PIXELATED: JNCs of the Grand Theft Auto universe

With rumors of the next installment of the Grand Theft Auto franchise taking place in Vice City, we began to ponder the possibilities for in-game cars. If publisher Rockstar Games does indeed return to their caricature of 1980s Miami, it could make way for tons of JNCs. Will we see a Z31 or MR2? How lucky would we be to get a Toyota Van Wagon or an E70 Corolla? 

I’m sure most people who’ve never played the series think probably think it would be ridiculous to see a digital homage to such cars, but Rockstar Games has had quite a track record of putting some seriously cool vintage J-tin into their games. Here is a list of some of our favorite JNCs to appear in the Grand Theft Auto timeline. We’ve used pictures of the highest resolution versions of the cars to shield your eyes from mid-2000s GTA horror, we’ve also included users’ pictures of their cars from the Rockstar Social Club, which is Grand Theft Auto‘s digital communication platform. All uncredited images are from my personal Social Club account, KyleKatarnTho.

Blista Compact — Honda CRX

First appearing back in the original Vice City from 2002, the Blista Compact was a digital recreation of the Honda CRX and one of the first JNCs to appear in the 3D GTA universe. The car would later be put under the Dinka brand, which is GTA’s Honda. The car has always driven much like an EF Civic — unbelievably lightweight, nimble and faster than most other compacts in the game.

In later iterations of the series, the car has received increasingly larger amounts of detail. You can even find a trim level that resembles a CRX SiR. While you could modify the car in GTA: San Andreas, the modifications were pretty limited. Once GTA V came around, however, the Blista Compact could be modified to take the look of a kanjo racer, amongst other styles, and really came into its own.

Dinka Hakumai — CA Honda Accord

Appearing in only GTA IV, the Dinka Hakumai is a rare car in the GTA universe due to it having functioning pop-up headlights. The ZR350, their version of an FD RX7, in San Andreas was the first car in GTA to have functioning pop-up lights. It’s surprising to know there were no pop-ups in Vice City, a game that should be full of them. This homage to the CA Accord might be one of the best representations of Honda’s third-gen sedan  in any video game, period, strong words for an arcade sandbox game.

In real life the CA Accord handles like a slightly bigger Honda Civic, and the GTA version is essentially a Blista Compact with an extra 200 pounds. A color matching and body-kitted version driven by Albaian Skylocks (pictured above) is definitely the most aesthetically pleasing version. I wish this car would make it’s way back into new GTA games.

Karin Rebel — Toyota Hilux

When GTA V launched back in 2013, it featured the largest map of any GTA game ever. It was also in the shape of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, but I digress. While it featured the typical coastline and metropolis of Los Angeles, further inland it also had California’s desert and mountains.

From blasting down the beach to crawling up a trail through the mountains, what better vehicle to traverse this landscape than a Toyota HiLux? In-game, it was called the Karin Rebel, and the original was only available in rusted condition, but now you can find the car cancer-free, as a technical with a mounted machine gun, or in Jeremy Clarkson Toyboata amphibious kit.

Karin Futo — Toyota Corolla AE86

The year is 2008, and Grand Theft Auto IV comes out for your Xbox 360, the first new game in the series since 2004. You pop in the disc and see the quantum leap from early PS2 low-poly shapes to the beautiful detail of modern graphics. While playing through the beginning of the story of a Baltic immigrant who is forced into a life of crime, you are graced with an AE86 driving down the street.

Its detail astounds you as you gaze at the true-to-life lines and Watanabe wheels. Then, under the hood you see an engine resembling a 4A-GE 20-valve with ITB trumpets in all their glory. Somebody at Rockstar took the time to make this car look right. Fast forward to GTA V, and now you can modify that same AE86 to your liking, this time with any number of vintage barrels, N1 style spoilers, over-fenders, roll cages and even takeyari pipes. Too bad the car is in the same racing class as the Ferraris and Aston Martins of the game.

Annis Savestra — Mazda RX-3 (Photo from Rockstar Social Club user -_Baker-_)

The Savestra is a fairly new entry into the Grand Theft Auto universe, having been included the Doomsday Heist GTA Online update back in December. In stock trim it has Galant GTO taillights and a Toyota Corona-esque flat nose, but when you modify it begins to resemble a Mazda RX-3. You can even add giant over-fenders to make look like a 1970s Japanese touring car.

Of course with how ridiculous GTA Online has become, the car can be fitted with machine guns and body armor if you choose. Personally, I just keep it for that once-in-a-blue-moon situation when I can join a race that doesn’t involve explosions or ridiculous jumps, or cruising the San Andreas canyon roads listening to Hall & Oates until some yobbo strafes my car with an F15 Tomcat.

Vulcar Warrener – Hakosuka Nissan Skyline (Photo from Rockstar Social Club user hyeLite)

One of the first updates to GTA V to include additional cars was the “I Am Not A Hipster” content pack. It featured hipster clothing and weird classic cars, obviously of the sort you’d imagine a hipster would lust after in their ironic dream world.

