QotW: What is Japan’s Corvette?

On January 17, 1953, the first Chevrolet Corvette made its debut at the GM Motorama at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York. In the nearly 70 years since, the world has come to know it as a symbol of the good ol’ US of A. Our question this week is about what car best fits that mold for Japan. We don’t mean a front-engined, RWD 2-seater with a V8, but a car that represents the engineering, performance, or spirit of Japan’s auto industry.

What is Japan’s Corvette?

The best comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What car from 1997 do you want to import?“.

There were so many good choices from 1997. Probably the most drool-worthy performance car would be Lee L‘s suggestion of the NISMO 400R. Big Toyota sedans also received nominations in the form of Alan‘s V12 Century and ra21benj‘s Chaser. On the opposite end of the spectrum was Daniel Polom‘s Y61 Nissan Patrol 5-speed, while Banpei and f31roger chose cool oddities like the Caldina GT-T and Nissan R’Nessa, r’psectively. However, the winner this week was Starry Eye for the rock solid yet amusing case for a Civic Type R.

For me, there can be only one. The EK9 Honda Civic Type R. It was from a time when Honda was Honda. It took a simple economy car and turned it into a circuit and touge destroyer. And they did it with honest engineering, all-motor tuning and weight reduction. It had only the smallest of visual upgrades from a regular Civic. And the CTR lineage continued for many more generations than the ITR, with a new one on the horizon. It was one of the only cars Takumi had to battle twice in Initial D. And it had only minor visual upgrades. The latest CTR is an awesome car, but it looks like the love child of Optimus Prime and Jetfire.

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23 Responses to QotW: What is Japan’s Corvette?

  1. Ebisu says:

    I’m afraid there’s not a thousand answers there. It has to be Nissan’s Skyline :

    – Like the Corvette, it has been there since the dawn of time : 1957 for the Skyline and 1953 for the Corvette.
    – Like the Corvette, it has been uninterruptedly produced until now (except the 1983 hiatus for the Corvette) and it had highs and lows on the way (C210, R30 and R31 vs C10, C110, R32, etc).
    – Like the Corvette, the name is a range in itself, with base models and sportier ones, all the way to the top. Although the span is much wider with the Skyline.

    It’s probably the most emblematic japanese car at the moment. Ask any kid who knows a little bit about JDM and his first answer will always be Skyline (not even Supra). In that way, it has the place in Japan that the Corvette has in the US.

    In terms of engineering, it’s a symbol of japanese way of building cars (precision, performance, innovation). This comes all the way from Prince Motor Co., and from aeronautics companies, which provided early extremely talented engineers to most japanese car companies.

    Unfortunately, unlike the Corvette, Skylines (even base models) are no longer affordable.

  2. Nigel says:

    My guess would be the Nissan Z, a car known the world over.

  3. Negishi no Keibajo says:


  4. dankan says:

    The Honda Civic. It embodies all of the key characteristics of the Japanese car industry. It is relentlessly engineered to a truly world class level. It is not a premium-market car, instead it is a basic transportation device for normal families. It features design that elevates beyond being basic transportation through innovative ideas, sometimes futuristic looks, and driving dynamics not offered by others for the same price.

    There are other cars which look special, but the Japanese car industry isn’t built around looking special, it is built around selling millions of econoboxes that everyone not driving them thinks are dull and soulless, but those people are so very wrong.

  5. speedie says:

    Although I have been asked by many a non-car person if my RX-8 R3 is a Corvette (I guess the honking Mazda logo on the hood and trunk did not catch their eye), I would have to say the Toyota Supra. At least generations two through four. It represented the best in Toyota engineering and could be had as a basic grand tourer or as a more powerful stoplight racer. It was what a lawyer, doctor or techie would buy if a Corvette image was not what they wanted.

  6. CycoPablo says:

    At first I thought “Supra”, given the Celica relationship.
    But the Z pre-dates it, so another vote for NisDat Z.

  7. Kevin says:

    I’d say the Z car. I recall when the z31 (84 300zx) came out that Car and Driver did a comparison of the anniversary edition turbo Z and the Corvette (even referring to the Z in the article as Japan’s corvette). Of course, another option would be the Nissan Skyline…

  8. エーイダン says:

    Skyline GT-R, R32-R34. Someone has to say it so I will. Besides, any more “Z” responses I’d swear this is the script for a comic strip where the first 4 panes show a bloke sleeping.

