging them to make the plunge. There are a lot of things about the classic car hobby that inherently deter more people from getting involved. But we need them and their lives can and will be enriched if they do. And it is very much a lifestyle commitment. Cars are expensive. There needs to be space for them. Maintaining, modifying, and fixing them takes a commitment of time and money. And its way better with like minded people to inspire and encourage you. People in real life, not social media. Best we can do is encourage people to pursue their curiosity and desire and actually get that old Datsun or Toyota or Integra that they always wanted to have in high school but never got around to. They need that push. Not telling them what they should get. They already know what they WOULD get, IF they were to get an old car.

    • Dave Patten said:

      ahja – I think the question isn’t what car would you suggest to make a JNC convert out of a make/model vested enthusiast, but more one that suggests which JNC you feel is the best, if asked.

      I have always been a car enthusiast. At 12 years old, I had a subscription to Hot Rod magazine in my name. As a teenager, I owned a 66 Mustang. I totaled that car during my senior year in high school and it was a new acquaintance who introduced me to a 61 VW Bug. That became air cooled VW’s 24-7 for several years. It wasn’t until I bought my first 510 in ’83 that I found my enduring enthusiast make/model.

      So to say you cannot be an enthusiast without being committed to one make and/or model I take exception.

      I do agree that a vested enthusiast will rarely be a convert, JNC or otherwise, but an enthusiast looking for guidance or a change is what I feel this question is more directed toward.

      • Yuri said:

        I totally agree with Dave. I went to high school in a rural part of the midwest, that happened to be infested with river valleys and twisty roads. However, I was hardcore american muscle, wanting an F-body, but content with my beat up ten year old Ford Ranger.

        Everything changed forever when I bought a Playstation in 1998, and the second game I bought was Gran Turismo. I was suddenly awakened to all these cars I never heard about that could totally spank a Corvette. Having no reference to what was cool, I built up a Mitsubishi FTO GP version R in the game, and loved it to death, proud that on split screen I could destroy my friends Vipers in a memory card duel. One thing led to another. When my Ranger wouldn’t hold up to going off to college, my mom helped me buy my first performance car, a 5-speed targa roof ’87 Toyota Supra turbo.

        This led me to an article on this cool thing guys were doing in Japan called drifting. Looking into this led to buying copies of an anime called Initial D, and getting an internship in SoCal. I spent all the money on a 60k mile S13, swapping in an SR20 and putting on a Silvia face. I took it back to the midwest to finish my last year of college, and then it took me west again when I graduated, where it died one mile from my destination. I fixed it, but bought a new Mitsubishi Evo VIII that week, because unicorn car from Gran Turismo…. I’ve now had 26 vehicles (Mostly Japanese, but a few musclecars and euros) in 20 years of driving, and my current collection consists of a zenki AE86 GTS coupe, S30Z, S13 two tone coupe, ’91 MA70 Supra, and a 6-speed chuki Honda CR-Z (because daily-driver.)

        I guess what I’m saying is, just because someone is really into a certain type of car, doesn’t mean that they won’t be open to something new. Just by opening a little window on to a whole new world for them, they might find something that fits them even better than they thought.

      • ahja said:

        I never said you have to be committed to one make or model. I like a wide range of things myself. But trying to convert the “domestic only” guy, or the “German diehard” is right there in the question. Its like asking what kind of pet fish you’d recommend to a crazy cat lady.

  11. DallasD said:

    I think that the answer should be purely emotional. Set logic and practicality aside, and ask: What does the enthusiast want in a car, which JNCs uniquely provide? What does the enthusiast love? It is not an exaggeration; the feeling of fulfillment iis what forms bonds between man and machine.

    The purchase of a JNC is founded in passion for the long journey ahead. For the feeling of pride that comes through adversity and achievement. The enthusiast devotes considerable resources to automobiles, and already has a practical car for daily utility. He or she wants to LOVE a car, and for it to love them back.

