QotW: What JNC is so ugly it’s cute?

026-DL994_Nissan Cherry X1R

This question came up because of an encounter with a Nissan Juke. Sure, it might have the kind of face only a blind mother could love but Nissan still has no problems moving a couple thousand a month. That’s better than the Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S combined. Japan has a history of building quirky — some would say ugly — cars, like the Datsun Cherry that writer Mickey Kaus once accused of hailing from the “atomic cockroach school of design.” But like the freckled girl you sat next to in science class, over time their quirks become endearing, because at least it stands out from the bars of soap that line suburban cul-de-sacs.

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 JNC stat would surprise non-JNC people?” 


The winner this week is returning champion Tom Westmacott, who impressed with this succinct but astounding fact:

Honda engines have won more Formula One races than BMW, Porsche and Lamborghini put together [72 for Honda vs 20 for BMW, 26 for Porsche and 0 for Lamborghini]

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

JNC Decal smash

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32 Responses to QotW: What JNC is so ugly it’s cute?

  1. Derrick says:

    Well right now I’m headed on a 3 hour drive to pick up and ugly Datsun a 77 200sx. As one person commented on a picture of it that it is one of the ugliest cars produced. I think its one of the most interesting with spuared off rear wheel wells and fat rear quarters. But like every one says its in the eye of the beholder.

  2. Michael McDonald says:

    The original F10.

  3. Dylan says:

    The Subaru 360 wins it for me. It looks like the dwarf child of a VW Beetle and a Fiat 500, with a little Isetta thrown in for good measure. The ugly duckling born from ugly ducklings. I can’t help but smile when I see one on the street though, they are adorably goofy looking.

    • I wouldn’t call it ugly though

      • Dylan says:

        Guess it’s just me then. I’m not a fan of how kei cars look, and that was the first classic that came to mind.

        • Tom Westmacott says:

          Personally I think the Subaru 360 is adorable, with its prominent eyelashes, anthropomophic smiling bonnet line, and rounded wings; it just looks too cute for me to say a bad word about. Yet it’s a fact that even its US importer, Malcolm Bricklin, promoted it as ‘cheap and ugly’ to the American public; so clearly, it must have been considered ugly back then.

  4. Justin says:

    What’s the car in the first picture?

    • daruma3gakoronda says:

      datsun/nissan cherry x1r

      • Len Kruwel says:

        Is that what we called an F10? Never seen that even uglier body style, I think we only got a more normal looking 2-door hatch.

      • Len Kruwel says:

        I recall Honda and Porsche each have only one F1 win as both car AND engine manufacturer (Gurney – France – 1962, Ginther – Mexico – 1965) the rest were engine supplier only, right? Same for BMW, and (Cosworth-)Ford and Mercedes since the 1950’s.

  5. Funky Monkey says:

    The 1978 Subaru BRAT takes my vote. It was Japan’s automotive interpretation of the mullet; Leone-like business in the front, Chicken-Tax evading jump seat party in the back. Its Joe Dirt charm and practicality grows on you after a while. Plus, who doesn’t love acronyms?

  6. Yuri says:

    How about the ugliest version of an other wise beautiful car?
    Beautiful quad headlight grille, delicate little fender mirrors, and perfectly sculpted corner lights in front, lead back into a classic split surf line, which grazes over the rear wheel opening directly into a holy **** what is that?!?!

    I am speaking of course of the kenmeri/yonmeri wagon.

    Although offputting at first, the giant chunk of metal being suspended like a guillotine above the rear wheel eventually starts to grow on you, until it gets to the point where you start dreaming about it with such frequency that the gorgeous kenmeri coupe starts to look like the odd-one.

    • Yoda says:

      That whole “let’s just leave out two pieces of glass that have been crucial to what defines a station wagon since they’ve existed” thing.

      • Kuroneko says:

        I’d suggest the Skyline wagon here is a panel-van, which of course has panel sides to stop errant loads exiting glass windows. Quite common in some places at the time… Still ugly though!

  7. Wayne Thomas says:

    The Juke is ugly-ugly. It will never be considered cute or collectible.

