QotW: What’s the one modern feature you wish JNCs had?

Lexus LX bluetooth

As pilots of decades-old Japanese warhorses, we all pride ourselves on driving the simplest, everything-you-need-nothing-you-don’t motoring experiences. Blind spot monitors? Ha! Backup cameras? Ha! Airbags? Double ha! We are hard core. Sometimes though, as hard as it is to admit, isn’t just the sliiiightest bit difficult to go from a modern car to your old school steed?

What’s the one modern feature you wish JNCs had?

I once thought it was fine with a tape adapter. Take a couple seconds to plug my phone into the $10 accessory and suddenly I have all the music, podcasts, and streaming audio in the world playing through a 30-year-old piece of technology. But then I step into a new car equipped with the Tooth of Blue and all of that seems hopelessly clunky — the cables, the two-second plug-in time, the instant start/stop, and the lack of ability to take phone calls. It’s almost enough to make me consider buying a car built in the last decade and a half, as even the cheapest of cheapo subcompacts now come with Bluetooth. Or I could just get another adapter, I guess.

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, “Which Japanese automaker has stayed truest to its roots?


Tommykaira All Machine

It must be a sad state in the automotive landscape today, because very few of you thought ANY modern Japanese automakers were close to their roots. There were a few half-hearted votes for Honda, but the most compelling case was probably made for Daihatsu, of all marques. That’s why this week’s winner, banpei, nominated a Japanese automaker in the most generous definition of the term.

The automaker that stayed truest to its roots must be no other than TommyKaira!

As an autotuner in the 70s and early 80s they saw the light by taking a Mercedes Benz 190E, tune it and resell it as the TommyKaira M19. It began to get interesting in 1988 when they redid everything right what Nissan did wrong on their Nissan Skyline R31 and resold it as the TommyKaira M30. They continued doing this the next eight years with various performance variants of the Japanese car market:

Now judging from this you may argue that they are not an automaker, but actually they were: in 1996 they launched the TommyKaira ZZ. The ZZ was a small mid engined roadster powered by a Nissan SR20DE. The ZZ was quickly followed up by the larger ZZII featuring a Nissan RB26DETT. Those two engines made a lot more sense in the two light mid engined fiberglass cars than those big overweight cars by Nissan!

As the Japanese exclusive car market collapsed also TommyKaira went into the demise and in the end they sold their manufacturing plant to Autobachs including the plans for the ZZIII. Tommykaira returned to their old trade: modify existing cars and rebrand them. At least, that was until last year when a Japanese start up called GLM teamed up with TommyKaira to create the TommyKaira ZZ EV: the Japanese Tesla Roadster.

As you can see TommyKaira stuck to their roots: getting the most performance out of cars!

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

JNC Decal smash

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29 Responses to QotW: What’s the one modern feature you wish JNCs had?

  1. Bluebird51 says:

    Heated outside rearview mirrors!

  2. r100guy says:


  3. MikeRL411 says:

    High mount third break lights! Teen age drivers believe that all cars had them from the stone age and “drive” until they see the high mount lights turn red or they would never break and instead rely on your trunk and rear bumper to stop! BTW easily fixed, for about $20 you can add the assembly from many auto parts stores or catalogs.

  4. Steve says:

    Other than cup holders, I can’t think of any modern feature not available in JNCs that I would wish JNCs had. In fact, I wish modern cars were more like JNCs: no airbags, no ABS, no traction control, RWD, manual transmissions, carbureted, smaller, lighter, 60-series tires, no cat cons.

  5. Spudenater says:

    Intermittent wipers.

    The wipers in my Corolla are either on, or they’re off. When there is a light rain, or mist, or other unsubstantial precipitation, I’m in trouble. The 35 year old wiper motor sees fit to drag my wiper blades screaming and skittering across my line of sight, smearing whatever condensation it can find into a visual miasma of streaky lines.

    If only it were to wait for a couple seconds, enough water would collect for it to wipe it away smoothly, but instead it leaves dancing the blindness ballet. I turn them on until I can’t see through the streaks, then I turn them off until I can’t see through the water, rinse and repeat. Oh well, at least I don’t have those old-timey crank wipers I guess.

  6. daniel guzman says:

    any modern confort feature can be implement in and old car!
    you need time and pacience to make it right and without broke the original condition of the car. the bluetooth thing can be DIY for a few bucks (search in youtube)
    only ligthing can be improved with xenon or other. is the most obvious modification/upgrade.

    but really: what do you need in your car? sometimes is just the fashion moment of big connect smartphone thing, in few miles forget’s everything and enjoy the simplicity, the noise, the feeling of the experience.