Among the AMC Pacers, Citroen SMs and Mercedes W114s was a Hakosuka Skyline. While a coupe would be too mainstream, we were given a Hako sedan. The standard car is pure factory Showa Era brilliance, but once you begin modifying it, the car becomes a shark-nosed shakotan hero. Even four years after this update went live, this is still one of the coolest cars you can attain in the GTA universe.

Karin 190Z – Toyota 2000GT/Nissan S30 Z (Photo from Rockstar Social Club user __Snu__)

The last car on our list is a new addition to the GTA pantheon, debuting in the same update as the Savestra. It’s a beautiful representation of late 60s Japanese sports cars. From the front it’s pure S30 Z, but from behind takes some of the best design characteristics of the Toyota 2000GT. Rockstar’s description of the 190Z is a perfect summary of the 2000GT and 240Z as well.

There was a time when if you wanted real sophistication on four wheels you bought European – and thanks to the 190z, that time is no more. This classic changed the landscape of sports car design forever, introducing the kind of poise and allure we’ve been imitating ever since. Without this masterpiece, no collection is complete.

As with the real S30 and 2000GT, the car isn’t the fastest in its class in a straight line, but it stands head and shoulders above its competitors when it comes to cornering. As an additional nod to the S30’s history in rally racing, the car is also remarkably stable while off roading as well. It’s also worth noting that the engine in the car appears to be specifically modeled just for this single car, while most other cars in the game have their engine model shared with other cars.

Something that I personally appreciate about non-licensed cars in video games is that it allows the game designer to play with the car a bit. While sometimes the cars look like horrible Chinese knockoffs, if done right it can distill what we love about a certain car down to its basic design characteristics. If there’s a JNC you love from Grand Theft Auto that didn’t make this list, feel free to comment with your choice, or show us your garage in GTA Online.

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15 Responses to PIXELATED: JNCs of the Grand Theft Auto universe

  1. Nigel says:

    I think there may also be some X70 Toyota sedans in the game. Like the Cresta and Mark II.
    I keep seeing these when I am doing an image search for GX71 Toyota’s.

  2. Dandy says:

    Great article, Ryan!! If you haven’t heard it yet, listen to the start-up of the Annis Savestra. It has this wonderful rough rotary warm-up sound before maintaining a steady idle. I sometimes just hop into it over and over again to hear it.

  3. Ant says:

    Bought GTA V right back at the start but lost interest in it fairly quickly. I knew they’d added a lot to the game since then but it amazes me how many cars have appeared since the game first came out – particularly the JNC-alikes. Might have to get back into it…

  4. Anon says:

    The ZR-350 in San Andreas was the first car in GTA that had pop-up headlights, not the Hakumai. Good article nonetheless.

  5. Ben Hsu says:

    Great article, Ryan! I had no idea GTA had all these cars in it. I’d be interested where they got the names. Karin = Toyota, Annis = Mazda? Maybe they are not even remotely close as to avoid trademark infringements, but I’d be curious how they came up with them.

    • Yuri says:

      The Karin brand started with the Karin Rebel (Toyota HiLux). The name is a take on the Karen Rebels of Myanmar who have been known to use HiLux’s as technicals in their conflicts in one of the world’s “longest running civil wars.”

      Dinka was just a take on Dinky, since the Blista was one of the smallest cars in the game. As additional Hondas were brought into GTA, the name stuck with the newer models.

      As for other names, I’ve heard it varies all over the place, sometimes it’s a stereotype of the typical owner (Bravado is Dodge) or named after a programmer or concept artist who owns the real car. (Trevor’s truck shares its name with the voice actor’s son)

      The reason the AE86 gets such love in the game is because the Vehicle lead designer is an Irishman who is REALLY into AE86’s IIRC.

    • Ben Hsu says:

      Ah, good to know the background! Hopefully we’ll see some Subarus in there in the future.

    • XRaider says:

      Annis also has Nissan cars like the Elegy Retro which is based on the R32 Skyline GT-R with some from the R33 and R34

    • Peter says:

      The origin of the name of the AE86-alike Futo should be clear to any Initial D fan: it’s just tofu scrambled.

  6. Yuri says:

    If you modify the Annis Elegy RH8 (Nissan R35 GTR) into the Elegy Retro Custom, it becomes an R32 GTR.

    In addition, there’s the Zirconium Stratum, which is a really cool R32 GTS 4-door wagon.

  7. Christian says:

    The only reason I play GTA Online anymore is for the cars. Whoever does the vehicle design at R* is really on point with their cars. There’s some other great non-jnc additions too such as the Turismo and Cheetah Classics.

  8. XRaider says:

    “Appearing in only GTA IV, the Dinka Hakumai owns the title of being the first car in the GTA universe to have functioning pop-up headlights” I’m afraid the Dinka Hakumai is NOT THE FIRST CAR IN GTA UNIVERSE THAT HAS FUNCTIONING POP-UP HEADLIGHTS!!! Tell that to the ZR350(Kinda looks like an RX-7 FD)in GTA San Andreas

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