QotW: What lower-spec car would you be willing to own?

One JNC rule of thumb is that one should strive for top spec when buying a classic car. However, that’s not always possible, especially with prices rising the way they are. Furthermore, it often overlooks perfectly acceptable — desirable, even — lower-spec models. For example, one could argue that though the DC2 Integra Type R is out of reach, a lower-spec Integra GS-R is still an appealing car in its own right. Lexus clearly positioned the SC400 as top-of-the-line, but one could argue that the manual and 2JZ-equipped SC300 is just as good, or better. Hell, there are even fetishists who prefer the Skyline GTS-t over the GT-R.

What lower-spec car would you be willing to own?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What’s your favorite tuning house demo car?“.

The have been so many excellent tuner cars to come out of Japan, and for a dizzying variety of purposes. The Wangan-ripping ABR S130 Z was nominated multiple times but first by Lupus. Nigel threw the tire-shredding BN Sports D1GP Soarer’s hat into the ring. For a classic all-around turnkey street car there was Zu_‘s pick of the Mine’s Evo IV. Mitsubishi Magna suggested the JUN Auto Mechanic Civics, one built for drag racing and one built for autocrossing. There have been so many some have been almost entirely lost to history, like dankan pick of the HKS RX-7.

In the end, the winner this week was TheJWT, who had a hard time choosing but ultimately settled on Daigo Saito’s Chaser drift car:

So many good ones it’s hard to pick… The ABR Z, any of Smokey’s cars, Mine’s R34, HKS Zero-R, Amemiya FD3S…

I think my favorite though isn’t just a demo for what a person/shop can make, but it was also extremely successful- Daigo Saito/ Fat Five Racing’s JZX100 D1 car. It had less in common with its road-going counterpart than a modern Nascar does. Well over 1000 hp, under 1000kg, rear-mid engine, and running on methanol with no intercooler.

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

JNC Decal smash

This post is filed under: Question of the Week.

14 Responses to QotW: What lower-spec car would you be willing to own?

  1. Lupus says:

    Nissan Stagea WC34 with almost any powertplant and gearbox would do for me.
    I don’t feel the need of having this car in the top spec 260RS Authech.
    The RB25DET+AT would be awesome enough, but any other lower trim level could be accepted. Just because here, in midddle Europe those cars are ULTRA-rare, so it’s kinda pointless the invest in top-spec when one can shock the crowd even with a base variant.
    Beside’s i would use such car as a daily, so again it’s pointless the have underneath the metal a powerlant that would’t be useed propelry 😉

  2. Taylor C. says:

    I believe in that mindset very much. I am not the type to buy top-spec cars brand new, and therefore I wait for depreciation to help me with the acquisitions. I did, back then, buy a Nissan cube SL (one step below the Krom model), which was top-enough for my wife. It was miles above and beyond the other trims, and it was going to be in the household for a long time (still is), so the extra features have proven themselves useful over all these years. I did not care for the aesthetic add-ons the Krom variant had.

    I am perfectly fine with the N/A Nissan 300ZX Z32. As a kid, of course I wanted the Twin Turbo model in the Platinum Silver. As the thought of maintenance nightmares sank in over the years, the N/A model became more desirable to me. I guess I didn’t care for the speed, but then again, I’ve yet to ride in a TT variant; maybe better that way, so that I don’t have any regrets.

    I have an old 1991 Prelude Si. It’s the “base” Si, without the ALB nor the 4WS, both of which i didn’t really care for. I had test driven the 4WS back in high school, and although it won the slalom test in the car magazines, I felt like the tail was sliding out when the rear tires were countersteered. It was a “cool feeling at the time, but I don’t think I would really like that feeling long-term. The ALB system was prone to failures, so I didn’t really care for that. What I ended up finding was the base ’91 Si with a blown head gasket, that I was able to rebuild as well as refresh the rest of the car. Sure, the 4Ws gets all the fanfare, but I have what I need on my Prelude.

    I REALLY want that Toyota Hiace Super Custom. No need for Super Custom Limited with all the electronics thrown in. The Super Custom has the three moonroofs AND the 5-speed manual, something the Super Custom Limited doesn’t offer.

  3. nihonnotekko says:

    If I could get my hands on ANY Mazda HB chassis, I’d be a happy camper. As a diehard spinning-dorito fan I’ll always prefer the rotary powerplant, especially the 12A turbo, but a four-pot 929 2.0t of the same vintage will still check all the right boxes for this Mazdafarian.

