QotW: What’s the greatest JNC rivalry?

Mazda RX-3 vs Skyline GT-R

Now that the SuperBowl is over, it might be time to ask what was the greatest ever contest of wills involving at least one classic Japanese marque. There have been many throughout the ages. Datsun vs Alfa Romeo in SCCA Trans-Am 2.5. Subaru vs Mitsubishi in rallying. AE86 vs Silvia in drifting. Toyota vs Nissan in sales.

What’s the greatest JNC rivalry?

As usual, we’ll go for the easy pickings, that of the Mazda RX-3 and Nissan Skyline GT-R. In the early 70s the hakosuka GT-R was absolutely dominant in Japanese touring car racing and had a fan following that would make the Seattle Seahawks jealous. Nissan was so confident that it would win a 50th victory in December 1971 that it preemptively took out ads in Japan’s major newspapers telling race fans to watch them clinch the deal at the upcoming Fuji Tourist Trophy. Then along came Mazda with a fleet of RX-2s and the newly developed RX-3 and, after a nail-biting battle, denied Nissan their much hyped win. Of course, Nissan did go on to claim that 50th win and more, but it was a surprising upset for fans and a stark reminder not to count your chickens before they’re hatched.

What say you, dear reader? As always, the most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a toy. Click through to see the winner of the last QotW, “What’s the coolest factory decal package?” 

1987 Toyota Pickup

Though we were greatly entertained by Walter‘s nomination of the Suzuki Alto Works RS-R’s entire curriculum vitae scrawled upon its kei-sized flanks and Dutch 1960‘s inspiring tale of the Mazda RX-3 SP’s SCCA history, the winner this week is Bob, for his touching tale of fixing up a mid-80s Toyota pickup.

The strobe stripes down the side of mid ’80s Toyota 4x4s. They’re so of-the-era, and yet so subtle… I don’t think the trucks look right without them. And they’re tied to a vivid memory for me.

About a decade ago, I had befriended a guy on a local car forum who lived an hour away in the hinterlands by himself, and had been a Toyota tech in the mid 90s. He was too busy traveling around and working to fix any of his 15 cars, and he was preparing to move out of the house and closer to the city. He paid me to come on weekends and do random repairs to the cars, often with me learning as I went along. Replacing springs and a water pump on an Econoline, putting a fuel pump in a MK3 Supra, etc.

The biggest job he had for me was prepping and painting a very rough ’87 Toyota X-tra cab truck in his garage he wanted to sell. Every body panel was off a different truck, and it was still built from rusty panels, poorly welded on plates of steel for the rockers and floors, etc. It was my job to make it one cohesive color. The doors had the remnants of the strobe stripes… the doors were tan, the stripes brown. I loved them. I worked on other parts of the truck as long as I could to avoid removing them, admiring them while taking breaks as the dust flew around the garage, hotter than hell in mid summer.

When it finally came to getting them off, I had decided to take a torch to them, and as I lit the propane, in 90 degree heat in an enclosed garage, New Edition came on the radio.

I felt like I’d travelled back in time as I held this pea green with woodgrain applique propane torch against the tan sides of the X-tra cab, watching the brown strobes melt one by one to “COOOOOL IT DOOOOOWN, oooOOOOOOOOOH WATCH OUT, YOU’RE GONNA LOSE CONTROL!”

I don’t know why, but I wanted to live in that moment forever. There’s magic in that Aichi vinyl right to the end.

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

JNC Decal smash

Photo courtesy nkazmers.


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9 Responses to QotW: What’s the greatest JNC rivalry?

  1. Nigel says:

    The Nissan IMSA rivalry of the late 80’s to early 90’s.
    Nissan vs Toyota, Nissan vs Porshe, Nissan vs Jaguar.
    (Some great battles).

  2. dankan says:

    Does the rivalry have to be corporate, or just involving a Japanese marque? If the latter, I think Senna vs. Prost in 1988 and 1989 would be the absolute limit. They pushed each other to a completely different level to the other drivers, and in the process brought Honda along as it created the weapons they did battle with.

    If we are talking corporate, then the Honda vs Yamaha rivalry in 500cc GP racing in the late 1980s would be the top. The engineers were turning out machines barely able to be controlled by a human, with the riders becoming legends just for being able to keep them on the track.

  3. Lupus says:

    As for me, the ultimate battles between japanese sports car where fought on the Expressway’s. Just like in Shuto Kousokou Trial. The epic fights between R30, R31, S30 & S130 against JZA70, SA22 & FC’s

  4. wantyerknobby says:

    ben didn’t you disqualify the greatest marque rivalry ever when you mentioned alfa romeo vs. datsun in the <2.5 trans am challenge?

    if not i claim it… hahahah

    btw senna vs. prost don't matter as they werent driving jnc's ……..hahaha

    • dankan says:

      1988’s MP4/4 would qualify as a classic (1989’s MP4/5 too), it’s also eligible for old-timer GP racing. Although McLaren only let it out once in a while under the control of their current drivers, and otherwise leave it in the lobby of the MTC.

