QotW: What JNC from 1984 would you buy new today?

On June 8, 1949 George Orwell published his seminal dystopian work 1984. It’s an excellent book everyone should read, even though I don’t recall any cars being in it. Luckily, the real 1984 had quite a few cars, especially a rich selection from Japan in the midst of the Bubble Economy. Let’s say you have a flatbed-sized time machine that can carry one car back to the present.

What JNC from 1984 would you buy new today?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What are your thoughts, hopes, and fears for the new Z?

There were a great number of impassioned responses, and we think it’s good news for Nissan that people still care so much about a car that, frankly, they haven’t put any effort into for more than a decade. Here are three of our favorite quotes pulled from the comments:

Tim: “It looks beautiful. It doesn’t quite have the long hood of the S30, but its proportions are good, and it’s got just the right amount of retro to it. That logo tugged at me as a 240Z and 280Z owner.”

Negishi no Keibajo: “Hopes: Manual Transmission, low curb weight, knobs over touch screens, fluid body lines free of creases, honest use & display of materials & structure, robust endorsed performance upgrade structure – both factory & aftermarket. Return to simple excitement.”

speedie: “It has to handle and perform to current sports car standards. Make it the SCCA car of choice it used to be.”

However, the winner this week has to be Tom, who wrote a dissertation-level treatise on the subject:

The opportunity for Nissan with the 400Z is to get back to what the original 240Z was; a direct rival to Porsche’s 911 on power, weight and handling, but at half the price and with a classical FR fastback profile. Do that and you’ll repeat the success that Mr K enjoyed back in the day.

With the VR30DDTT installed, the Z35 is on target to hit its numbers. The real challenge is in taking the 20-year-old FM saloon platform and making it handle like the best FR sports cars. It’s a big ask, but this is the kind of challenge that Japanese engineers can on occasion rise to.

So, first thing is to borrow the R35’s GR6 dual-clutch gearbox. Why? because it fits at the back, under the rear seats in the GTR, moving the weight backwards. Having been in production for over a decade it can’t cost too much to make, yet it provides a modern seamless shift and will avoid the need to engineer both conventional manual and automatic options.

Having done this you then dry-sump the VR30 engine. Eliminating both the clutch/flywheel and sump, and without the GTR’s 4wd mechanicals jammed underneath, you can then drop the engine right down til the crankshaft is on the floor. This reduces the need for a towering bonnet bulge, and perhaps avoids needing a pop-up safety bonnet. The dry sump also ensures reliable oiling on track.

It’s going to be tough to get weight out of the existing platform, especially with the DSG, but I’d expect some kind of plastic/composite for the rear hatch (like the A90), and the same, or aluminium, for as many panels as possible.

With 50/50 weight balance and a significant chop to the centre of gravity height, we should be able to develop a much more agile car that feels balanced and sports-car responsive.

Infotainment should be purely phone-based (Apple & Android), possibly releasing an open-source app to interface with the car to display oil temperatures and so on, letting Z enthusiasts develop their own visualisations and alerts.

Although the platform is fixed, there’s room to trim a couple of inches off the car’s width by simply making the body panels that much narrower, rather than owners needing to fit 25mm spacers to get the flush look. If the Nismo version needs wider wheels, just do flared versions of the composite panels.

Talking of versions, this platform is amenable to profitable variations. A high tech package offers ProPilot highway self driving for those long trips, along with rear and perhaps side mirrors replaced with camera screens, and huge Tesla-style central touchscreen. A luxury package adds leather covering the plastic interior panels as well as the seats, more soundproofing and special paint colours. And the same drivetrain should easily support a Nismo Z with a lot more power, flared arches, wider wheels, big ducktail spoiler, the lot.

So my Z hopes are that Nissan seizes this last chance to make a proper petrol-powered sports car, invest to overcome the limitations of the legacy platform and hits a driver-focused home run. Ideally this will also spur Toyota to offer a lighter, cheaper six-cylinder Supra with the manual gearbox they’re sitting on.

My Z fears would be a torque converter auto, hybrid, 1700kg+ weight, anaemic soundtrack, too obviously outdated cabin and/or styling, fake vents or fussy creases, intrusive driver “aids” you can’t turn off, a price higher than the Supra, or the car not being sold in Europe at all due to low predicted sales, high taxes, or CO2 targets – remember the Z33 wasn’t initially destined for the old world. Most of all I guess I fear the legendary Z just flopping and disappearing with a whimper rather than a bang.

