QotW: What’s the wildest Japanese concept car?

Nissan 126x

We are headed to the Tokyo Motor Show tomorrow to cover Nissan’s new retro concept. The salon is known for bringing us design studies and techno-wizardry that could only have stemmed from a nation as obsessed with the future as Japan. So it seems like a good time to ask:

What’s the wildest Japanese concept car?

We’ll leave the real crazy to the comments, but we’ve always loved the bonkers 1970 Nissan 126X. Believe it or not, this wedge was a four seater GT, powered by a mid-engined 3.0 straight-six. There was absolutely no rearward visibility, so it had a rear-facing camera instead. Little did they know that 40 years later most cars would come with backup cameras, not because they’re so low slung, but because everyone’s driving SUVs.

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 modern car would be acceptable at a JNC meet?” 

Infinit M45

Great answers abounded this week, ranging from the suggestion of all station wagons to the nomination of a EP Honda Civic Si. Put down your pitchforks, we aren’t choosing the car, we’re choosing the comment. Having said that, Dave put forth excellency in both departments with his submission:

I actually think about this quite a bit, but for practical reasons. Modern (or modern-ish) cars are safer on the highway than 25+ y.o. JNCs. Hence for daily driving with the family, there are a number of neo-classics on my list that aren’t old enough to be nostalgics, are modern enough to be safe and reliable, and have just as much cool factor (or at least potential). The SportCross is certainly one of them. Other examples include any Miata or rotary Mazda (namely FD and RX-8), Land Cruiser of ANY modern vintage, S2000… It’s tough to pick just one, but if pressed for an ideal modern car to *show up* in, I’m gonna go with the the original Infiniti M45 from the early 2000s (Y34).

Everyone HATES this car, but for those in the know, it’s the effing Nissan Gloria! A direct descendant of a Prince product, and the last generation of the historical and one of the most iconic lines of Japanese executive cars. Yes it’s not very pretty by American standards, but it’s SO Japanese; there’s very few if any cars like it that were available to us in the US. Look at its long and narrow 3-box (faux) hard-top design, with those frameless door windows and that elongated tail. It was clearly designed with the home market in mind and sent here as an afterthought. Anyone who loves and envies a late-model Toyota Chaser, this is the closet thing. When it first came out, I was shocked that they let it through and knew that it’s going to be a flop with the general public. It lasted only 3 model years. It’s rare. Nobody knows what it is nor wants it, so it’s cheap. It’s nice and comfortable. I don’t love the V8 (in Japan it was available with an RB25 turbo straight-6), but at least it’s got some go. It’s very boss. If done right with some JDM touches (i.e. tasteful VIP), it can be a crowd pleaser (among the right crowd).

Omedetou, Your comment has earned you a rare Hot Wheels x JNC Super Speeders mystery pack Mazda RX-7!


Images: Beautiful Cars of the 60s, Infiniti

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19 Responses to QotW: What’s the wildest Japanese concept car?

  1. BearChair says:

    I’m sure there will be people with more creative answers, but I have to go with the Dome Zero. The company originally intended to go racing with the car and sell it to customers but that fell through because the car could not be homologated in Japan for reasons that have never been not clear to me.
    Then it create the Zero P2 that would have been exported out of Japan mainly for the US, but Dome did not have much money and decided to go racing at Le Mans instead. That probably proved a better decision in the long run, but the Dome Zero is still such a great version of 70s design. It rips off the Italians slightly but in a very Japanese way. I’m sure its mid-mounted Nissan L28 would have sounded fantastic as well.

  2. Anton says:

    Would have to go with Mazda RX500.

    Lightweight, Fast, Acceleration Taillights, Rotor, Obscure styling that is not repulsive, butterfly doors, engine sound that would make rotor heads wet and everyone else hide their first born.

    Was big jump in performance for 70s, 200+ km/h with around 250hp and that is 10A.

    Fine styling with Ferrari/Lotus mix… honestly, i think with curvier nose on this it would not look out of place in today’s showroom too.

    Anyway, that’s my 2c worth

  3. acbpanda says:

    The new Nissan Bladeglider, there is no way we could see the Deltawing on the road, that thing would be: Unsafe, impractical, and make you look like you lost your mind, it would be expensive as well, and again, lost your mind blah blah blah, not to mention the car being a toothpick and too low slung, so no one would see you until they heard a loud crunching noise.

  4. Power Tryp says:

    Cue the calls for the Furai and Dome Zero. While wild enough aren’t quite JDM WTF enough in my mind. I’m thinking of a car so Japanese crazy it stopped being a concept because people wanted to buy it!

    The Nissan Juke R. Seeing as how the Juke was sort of a middle finger to doing things the usual way it already stood out from the pack. It took questionable styling cues from the Pontiac Aztec and proceeded to hit it with some rising sun madness. Shrunken in stature and questionable all over you’d think Nissan was crazy. Just when you thought the car was up the wall it came right off when some daft bastard thought they’d stuff the GT-R drivetrain into it. Wild just went into overdrive and it’s got over 500 ponies pushing it. I guess I have to end this with a question of my own. Does my answer still count now that they’ve produced this thing? Or does the sheer weapons grade lunacy of the original concept allow this car to claim the title?

    • Damian Solorzano says:

      Heh. Funny, I was going to go with the Dome-0, but you’ve made a very compelling argument regarding the Juke. And yes. Sheer weapons grade lunacy counts, Because Japan.

    • Styles says:

      The funny thing is that the Juke is a product of Nissan’s Europe design studio…..

