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Thread: Will all Japanese Cars soon be Nostalgic?

  1. #1
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    Will all Japanese Cars soon be Nostalgic?

    The news media always jumps to life at the opportunity to print an obituary. Blogs and automotive journals are no different, and there's nothing that the rags will report on with a greater sense of glee and giddiness, than the death/illness of any industry or corporation.

    ...So the banter lately surrounds the Japanese auto industry as a whole, and it seems like every blog out there lately revels in portraying the major Japanese companies as actors in a cheesy Godzilla movie, beset with earthquakes, floods, radioactive waste, cars that ghost drive themselves, and an economy and currency out of whack.

    It's easy to agree from an enthusiast's perspective; Japan mostly ceased to make or renew interest in anything interesting to us about a decade ago. The S2000 and RX8 finally went extinct, 370z sales seem to be ironically as flat as a V8 torque curve, and focus seems to have shifted away from the Evo/Sti, with most Subie/Mitsu enthusiasts seeming to have little regard for the latest generations of their cars, and general focus seeming to go more to luxury cars more generally anyway.

    Maybe I'm speaking too much from a Californian perspective but... When I was a kid/in high school, everyone wanted an Integra, an RX7, or at least a hopped up Civic would do; I was embarrassed, slightly, to be seen in my V6 Camaro, next to my friend's 300ZX, and we laughed at another friend became stuck with a Fox body 5.0. Nowadays, it seems to be the cartoonish, V8 dinosaurs that the public and youth focus has turned to, where in my youth, it seemed like the advanced, high tech Japanese sports cars were the exciting way to the future. That is, cars which are no longer made.

    For all that can be said about the Japanese manufacturers losing the plot though, I'd say they have yet to offend their traditionally bland mass customer base, or entirely shatter their reputation of reliability, as the US auto industry did a couple decades back...

    And yet, I rent cars. There is no longer really a performance/reliability difference between marques or countries who produce mid-sized sedans. The new Malibu actually has a very nice interior, even at the base level, and the Ford Fusion has a similar quality to it. The Altima has a giant foam block for a dashboard in comparison, and behind that, the newer Camry is absolutely geriatric from the inside in every aspect. The enthusiast appeal has been drained from Hondas, and the Civics and Accords that high school kids dreamed of fixing up just ten years ago are now regarded as allergic to tuning, and dumbed down compared to prior generations.

    There are bright spots that I see; the GTR, while inaccessible and aloof from both the preceding GTRs as well as most of the rest of Nissan's lineup, offers nearly the same amount of "ultimate" as a Veyron at a not-quite ludicrous price. Infiniti's lineup seems popular enough among the set that it's aimed at, much moreso than Lexus, poor forgotten Acura (they still make cars?), Buick, or Lincoln. People seem to be able to mention Infiniti in the same breath as BMW or Benz.

    I see more (quite a few, actually) Nissan Leafs (Leaves?), in far greater quantity than Chevy Volts. Perhaps this car alone shows that Japan can lead the way in the future. The Scion FR-S is coming, and while it doesn't possess as many revolutionary traits as previously influential Japanese sports cars have had historically, it is looking to be a genuine enthusiast's car.

    ...

    So, is the Japanese auto exodus an illusion caused by Hyundai, China, and the flock to developing markets flailing their arms and tooting horns to distract from the substance that a wounded Japan can still offer?Or has Japan, as some claim, grown ineffective and complacent, resting on their laurels while the US companies become less horrible and creep upward?

    Is making basic, boring, dumbed down transportation actually the clever and correct strategy for these times, that will allow them to ride things out and unleash something big when the public is ready?

    Despite all the chatter, no Japanese manufacturer, at least, is actually teetering on the brink of existence (see current Saab, British Leyland, GM and Chrysler on a few occasions). But having had their turn at three decades of domination...

    Will all Japanese cars soon be "nostalgic"? Or just the cool ones? Or will things just go back to "normal" in the next year or so, as GM falls flat on its face, like it tends to.

    Predictions! I thought this might be a good and relevant topic for discussion among my automotive peers :mrgreen: A few observations and questions that have been keeping me up at night lately, lol.

  2. #2
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    Re: Will all Japanese Cars soon be Nostalgic?

    Scion FRS
    Toyota 86
    Subaru BRZ

    not everyone has tossed in the towel... but it is OUR responsibility to support the market

  3. #3
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    Re: Will all Japanese Cars soon be Nostalgic?

