QotW: What 1999 car would you import from Japan?

A new year means a new crop of cars are eligible for import. This year cars built in 1999 will be legal to bring ashore under America’s 25-year-rule. The Godzilla in the room is of course the R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R, a car that some die-hard enthusiasts have been storing in Japan waiting for this very day to come. But if that’s too pricey or too obvious for you there are plenty of other choices, like a car with one of the longest model names ever, the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI Tommi Makinen Edition GSR. Or make your faux baroque wagon dreams a reality with the Subaru Casablanca. For oddly named kei car fans, there’s the Daihatsu Naked. The possibilities are endless.

What 1999 car would you import from Japan?

The most entertaining comment by next Tuesday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What Subaru model is the most Subaru?“.

The answers this week read like a Subaru “Greatest Hits” album. That’s not bad for a company that hasn’t built a vast number of different models.  Fred Langille came right out of the gates with the hit that started it tall, the Subaru 360. Legacy-san followed up with the Impreza, linking it to the pivotal Subaru 1000. And you can’t have a list of Subarus without including Alan‘s 4th-gen Legacy, Patrick Faria‘s WRX, or Bryan Kitsune‘s Outback.

Ian Gopez made a great case for the 2.5 RS, and we really wanted to send him and his boxer-bulldog pup some stickers. But at the buzzer 555jay swept in with a compelling case for an obscure B-side, the Alcyone:

If you’re outside Subaru looking in, it has to be the Outback.

But I gotta think that if you *are* Subaru, then still a subsidiary of Fuji Heavy Industries, less than a generation removed from all-aircraft engineers, then it has to be the Subaru Alcyone/XT.

Look at it- It’s literally a airfoil. They spent extensive amounts of time in the wind tunnel working on the aero to minimized drag. It’s full of features that are “quirky” not just because they were rare/unique in the car world, but because it was a bunch of differently-thinking designers and engineers knew they could load them up with out risk of the user falling out of the sky.

Then as a bonus, the model’s own 1st-generation run acts like a microcosm of Subaru’s own overall arc…
“Let’s use a 4-cyl turbo!”
“We can make the styling edgy and sharp!”
“Put in FWD or selectable 4WD!”

And then a short time later:
“Maybe they want a 6-cyl motor.”
“Better tone it down a bit. Get out the plain fabric and make it look more like the Celica/Prelude.”
“Start switching them all to AWD instead.” [Toyota collab notwithstanding]

Sound familiar?

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12 Responses to QotW: What 1999 car would you import from Japan?

  1. Lakdasa says:

    America you missed something called the Nissan Primera 2.0 Te-v variant with a naturally aspirated 2.0l engine delivering 190PS and mated to a CVT transmission. Not in the same league as the Evos and GTR’s. They are comfy, handles like a dream, very spacious and above all can be used as a daily. The old SR20 powerplant (not the DE but VE with the variable valve lift) it has so much tuning potential. And a good looker it is. There was a video of one with 150PS being thrashed on the Nürburgring by Mischa where he enjoyed it very much.

  2. Taylor C. says:

    Since the elephant is the R34 GT-R, then I’ll go with the Nissan S15 Silvia Spec-R, make mine pearl white with the Aero body kit and spoiler. Hotnessssss. I was once all up in the Skyline GT-Rs, but similar to fancy expensive cars, I’ve realized there’s not as much reason to drool on those when they’ve become all but unobtainable. Most seem to be bought just to be collected or souped up to undriveable levels or horsepower, and those that can be bought are are all clapped out.

    Back to the Silvia, such a nice car, and with the final edition of the SR20DET Black top and the updated ball bearing turbocharger, AND the six-speed manual, not to mention sexy three-spoke steering wheel and black-on-white gauges like the early 1900s Maxima SE (although these turn amber at night) I’m not looking to win drag races, nor drift, nor steal the show at the local Cars and Coffee (not especially with the rather small 16″ five-spoke wheels). But I’m sure it’ll be a fun car to drive, simple RWD layout with great power and handling to pair with it. Four seats too!

  3. MWC says:

    probably the same car i would import today, except it would be cheaper, the Kenmari GTR…

  4. steve says:

    The TME. Some were produced in 1999, some in 2000. Is the rule the actual production date or the model year registered?

  5. エーイダン says:

    Toyota Caldina GT-T. Fast, AWD, not a crossover. Relatively compact when compared to other offerings with similar amounts of cargo space. The AWD is a must because I live in Manitoba, Canada……Now this winter has been rather kind to us thus far but most years, the streets are like a skating rink and the attempts by the city to cut back on the ice might as well include polishing it with a Zamboni. Aside from the improved traction, lest thy forget, it’s a family-friendly version of the Celica GT-4 underneath the rather unassuming estate car body.

  6. Jim Klein says:

    1999? Nissan Silvia S15 w/ SR20DET. And of course it has to be Purple.

  7. J Wilson says:

    It’s interesting to me that when these 25-year-old-now conversations come up, somehow it’s as if the Subaru SVX never existed.

    • CycoPablo says:

      For good reason. It was too ambitious (heavy) for the transmission to survive anything approaching a reasonable service life.
      With US lemon laws as they have been for some time, this might be the deciding factor if dealers choose to import them. That is, do the laws apply to used imports?

  8. Curtis says:

    A 1999 Toyota Crown Athlete. I’ve recently been converted to the church of the performance sedan and now that I know a JZX100 Chaser is going to be out of my financial reach (I don’t wanna put myself into debt for a fun car), the Crown Athlete is now on my list. It blends in, it’s fast enough to get out of its own way, and it’s a Toyota so I know it’ll last another 25 years as long as I take care of it.

  9. Jonathan P. says:

    After consulting with a list of Japanese cars that were available in 1999, I’d have to go with a Mazda Bongo Brawny van.

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