QotW: What’s the most under-appreciated JNC?

1984 Toyota Camry

One could argue that all JNCs are under-appreciated, but even among the outcasts there’s a hierarchy. Not all of us can drive 2000GTs and Hakosukas, or even 510s.

What’s the most under-appreciated JNC?

Allow us to proffer the 1984 Toyota Camry. Sure, it was the bland brown box that launched an army of spaced out drivers that would rather be doing anything else, including performing a self root canal. It was the patient zero that spawned generations of mindless zombies shuffling from A-to-B. It was Beige Genesis.

But it was also the first car for a nation of pre-Facebook teens hopped up on hormones. It provided countless souls with depressingly thin wallets their first taste of worry-free mobility and freedom. And it was indestructable, an amazing feat of engineering durability that forced everyone else to stop foisting shitboxes on an unsuspecting populace. Not to mention it filled ToMoCo’s coffers with the money to spend on Lexuses, Supras and MR2s.

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’s your biggest JNC regret?” 

1988 Nissan Silvia Q's S13

What we learned this week is that JNCer have a lot of regrets! From Steve‘s trio of missed opportunities to Mike McCarthy‘s Mazda heartache, Greylopht‘s yarn of Corona wagon woe to Andrij‘s tear-jerker TE27 tale, you guys had some sad stories to wade through. However, Tom Westmacott‘s narrative of a time spent in Japan with a non-turbo S13 was the most evocative and really made us feel his pain:

In 2003, I was lucky enough to get paid to live in Japan and teach English. Soon I found myself stepping into a real-life Gran Turismo, starting out in my very own “career mode” with a modest pile of yen, searching through used-car dealerships for the best car I could afford.

One dark and rainy night my eye was caught by the high wing of a Sunny GTi-R. This turned out to be beyond my price range, but alongside sat a lower and less noticeable car wearing a more manageable price tag. The trusting dealer was happy for me to take his 1991 Nissan Silvia Q’s out unaccompanied, and I was immediately entranced by the low seating position, the sound of the aftermarket intake on an open throttle, and the weighty, responsive feel of the controls. Most of all, the way it surged forwards instantly on a wave of torque was a new and bewitching sensation for someone who back home had only been insured to drive tiny-engined hatchbacks.

I was sold on the car instantly, however Japanese paperwork cannot be hurried, and it was several weeks before a transporter rolled up outside my school. The garage had cleaned and waxed my Silvia, and this twelve-year-old car arrived looking a million dollars, black bodywork gleaming low over Longchamps alloys. The low stance looked great but I already knew the coilovers were shot, and I ended up with a set of low-mileage standard suspension expertly aligned and set up by a small local garage, whose other customers included a classic white Kenmeri Skyline with the obligatory wide arches.

These guys clearly knew their way down a touge, and set the car up such that the steering weighted up in direct proportion to the lateral load of the front tyres, which gave me absolute confidence that I could push the car to ten-tenths and feel exactly when the grip started to ebb. So much so that after meeting up with the local hashiriya and taking a run together, they were poking around under the bonnet for a turbo that wasn’t there, the Q’s model packing the naturally aspirated SR20DE. The speed was all in the corners, with soft Bridgestone tyres keeping the Silvia on line and letting it run with the local R32s and 33s, at least downhill.

Over the next eight months I had an absolute blast in the Silvia, sometimes running it up against the 180 km/h limiter, at other times edging cautiously through feet of powder snow that would be the envy of any skier, snow tyres keeping me just about going. Though it wasn’t so fast in a straight line, the intake howl was epic and it was quick enough for blasting past other traffic, and more importantly it handled in a very straightforward, natural, and fluent way.

Most of all, in a land where I would struggle to introduce myself, the Silvia with its Momo wheel, Razo shift knob and Longchamps alloys spoke eloquently on my behalf, explaining to my new Japanese car-enthusiast friends everything I needed to say about myself.

In July 2004 my time in Japan was nearing an end. I could have, should have, would have shipped my faithful Silvia back to the UK with me, instead of leaving it shaken-less at a dealership and walking away with a pitiful 5,000 yen (£25). At the time I always regretted not having the turbo K’s model, and I thought that I would simply return home, get a good job, and buy another faster and better car.

The reality was back to gutless econoboxes for three years, when I could have been driving my sexy, howling Silvia instead. Worse, even when I did buy another turbo S13 I never managed to recapture the joy I felt driving the original; the turbo was too much torque, too soon for the limited traction, the hissing noises underbonnet never came close to the crisp howl of the humble 140hp original, and I spent much time and money chasing the handling feel that my original car had, without success. It just wasn’t the same.

