QotW: If you could magically merge the body of one car with the hardware of another, what would you choose?

One of the coolest things about the FJ40/J70 Franken-Cruiser from the Tokyo Auto Salon was how it looked. It was indistinguishable from a classic FJ40 to all but the most dedicated Land Cruiser enthusiasts. Yet it rode on a modern (well, as modern as a J70 can be) chassis and drivetrain. What other cars can you combine to create your ultimate dream machine? In the real world you’d have wheelbase and packaging issues, but let’s pretend those can be solved by magic. Your Nissan Figaro will look exactly the same as its factory counterpart but will drive like a GT-R.

If you could magically merge the body of one car with the hardware of another, what would you choose?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What JNC is perfect for any occasion?“.

Interestingly, the answers from last week fell into a handful of distinct categories. For some, AWD Mitsubishis and Subarus were the best all-arounders. Joe Villani thought any 90s Triple-Diamond would suffice, while Mitsubishi Magna chose a Lan Evo specifically. Then you had your Subaru wagon contingent, with Jim Daniels opting for a Legacy GT 5-speed and Lakdasa selecting a Forester.

Sporty sedans had their share of advocates. Taylor C. made a strong case for the Accord Euro R. MikeRL411 settled on an Infiniti J30t. Nigel said any combo of X90 or X100 and Mark II or Cresta or Chaser would do. Fashion Victim simply chopped off two doors and went with the Z20 Soarer.

The last category was comprised of Land Cruisers for their go-anywhere capabilities. Ian G chose the very car that inspired this week’s QotW, an FJ40 on J70 chassis. Azfer made a compelling argument for the Land Cruiser 80/Lexus LX450. Ultimately the winner was Jim Klein, who states this case for the Lexus LX470:

Well, if it needs to do it ALL, then that includes living in it. And that whittles things down until there’s only one choice, a 100-series Land Cruiser, or more accurately, the Lexus LX470. It fits the 25 y.o. definition of a JNC, it’s nicer inside than many people’s homes, nobody will be embarrassed when a Lexus rolls up to take them anywhere or is parked in front of anything, it has convertible seating spaces in the way back for those impromptu dinner parties in the cargo area, has a tailgate to, you know, tailgate on, and there’s nothing more fun than kareening through the wilderness smirking at the Land Rover that may get Mr. Snooty McSnootSnoot all the way out there, but perhaps isn’t so good at getting him back without a major mechanical or more likely electrical malfunction. Or just enjoying communing with nature way off the beaten path while sleeping in it with all the seats folded down. And of course a Navigation system so nobody has to figure out how to refold those paper map things while fjording a river in the Congo.

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

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18 Responses to QotW: If you could magically merge the body of one car with the hardware of another, what would you choose?

  1. Fred Langille says:

    We very much enjoy our Nissan S-Cargo … it being down for some needed repairs/upgrades has given rise to this idea of getting more beans in the engine compartment plus, having the handling better than the ubiquitous snail itis name after. Very difficult ,,, very difficult indeed. but, I think if some Japanese magic could drop the RHD body on a late model … compared to 1989 anyway … it’d have to be not only bigger than what it has now but have AWD, turbo, larger wheels with a V6 if possible. Possibly a late model Nissan truck, keeping it within the marque. Which one? Right now, it beats me as zI don’t function well doing this at O-dark-thirty without coffee. I’d say any of Nissan’s AWD truck offerings that are comparable in size..

    • Bill Hartley says:


      Have you thought of drivetrain from a Pulsar into the S-Cargo?

      I have presumed that there are family similarities … the result could disturb a few people


  2. Lakdasa says:

    This practice has been going on in my country, from Morris Minors changed to MINI minors, Mitsubishi J36’s running 1980/90 Pajero bodies, Old MK Patrols with Y60 Bodies and the list goes on. Personally one of my favourite cars have been the Datsun 1500/2000 Roadster. I would love to see one running with Nissan S15 Sylvia underneath. A very good light reliable platform for an iconic JNC to carry on to the future.

  3. BW says:

    I would merge the Miata/MX-5 drivetrain with one of two cars:

    Lotus Elite (Type 14)
    Nissan Pao

    That would give me either a mini GT car or a practical but quick hatchback, both with a reliable and easily maintained powertrain. Both cars have unique looks and obvious charm but are let down by drivetrain that is either hard to support or pretty underpowered.

