QotW: What was the last great golden era Japanese car?

Parking in Japan 01 Coin Lot - Mazda RX7 FD3S & Nissan S15

The era of the Japanese performance car is one of automotive history’s great epochs. With everything from kei sports cars to supercar killing sedans, there was seemingly nothing the Japanese wouldn’t build. Despite cars like the Nissan GT-R and Lexus LFA, recent offerings like the Honda S660, and upcoming Tokyo Motor Show concepts like the Mazda heritage concept and Toyota S-FR, it just doesn’t feel the same as that golden era. In honor of the Street Neo Classics 80s and 90s car show coming up this weekend, we ask:

What was the last great golden era Japanese car?

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 last week’s QotW, “What’s the best shade of JNC red?” 

N13 Sunny

Despite a controvesial The winner last week was AJS, whose humble Sunny does indeed sport an immensely red coat of paint.

I like, no I adore the red on my N13 Nissan Sunny. It is the brightest red I’ve ever seen. It is technically impossible to produce a brighter shade of red, in my humble opinion. During a car show, a Ferrari Testarossa (!) parked next to my Sunny. My humble little red Nissan once and for all showed who’s the daddy of the red cars. It made the Ferrari look bland. Here’s proof.

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

JNC Decal smash

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13 Responses to QotW: What was the last great golden era Japanese car?

  1. KiKiIchiBan said:

    It would have to be the 90’s for me, I’ve owned a frew (I think 6) FD3S RX-7. a couple DC2 ITRs, SR20DET 180sx and Silvia K’s, Version 2 WRX STi, SW20 MR2 GTS Turbo. I’m sure there are a few more that I’ve forgotten. But there are more cars from that era I’d love to own, such as a Supra, Chaser, GTO, NSX, the list goes on, almost every Japanese manufacturer was making a fun, fast car.

  2. CarandWriter said:

    I believe it’s the triplet jzx100 Chaser, MarkII and Cresta from Toyota. They were great cars for an enthusiast with family responsibilities. Rwd, flexible turbo 2.5L motor with VVT-i and a stout manual transmission. They offered sporty driving dynamics with 4 door practicality, along with an engine that could be tuned to nearly double the output from the factory. They even got decent gas mileage for the era. Toyota definitely could have stolen some 3 series sales had they brought these cars to our shores. In a pinch you could argue that the Jzs171 Crown could be the luxury cousin of the trio. I will never understand why Toyota refused to sell any 1JZ powered vehicles in the states.

  3. emuman said:

    The Eunos Cosmo is the climax of the golden era and one of it’s lasts. Combining a unique engine only used in this car with digital dials, one of the first gps systems, tv, radio, cd and touch screen it shows everything Japan had to offer. Mazda took the idea of splitting into different brands to the extremes and offered it only aus Eunos.
    It’s even hard to imagine something like a successor for the Cosmo, Mazda played their ace. Maybe the Amati 1000 with W-12 engine could keep up with the Cosmo, but it never went into production.
    The Eunos Cosmo says ‘we are using the greatest technologies in the world’ and it says it out loud!

  4. Lupus said:

    This is the era that is the closest to my heart. Cars from ’80-’90 Japan where a lot more sophisticated then they competition from Europe or US, but they weren’t complicated at the same time. I’ve choosed to circulate around cars from that time, because they are truely different from the usual sightnins on the street in middle Europe.
    I just love all Nihhon Steel from late ’80 to late ’90. But if i would be forced to point the true king i would opt for the Queen – A80 Supra. Gorgeus styling, bulletproof mechanics, endless amount of possible modifications. The last factor brought almost whole A80 polulation on a verge of extinction, so they became rare. Thus expensive. This car baceme a legend instantly. It’s predesessor, tha A70, didn’t get such following. And the latest LF-A just had no chance for that, due to low number of units made.

  5. stj said:

    The JZX110 Mark II featuring the 1JZ-GTE and the JZS161 Aristo with the VVTI 2JZ-GTE were the last two golden age cars to survive. Both got discontinued in 2005.

  6. Tom Westmacott said:

    Can anyone remember what you were doing in the summer of 2002? Myself, I was falling hopelessly in love with the woman who is now my wife. Perhaps the ecstasy of my first serious relationship explains how I failed to notice the terrible disaster that struck homo autoenthusiastus. For that fateful summer, the leading lights of the bubbleboost era, the Skyline GT-R, Silvia, Supra and RX-7, were simultaneously withdrawn from sale. Bitter rivals on touge and track, they left the stage together, just a brief bow to the remaining faithful in the form of run-out editions to mark the end of an amazing show.