  7. Rayson says:

    90% of the modern features are really pointless. The features just somehow become mainstream and everyone go “I GOTTA HAVE IT IN MY CAR!”. They shouldn’t be a concern if you are into nostalgic cars (IE: Rev match, seriously, just learn to drive properly!).

    However, I gotta say cup holder and heated seats are lifesaver! The cup holders on my EG Hatch was so terrible that it can’t hold anything bigger than a can of pop (My friend keep his drinks between his laps cause cup holder doesn’t even exist on his EF, HA!). Also, every time I corner I need to hold my drink or it will tip over (Friends often think I want to shift but grabbed my drink instead, no). At first I keep one of those McDonald drink tray in my car just in case I need to carry more than one drink in the car. Eventually I gave up and bought a cheesy “JDM” air vent drink holder from a local part store to solve the problems.

    Yes I understand heated seats is more of a luxury feature. But nothing beat sitting on a toasty leather seat first thing on a freezing Canadian winter morning. Have them on my TSX and never turned back.

  8. juppe says:

    Any car with a synchronised gearbox is modern, other features are just BS.

  9. cesariojpn says:

    A well stocked parts supply chain. Back then, you could go to the local dealership, ask for a part, and they would have in stock. Nowadays, with “planned obsolescence” and the cost of even making a small run of specialty parts, it’s gone down to us owners to track down NOS being sold for triple the price on eBay. Or go to some third world backwater country (like Japan) for that trim piece that feel off cause some street punks decided to have fun with a bat one night. Or hack it in some junkyard HOPING someone before you didn’t smash the dashboard all because they wanted the 15 cents worth of copper wire behind it and stole it. Or be stymied by some asshole who thinks his hulk of a parts car is worth 5 times it’s true value as scrap “cause it’s old.”

    Or for that matter, even “repop” is sometimes expensive as hell. Wish for the better days…..

    • MikeRL411 says:

      Then you can “thank” Renault for the lack of “real” Darsun parts! Joince Reanault took over ,all “real” Datsun parts were dumped in the trash bin!

    • Dchil says:

      Ehh.. the new parts chain isn’t all the good.

      On a modern Toyota Hilux and Prado there’s a piece of hard line between the caliper and the flexible hose, right in the way of a breaker bar when you try to remove the caliper bolts. I kinked one of those the other day and had to order it in from interstate, which took 3 days. It wasn’t even the right part too.

      This is coming from working at a toyota dealership service department with the largest parts warehouse in the state and they don’t even think to stock a part that is possibly a common thing to damage if you aren’t super careful.

  10. indy510 says:

    No temperature gauge!!! … LOL

  11. JHMBB2 says:

    Without a doubt, safety and crash protection of new vehicles. In my eyes this is the only downfall of owning an old car, the safety factor will never be like cars of today.

    • JHMBB2 says:

      To be specific, airbags, crumple zones, etc. The thought of being the boned by some bone head Prius driver in my Civic Wagon is pretty scary. I’d most like be killed. The only option, that I know of anyways, would be to install a roll cage. Kinda ridiculous. I wish I could have all the safety (impact related, not abs) features of new vehicles while still keeping the style and functionality of the car as it is would be the greatest feature of all.

      Because I live in Colorado with absent minded drivers and the snow, I run a huge risk driving a JNC as a daily driver. Unfortunately, I’ll probably have to get rid of my Wagon for a more safety oriented car.

  12. M1abrams says:

    Cruise control.

    There were a few months during the early ’90s when I had to drive my 240Z every second weekend from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Regina, Saskatchewan. Its a straightforward but LONG 300 mile drive. I always looked forward to the drive. But looking back, I think about how cruise control would have been awesome. Especially when I’d find my right foot getting either too hot, too cold, or fatigued from holding the same position. Yup. Cruise control would make a long drive in any JNC much better.

  13. andrewzuku says:

    1. An engine that doesn’t take the duration of your drive to warm up would be nice.

    2. Some kind of anti-theft device that actually worked. I’d love to be able to park somewhere and not maintain line-of-sight.

    3. Air-con (especially for de-fogging) – although it was an option for most JNCs, so I’m kinda nit-picking.

    I wouldn’t trade any of it though. That glorious induction sound from an 18R-G at full-cheese is what it’s all about. Especially if I can find a tunnel.