The moral of the story? Once cars grow up, they are no longer identical peas in a pod; their life experience, previous owners and mechanics combine together to give each nostalgic car an individual character and set of strengths and weaknesses, perceptibly different even from another example which rolled off the self-same production line. And therefore if you are lucky enough to come across a really good example of a car, one that you love, then for goodness sake cherish it – and don’t let it go.

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

JNC Decal smash

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13 Responses to QotW: What’s the most under-appreciated JNC?

  1. Mark Maras says:

    I own a 84 brown box Camry. My son’s college car. I paid $200.00 for it. It needed a clutch, & other than normal repairs over the years,(rad. alt. batt. etc) the car has been fantastic. We decided to name it Keith. Yes, that Keith. 330,000+ miles & it will still pass Oregon DEQ & runs strong.

  2. Lupus says:

    My car is one of the most under-appreciated JNC’s. A 1990 Daihatsu Applause. The model production began in October ’89. The major factor is poor reception of that marque. For most people (even for “car guys”) it’s related only to small econo-boxes like Mira/Cuore and Charade and some rough, Toyota-based off-roaders. My A101 was one of the biggest Daihatsu’s ever, being a competition for N14 Sunny, E9 Corolla and BG 323/Familia. To be honest, the car has overall a dull look, but the rear was later copied by Subaru in their GC Impreza. 😉 Due to the fact that Daihatsu wasn’t ever officialy sold in Poland there aren’t meny of them here. Some people even take them as Koreans (no offence to Korean cars, really). The resell value is ridiculously low in comparsion to european and other japanese cars in that age. And it mekes me sad at times. But there’s always a second side of the coin. This makes my Dragon a true exotic. It’s unrecognizable for most viewers. I’ve removed all bagdes and decals, lowered it and armed us in several sets of wheels. Throuout these years I own that car i spended on Him countles evenings, buckets of money and gigajouls of energy. And it baceme undoubtedly a tuners car from different time period. And wat’s most important – i’m proud of it.

  3. Wayne Thomas says:

    Easy….Mitsubishi Starion. FR with so many engine swap possibilities and look-at-me styling that still looks powerful today.

    An honorable mention to the Isuzu Piazza (first generation) but due to a lack of aftermarket support, its potential was always limited. Same is true of the second generation AWD Piazza (Isuzu Impulse) with its lack of aftermarket support.

  4. pstar says:

    While enthusiasts don’t appreciate Camrys, the fact that millions of dull non-car-people do/did appreciate them hardly means that they are under appreciated. They are just appreciated by people with lousy priorities. Then there’s the enthusiastic owner of virtually any unpopular car, who will insist that their car deserves praise, and is under appreciated. For these people the question might as well just be “what unpopular car do you own”?

    So, to get past these biases and into objectivity, I’m going to find the car that is most under-appreciated by actual car enthusiasts, that actually DESERVES appreciation. There are a lot of RWD coupes alone (not even getting into the wagons and sedans) that get no respect or love at the parking lot meetup, so we might as well forget about all the boring 4-door FWD economy cars right now – they just psychically can’t be as under-appreciated as a forgotten and unloved RWD 2-door can.

    There are a ton of choices: Datsun alone had the 710, B210, 310, A10 Stanza, S110, S10, 610, 810. A good case can even be made that the 280ZX is under-appreciated, just because it’s predecessor was a hard act to follow. Actually, I think it is the 280ZX. They get compared to their predecessors and successors, and most people find the S130 very much lacking in comparison. Yet, its kind of the best of both. Plush seats, 80s electronic gizmos, t-tops, and turbochargers, and 2-tone paintjobs like a 300ZX, a great transmission and differential, and a long hooded coupe GT profile, with inline 6 sound and feel like a 240Z. Plus it can use all the dope old skool wheels out there. It even had a successful career as a winning race car. Yet… barely any love. 95% of them are already scrap, and 95% of the ones remaining are treated like shit by their owners.

    • Serg says:

      Yeah I feel the 280ZX – I see heaps of looked after 300ZX and 260Z but that poor old boxy 280 is always the beater.

      Probably for that reason in another ten years they’ll be the sought after 80s sportsters along with the A60/A70 supra

  5. Cherry X1R says:

    the Datsun F10 is my vote and not just because it’s stated as such in the newest “Kidney Anyone” post. I am one of the few weirdo’s who doesn’t think that car is ugly. I love the F10 because of it’s funkiness, the hatchback especially. those taillights slap you right in the face and say “HEY, LOOK AT ME, ARE YOU LOOKIN AT ME, yeah I’m big and weird and i’m a geometrical shape which I don’t remember the name of right now, but i’m “DIFFERENT” from the rest of the taillight pack!!! so….yeah weird awesomeness right here. the first time I saw one in a old Datsun brochure I could not stop looking at the funkiness and made it a goal to reach to own a hatch F10 one day. I do not have one as of yet but what I do have is a couple of old brochures with the F10 in them and one of those funky in your face taillights, the headlight buckets share that same shape and if I recall the dashboard was pretty funky as well. and it just so happens that it’s the second gen version of my favorite Japanese car of all time, the Nissan Cherry X1R, so that’s even more Icing on the cake. I just find it a fascinating little car.