    However, the first among equals, the name that was most famous and most steeped in heritage, lived on. Honda’s NSX had eschewed turbocharging for reasons of driving purity; now this helped purity of another kind, easing the VTEC motor through the tightening net of emissions regulations that snared its over-fueled turbocharged counterparts. The NSX retired gracefully on its own terms in 2005, at the age of fifteen; no other car of the era lived so long while remaining recognisably the same; no other has such an unquestioned claim to greatness, so I cannot but propose it as “The Last Great Golden-Era Japanese Sports Car”.

  7. ahja said:

    The last car to emerge from those halcyon days of the 1990s, to reflect the spirit of the time of Japanese manufacturers doing their best to make the best driving and performing car that they could in the class they were competing in, holding back none of their engineering prowess, was…. the S2000. It was different enough from the other attractive rwd sports coupes (by being a convertible, and on a whole tier above the Miata) that it was able to hang on for about a decade after all of its ideological rivals and contemporaries perished. Actually, while the design surfaced in the mid-90s, when MR2, RX7, Supra, 3000GT, etc. were all still on sale, they were all discontinued by the time the S2000 actually reached the market.

    Other cars, like the NB Miata, S15, or R34 were warmed over versions of existing chassis and engines. The S2000 was the last of the “golden era” cars to actually be born from scratch. I also wouldn’t consider the 350Z or ZZW30 to be “golden era” cars, because they were dialed back from what their predecessors were, and as such, lacked that essential 1990s Japanese trait of being on the bleeding edge.

  8. Michael said:

    The mid-late 90’s and early 00’s and probably the 2 cars pictured. The Series 6,7 and 8 RX7’s and the S14/S15’s were the last great affordable cars with fun and power in mind to come out of Japan. In the higher value area I guess you’d have to stick with the same brands and say the JC Cosmo(20B) and GTR’s(32/33/34).

  9. JHMBB2 said:

    The S2000 without a doubt… Oh Honda….when will you pull yourself back together again.

  10. ya_boy_yeti said:

    My favorite time was the 70s classics because they raised a middle finger at the oil crisis and at big american cars. However I feel like there is a resurgence in japanese cars. Think about it the s-fr, idx (maybe), the new miata, nsx, what ever that new mazda is. Plus we yanks are getting our grubby little fingers on a civic type r. AND ITS TURBO!!! (maybe even 4wd) WTF???????? plus im a big fan of the new impreza wrx/sti. so yeah Im optimistic guys!!!!

  11. attacksustaindecayrelease said:

    The MR2’s, the Supras, the Z31’s, CRX’s, RX7’s, and all of the other dangerous, driver aid-less cars of the 80s! Can you imagine any automotive company being able to design any of these dangerous cars and selling them to the masses today? Too many cars after the early 90’s were gravitating towards all these fancy HICAS systems, and advanced AWD systems. Sure, they make for some ridiculously fast and amazing pieces of engineering, but I don’t think that’s what being a car enthusiast is about.

    Whats the fun in driving a car that’s doing so much of the driving for you? The moment driving aids like TCS and the like got implemented into almost every car on the roads, I feel the golden Era of all vehicles died. With the arrival of all of these technological advances, our accountability behind the wheel began to fade, and with each generation, the cars have gotten tamer and fatter. No longer are we held accountable for how we drive, it’s up to the manufacturers to hold our hands and cradle us in these big ugly things we call cars today. Rather than just leave it up to drivers to keep their cars upright, every car on the roads has to have rollover protection. Rather than hold the driver accountable for avoiding rear ending folks at that red light, the cars yell at you, and in some cases stop for you. Every single Honda now has a back up camera! As if it’s so flipping difficult to watch where you’re backing up by turning your head? And now we’re heading towards complete automation, and with that will come the loss of the freedom that traditional automobiles have granted us for so long.

    I’m not saying I don’t have a great amount of love for the cars that were produced in the 90’s. I even have a lot of love for many cars produced today. But they’re not the same. Those cars emphasize technology over experience, and in the cars of older days, the technology was a part of the experience.

    Maybe that’s why manufacturers are having such a hard time hitting the mark with the younger demographic. There’s nothing interesting in the products they produce, save for a touch screen and bluetooth capability.

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