Here’s hoping for the best and will be fascinating to come back to these discussions when the new Z launches!

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 from 1984 would you buy new today?

  1. Jan van Kleef said:

    In 1979 I bought a Toyota Land Cruiser BJ40. I drove it during six years ans 300.000 kilometers. I would buy at once the same car new now, but the FJ40 version.

  2. Kieron said:

    1984 was a good year, my birth year! I’d go with an FJ20 DR30 Iron Mask Skyline. Red on Black, gold decals, low on Watanabe wheels. Would still look cool to this day 36 years on.

  3. Monte said:

    JDM Mk1 CRX (2).
    One for me to drive and one for the next generation.

  4. エーイダン said:

    Probably the best 1984 JNC for me would be the AE86 Trueno Sprinter……

    Oh come on, you saw this answer coming.

  5. Banpei said:

    I seriously would have difficulty to choose one single car: 1984 is like a candy store for me! So many awesome cars to choose from: Toyota and Nissan are caught up in a turbo-war and keep increasing the amount of horsepower on every iteration. Mazda has just launched their 12A turbo on the RX-7 and Cosmo one year earlier, so that’s tempting as well. Mitsubishi just iterated on the Starion by launching the GSR-V. Subaru has a very interesting variant on their Rex: the Rex Kombi Turbo 4WD with an amazing output of 41ps from its puny 550cc engine. Daihatsu is still selling their Corolla E70 based Charmant, waiting for a 4AGE swap from an early (wrecked) AE86.

    However If I really had too choose one single car I would definitely buy a new Toyota Carina SG Surf wagon! I could have chosen the Carina performance models like the GT-R (4AGE) and GT-TR (3T-GTE), but the SG Surf wagon is one heck of a unicorn! Even though quite a lot of wagons were sold, nobody preserved these cars and are very rare nowadays. Naturally the performance models were preserved and (if your wallet is deep enough) you can still find a good GT-R or GT-TR. Just in case you are wondering what a Carina Surf is, it looks like this:
    https://carmashups.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/toyota_carina_surf_sa60g_rear_face-1.jpg
    It even features the same “pizza cutter” rims from the early AE86 as pictured in the blogpost. And as you may have guessed the “Surf” part in its name indicate it was marketed for surfers. 😉

    Now the big question is what would I do with the SG Surf after I have returned to 2020? As the SG Surf has a 1S-U engine up front, I would immediately swap it for a 3S-GE from a mid-90s Celica or MR2. No need to turbo charge it, a simple NA 3S-GE would be more than enough to spice this little wagon up a bit and still retain it’s originality. It also features a solid live axle in the rear that is shared with the Celica lineup, so a simple limited slip diff swap is easy enough. Apart from this I wouldn’t do a thing to the car, so it would become a nice little sleeper (pun intended) and a great fun car to go for a cruise to the beach!

  6. Myron Vernis said:

    Relevant question since I just bought a 1984 300ZX last week. T-tops, digital readouts, voice warnings and louvers upon louvers. I absolutely love it! That said, the 28 year old me wouldn’t have considered a 300ZX in 1984. Since I lived in the States, it would have to have been an RX-7.

  7. Rama said:

    What else. AE86. If its the same cheap price it was.

  8. Purely for nostalgic reasons, a 2nd-gen Accord. It was my first car in 2005 and my dad’s first new car in the mid-80s. About a decade later, he “sold” it to his brother (my godfather) less than a year before he was diagnosed with lung cancer (despite having never smoked) and passed away when I was only 9 years old.

    Years later, when I started to wonder what I would drive when I earned my license, I asked my godfather what happened to my dad’s 2nd-gen. Somewhat poetically, it died and had to be taken off the road a few months after my dad lost his battle to cancer. After offering to “buy it back,” my godfather told me that if I paid for all the parts and woke up early every Saturday morning, he’d work with me to get it back on the road.

    We spent years and way too much money on that thing, but I relished every second and every penny since I could never repay my godfather for all the childhood stories of my dad that he recounted as we worked.

    Sadly, after surviving 7 months of adventures in high school, the Accord was involved in a hit & run, while parked, that shoved it back 5ft, ripped off half of its headlights, and a quarter-panel. It powered on for another month before succumbing to the damage.

    Despite several attempts to get it running and on the road again, it couldn’t be resurrected. But rather than let my dad’s first new car and my first car go silently and unceremoniously into that good night, I gathered a few of my close friends (most of whom had shared at least one of my countless memories in the old thing) to pay our respects and let the old car give us one last gift: hours to blow off a year’s worth of stress with a sledgehammer and a few baseball bats. It was an unforgettable day to remember a car my family will never forget.