    Being also from California, I have a somewhat slanted view of the Japanese car market. I'll say that there are some strange things I've discovered about the crop of Japanese nostalgic cars, and how they are viewed by the greater community as a whole here in CA:

    Firstly, some points- most of the Japanese nostalgic cars that the Japanese people themselves covet never left the shores of Japan. These cars are, at least performance-wise, better than anything the rest of the world ever got from Japan. This basically means that these cars will most likely never have a true global market of collect-ability, and will always be curiosities to all but those die-hard non-Japanese enthusiasts.

    There is a rather odd corollary to this, however - a small subset of younger owners have emerged who are gaining an interest in a few of the old JDM icons. As an example, there are now at least 7 c10 Skyline owners in the San Francisco Bay area, with probably as many again who prefer to remain anonymous. Most owners that I know are relatively young, in some cases younger than the car itself. This is an unusual thing in the collector car community, as I've typically seen owners/collectors buy cars that they coveted as young teenagers.

    Are these individuals choosing these early Japanese cars over the modern examples because of the "blandness" of the modern cars you refer to? Why Japanese, as opposed to a more traditional choice of, say, an old Alfa? I used to think the answer was "Playstation!" but now I'm not so sure. Certainly cost plays a role, as does the active tuner market.

    Just based on my own anecdotal experiences, I get the most "Thumbs Up"s when I drive my wife's 55 Bel Air (almost exclusively from old men in their 60's), which is probably to be expected, it being an American icon. The next most frequent comes when I drive an old Datsun or Honda from the 60s- they appear to be the badge many people can relate to, even if they've never seen a nostalgic example before. Nearer the bottom are the Euro cars, like an old Ferrari- most people don't relate to it. Very last is the old 1973 Porsche 911. As great as that car is, no one seems to care about that one, as it looks pretty much like all the other 911's through the ages.

    These data points are probably localized to California, and I suspect the results would be quite different on the streets elsewhere. Just some data points for your discussion.

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    Re: Will all Japanese Cars soon be Nostalgic?

    ...I just have to chime in momentarily to mention my familiarity with your scenario, as the owner of two 55 Chevies, a Bel Air and a 150 Both have been in the family for nearly as long as I've been alive.

    I had an 86 Lotus Esprit, and I could drive that nearly incognito compared to the old US iron. No car gets me more noticed than those old Chevies, which is a bit frustrating because I like driving my Z more :mrgreen:

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    Re: Will all Japanese Cars soon be Nostalgic?

    Koukie Nissan S14 Silvia!

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    Re: Will all Japanese Cars soon be Nostalgic?

    I am hoping that cars like the new 86 will prove successful in sales, so that other Japanese automakers take notice and build exciting things again. As an RX-7 owner, I was sad to see the RX-8 die, though admittedly it was a great motor in a oddly-styled package. Mazda was always a cool company for having driver-oriented fun cars like the mazdaspeed3 and speed6 (for which I never saw any advertisement) and even the Protege5. Now go to a Mazda dealership and try to justify buying a Mazda3 while it's front grill grins idiotically. Likewise, I think Honda has completely lost touch with the enthusiast crowd. Not only has the S2000 been killed off, the civic si keeps getting a larger displacement engine, which doesn't rev as high. That's not the recipe for the fun Honda b-series cars I liked in high school.

    Meanwhile, Ford promises to finally bring the turbo Focus to America, and all the schoolkids are idolizing Ken Block's Fiesta. Additionally, even in the drifting community, which traditionally used rwd Japanese platforms, you're seeing more and more Chevy V8 swaps. I want rotaries back in lightweight sports coupes, I want screaming Civic hatchbacks, and it would be nice to see some R&D work put toward exciting engine technology, instead of ipod jacks and bluetooth connectivity.

    And Dachshund, it's interesting what you have noticed about the young owners of Japan-only J tin.. I am 22 and live in West Virginia, and once I finish my university studies and hopefully make a decent wage, I would love nothing more than to obtain either a Hakosuka or Kenmeri Skyline from JDM Legends.. Personally I have seen 100's of American muscle cars at shows in the summertime, and though they are cool I am kind of burned out on them. The old Japanese cars had a great style, and anything with an inline 6 and multiple sidedraft carburetors is interesting to me.. Anyway, I hope the Japanese automakers remember the things that captured my interest in their cars, and maybe mpg won't be the only thing worth mentioning in cars to come..

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    Re: Will all Japanese Cars soon be Nostalgic?

    There really is a correlation between the demise of the straight six and... Every other bad thing that's ever happened in the world :lol: Perfect engine configuration...

    One day I want to swap as many RBs into as many Corvettes and Camaros as it takes, til I've made up for all the J-tin that's been bastardized with a small block.

