QotW: What’s your favorite non-Japanese car?

The world of JNCs is wide, but sometimes there are automotive desires that cannot be satisfied with Nihon steel. Among the JNC staff, cars such as a TJ Jeep Wrangler, C3 Corvette, Mini Cooper, W124 Mercedes, S550 Mustang GT, and Porsche 911 have floated in and out of ownership, often to the quizzical looks from each other. But hey, automotive subcultures in Japan are, if anything, diverse. It’s the only place we’ve seen both a Fiat Panda and a Routemaster double-decker bus in the wild.

What’s your favorite non-Japanese car?

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 best road map story?

Well, what we learned from last week’s question is that very few people have road map stories to share. It’s probably why they needed a national holiday to bring attention to it in the first place. However, we did learn from MikeRL411 that there was once a midwest town so notorious for speed traps that AAA’s paper maps even detoured around it, and from Banpei that there was once such a thing as a 10-pound book that had a map of every major road in Europe. But we are suckers for a great road trip and humility, and that’s why Peg Baldwin is this week’s winner.

It may not win any prizes but I was proud of my 14 YO son when we drove through Vancouver in my 1991 Nissan Micra & he navigated with a map.

Being from small town AB, the city of 2,015,000 at the time (2002) was a bit daunting, but my zippy little Micra and my amazing navigator got us through without any trouble. My gas mileage on that 2,000 mile + trip was an amazing 63 MP(Canadian)G.

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

JNC Decal smash


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35 Responses to QotW: What’s your favorite non-Japanese car?

  1. エーイダン says:

    Favourite non-Japanese car? Well, there is only really one car that springs to mind for me immediately. The 2010 Holden Ute SS-V. Matchbox was what made me aware of it and when I saw one in diecast form back in 2013, on a carousel rack at the back of the Ashern Pharmacy in rural Manitoba, I had to buy it. Then when I dove more into this car I really grew fond of it. 6-litre V8, rear-wheel drive, cool looks. Loved it so much that in a story project I was working on, my main character had one.

  2. Crown says:

    Mercedes SL 600. Body code R129 or R230 either one. It’s the V12 under the hood.

  3. Lupus says:

    Well, tricky question 😉
    Even thou I consider myself a devoted JDM beliver there are acctually a lot of non-Japanese cars that i like, respect and even want to own.

    First such car that comes to my mind is Audi 80 B2 in 2-door body. It was always rare and today it’s almost totally extinct. It was my uncle’s 1st car in early ’90s. Mint-Green paint, beige leather interior, wooden panels on the dash. Back then, in Poland short after political & economical transformation it was considered an UBER-Playboy-Car. It wasn’t sporty at all – it had no quattro drive, no turbo, just simple 1,6 I4, FWD, 4 spd. MT & the most unpractical body from the lineup. I feel a strong fondness for that car, because of the the pride i’ve felt when my uncle picked my up from school from time to time when i was a kid. Most other cars that where on the streets back then where comunist machines like Fiat’s produced under licence, pre-VW Skoda’s, GDR made Trabant & Wartburg, and Polish FSO Polonez. My uncle’s Audi was stolen one day from under his block and sadly never found…

    Another non-Japanese car that i like is Mercedes ML W163. Latly i’m looking for some SUV/off-road car for daily use, and while searching ad’s I realized how much this car appealed to me since it’s debut in “Lost World – JP2” in ’97. Now it’s quite affordable, proven car with lot’s of space, good equipment & quality and works pretty well out of tarmac. The styling was sooo different from the primeval, militaristic G-class, while retaining the body-on-frame construction and much of off-rad capabilities.

    And there is also Dodge RAM. Even trough i live in Central Europe and the idea of using such monstrous pick-up here is ridicioulous, i really like these behemots. During my stuidies time i’ve had a part-time job at local junkyard. The owner had several tow trucks. One of them was a 2nd gen. RAM. 2500 Laramie, cab with those fancy suicide rear doors and allmighty 5.9 Cummins diesel… The growl of that power plant was… well… fearsome. I drove it only few times, and very slow due to extremly worn steering rack, but the sheer size of it in comparisson to most other cars on Polish roads compensated for that. I was proabobly the last person to acctually drive it on the raod. Since then (circa. 16 years) it sits grounded on that juknyard’s parking lot and is slowly consumed by rust and vegatation. If i only could afford myself to buy insurance for such enourmous engine i would save that car from rotting to dead, but it’s totally unpoffitable from economical point of view…