  8. Taro says:

    The Honda CIty Turbo. Quirky and endearing to enthusiasts, but looks completely dated to the layman. It’s square like a super Nintendo…and is probably made from the same plastics inside. Your average person wouldn’t know about the motorbike in the back…not that it would help very much in North American suburbia. It’s plausible that it could grow on your everyday grocer-getter driver after realizing how practical it really is. It’ll always have more Soul than a Fit. See what I did there?

  9. gypsy says:

    That car is ugly , nothing cute about it, just ugly.

    Here’s a goody that sold for 20K, so 80’s tacky it’s good. I would just clean up the front end and drive as is… love it with stripes and all

  10. simon says:

    Datsun 120 y’d you buy it?

  11. Ant says:

    I think the first-gen Suzuki Cervo (/SC100/Whizzkid) is in with a shout.

    Later models in particular suffered from that late 70s/early 80s habit of coating potentially-neat designs in layers of black plastic and bumper overriders. It’s like the pug dog of Japanese micro-cars (I hesitate to call it a kei as many markets had larger engines).

    Yet it’s so small and has some fantastic details – so you can’t really hate it despite the wonky proportions and profusion of plastic.

  12. banpei says:

    What JNC is so ugly that it is cute? I’d say anything that leaves the Mitsuoka factory.

    Mitsuoka started with the Shuttle 50, passed on its technology to the BUBU 50 and by then things still were fine. It started to go downhill once Mitsuoka built a Porsche 356 lookalike on the BUBU 50 underpinnings which was received quite well.

    From then onwards Mitsuoka became a carrozzeria that built retro-lookalike cars based upon existing chassis (mostly Nissan). This would not have been bad at all if they did things like Nissan with the Pikes cars (Be/Figaro/Pao/S-Cargo). Mitsuoka chose for the baroque way and created hideous cars in the 90s like the Le-Seyde (S13 meets Cruella de Vil), Ryoga (Primera P11 meets Jaguar XK120) and best of all the Viewt (March K11 meets Jaguar Mark 2).

    The problem with Mitsuoka is that they take an existing (Nissan) car, modify the front and rear, but leave the mid section as is. The mid section is, of course, a typical 90s soap bar styled car while the front and rear are retro 50s and 60s styling. The result is that the front and rear look beautiful while the mid section looks like the Hunchback of the Notre Dame. As we all know from the Walt Disney movie, the Hunchback was actually kind of cute.

    That leaves me why Mitsuoka cars are both ugly and cute: the panels are so nicely done and the 50s and 60s styling is applied to a way smaller car that the original was copied from that it looks cute, adorable and cuddly. Mitsuoka must have realized that and they even feature a model called Mitsuoka Cute.

    Those early Mitsuoka cars are becoming JNC one by one. Early Viewt cars are now 22 years old and are already becoming collector items abroad. Also the La-Seyde is 25 years old now and its S13 underpinnings make it a very attractive car to own: cheap to run, plenty of parts available and easily repairable/modifiable. And there is already someone who found that out in Japan:

    • Banpei says:

      I forgot to mention that the Germans invented a term for Mitsuoka’s style: Kitsch.
      To quote Hermann Broch: kitsch mimics its immediate predecessor with no regard to ethics—it aims to copy the beautiful, not the good. (taken from wikipedia)

  13. toyota_fan05 says:


    I am currently working on a Toyota heritage website and was hoping I could have permission to post the image you used of the Toyota 2000GT, (http://japanesenostalgiccar.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/Toyota-2000GT-Fuji-24hr.jpg).

    When you get a chance please contact me via email.

    Thank you so much in advance 🙂

  14. Ramón Mora says:

    Was the name Juke a combination of “joke” and “puke” ?

  15. Will B. says:

    My vote is the 2rd gen Subaru Leone, with the real duckling being the coupe model. It has those weird mini-windows between the B and C pillars, and just hasn’t aged well at all. However, all arguments go out the window once the windows are rolled down and the pillar-less design of the greenhouse is revealed. its not pretty all the time, but when those windows go down, it makes up for its faults in spades. Also, its a rather rare car here in the states, so it has that going for it.

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