    I've tried to be a Vette person, but I run into problems; you know how an MG Midget is slower than a modern minivan, but feels so much more exciting, faster than it is?

    Take the reverse of that: what if you take the boredom and tedium of a Chevy Celebrity, and put it into a car that goes to sixty in under five seconds. This is a modern Corvette. While fast, for some reason it never really FEELS like it is. Steering is alarmingly lacking in feedback, too.

    The LS1 on the C5 that I used to use as a daily driver was powerful, but somehow never gave me the mighty, linear, precise feeling even of the stock L28 in my Z; the LS1 somehow either felt like a regular small block with te low end torque somewhat dialed out, or a higher revving engine with a redline dialed back ~2k too low. If that makes sense.

    Now, my dad's 59 Vette, with dual quads, the stiffest clutch in the world, Muncie, and a crazy driving position? That's a Corvette :mrgreen:

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    Re: Will all Japanese Cars soon be Nostalgic?

    i think a lot of the stagnation is that automakers are afraid to experiment too much. take for example my aw11, it would never get the go ahead now. way too small to be "safe" not enough cargo space blah blah blah. they need to take risks again.

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    Re: Will all Japanese Cars soon be Nostalgic?

    ^^^ Nice Mister Two- I love the brown!!
    There's such a small profit margin now that they need to keep things efficient. Having too many false starts can kill them. At least that's what I have gathered. It's hard nowadays to take a risk on something when you have no idea whether you're throwing away many millions of dollars.

    That said i think more cars than you think will be remembered. In the 80s who would have guessed that grandpa car Cressidas would be popular with the younger crowd in 2012? Who's to say people won't be seeking out ISF's, G35's, LS's, RSX's, xB's, Miatas, etc? I mean, there are many cars nowadays that are pretty popular with tuners and which will continue to be popular. Yes, the market is leaning toward luxury now but the 86 in my opinion is a rebellion against that and could begin a trend of more spartan cars. The problem is that most sporty cars seem to get lost on economy cars. Whether early Civics were fun to drive was inconsequential to most consumers looking for an A to B car. That eventually got dropped from the feature list and now you get MP3 players and other electronics instead.

    I blame the internet. Why get greasy and dirty in the garage trying to restore a car when you can just sit on YouTube and watch drift videos? Why go drifting in real life when you can buy Need for Speed for a couple $20 bills? Kids nowadays are getting complacent. Cars aren't the popular thing to look forward to- you want the next gaming console, cell phone or iPad or whatever those things are that I don't have haha. My parents never got me a gaming console or anything like that so I feel like I've grown up about 5 or 10 years before i actually did.

    I was born in 1989 and I own my Rabbit from 1981 and F100 from 1965. Why? Because they're cool and fun to drive. I don't think anyone really realizes the Rabbit is a "collector" car for me because you sometimes see one on the road as some college girl's daily. That and people aren't aware what a lowered car looks like. It's either "Muscle cars- hell yeah!" or "Those damn rice rockets". Whatever, I guess. My dream car is a Saab Sonett III. Then again I'm not normal in any way except my hair color. :P

    Keep having fun with cars. Preserve any examples you can before they disappear. I don't know what to do about the popular switch toward electronics but it's troubling. Then again, who am I to say they can't have MP3 connectivity in their Fiesta? Just give us a sport model too!

  10. #10
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    Re: Will all Japanese Cars soon be Nostalgic?

    All good points, Sven...

    I've heard that in Japan lately, due to ongoing economic concerns since the Japanese bubble burst and through this recession, as well as traffic and congestion concerns, fewer young people are able to or want to own a car anyway... I don't quite see that being mirrored here in the US, but coupled with the aging Japanese population that probably does impact what Japanese manufacturers will put out. I guess everyone who bought an MR2 or CRX back in the day now has Lexus-grade back problems...

    I have a lot of JNCs (Japanese Nostalgic video game Consoles)

    Cleaning out my NES as a kid with contact cleaner and sandpaper prepared me for later on, doing the same thing with the throttle sensor on my Z :lol:

    It's not that a bunch of cars you mentioned above aren't good; they're just... Worse, relatively, and more normal compared to the older cars. But maybe, in twenty years when our own cars have all made our descendants rich from their rarity (right?), a G35 will be what you get.

    As for the 86, I'm sure it will be great, but to me it seems to be gaining the most traction simply by being one of the only cars that ticks off all the boxes that we enthusiasts have; 15-20 years ago, the choices were much broader. I find that depressing, and don't yet know if it's genuinely promising for cars in general.

    Does wanting an Opel GT more than a Saab Sonnet make me normal?

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