  4. Franxou says:

    One thing that happened during the ’80s is the start of the Front Wheel Drive domination. Of course, While we lost some purity of in the steering feel, it gave us cars that were easy to drive, safer under winter conditions, and with well packaged interior that were often bigger than the Rear Wheel Drive cars they replaced. Some engineers were engineering so hard that we even got amazing FWD sport cars (and sporty cars)!
    But there is something special when you feel the shove coming from the bottom of behind your back, instead of being dragged by the front wheels, and a different feeling to taking a curve when the rear wheels are pushing instead of trailering.
    Living in the modern era, do I miss RWD sport cars? Well, not really, they still are there! But I do miss RWD sporty cars, those that were not pure sport cars, just simple coupés or fastbacks, quick, light, full of feelings without being too much to drive, especially for a beginner driver. Think about what the Miata was, right when the RX7 got too serious about being fast.
    So what hardware would I mesh together? I’d take the FWD and make it RWD: last-gen Ford Probe (does it count as japanese? I always thought it looked better than the MX-6) with a V6 Nissan 200SX driveline.

  5. dankan says:

    I’ll take a Honda Aerodeck with the drivetrain, suspension, and brakes from an FL5 Civic Type-R.

  6. Maestro says:

    Also worth mentioning that the 100 series can tow quite well. I’ve towed a vintage camper back and forth from California to Maine 3 times in our ‘06 LX470 and the trips have all been smooth and comfortable. The adjustable air suspension self-levels to compensate for the tongue weight and she rides like a Buick in comfort-mode all the while.

  7. Ryan says:

    I have two answers, both of which involve replacing the guts important bits of an European car with a Japanese one.

    For years, I’ve remarked that Mini would have been a much better brand — and likely a huge success — if it were instead bought by Honda. The first revival BMW Minis were well-designed and are highly-regarded as great to drive. Quality, of course, was lacking. As great as those were to drive, I would imagine Honda would have been able to beat BMW at the small FWD game. A K-series in a Mini Cooper would be fun for hundreds of thousands of miles.

    The Scion brand could have been highly successful in the US if they took a different approach – one that isn’t actually realistic. Instead of importing funky cars intended for the Japanese market, what if they imported the bodies of European market cars? Could you imagine how well the Scion tC would have sold if it looked like an Alfa Romeo Brerna? Not very many, but they’d be in the US and would be reliable, so I could have one.

  8. Alan says:

    HD Mazda with the developmental W12.

  9. Land Ark says:

    Take the beautiful siren of the FD RX7 and replace the engine with the running gear of the Subaru STI with one caveat: keep it RWD. The boxer engine maintains the low center of gravity that LS swaps lack a bit and while the Subaru engine is certainly not bulletproof it will get you to 120k miles without major incident. It provides a reasonable amount of power for the package so you don’t immediately wrap it around the nearest crashed Mustang. It also keeps the forced induction spirit of the original design.

  10. Sammy B says:

    I’m staying pretty simple: IS Sportcross with a 6MT or Acura TSX wagon with a V6 + 6MT. Both of those would be 100% absolute buys in my book.

    To get just a little more creative, I’d love the B13 SE-R body on a shortened S-chassis with an SR20DET (I’d settle for just a SR20DE). I loved my B13 and it would have been even more amazing RWD.

  11. JJ says:

    I would “fix” the mistake that Honda made when they released the hybrid CR-Z. Instead of the “bleh” hybrid system we got, install the drivetrain and suspension from the Prelude Type SH while keeping the electric motor as a helper. It was a decent looking car, but was done in by the drivetrain. Styling and naming it after one of Honda’s icons didn’t help either.

    As a sidenote, one of my friends dads, who lived in Vancouver for a bit in the 70s-80s, claimed that the Police had performed an interesting swap trick to create what may be the ultimate ghost car. According to him, a VW Beetle body will fit neatly over the drivetrain and chassis of a Porsche 911 Turbo; paint it with a “flower power” theme and no one saw it coming.

  12. This question has been bouncing around in my head for many years and could be done as a relatively low budget build:

    Take the brilliant Mazda RX-8 chassis with the not so brilliant Renesis Wankel engine, cut off the body, get the welding equipment out and graft the body of the NSU Ro80 on top. The difference in wheelbase is just 160 mm after all and could be fixed/hidden easily.

    This would mean staying in the lineage of Felix Wankels’ idea of propulsion, with an elegant body that was years ahead of it’s time and a chassis that makes the Ro80 a fun to drive RWD machine.

    And while you’re at it, convert the Ro80 to a wagon as I did with this one:


    Best regards

    • Alan says:

      You win this one. In my heart, anyway. The Ro80 is such an important, forward-thinking car, and almost totally unknown. Great render, too.

  13. Kris says:

    I’d merge the body of an S30-era Z with mechanical bits of a hakosuka-era Skyline GT-R. I think I’d call it a Z432.

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