QotW: What stupid question have you always wanted to ask about Japanese cars?

September 28 is Ask a Stupid Question Day, so today’s your chance to ask a stupid question about Japanese cars, no judgements. Why do Japanese cars limit their engine displacements and power? Why do Japanese cars have so many variations of the same model? Why is the 2-t0ne color of the S130 Z called the Manhattan? Make them general or specific. We’ll try to answer them as best we can, and other readers can chime in as well.

What stupid question have you always wanted to ask about Japanese cars?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What pivotal Japanese car made our modern favorites possible?

We enjoyed many of the answers this week, which ranged from the sporty, like My_Fairlady_ZFG‘s pick of the Datsun Fairlady roadsters or Ellis‘s pick of the Prince Skyline GT, to the practical, like Scotty G pick of the Honda Civic CVCC or speedie‘s humble Toyota Corolla or Negishi no Keibajo‘s Subaru 360. There were even practical choices like MikeRL411‘s pick of the Toyota Land Cruiser or Dutch 1960‘s pick of the Datsun 220. In the end, it was Michael Robert Young‘s nomination of the first-generation Honda Accord that won the week, splitting the difference between economical and fun.

The Z and the nickle-dime are obvious answers of course. In my mind the first generation CVCC Accord was a true game-changer. While the Civic marked the first serious effort by Honda to gain a share of the U.S. mass market, the Accord was a huge step forward in that effort. Roomy, nicely constructed, and well appointed even in base trim, the Accord showed that small cars didn’t need to be cramped, inexpensive didn’t have to mean “cheap”, and family sedans and coupes could be reliable and fun to drive.

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

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29 Responses to QotW: What stupid question have you always wanted to ask about Japanese cars?

  1. エーイダン said:

    Why hasn’t Hot Wheels made the Suzuki Cappuccino yet?

  2. BlitzPig said:

    Why are Japanese cars typically so under braked compared to their European competition? .

    • Hello BlitzPig,

      European car, especially the German ones, have bigger brakes because we need them. No speed limit on the German Autobahn means that you have to be able to slow from 250+ km/h to 90 km/h within a few hundred meters! This often happens when drivers don’t look into their rearview mirrors before pulling out to overtake a truck or misjudge what they see in the mirror. Therefore you also learn to look in the rearview mirror every ten seconds – or at least this was the case when I went to driving school in 1996. And this is also the reason why you should never ever buy cheap tires on a fast car. Brakes only work properly when the rubber can grip the road surface properly.

  3. harshith said:

    https://youtu.be/_MUEdP_iQWc?t=11the chrome panel at the rear around the taillights of the this skyline. is this a popular mod. do highway racers do this chrome panel thing on other cars to. what other car makers do like this like the Nissan skyline kenmeri. i researched it the Nissan model only 1 trim level it has that chrome plate thing. it very cool. old American cars did had thing like 1963 Chevy impala wagon. any clarification on my question would be so helpful thank you

  4. harshith said:

    https://youtu.be/_MUEdP_iQWc?t=11 the chrome panel at the rear around the taillights of the this skyline. is this a popular mod. do highway racers do this chrome panel thing on other cars to. what other car makers do like this like the Nissan skyline kenmeri. i researched it the Nissan model only 1 trim level it has that chrome plate thing. it very cool. old American cars did had thing like 1963 Chevy impala wagon. any clarification on my question would be so helpful thank you

  5. Azfer said:

    Japanese clearly know how to make amazing sport sedans. Why did they not send some of the best ones (i.e. Chaser) to the US?

    • Ben Hsu said:

      I don’t know the true answer, but my guess is initially it was due to cost. Then, after Lexus and Infiniti were established, they probably didn’t want to step on the toes of the new luxury marques.

      • Azfer said:

        Perhaps but if the “step on toes” was really an issue, they solved that by selling them as rebadged versions; LS400 = Toyota Celsior, GS = Aristo, RX = Harrier. Infiniti i30 = Maxima, G35 = Skyline.

        I think the executives just wanted to keep us in the western hemisphere always wanting for more for some evil plan.

      • Ben Hsu said:

        Right, but a turbocharged six wasn’t really considered “luxury” back in that era. They were just ahead of their time!

      • Mark F Newton-John said:

        I would also say it was because of the complex dealer networks they had as well.

    • Mark F Newton-John said:

      Unlike Japan, the NA market doesn’t need three version of the same car, unless it was a GM car. The manufacturers at the time were starting to get their feet wet in the American market, and federalizing a car is very expensive.
      Also, at the time imports were still considered little cheap things (with a few exceptions), so bringing in a Skyline that costs twice as much as a 510 was a no go. Even Toyota pulled the Crown after 1970 and replaced it with the Corona Mark II.
      (Yes, I was there at the time, my dad bought a RT40 Corona and a TE27 Corolla SR5)

  6. Alvin said:

    Why do Japanese patrol cars have a plastic visor on the hood?

  7. Spark13 said:

    Why most of 80s and some 90s Japanese cars had those ringbells at about 100km/h. (I have one car with it my self but don’t remember exact speed) Why exactly at that speed and why they didn’t have them on newer cars?

  8. Ellis said:

    What the heck does T-Bar mean on the MR2? I’d assume that T is for Targa top? But where does the bar fit into it?

  9. Negishi no Keibajo said:

    I’ve asked this before a hundred times… What do the 3 green lights on top of the cab on heavy trucks & busses mean?

  10. speedie said:

    Why are seat doilies used and when did the practice start?

    • Ben Hsu said:

      There doesn’t seem to be a definitive answer for this, but it’s likely just tradition. Even before cars were popular, doily covers were a common thing to have around the house, on things like record players and telephones. Taxis used them as an easy thing to remove and replace to keep the seats clean. As cars became popular in Japan, taxis were still far more popular than privately owned cars, and people probably just got used to seeing them in taxis. So even when privately owned cars became more commonplace, it probably just carried over.

  11. My_Fairlady_ZFG said:

    Why don’t we get the good stuff (OG Civic Type R, Integra Type R, GT-R, Celica alltrack, etc)?
    Why does what we get rust so darn fast?
    But most importantly
    Why is Keiichi Tsuchiya?

    • Ben Hsu said:

      Well, back in the day they thought (possibly rightly so) that Americans wouldn’t pay what the good stuff would’ve cost. Some of those cars also wouldn’t pass US emissions and safety rules.

      As for the rust, Japan doesn’t salt their roads in winter so early on they probably didn’t engineer their cars for that. The cars built in the late 90s and onward are (mostly) pretty good with rust. That’s also when a majority of Japanese cars sold here came to be built and designed here.

      Lastly, Keiichi Tsuchiya is because Takahashi Kunimitsu!
      http://japanesenostalgiccar.com/team-taisans-r32-nissan-skyline-gt-r-ferrari-f40-dodge-viper/

      • Mark F Newton-John said:

        I would also say that most Japanese buyers ditch their cars to avoid the tax and inspection fees for older cars, so why galvanize body panels on an Isuzu Gemini?

    • Mark F Newton-John said:

      Face it, most Americans who want to spend $40-$50 grr are looking at 400hp Mustangs, Camaros, and Chargers, not fart-can Civics.
      As a long time Toyota fan, I cannot see spending money on an 86 that has around 200hp, when a Focus RS has over 300…
      Fart cans, tow hooks, window shades and drag inducing rear wings ain’t going to make those things faster.

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