  14. Yuri says:

    It’s funny that this question should come up today, the day when I strayed from driving the Crossfire, and took the AE86 into work. Keep in mind my 86 is a car I’ve poured a ton of work and parts into to try to make it as daily driver friendly as possible.
    My first thoughts upon startup were “wow, I forgot how loud this thing is.” It’s not that its really loud, as it’s still exhaling through stock exhaust, but it’s not whisper quiet like the Crossfire, or my girlfriend’s Prius.
    Taking it out onto the street, I was amazed at how the little 14″ wheels and coilovers were so horrible at soaking up the pot-holed “streets” of Hollywood.
    Turning on the decade old CD player and hearing the quality of sound crackle out of the blown out speakers made me long for the BOSE subwoofer equipped system in the Crossfire.
    The tepid air wafting in through the stuck vents lacked the comforting coolness of Air Con, and road noise was a constant companion.

    But then as I opened her up down an onramp, and the T-VIS made the spunky little 4AG come to life, the 86 started to wow me once again with its lightness, its directness, its happiness at still being alive for 3 decades.
    Through its raspy exhaust note, it was telling me to take a trip with it, back to a time when all this stuff didn’t matter, when things like air conditioning and a sunroof were just further degrees of separation between it and what a car was meant to be, a device that wouldn’t just free you from walking, but free your soul as well.
    And I did. As we flew down the 110, the 86 sang its song, and let me feel everything it felt, every imperfection in the road that kicked its tiny little performance tires around the tarmac, every shift in the powerband as it channeled its 115 eager horses.
    As we flew by the mobs of Priuses and Camrys, I realized that it was the lack of all this additional junk that defined what the 86 was. Pure. A feeling you’d never get in the cars that surrounded us on our blissful jaunt.

    • Dallas D. says:

      Great post. Love the experience. This is how I feel every time I take my car out, though mine is only a 19-year-old design. Every time I drive, I go back in time, to purity. When I drive something with current standards of ‘refinement’ (isolation), I feel like I’m still sitting in my living room. There’s no involvement in the drive; I’m just pressing buttons. Then I get into my car, and I think, THIS is a car. THIS is what it’s supposed to feel like. I mash the pedal, and I’m free.

      Just yesterday, my teenage daughter told me that she can’t stand our new car (Highlander), because it’s just there. It doesn’t feel like a family car. Being in it is not being involved in the car. She wants something like a JNC or an older 911, because she wants to really feel the drive. There is hope for future generations.

      On topic, I rarely use my cup holders, and I could do without them. I can reach the back seat almost as easily as the cup holders, and cups get in the way of shifting. I second the wish for better crash protection. In a world where I’m blinded by the headlights from a little Corolla, and gargantuan SUVs abound, I know that I’d be on the losing end in an accident. Grim, but true.

  15. Ben says:

    Cup holders, a rack and pinion/power steering system and working demisters. I’ve put over 100000 km on my datsun over the past 3 years and they’re the only things I’ve missed.

  16. Steve says:

    Man… I have to agree with the cup-holder comments. Of all the modern features available today, a cup holder is the only one that i ever miss when driving my datsun.

  17. pstar says:

    I like remote locks and power windows. But most cars I’m into are narrow enough that I can roll the passenger window while driving, and the non power lock thing literally takes maybe an extra 5 seconds.

    More useless gimmicks and complications means more stuff to break, and probably be expensive and difficult to repair, and removes the driver farther from the experience of actually driving a car. Which defeats the point of being an old car enthusiast instead of some random jabronies who sees cars as appliances or extensions of their phones.

    *I’d mention the cupholder thing, maybe, except that I rarely use them when I do have them, and more importantly, ae86 actually has one anyway (thats folds neatly out of the way – I’d rather have no cupholder than permanently molded circles next to my shifter.)

  18. simon says:

    Heated seats!

  19. Nigel says:

    Original equipment car mats with the hook on the floor.
    (The shitty rubber ones I had in my old Corolla always would end up under the pedals).

  20. emuman says:

    The sound insulation improved a lot the last couple of years, even if you compare a car from 10 years ago with current cars. Especially the wheel houses are better insulated, you can here every single stone hitting the wheel house in older cars.
    I don’t need perfect sound insulation in the doors and to the engine bay, but the rattling in the wheel houses is disturbing in older cars.

  21. Ash says:

    all new cars should come with a fold up scooter like the Honda NCZ 50 Motocompo but make it a tiny Boso bike.

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