  5. Jason Marah says:

    I have to go with the 1970 Mazda RX500. Like the 126x, the RX500 looked out of this world. A 1litre mid-mounted rotary producing ~250bhp is just as wild, inside a plastic body with gullwing doors and the rear lights would indicate if the car was accelerating, slowing or travelling at a constant speed. All around cool and, more importantly, bonkers.

  6. Lupus says:

    Mitsubishi HSR. I won’t specifiy witch of them, because they all six were special.
    They had the look of true true future machines. A mix of car and space pod. Even today they look radicaly modern.
    They inroduced MMC’s newest technologies to the public, like 4WS, GDI and Active Aero. Without them there would be no GTO Z16A.
    And they were mede especially fot Tokyo Motor Show’s.

  7. DBXJ says:

    what about the Mazda Rx-500? was a concept in 1970 (its still around too)

  8. Dave says:

    Wow thanks for picking my comment! I wish I was going to the Tokyo Motor Show. Japan sure has had its share of wild concepts. I’ve seen many ’60s and ’70s brochures and ads with wacky show cars that make the Mazda RX-500 look mundane, but I never know their names. Going by something more out of my own time, I’ll nominate the Mitsubishi HSR, which either stood for “High Speed Research” or “Highly Sophisticated transport Research.”

    Remember when Mitsubishi was super techno cool? The HSRs, especially the first few, were good reflections of that. The first one, shown at the ’87 Tokyo Motor Show, is my favorite. The design is simply gorgeous from all angles. This being ’80s Mitsubishi, it had electronics and computers galore: sensors that measure speed, weather, grip, etc. and accordingly adjust the four-wheel-drive and -steering as well as the suspension independently at each corner. (Was any of this actually functional? Hmm…) It also had an air brake, and the seat slid sideways out of the car to facilitate entry/exit. HSR-II, shown at TMS two years later, was an evolution. And it was properly wacky. Perhaps foreshadowing the gizmos in the upcoming GTO/3000GT, it had active aero bits, some of which resembled KITT’s Super Pursuit Mode! And like KITT in super pursuit, it still had the air brake. Except it’s now divided into two flaps (left and right) that operate independently, supposedly helping with the cornering. This car is in Gran Turismo; watch the playback to see how it works! To top it off, the interior looks like it should be in both Total Recall (the ’80s one) and Star Trek The Next Generation. Knight Rider, Total Recall, and Star Trek all in one car? This is ’80s concept car at its best.

    In retrospect, these cars really are pretty awesome because some of the crazy electronic gizmos did get realized. Sensors that measure speed and grip and adjust the drivetrain? That’s Active Yaw Control. Independently adjustable suspension? Magnetorheological shocks. Incidentally, HSR-II was also powered by the GTO/3000GT’s 6G72, which is kinda cool. Can’t wait to see what’s at Tokyo this year!

    • Power Tryp says:

      Seeing as how Dodge and Mitsubishi have been in bed together since the 70’s I wonder if the HSR was inspired by the Dodge M4S which came out a couple years earlier.

  9. andrewzuku says:

    I wonder what could have been if Yamaha and Nissan saw eye-to-eye on the A550X concept. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that failed relationship resulted in the beautiful Toyota 2000GT, so I’m not complaining 😉

    Another wild concept was Toyota’s RV-1. Kind of a Celica-wagon with an inflatable moon-base tent and the world’s most awkward looking Jetski. They made the right choice producing the SV-1 as the Celica Liftback instead (although I’m heavily biased on that one).

    But of all the concept cars I can think of, the Mazda Furai has to be the wildest. Just watch the youTube videos. Wow!

    Too bad it’s no longer with us.

  10. dankan says:

    For sheer lunacy, the Hot Wheels Honda Racer has to be the top dog. Only available at 1/64 scale, if they’d done it full size they were talking 20 litres of V10 madness.


    The car I most wish they’d built was the KIWAMI concept. It is just so damn cool, but a shockingly practical package at the same time.

  11. Styles says:

    The Toyota CAL-1:

    Get a 40-series Supra/Celica XX, cut away the rear roof, turn it into a sort of pickup, then add a folding rear seat, with a pop-up rear window that doubles as a windscreen for the rear seat passengers.

    Add timber decking and a nautical-reminiscent railing around the rear deck and you’ve got something that mixes Japanese touring car with all the style of a classic Riva sports boat. Perfect 70’s craziness. Does it get cooler than that? I think not!


    • Styles says:

      I forgot to add that of course more recently the Rolls-Royce Phantom has adopted teak decking on the rear. I suppose not everyone can be originators, and after all, imitation IS the highest form of flattery!

  12. Walter says:

    Nothing was as wild as the 1966 Toyota Concept EX!
    For a small company that showed the world the 2000GT at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1965, still selling the second generation Crown S40 and launched the first generation Corolla in 1966 it was clearly a bold step to make such a wild concept car:
    I don’t think any concept car got nearer to the Jetsons! 😉

  13. gaijinshogun says:

    Hands down, the 1970 Toyota EX-7, complete with the V8 from the Toyota 7 race car. This car was the epitome of Toyota’s EX concept series, at a time where the Japanese automakers were emerging into the international marketplace. Toyota dedicated a tremendous amount of resources into this car, like the 2000GT, to let the world know that they were a leading world class auto manufacturer. It was even featured in U.S. auto ads to push the Toyota line.


    Most of all…it was part of the early Tomica Series!

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