  5. Gary says:

    Canadian born touring car ace Allan Moffat had been the ‘poster boy’ for Ford during the 1960’s and 1970’s – he switched to Mazda in the early 80’s to contest an RX-7 up against the might of massive V8 Fords (351cui) and Holdens (308cui).

    He blitzed all comers with this mighty little Japanese car. No matter which track Oran Park, Sandown or any other the competitors did not stand a chance. This was such a mighty effort that the governing body of motor sport (CAMS) who had to create some amount of parity between models decided to handcap the Mazda further and further. But still it didn;t stop the Mazda from winning.

    The great irony was that the greatest touring car race in the world Bathurst, with its mountainous stretches and the longest straight in the world, always did suit a V8* and always will.

    On appeal to CAMS on several occasions Moffat’s team were not given any reduction in handcap, nor were his competitors handicapped to create parity on the big track at Bathurst!

    Moffat gave the race his everything, calling on every last BHP that Mazda rotary engine offered. Sadly the car was over taxed and did not complete the race, thus handing victory to the naturally advantaged V8’s (yet again).

    The great irony was that CAMS and the touring car fraternity being so annoyed at having to ‘handle’ the parity arguments decided to go to a ‘world formula’ for touring cars (Group A) and once that saw Godzilla (Skyline) dominate they decided a ‘two horse race’ between local V8’s was what the fans wanted!

    Long live the great moment of break through in Australian touring cars – and long live the great memories of the RX7 on the mountain!

  6. maxhelm says:

    Allow me to remind of you of a dark sinister force that sits quietly reminiscing of the future it never got to have . I’m speaking of the Toyota 222D. More specifically, the revenge it must want to extract on its older sibling, the Group B Celica. The 222D was engineered and built to be superior than its brother on the twisty European stages, but was never allowed to race due incompletion when Group B was cancelled.

    Like a neglected sibling, or should I even say it, a vanished twin, the 222D disappeared into a dark abyss before it got to prove itself. The pain it must feel from not unleashing its fury must be immense. And when the beast is finally set free upon the stages, ye shall be weary.

  7. pstar says:

    This is a rich subject and a great question. I’d enjoy it if there really was a vibrant Nissan-Toyota rivalry, with 2 fiercely loyal camps. Instead, there is just boring mutual admiration and respect. The material is definitely there, but where is the boasting, bench racing, and illogical superiority/inferiority complexes? That stuff is FUN. Toyota-Nissan rivalry should be like Ford vs GM. but its not…yet.

    Mitsu vs Subaru was great for a time, and had massive potential, but then they both just gave up. Quitters who just walk away don’t deserve greatness. Also it is very un-Japanese of them; apparently neither company had anybody to do that whole GANBARIMASU!!! thing. But then again, there was at least a real rivalry there, you liked one or the other.

    I’ll go with the Supra vs 280ZX/300ZX. Model loyalty was pretty high with owners, and both were the halo sports cars of their companies, and this competition happened during the bubble economy and beyond when Japan was in juggernaut mode. Which was “best” kept changing with the release of every new model from either company. Plus all models involved are just awesome and will be very collectible one day.

  8. Dave says:

    I’ll throw this one out there; it’s a bit left field…

    In the Paris-Dakar rally, Mitsubishi remains historically the most victorious marque. The Pajero has won more Dakar rallies than any other model. It was especially dominant in the ’80s and ’90s. Unfortunately, the Dakar rally has low visibility in North America, and most people viewed the Montero as a minor SUV contender. I’ve been a fan of the Pajero/Montero from the beginning and was awed by its exploits in the Dakar rally through the ’80s. The stance and looks of all three generations of it sold here always reminded me of a cat about to pounce, and seeing one always makes me imagine it flying through the desert at action movie speeds.

    There was never any explicit rival to the Pajero in the Dakar, although Toyota has often fielded vehicles (via privateers) and teams, sometimes with pretty good results as well. Fittingly, it’s frequently Land Cruisers, many generations of it over the years, but sometimes also Hilux pickups and Surfs/4Runners. The Land Cruisers look pretty awesome in the Dakar, but not quite as at home as the Pajeros. And partly because of this, I’ve always viewed Monteros as a peer, albeit a slightly smaller and more athletic one, to the big Land Cruisers. The Nissan counterpart to this pair, the Safari/Patrol (which we now get as the Infiniti QX56!), also dabbled in the Dakar rally but unfortunately never really got deep into it.

    I was gonna say Accord vs Camry, but Pajeros and Land Cruisers hopping sand dunes at stupid fast speeds is just so terrifyingly awesome. Ranger Rover may have crawled across the Darien, but somehow that just doesn’t seem as cool compared to these Japanese trucks.

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