    So if I was somehow able to Back to the Future to the mid-80s, I’d no doubt waste my money on that surprisingly plucky and agile 2nd-gen Accord.

  9. Jon said:

    “Bulldog”

  10. Brian said:

    For purely nostalgic reasons, it’d have to be a 2nd-gen Accord. It was my first car in 2005 and my dad’s first new car in the mid-80s. About a decade after he bought it, he “sold” it to his brother (my godfather) since it was getting a little cramped for our growing family. Sadly, less than a year after this, he was diagnosed with lung cancer (despite having never smoked) and passed away when I was 9.

    A few years later, I asked my godfather what happened to my dad’s Accord. Somewhat poetically, it died and had to be taken off the road a few months after my dad lost his battle to cancer. After offering to “buy it back,” my godfather told me that if I paid for all the parts and woke up early every Saturday morning, he’d work with me to get it back on the road. Despite spending way too much over the next few years getting it running again, I don’t regret a penny or second since the time together gave me countless childhood stories about my dad that I thought I would never hear without my dad being around to recount them.

    After surviving 7 months of adventures in high school, it was involved in a hit & run, while parked, that shoved it back 5ft, ripped off half of its headlights, and a quarter-panel. It powered on after this for another month before succumbing to the damage.

    Despite many attempts to get it running and on the road again, it couldn’t be resurrected. But rather than let my dad’s first new car and my first car go silently and unceremoniously into that good night, after what had been a rough year for myself and a few of my close friends (most of whom had shared at least one of my countless memories in the old thing), we gathered to pay our respects and let the old car give us one last gift: hours to blow off a year’s worth of stress with a sledgehammer and a few baseball bats. It was an unforgettable last day with a car my family will never forget.

  11. dankan said:

    1984 is tricky. Most of my favourites aren’t in their swing yet. I guess I’d love a loaded Honda Vigor during the week and a loaded Toyota Supra for the weekends.

    As much as I’d love a CRX, I need the back seat and the Prelude didn’t get a B20 yet…

  12. Dutch 1960 said:

    Mazda RX7 GSL-SE.

  13. Yuri said:

    I would buy the EXACT same 1985 Corolla GT-S 2door I own now (build date October 1984 so it works.)

    I’d love to see the original sparkling silver paint and black TwinCam 16 graphics glittering in the SoCal sun before the previous owner rattlecanned it matte beige (and I painted after that in “High-Sonic (panda) two-tone).

    I’d be over joyed to see every button and switch function, doing things in my car that today only the vestigial labels remain for, like setting the cruise control and driving down the freeway with the Air conditioning blasting. Things that are only distant memories for this car.

    I’d love to see a bunch of zeros where the odometer now reads over a quarter million miles.

    Most of all I’d just love to open up my garage door, run my hand over its painted 5mph USDM bumper as I walk to the driver’s door. It swings open soundlessly, and slip into the grey sport seat and adjust the air bladder to the perfect amount of lumbar. I turn the plastic clad oem key in the tightly fitting ignition, and the sound of a completely stock 4AG-C hums to life. I look out over the big steering wheel and uncracked dash, and pull out onto my street, heading towards the highway as the factory suspension soaks up the bumps in the road. AC on and tape deck playing, I head to my favorite canyons. Gliding up Angeles Crest, the factory LSD and Made in Japan Dunlop tires keep everything composed, and the fact the sunroof was the only option left off keeps the center of gravity relatively low.

    After a hearty breakfast at Newcomb’s Ranch, I cruise back down the mountain, and fifteen minutes later, I back it into the garage. I shut it off, and glance over my shoulder at both it, and the 2018 Subaru BRZ tS (1 of 104 Crystal Black Silica tS’s built) sitting right next to it, and think “Hmmm. I guess they really do still make them like they used to.”

  14. Lee L said:

    This is an easy choice for me.

    My favorite car is the Z31 and I’ve owned several, including an awful example of a 1984 50th AE.

    Ever since I sold that hunk of junk I’ve pined over clean AE Z31s. I know one day I’ll have the chance to own another one, preferably one that is like-new. I had the opportunity to drive one with 75K miles on it a few years ago and it was the most amazing driving experience of my life.

