Question of the Week: What is Japan’s proudest marque?

The winner of last week’s QotW, “What 1987 car will be the next classic?” by a slim margin is Isaac with his short-but-simple answer, “’87 Mazda RX-7 Turbo II.” They were criticized in-period for looking too much like a Porsche 944, but if anything the styling has aged more gracefully than the front-engined German, and it had class-leading performance and handling for the Japanese market in the late 80s. Add in increasing rarity due to drifters smushing them into trees and the cost of rotary engine rebuilds is making restoration uneconomic — the perfect ingredients for an up-and-coming classic.

Plus, the FC3S continued Mazda’s long tradition of dominating IMSA endurance races that began with the first RX-7, which leads us to our next QotW.

What is the Japan’s proudest marque?

Mazda of course would be a prime contender as purveyor of the rotary engine and fielding Japan’s sole Le Mans winner. But then again, Toyota created Japan’s first sports car, the Nissan Skyline is practically synonymous with Japan, Soichiro Honda was a total badass, Mitsubishi dominated rallying, Subaru put the nation on wheels, and so on.

Best comment wins a random Japanese thingamabob. Last week’s winner will receive this Choro-Q Daihatsu Midget in the mail. Congrats, Issac!


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39 Responses to Question of the Week: What is Japan’s proudest marque?

  1. Lukas says:

    I would say that there is not a proud japanese marque. At least not in Europe and at least not compared to the german manufacturers who call every new car with 4 wheels “premium”. Sorry

    • sabtas says:

      HUGE Off topic…..the question was specific about Japan’s proudest marque….not world wide……

      On the other hand especially the German manufacturers offer over priced pieces of Junk…..the same things in a Japanese car was standard of the factory and on a German car was on extra charge…..

      eg. My 92 Mazda Xedos 6 1.600cc 114 hp… has standard hydraulic steering wheel, ABS, 4 disk brakes, 4 electric windows, A/C, electromagnetic locks, 5 alloy wheels(yes the spare weel also…) and i can keep on telling you….same week my unkle bought a BMW 316 94hp in the same price as the Xedos…and nothing of the above was available on the car in stock form(everything was in additional charge)….i can also give you more eg. for other german car if you like!
      These are the “premium” German cars ……everything “premium” is in extra charge….

      Greetings from Greece!

  2. Kyle says:

    It would have to be Nissan/Datsun, based on the fact that, in my opinion, Nissan seems to be proud enough of their halo cars, as well as there everyday cars to keep them around, while Mazda’s RX-7 and Toyota’s Celica are all things of the past, the GTR and z series cars from the datsun age have managed to live on. And unlike Honda, who seems it necessary to deem their models sold abroad with a “euro tech” badge, Nissan accepts being accepted as JDM like it is

  3. dave says:

    Mazda rose out of the ashes of Hiroshima, produced the only successful rotary engine road cars, and singlehandedly revived the roadster market, not to mention won Le Mans and provides racing inroads to more people more than any other single manufacturer. As great as Mazda is, and as big of a fan of Mazda as I am, I’d have to say Japan’s proudest marque is Honda. There’s Soichiro Honda’s rags-to-riches story, and how great of a man he was. There’s the Honda cub that provided mobility to people more so than any other thing on the planet (ok, maybe not counting the bicycle). Then there’re all the great Honda cars that revolutionized the automotive world in so many ways. Toyota might be bigger, but Honda is the jewel.

  4. IMO says:

    I would say what is now nissan, but was once prince and datsun. They have a long history for building more than cars as separate entities, once combined they produced two perfect examples of pacific muscle, and both cars are still around unlike most the other future classics whose manufactures gave up on them. Just in my opinion at least. I guess the rx8 is kinda like keeping the legacy going right?

  5. John McBeth says:

    I vote Mazda simply because they are willing to take big risks. They’re small and scrappy, controversial, hated, loved and always interesting . Following Mazda history is like riding a roller coaster…….thrilling! They fly high and crash over and over. A testament of perseverance. Mazda is like the “Home Team”, good or bad but always supported. The Japanese big two (Toyota and Nissan) just don’t offer as interesting a story.

  6. Danny says:

    As an RX-7 owner and a fan of Mazda’s fun-to-drive engineering style, it pains me to say that Mazda cannot be Japan’s proudest marque. The small company’s uniqueness relied heavily on the rotary engine, which they have since abandoned. Honda, who historically has built such awesome gems as the S600, the CRX and Integra Type R, has lost its vision. The Civic Si continues to get larger, with a bigger and slower-revving engine, and who can be proud of the Accord Crosstour? I think Nissan is Japan’s proudest marque. The Z is loved across the world, and the 510 was an affordable and very competitive sporting sedan, featuring independent rear suspension and debuting even before the BMW 2002. Finally, the Skyline GTR is renowned the world over; from the Hakosuka to the R35. I don’t think any other Japanese car is so revered.