  4. fuel10922 says:

    I work for Toyota.… daily drive Toyota’s… you would think I would have a Supra or AE-86 in my garage……but that space is reserved for my high school dream car, a 1987 Buick Grand National “the world’s fastest production vehicle in 1987”.Sadly the legend is faster than the actual car. But when I slide in the drivers seat which is as comfortable as your grandmothers couch and press the go pedal, it takes me back to a simpler time!

  5. Rapp says:

    That’s a tough one. I think I lean towards Renault Clio Williams or Lotus Elan. I don’t know if I could pick a favorite, but those two are definitely at the top of the list.

  6. Nigel says:

    AMG Benz 190E

  7. Tim Mings says:

    Model T FORD. I’ve owned 19 of them so far. Nothing like it. 100% interactive mechanical experience!

  8. Negishi no Keibajo says:

    Any Lotus Anthony Colin Bruce Chapman had an actual hand in. Specifically, the pre-’71 Europa followed by the second generation Esprit. I consider the Miata a true modern day Lotus (…that actually starts in the morning). “Simplify & add lightness” ACBC.

    Can you imagine Mazda putting out a stripped down, Carbon Fiber “Super-Light” version of an NA & putting it up for sales in kit form like the original Lotus 7?!

    PS: Caterham Cars (successor to the Lotus 7) was acquired outright on 31 March 2021 by VT Holdings, Japanese importer for the Caterham Seven since 2009.

  9. Ellis says:

    While I’ve only ever owned Japanese cars, I’ve always been interested in the oddities that came out of the USSR during the Soviet Era. While the Melkus RS 1000 (picture a Ferrari Dino with gullwing doors minus the power and prestige) is high up on the list, my absolute favorite is the Tatra 603.

    A lavish rear engine v8 communist limousine for ferrying the generals around while the peasants froze and starved… The design isn’t what you would call pretty. It’s not fast. I’m sure it handles terribly.

    And yet given the chance to get behind the wheel of either a Tatra or the latest million dollar hypercar from Maranello or Sant’Agata I’d pick the Tatra in a heartbeat.

    • Alan says:

      Seconding this with great enthusiasm. Porsche would not exist without the genius of Hans Ledwinka and Paul Jaray. Neither would VW, of course. I’d take a collection of rear-engined, air-cooled, V8 Tatras over any collection of Ferraris and Lamborghinis on Earth. High-five brother!

  10. Banpei says:

    Favorite non-Japanese car? I would say it has to be a genuine Mini!

    My stepfather owned a Legos blue Mini when I was a young boy (replaced his Datsun Cherry E10) and regardless that it always refused to start I fell in love with the Mini! It was small, preppy and made all the right noises.

    So when I grew up I ended up having a couple of friends who owned Minis and at first I thought they were the best. But after a few rides I loved them a lot less. I had grown up and being 6 foot 5, I didn’t have the same fun experience as when I was a young boy anymore. The headroom was cramped, I couldn’t stretch my legs and the visibility was awful. By the age of 16 I already knew I would never own a Mini.

    One of my friends parted his Mano Negra painted yellow Mini (bonnet was signed by the singer of the band) as it was rotten through by then. He kept the entire front end of the Mini in his livingroom. He gave me the seats and I made a nice sittee out of them. They lasted even some time in the student house I was living in and they were finally thrown out by my, back then, girlfriend who tried to get the house a bit more presentable. At least there were some Mini parts in my life!

  11. legacy-san says:

    My favorite car is a 1967 Ford Thunderbird 4-door sedan, the one with the rear suicide doors and a 7 Liter V8…in dark red with black interior

  12. Speedie says:

    BMW 2002. I have owned three including a 72 tii which was one the most fun cars I have ever driven. It was agile, well balanced, and had just enough power for its chassis. I always took the long ride into and home from work when I drove it. It is still the barometer I measure against for most fun to drive.

