QotW: Which car had the most entertaining celebrity spokesperson?

Sonny Chiba Toyota Carina A10
Japanese automakers have been using celebrities to pitch their cars for decades, forcing them to declare nonsensical phrases, speak Japanese, kiss the product, or barely say anything at all. None of it was ever meant to be seen by western eyes. With the advent of the internet, these ads are just a mouse-click away and a source of non-stop entertainment. Therefore we ask:

Which car had the most entertaining celebrity spokesperson?

Sonny Chiba became an international martial arts star with 1974’s The Street Fighter, but before that he had already achieved quite a bit of fame in Japan. In 1970 Toyota hired him to hawk their latest ride, the A10 Carina. Younger American audiences probably remember Chiba as Hattori Hanzo in Kill Bill or, more likely with the car crowd, the yakuza kingpin who settled beefs with drift battles in Tokyo Drift. Of course, having a Japanese star peddle a Japanese car somehow doesn’t seem as hilarious, so maybe it’s not actually the most entertaining.

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 most blasphemous engine swap?

3343_Toyota Corolla E70

The readers have spoken and the verdict was nearly unanimous. The most hated engine swap for JNCs is an American V8. Readers thought it ruined the balance, feel, and, most critically, the spirit of the cars we know and love, especially rotaries. Best comment was a close call between Gino, Ken and Mase, but in the end Mase pulled it off by calling it the McDonald’s of swaps.

Everyone’s already said it, but it’s true. The American V8. It’s a cop out. The “I don’t care where we eat so we just end up at McDonald’s for the 4th time this week” of engines. It’s the motor swap for the uncreative. Sure, its cheap. Sure, it can make a lot of power. Sure it’s reliable, and sure, you can basically get any piece needed at your local auto parts store, but that defeats the purpose of it all. You take the time to find that rare center console or steering wheel or fender flares or carbs or genuine wide barrels to your JNC and that’s what gives it its character. A predictable, American V8 is kinda like saying, “I really just don’t give a shit, man.”

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


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16 Responses to QotW: Which car had the most entertaining celebrity spokesperson?

  1. cesariojpn says:

    Joe Isuzu, played by David Leisure. If you weren’t a kid of the 80’s-early 90’s (or the brief revival in 2000), he was pretty much a pathological lair making outrageous and bogus claims on many an Isuzu car and truck in trying to get you to buy one. His tagline was “You have my word on it.” Hell, looking at the commercials is a trip back in time:


    If only car makers would be this bold with the advertising…..and the cars.

  2. Bob says:

    Hands down (to me), are the Roger Moore ads for the Toyota Corona.


    He just… really doesn’t seem to give a shit. It looks SO MUCH like he’s just there for a check that it’s comical (to me, at least). He doesn’t do anything except stand there and sit in the car while all the action happens around him.If you watch the crane going down, the girl has to throw her arms around him… he just stands there. When he does turn to face the camera, they put writing across his face.

    I mean, if I had paid X amount of dollars to have James Bond hock *my* product, I want to see his face. I can only imagine he just looked so disinterested they had to block him out so people didn’t notice. And when he is visible, especially in the 2nd commercial at around 0:27, he just has this, “I really don’t give a **** about this car” face.

    The real icing on the cake is the repeated “Have a good day.” line. Even when he smiles delivering it, it just sounds SO forced. I have to imagine it wasn’t his line to give, and perhaps it had something to do with the target market not being fluent in English as well as the need for a memorable line for the commercials, but it’s just… so dry and insincere. I don’t really believe he wants me to have a good day at all.

    He at least hams it up a bit in the last commercial on the parking garage, but look how much more active all the mobsters in Cadillacs look. He doesn’t seem excited at any point in these until he’s on a damn helicopter. I mean, come now, even James Bond can’t help but get giddy at swinging below a helicopter in a mid-priced Japanese sedan.


    And in these, they just use a picture of his face at the beginning. He’s not there at all. What the hell, Roger Moore? It’s almost like you gave up after Cannonball Run.

    The Corona looks great though, and I want one. I just don’t want apathetic James Bond driving.

  3. Bob says:

    If we’re taking this seriously though: Eddie Murphy advertising the Celica.


    He’s the polar opposite of Mr. Moore. He’s animated, he’s excited about the product (visibly), he seems like his usual Eddie Murphy self. He doesn’t look or feel forced- it’s smooth. He does a better job delivering a few select Japanese words than most American celebs do, and he’s just Eddie Murphy. You can’t ask for more- short of some sort of 48 Hours style chase with a bus maybe, but that wouldn’t really work here.

    Honorary mention: Alien Tommy Lee Jones’ Seibu-Keisatsu commercial for Boss Coffee. Not a car ad at all, but I can’t get enough of it. Too damn funny.

    ^this took an ETERNITY to find again, the link from the old JNC post is long gone

  4. Juppe says:

    No JNC, but I like the young Dustin Hoffman in this one:

  5. yoda says:

    Paul Newman for Nissan/Datsun. He didn’t just plug ’em in Japan for quick cash, he raced them at home too.

  6. Alvin says:

    My pick would be Michael J Fox with his Integra ads.


    But the band Madness had some crazy Honda City ads.

    I always thought the band Madness was pretty crazy with the Honda City ads.

  7. Walter says:

    If you strictly limit it to celebrities in ads it should be Jean Reno in the Toyota Doreamon ads:
    Apart from the fact that they are actually quite funny and well done I will never be able to watch Leon or Ronin without thinking of him in a Doreamon suit shooting himself to freedom!

    Once you don’t limit yourself to ads my choice would be Keiichi Tsuchiya for the AE86 and later on the GT86. Tsuchiya even vouched for the GT86 in the Drift Bible back in the 90s:
    And what’s not to like about Tsuchiya watching a random Hot Version/Best Motoring video and him repeating why his little hachi is (most of the time) better than the car tested!

  8. xs10shl says:

    Madness. Aptly named. Pick your favorite, and “Live BIG”.

  9. Kelly says:

    Ok guys I to have entries, First one is James Garner for the Mazda RX7 1985. Wasn’t really a big super star but did a good job with this 2nd generation RX7.


    My second choice is not known in the US, also it will be kind of a visual and audio selection. Hatsumi Shibata, she did a small singing role in the 78 Mazda Cosmo AP commercial. She would go on to sing and pose for the Cosmo Landu check out this song by here here.

  10. Jonas says:

    Nothing can beat Jean Reno as Doraemon schilling for Toyota. How can you beat Jen Reno dressed in a blue suit and pulling a dokodemodoa out of his ‘pouch’? Or Nobita slapping the take copter out of Doraemon’s hand because he wants to drive around.

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