    • MikeRL411 says:

      The 929 is what Chevy should have designed their cars as. The police version looks like a good design ruined by plopping it on a divorced frame [to suit police desires for a separate frame car]

  4. Steve says:

    Interesting question this week. Personally, there are a LOT of lower spec cars that are ripe for modification and tuning without the feeling of guilt. Any clean non rusted chassis is ripe for picking. I can think of the following for “nostalgic” cars:

    Civic and CRX HF – super light and basic canvas for fun
    Toyota Tercel – ready for a lightweight rally car
    Nissan or Datsun B210 Honey Bee – just because it is so cute, chicks love it.
    Base early Camry with a manual transmission – Sleeper and with some light suspension and exhaust tricks, a fun party car.

    Now for current cars, I would go for a base Maverick with the steelies, so low and cool looking that way. I have an F150 XLT and wouldn’t mind a nicey clean optioned XL with rubber floor mats – I never remove the winter mats anyway!!!

  5. エーイダン says:

    One with wheels, a full tank of petrol and cheap insurance. If the price is £600 and vehicle description is “better than walking” It’ll do.

  6. streetspirit says:

    A shortnose kenmeri coupe, keep that surfline intact and complete the look with some period accesoiries.
    i can’t be helped though and will most likely drop it on 15’s and mount a front air damn and rear ducktail.

  7. TheJWT says:

    I have a mighty desire for a basest-of-base model round headlight Honda Today. I was on a mountain road last summer and there was a younger guy in one behind me going absolutely all out. I pulled off and let him fly past, it just looked like so much fun.

  8. Yuri says:

    *Flips through collection of vintage JDM brochures*
    Ah yes, this one right here: The 1986 GA70 Toyota Supra S. Powered by a non-turbo 1G-E SOHC(!!) with 105ps. 195 tires on 15×6 steelies with poverty caps. Cloth interior, plastic steering wheel, plastic headliner, seats with non-integrated headrests. No LSD, no ventilated rear brakes, no electronically adjustable suspension. Non-tinted glass. Tunes courtesy of an AM/FM radio with 2-speakers. They only options available were front and rear spoilers, a cassette player with 6-speakers, and two-tone paint. Strangely enough, it did come with front fog lamps standard. It’s an absolutely rare beast, and I had heard only rumors of its existence until I was given the Japanese launch brochure for the A70 Supra. If you think the 200hp non-turbo Supra the US got was slow, imagine one with 100hp.

  9. Jonathan P. says:

    Complete left turn, my car of choice for this question is at the moment, is the Geo Storm. The upgraded trim for this car was the GSi, with which you could get a 1.6L DOHC producing 130 h.p., or a 1.8L DOHC producing 140 h.p., depending on the model year. Still, I bet there could still be plenty of fun to be had in a Base model with 95 h.p.

  10. Art says:

    Either the Corolla Levin GL Lime AE85 or the Sprinter Trueno XL Lissé AE85. It sounds strange willing to own an AE85, but just imagine how insanely rare these cars are!

    First of all, Toyota produced 364,758 AE86es versus only 78,523 AE85es. This means only 1 out of 5 Levins or Truenos were an AE85. Then the GL Lime and XL Lissé were trim levels that were aimed for women drivers. This meant it featured special interior (Lime and Lissé embroided in the fabric on the zenki) with a driver vanity mirror, height adjustable driving seat and driving aids as power steering and aircon. It also featured accessories like shoe organizer box that would fit in the passenger footwell! Yes, the Toyota product managers really must have thought very different about women in the 1980s! Unsurprisingly, these cars sold in really low numbers.

    Most of the AE85es have been converted to 4A-GE over the past decades as these cars were generally not drifted during their normal use and have an unstressed body. Do it is really hard to find an original AE85. It is even rarer to find a GL Lime or GL Lissé. There has been one for sale on Goo-net for years now, but that car already received a 20 valve treatment years ago. I would love to own one all original just to preserve such a timecapsule from 1980s Japan!

  11. 555jay says:

    Cue Scotty’s cameo in TNG episode ‘Relics’:

    “N-S-X. No bloody Type-R, -S, -T, or Zanardi.”

  12. mitch says:

    I drive a base model FC3S RX-7, and I wouldn’t really want to “upgrade” to the Turbo II trim. As it is the car is so simple and reliable. I’ve road tripped it over 15000km!

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