  13. Yuri says:

    I’ve got two.
    My favorite non-Japanese car hands-down is the series 1 Jaguar E-Type coupe. I guess in JDM terminology you could call it the zenki version. That car is gorgeous (everyone at this point knows Enzo Ferrari called it the most beautiful car in the world) and the DOHC triple carb Inline-six sounds like heaven itself. It’s so iconic the Datsun Z was benchmarked against it during development. It also has a personal connection for me. It was my dad’s dream car, and my grandfather found one that had been crashed while street racing back in the early 70’s and he and my dad restored it. When my dad was stationed in England, he had it shipped over. So he had a LHD version of a country’s most famous car in its home country which was a very unique experience. When I was born, I rode home from the hospital being held in my mom’s lap in the passenger seat. He still has that E-type today, and it’s undergoing a complete frame off (well, semi-monocoque-off) restoration that he’s doing by himself except the bodywork. That car and one other have really helped shape my love of cars from an early age.
    The other is the Porsche 911. If any car can stand for JDM car culture without being Japanese, this is the car. From “Wangan Midnight”, to the Mid Night racing team that still uses 930’s, 964’s, and even 997 turbos, to RWB, to the manga “Kanojo no Carrera”, the 911 is deeply ingrained into Japanese car culture. It’s one of the few non-Japanese cars that looks equally at home on Hakone or the Wangan as any of the 4 horsemen (GTR, Supra, RX7, NSX) do. I fell in love with the 911 when I was 4. I was living in Bonn, Germany, and my mom was in the hospital preparing to give birth to my brother (common theme, huh?) My dad would pick me up after pre-school and take me to the hospital. One of the doctors there drove a brand new Porsche 930 911 turbo, black on black. He’d always park it directly under my mom’s window and I’d spend the whole visit standing on a chair looking out the window down on that Porsche. I was so enamored with it that my mom bought me a die-cast 930 turbo from the hospital gift shop, and while most of my toy cars got scuffed and chipped over the years, I kept that 911 as immaculate as possible, and whenever I’d move, it would be securely kept in my box of most valuable items. Because I swore to myself that one day I would have a 911 turbo.
    That day was last week on my 40th birthday. My S30, S13, A70, AE86, and BRZ tS now have a wangan-ready stablemate in the form of an Arctic Silver 997 turbo coupe.

  14. Chris says:

    My normal default choice would be the Jaguar XKE (Coupe not Roadster) but I must trust the energetic kid in me jumping in excitement at the Delta Integrale Evo 2. I saw an absolutely beautiful one in person parked on the street in Modena, Italy on the way to the Ferrari Museum (of all times to see one).

  15. HotWheelsAndFriedChicken ! says:

    The GMC Syclone. The fastest of the muscle trucks and also faster than a ferrari f355!

  16. mel says:

    In case money is no issue I would like to park an Avions Voisin, Mercedes 540K or Alfa 33 Stradale on my driveway, but I could also live with a Jensen Interceptor, Audi 200 20V Avant, Saab 900 or Alpine GTA if budget is tight. There exist many interesting, beautifull cars.

  17. emuman says:

    I love big Citroens, the DS, CX, XM and especially the SM. They are all just different and eciting.
    As a Mazda rotary fan I also like the NSU RO-80 and the best of both worlds, the Citroen GS birotor.

  18. Steve says:

    My favorite is the 1969 fastback Mustang. I wish I had the time and I could trust my skill, patience, and perseverance to build a brand new one from scratch starting with a Dynacorn reproduction chassis.

    My “loyalties” actually switched from Datsuns to Toyotas when Toyota began importing the 1976 Celica Liftback that Japan had two or three years before the US market. Until then it was 240Z, 510, 610…

  19. christiaan says:

    Lancia Stratos, but there tons of Chinese KO copies of WheelJack out there for super cheap so I can just have that toy and move on.

  20. Wayne Thomas says:

    Going to break the rule and go with two cars – one classic and one modern:

    Continental Mark II

    Panoz Esperante

  21. Bob says:

    Ford Fox body. I’ve had 1 1987 Cougar XR7. 2 Thunderbirds, 1980, 1981 and 2 Fox Mustangs, 1986, 1988. All V8s.

    I wish I had any and all of them all back.