  9. Michael says:

    The Chevrolet Corvette was conceived as a concept car in America’s 1950’s post WWII boom. It represented the cultural attitudes of the time – freedom and adventure. The Mazda Cosmo also debuted as a concept car, in the mid 1960’s, at the beginning of a technological and manufacturing boom in Japan that would stretch into the 90’s.

    Both cars were designed as futuristic, stylish coupes. The Corvette marketing featured space rockets, and GM gifted the cars to NASA astronauts on a yearly basis. Mazda named their car the “Cosmo” to associate their technological prowess with the public excitement around the futuristic space race.

    Each car featured the pinnacle of their manufacturers engineering, the Mazda Cosmo with the revolutionary Wankel rotary engine, and the Chevrolet Corvette eventually featuring a fuel-injected V8.

    The nameplates evolved over decades, however remained truly representative of their initial design philosophies. The Corvette, horsepower. The Cosmo, technology. Tragically the Cosmo name was a casualty of the end of the Japanese economic bubble in the 90’s, while the Corvette lives on. I personally like to imagine the Cosmo’s spirit lives on within the silhouette of the Mazda RX-Vision concept today.

  10. Brett says:

    Maybe I am showing my age, but how about the Toyota 2000GT. It shocked and rocked car fans everywhere, and became a Halo Car for Toyota, after the Tokyo Motor Show in 1965, and it beat the first Datsun Z into production by two years. Just say’in.

  11. Land Ark says:

    I’m thinking about this differently. Over the years the Corvette has morphed and changed but the constant has always been cheap power. Americans love cheap power.

    Japan is different in my mind. So I’d say the Japanese Corvette is actually the Mazda Roadster. We learned from Initial D that driving prowess can beat much more powerful cars and the Roadster is the ultimate underdog. It’s also more like the original Fairlady in spirit than the Z has been in the last 40 years. Being low on power and high on fun makes it the epitome of Japanese sports cars.

    The Corvette is renown world-wide and appreciated for what it is. The Roadster holds the same distinction.

  12. Bababooey says:

    Whoever the dude is that said the Honda Civic is Japan’s Corvette should be banned for life from accessing this website.

    • dankan says:

      Well, I’m glad it hurt your feelings. I felt the answer matched the criteria. Perhaps you would like to try contributing?

      • Bababooey says:

        It didn’t hurt my feelings, it’s just stupid. The Civic is and was always an economy car. It’s not and never will be a sports car.

        • TypeMJim says:

          It clearly stated in the article that it didn’t have to be anything similar to the corvette. All you had to do was argue based on one of three criteria. (“a car that represents the engineering, performance, or spirit of Japan’s auto industry.”) If they have a good enough argument that it fits into one of those then your poor opinion doesn’t matter.

        • dankan says:

          And your point is? The question wasn’t “name a Japanese sports car.”

  13. speedie says:

    Yeah I thought that one was a bit out in left field as well. Interestingly I don’t think there has been an American car made that is comparable to the Civic for its longevity, build quality, and model variety. But that is a different question than this one. A corvette it is not.

  14. Negishi no Keibajo says:

    To qualify, it’s gotta be a car a 20 year old in a dealer garage wrecks during an oil change.

  15. Dimitry Mochkin says:

    Took me some time to think about this one and I think it’d be Toyota 2000GT. In a world where the 2000GT garner astronomical prices and Corvettes cost a fraction of, one might be surprised to hear that.
    So why do I think this way?
    Both were created in a way to answer the booming European supercar market. “We can do it better”.
    Both sport sleek bodylines oh so favorite in the era.
    Both had an illustrious and extremely competitive motorsport career.
    Both are absolutely legendary in their own way.
    However, only one of them ended up starring in a James Bond movie and becoming immortalized on the silver screen.

  16. f31roger says:

    Aye.. .Nobody said it!! Everyone has said good choices. I’ll just go with the knock offs. LOL>

    Mitsuoka Rockstar

    I remember in 2001 (geezus that is long ago..) I was trying to get the Mariah Kit for my FC3s RX7 and I was gonna try and secure a 1st Gen RX7. I had a thing for the corvetty kit, which I think would have been funny to have, but swap in a chev 350 at the time and I’d truly have a “Poor man’s corvette”. I got so much hate on rx7club forums lol.
    Mariah kit didn’t pan out and and of course, Corvetty kit was super expensive to import back then, if not find one.

    Old skool SA22C to Corvetty

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