  6. Rainermaria says:

    My vote will be the first generation Mitsubishi Lancers or “Colts” as they were known in the States.

    These things were made to compete with the Corolla and Sunny but for some reason are overlooked when compared to the other two.

    They have beautiful styling, Coke-bottle bodies for the 1973-76 models that are as beautiful or even more beautiful than contemporary Corollas. They were light too and were pretty much capable with 1600 Saturns and twin down carburators.

    Also, these machines started the long history of rallying and began the series of championships Mitsubishi earned under the Lancer nameplate (Turbo EX, Evos).

  7. ish parken says:

    My second car was an 84 Camry and it started me on the JNC bandwagon early. I bought it when i was 19 for $400. I cleaned up the interior and drove it for three years before i sold it for $800. It was in every way indestructible. I wreaked it twice and just ziptied it back together. I learned so much on that car, and in every way it was ugly and perfect. It leaked so much oil when i parked at my then rich girlfriends parents house they asked me to park it in the street because it was ruining there fancy brick driveway. My other friends had some pretty stellar hondas at the time when drag racing was the big thing, so I took it to commerce 1/4 mile and it ran a 19.01 haha. We made cardboard body kits for it and drove it around town as a joke. No matter how badly i treated it, it never stopped running, and the PWR button was always on (though im 99% sure it did nothing) That car had more heart than any thing Ive ever owned besides the 86 i have owned for about 5 years now, which i bought because that old camry I had 10 years ago made me fall in love with old 80’s toyotas.

  8. JHMBB2 says:

    The whole Prelude line. I’ll never understand why they never get the attention that they deserve. For some strange reason it’s Civic Civic Civic. Owning two generations of Preludes and a Civic between the two generations of Preludes, only confuses me more. Don’t get me wrong, I love my RT4WD but it’s nowhere near as cool as my 1985 Prelude. The build quality is below a vehicle made 5 years prior by the same company! Our can’t even compare it to the 1996 Prelude!

    I love the mixture of sporty yet classy feel that Preludes convey. Yet, they’re manageable for everyday and comfortable for around the streets while being fuel efficient and not too over-the-top (say a BMW 3 series). Yeah, the later models are quite large but I love the H23 engine, it’s smooth and and has good torque to keep up with traffic today with no problem, while my RT4WD struggles with it’s underpowered 1.6 L engine. Heck, almost any Prelude you see has a classic feel and look to them. The 96 gets mistaken for a car from the 2000 ‘s! I don’t blame ‘ em!

    Let’s not forget about the innovative features Honda threw in the Preludes from power sunroofs (i believe BMW still used hand cranks in the 80s) to 4WS and the ATTS system of the Type-SH Prelude. No one will ever look back and thank the Prelude for these innovative ideas that began with the Prelude! They were cars ahead of their time and it’s unfortunate that they will never get the praise that they deserve.People will just continue to stance out EF civics and putter about in their B and Detailed series engines. Give me an H any day!

  9. Stew says:

    Nissan Leopard.

    If you said “What?” you have already answered the question. Basically it was the Skylines ugly cousin to compete against the likes of the Toyota Crown etc.

    People ended up with one because they couldn’t afford something good.
    It was also Nissans first “attempt” to try new things. So everything was computer controlled. Problem was that if you tried to remove something (like the annoying beeper for when you went over 50 mi / hr) it would move to the next thing it could warn you with, that could be a dash light……or even the window controls if the wiring got screwed up (most did because there was so much wiring).

    Basically they kept it in production for a long time…..but a majority of people either went with a Skyline or later on with the Maxima. It never really got appreciation……not only that but if you consider the Y32……it became the companies practical joke.

  10. sean S says:

    I personally own a 84 camry sedan 2.0l gasoline 5 speed and i love it!

    it never fails to put a smile on my face and the retro 80s style interior is timeless. the front hood cowl makes it looks sporty and imo looks just as good as the 2nd gen supras.

    ive owned over 8 cars including g35 coupe, s13, manual lexus sc300, bmws, hondas, and i can honestly say the 84 camry is one of the best cars i have ever owned. The thing is light, handles great for a fwd, and the single cam motor is actually pretty torquey.

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