  22. MikeRL411 says:

    My 1955 Chevy Bel Aire that I left in Japan. 2 door sedan, Salmon pink with a Grey roof

  23. Kevinx says:

    I have a strong fondness for Land Rovers. Ever since I was a kid I’ve wanted one. The Defenders are cool, but its the first generation Discoveries that really capture my heart. Roof rack, slightly lifted, bulbar, ready for some off road adventures. Their reliability worries me, but I’d still love to have one in my garage. Preferably once I have enough space for a more reliable daily driver as well.

  24. Don Hathaway says:

    I thoroughly enjoy my ’90 Miata, owned since new, 65,000 miles. But if we’re talking non-Japanese, I would have to say “the poor man’s Porsche,” a VW Karmann Ghia. Over the years, I’ve owned a ’62, a ’69, and a ’70. Loved the beautiful body.

  25. Ian G. says:

    I’ve owned multiple MR2s and MX-5’s but I recently sold My 2008 Volkswagen R32 (MKV) after years of ownership. I bought from my brother who has had 3 of them (along with a MKIV and a current MKVII R). I bought it because it was a hatchback and my dog needed a cool ride. It was 1 out of 5000, a blast to drive and reliable, As I said in my FS ad, the MKV R32 is the ultimate daily driver – fast, comfortable, practical, reliable and confidence-inspiring. The VR6 engine howls at full song, but subtly warbles during regular driving. It was my only non manual transmission car I’ve ever owned. The DSG transmission and AWD provided effortless acceleration and you feel complete control in all driving conditions. Mind you, I also previously had a 2004 R32 (MKIV) and did not like it at all b/c it was a little too raw, unrefined and not reliable at all.
    But the MKV R32 is still the best hot hatch to own. Period. Exclamation Point! End of story.
    Why did I sell it? My dog saw a Honda Element and wanted it right away.

  26. Tom Westmacott says:

    If you’re asking for a favourite, cost no object, that would have to be the Lamborghini Muira. It’s not just that it’s stunning to look at, with an amazing engine. It’s the boldness and courage of the young designers who conceived of a transverse V12 in a mid-engined sports car, and then went and made it happen, that really moves me. The freshness and originality of the whole car betrays the fact that they were working these ideas out for the first time, with no pattern to copy. And of course the styling, which has remained forever unique.

    Indeed, in many ways the courage of the young designers and their willingness to push beyond the state of the art reminds me of some of my favourite JNCs, such as the Honda S500 and Mazda Cosmo.

  27. Craig Z says:

    I want my first car back, 1964 Cadillac Coupe Deville. Lots of memories, every time I see one at a car show it takes me 15 minutes to get my eyes off it.

  28. Old Schoolio says:

    1971 American Motors Javelin. The ruler of Trans American racing in 1971-73. American Motors was the original underdog in every sense of the word. Great cars

  29. Kalervo Kasurinen says:

    Currently own a Nissan Skyline 370GT (V36), previously drove a Skyline GTS-T (R33). Mmm…. cost no object… has to be a Singer Porsche 911.

  30. Alan says:

    The MkV Supra.

  31. My_Fairlady_ZFG says:

    It was mentioned in the intro to the question, and I believe I’ve mentioned it here before, but I love my Mercedes Benz W124 turbo diesel. It was my first car and it’s just a really great car. I’ve had some issues with it, but I look back on the as adventures. Most recently, I was driving home at night from visiting my friend in the DC area, and it was pourIng rain, and suddenly the mono-wiper started acting up. It was a mess. I could barely see and I had to pull over maybe 3 or 4 times. I was asking people at truck stops if they had tools I could borrow (at midnight), calling my parents for advice. I finally figured out how to make it work without tools (NOT leaving home without tools again), and I made it home. Thank G-d. So yeah there are ups and downs, but I still love that thing. The styling is very nice. I’ve heard it compared to a brick, and I agree. It’s a very solid feeling car.
    My OTHER favorite non Japanese car is my dads 1968 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme convertible with a ‘72 front end. I am very much a fan of smaller, tighter cars (as is my dad) and driving the Olds is very much like piloting a barge, but it starts every time, and it never fails to put a smile on my face. I think that’s the main thing with a car. Does it make you smile? Does it spark joy? The Olds DEFINITELY sparks joy. I love that car. Cruising with the top down and feeling the vibrations from the V8 and the wind on your hair, it’s a special thing.

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