    The ideal JNC is different for everyone. For one enthusiast in particular, it is the S30 Z-car. He saw them frequently as a young child, and they were one of the first cars which fueled his enthusiasm for automobiles, more so than even Lamborghinis and Ferraris. As the child grew into a man, the memories of S30s continued to serve as a guiding light through today’s cluttered automotive world.

    Later on, he became aware of the rising popularity of JNCs, and he traveled again through some of his most joyful memories as he scoured endless pictures of stock and modified S30s online. Life is short, and he could wait no longer.

  12. Geoff said:

    I stick with S30/130s. I have a soft spot for old Nissan hardbodies and Patrols, but those are getting difficult to find, while you can find a neglected S30 or 130 all day long for less than $2000, and the L motors are practically unkillable.

    I’m sure there are equivalent Toyotas and Mazdas, but I know practically nothing about those, so I tend to stick with what I know (because often, when I give a recommendation, I’m on the hook on the back end for help).

  13. Taylor said:

    This is going to be a very self-serving answer, but I was that “one type only” guy for much of my life. It was air-cooled VWs for me from about 5 years old until the past couple years (I’m 40 now) when I felt like I’d learned everything I’d wanted to learn from them and was looking for something different. Thanks to sites like JNC and Speedhunters and others, I saw what other styles and trends and what other enthusiasts were into. And it opened a whole new world to me.

    I’d gotten fixated on owning an AE86. I was so convinced that I’d sell my camper bus and get into one of those. And there were definitely other JNCs I really like…old Zs, 510s, boxy Celica/Supras, etc. In Nor Cal, though, coming across a clean hachi at a decent price point (that wasn’t swapped over to an unsmoggable blacktop motor) was tough.

    When the time came last summer, there really wasn’t a hachi to be had, and so I went an looked at a very yellow ’86 Supra (that needed a bit more work than the ad let on) and an 87 Z31 that was still in the original paint, had the original plates, and drove pretty well. Now, I like the 80s lines of the Z31 (and yes, I really like the proportional of the 2+2) way more than the Z32 or anything that came after it. I could ramble about myself and proportional aesthetics (which the AE86 has in spades), but you’ll all move onto the next post if I did. TL;DR, I bought the Z31 and have totally enjoyed it and enjoyed learning about it, working on it, discovering the community around them, and I really really miss driving it even if it’s for a day.

    Do Z31s have the same aftermarket support as, say, 510s or most of the 80s Toyotas? No! Omigosh, no, they definitely don’t. And I’ve made more pick n’ pull trips to get spare parts than I have trips to regular parts stores. But in some ways, that’s also part of the charm. And I feel like there’s a nice grassroots, passionate community that’s either starting to make parts, repair what’s there, or just generally willing to help each other out.

    Would I necessarily recommend a Z31 to an enthusiast looking to get into J-tin? Eh, it depends on the person. There are definitely other cars that are easier to work on and get parts for. But for some, yeah, this’d be a great car to start with.

  14. エーイダン said:

    For a car I would have to say the 1974-1978 Mazda RX3. The Rotary was an icon in the world of engineering, as it saved the rotary from death.
    The 1990 Nissan Skyline GT-R comes in a close second for me
    For a truck: Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40 or a late ’70s Subaru BRAT, because it looks so much like a Ute, it’s killer. For my second chocie of a truck, Nissan Patrol from the 1970s would fit the bill, small like a jeep and easily able to conquer the offraod tracks.

  15. cesariojpn said:

    K.I.S.S. method: Find a car you like, and go from there.

  16. Socarboy said:

    My short list: original Datsun 240Z, Original Mazda RX7, Toyota Corolla AE86, Mitsubishi Starion

  17. Tim said:

    An RX-3. Lightweight, excellent noises, not TOO difficult to find or expensive. Easy to work on relative to early 90s classics. Attractive. Rare. Instantly noticed by other JNC enthusiasts, but just another car to most people. Small enough to be worked on in the tiniest of garages.

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