    The AE just emits 80s excess. Some features include-

    2-tone paint with gold pinstripes
    Rear Fender Flares and Widened Front Fenders
    Black Leather seats with Gold Emblems
    BodySonic (A sound system that made the seats vibrate)
    Gold Key
    Car Cover with Gold AE Logo
    Floor Mats with Gold AE emblems
    Mirror-Glazed T-Tops
    Bronze tint on the windows
    Gold-highlighted wheels
    VG30ET

    This is the USDM 50th AE. There was an Australian model that did not have all of these features.

  15. Lupus said:

    I’ll stay true to my belives and opt for Nissan Laurel C32 powered by LD28. Even thou i consider myself a Toyotaku, i’ve felt in love with C31/C32 long ago.
    Why would i buy a new C32 from ’84? It’s one of those cars that can be “everlasting”. Like old Hilux’es, like Merc W123, like Audi 80 C3. Not the coolest, not the fastest, not best at anything actually. But just change filters, oil, tires regulary, and clutch once in a century and it will run, and run, and run…
    Plus the C32 is quite versatile platform – just swap the engine to L28T (or generally any other Nissan powerplant) and it’s performance boosts significantly. You can drop it down & perform a VIP treatment. When you get bored by that go even lower and add ridicioulous camber to create a zokusha-feel. It can ba a gran tourer or drift sled, it can be reliable daily or obscure track machine, it can be show-level gem in your garage or patined compaion of aorund-the-world trip.
    And it’s uber-’80s-boxy. 😉

  16. Negishi no Keibajo said:

    The spring of ’84 was the first time I returned to Tokyo after moving away a decade before. Back then, the car magazines were over the top cool with custom fittings. I remember seeing a MR2 for the first time.1984 however was loaded with right angles. My choice? Maxima or Cressida Station Wagon. Saw one on Craigslist; faux wood panels, just the right patina, awesome. Always had a soft spot for vans & wagons.

  17. nlpnt said:

    Tough call. I’ve always liked the AE82 hatchback, but the single-sealed-beam-light early Corolla face is my least favorite of that body style and the wait for a Nova or kouki would be at least a year or two. A Tercel 4WD wagon would be nice, if slow, as would be a Subaru (too bad the GL-10 Turbos were auto only).

    I don’t really need four doors, though. A back seat is a nice-to-have for that matter, so a CRX would be doable, but I actually prefer the squareback styling…so a Civic 1500S hatchback it is.

    If only Toyota had offered that 5-door FWD Corolla with a 4A-GE, though…

  18. Angelo said:

    I’d go with the cover picture, a Sprinter Trueno GT-Apex, in panda white. My mom would joke around about it while I deliver eggs(we redistribute eggs as a side-business).

    This started back when we were still in Japan, me as a toddler. An Initial D VHS tape was rented by Mom, and it sure made an impact on how I love cars now, and this car legit started it.

  19. bryan kitsune said:

    An AE86 would certainly be tempting and not a choice I would likely regret, but I am a Celica lover first and foremost.

    Therefore in this alternate reality that I am able to buy a brand new vehicle from the year I turned 2, I’ll also assume that I don’t need to stick with a USDM Celica and be saddled with the reliable but uninspiring 22RE.

    I’ll go with a 1984 Celica GT-TR liftback like this one: http://80shero.blogspot.com/2014/03/gt-tr-again.html

    My first car was an ’86 Celica ST. The 3rd generation Celica looks similar enough to my ’86 to give me plenty of nostalgia, add the RWD and turbo on the ’84 GT-TR, and you have a recipe for a near perfect Celica.

    I’m also assuming that in this alternate reality I will also be able to find parts for the 3T-GTE.

  20. F31roger said:

    There are tons of great stuff in the mid 80s. Tons of great Toyota and Nissan rides.!

    On the US side – Z31 300zx. Even to this day I love the way they look.

    On the Japan side – Any version of the Y30 Gloria. I’m more of a Y31 fan, but I was able to see a Y30 brougham VIP turbo version up close. God it was pretty nice.
    http://www.f31club.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/20190601_140944.jpg

  21. Dirty_S30 said:

    There is no question in my mind I’d buy an AE86 GTS. This is one of my dream cars. Japanese Trueno or American Corolla, I’m fine with either. As long as it has a screaming 4AGE, LSD in the rear, and those nifty seats with adjustable lumbar support. I much prefer the lift-back to the notch-back, despite the latter’s superior structural support and better audio acoustics, but I could just throw in some strut braces, and who needs the radio when you have a shrieking 4AGE? I think it would be so cool to experience what this legendary car felt like new, instead of the stressed out rusted old options available today.

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