    • Wolke says:

      The ‘Neue Klasse’ was actually launched in ’62. The 2002 was more or less just an engine variant of that model type. BMW offered 1.6 and 1.8 liter engines by the time Nissan produced the 510. And as far as I can remember the ’02 had fully independent suspension all round too. As for the proudest make out of Japan? As well as a lot of guys on here I hold Mazda dear to my heart and they are probably the most unique of the big guys yet I think the Japanese are most proud of Honda: Rich history of good cars and of course their F1-Engines. Which were the envy of pretty much everybody back in the day. As for the guys saying winning LeMans is a big deal: it had a lot to do with chance, (what with the Jags and Mercs having technical problems) and regulations.

  7. Aaron says:

    In motorsports, the Mazda 787B, hands down. In general terms, Honda.

  8. Dutch 1960 says:

    Mazda, for the overall Le Mans victory. Proudest single moment in Japanese automotive history. In part because of the years of perseverence that finally paid off. They all built world class street cars at times, Honda won an F1 race back in the 60’s and many more later on, Nissan and Toyota were dominant at times in the IMSA GTP class in spectacular cars, but nothing compares to the unexpected but well deserved overall Le Mans win in a car that has to be seen and heard to be believed.

  9. RedBull4Breakfast says:

    Why else would their Royal Family and Prime Minister roll in a Toyota Century?

  10. Aaron says:

    How can honda be the proudest marque when they have euro spec badging? Thats about as far from proudly jap as you can get. I do agree about nissan as they do seem to have the best back catologue of both performace and everyday cars, where as the other companies have brought models in and out with the times. but what about subaru? They have tried and tested their own spin on a unique feature. and marketed it since the 90s. When they wanted to move away from the wierd farm car image and into the mainstream, they decided to make a rally car, and then make a version available for sale. Not the other way around. Name me another company with such a unique style of car throughout thier whole lineup, and along with saab have the most loyal following of buyers. They must be doing something right.

  11. Isaac says:

    As a devoted RX-7 owner over the past decade or so, I would like to say that Mazda is Japan’s proudest marque but I think their day has come and gone. The rotary is dead and probably should stay that way. The future is all about fuel efficiency and the wankel has become obsolete for that reason.

    My vote is for Nissan. They have continued to create exciting cars and yet remained profitable at the same time. They have adapted well to the changing marketplace but have stayed true to their enthusiast roots with vehicles such as the current GT-R. I applaud them for doing so.

  12. John says:

    You guys are crazy. It’s obviously Hino.


  13. Victor says:

    Mazda is a special case, they’re like that crazy uncle you have thats always experimenting and inventing stuff that you wouldn’t mess with. Frankly they are brilliant, in the 60’s they came out with the worlds first dual rotor engine, in the 70’s they were throwing rotaries in almost anything they could think of (even a bus…. which is the rarest rotary in the world) and on the racetrack they were the GTR’s competition. in the 80’s they created the legendary RX7 which in a time where most cars were boring because of emissions and other crap the RX7 was still a fun car to drive with plenty of power for the time. Then in 1991 Mazda gave Japan its only win in Lemans to date, with a quad rotor 26B(maybe if they didn’t keep banning our the rotary for being too good Mazda would have made a super car by now). Then they gave us the FD and the 20B Eunos Cosmo!

    Mazda is they craziest Mark there is, but thats good. By being different they have inspired many to be inventive and creative, through their history we see that anything is possible with enough dedication.

  14. sunny310 says:


  15. jog says:

    Would the proudest marque would be yamaha, possibly the longest running automotive company in japan? still making motors in many other industries and has been a top contributor in many of the top japanese race motors?

  16. Tyler says:

    Mitsubishi, because they make both rally cars AND big screen televisions!

  17. Lukas says:

    Can´t be Nissan, because they have a very small model range in Europe, are built in the UK and share a lot of parts with Renault! So come on…

  18. banpei says:

    Seen from the Japanese perspective I have to say it should definitely be Prince!

    After watching the interview with Shinichiro Sakurai it becomes apparent that the Prince Motor Company was a small honorable car manufacturer that believed they made the best performing cars in Japan. They proved that by taking on bigger challenges each and every year. Even after the forced merger with Nissanin 1966 they managed to influence Nissan’s image in a positive way by adding the sporty Skyline, Cherry, Gloria and Prince Royal to their lineup. The Skyline and Gloria models still survive in the lineup after all these years!

    Also why else would there be so many interviews with Sakurai-san and so many documentaries made about the Prince Motor Company? Because the Japanese are proud of their heritage! 😉

  19. bert says:

    I would say Toyota, though that doesn’t seem to be a popular response! But let’s break it down. Toyota has a huge reputation for reliability and with a few exceptions overall blandness. However critisized they might be by fan boy racers, that formula has made them the biggest manufacturer in the world! (Yes, I know Volkswagen beat them for a hot minute.) Toyota also brought Japanese cars to the rest of the world, and showed the world that the Japanese meant business, and should be respected as a first world country. Toyota was also the first to have their cars built in the states, putting good “merican” people to work, and sharing their wisdom and technology with American car makers, who, in my opinion have rejected that advice and dropped the ball hard! A lot of the responses here seem to be based on racing heritage, but that wasn’t the question! The question was who is the proudest mark? Not who has the greatest racing heritage. Toyota is a proud company that has been moving the world for eons, with enough heritage, and ingenuity to keep us amazed!

  20. Darrel Bollinger says:

    I am a Mazda devotee as well. Not just for the RX-7’s and RX-8’s I have owned (and currently own) but for ALL the great Mazda cars over the years. They are more than just the rotary engine.

    The Miata brought back roadsters for the masses like no other, picking up where the British fell off. The early 80’s and early 90’s 626’s were available with turbochargers, adjustable suspension, 4 wheel steering and so on (also the MX-6 by association). The GLC put Mazda on the map for an efficient, hard to kill econo-box (RWD as well). You also have the later 323 with the batshit crazy 323 GTX. I still have never owned one dammit. The Millenia was a luxury car on par with anything else out at the time, and came with the funky Miller Cycle 2.3 V6 (the supercharger was junk, but otherwise), and at a much better price.

    And the rotaries have dominated motorsport since the RX-2 was unleashed onto the market. It is a simple fact that on any given weekend, there are more Mazda’s racing and winning than any other marque. That is a bold statement that cannot be argued with.

    I am 100% Team Mazda. And I have the owned enough to support my assertions

    1991 Mazda RX-7
    1982 Mazda RX-7 S
    1989 Mazda 626 GT 5 door hatch (turbo)
    1992 Mazda Miata (1.8L swap, 95+ brake swap)
    1990 Mazda RX-7 Turbo
    1976 Mazda Cosmo (RX-5)
    1999 Mazda Millenia
    2004 Mazda RX-8 GT
    2007 Mazda 3 S Hatch
    2007 Mazda CX-9 GT
    1985 Mazda RX-7 GSL
    2006 Mazda RX-8

  21. Joey says:

    Mr. K would say Datsun.

  22. F3ARED says:

    I would say Isuzu. Even though they havent made a passenger car in a lonnnng long time and concentrate only on commercial vehicles, they havent forgotten their roots as evidenced by the australian DMax commercial. See below.

  23. Ryan says:

    Well thats great, because Ive just bought an FC!

  24. Ryan says:

    Proudest marquee? Mazda again, They were so determined to succeed with the rotary it almost broke them, resulting in Ford buying almost 30% of the company, but they were too proud to back down or admit defeat. the perseverance they show against a multitude of odds was amazing!

    But they did it!

    Makes me proud to own my Mazda.

  25. Sprinter 1969 says:

    Toyota has to be in prime position, if I understand this correctly:

    1.Corolla – more units sold than VW Beetle!
    2. First to compete in Round Australia Trials (late 1950’s)
    3. First to compete in Bathurst enduro (Australia’s and world’s greatest touring car race), and continually a Class winner (most wins by any brand in its class).
    4. First to compete in Kart/Indy
    5. First to compete in Nascar
    6. First to compete in F1
    7. First to be in a 007 Bond film
    8. 2000GT – do I need to say any more
    9. First Japanese sports car
    10. 1600GT – probably the only thing to add to 8 above
    11. Rally Class domination across continents and decades.

    Now do I have to list out individual models and accolades?

  26. gypsy says:

    I’m a big Mazda fan but I wouldn’t say they are Japan’s proudest marque, however I would put Mazda ahead of Mitsubishi, Subaru, and Nissan/ Datsun the last 2 whom I’ve always considered budget brands. As far as Mazda goes they haven’t produced anything that I’d consider special since the Rx4 hardtop with the exception of the FC Turbo Rx7’s. FD’s look run of the mill just like every other Japanese sports car of it’s time. The first gen Rx7’s were nothing more than a Rx2 rear cut welded onto a Rx3 front cut with sleeker styling. For a sports car of its time it was still very early 70’s. Kudos to Mazda sales team for being able to sell a very old technology when others where doing much better things at the time.

    In terms of relevant World Motorsport victory’s and LeMans, Mazda gets first prize for the David Bradbury award in my book, they will never win anything like that again ! Good on them for being there at the end when it counted though.

    If you guys are making a link between International Motorsport and Japan’s proudest marque then I can’t see how you can go past Honda. Which Japanese manufacturer has consistently won championships that are relevant on the WORLD stage year after year (not one offs) ?

    Honda dominated
    Multiple 500cc Motorcycle world championships titles
    Multiple MotoGP World Championships titles and still does with an Australian at the helm 🙂
    Multiple Formula 1 Championships (the pinnacle of World Motorsport)
    And for you American’s many Cart series titles.

    In terms of current wow factor for run of the mill cars, Mazda, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Nissan have none. I doubt any of you would say wow in a good way to the new revived Datsun range !

    In my opinion I’d have to say Honda closely followed by Toyota. There are many other successful Japanese manufacturers that people seem to forget about ie Kawasaki, Yamaha, Suzuki are other big names that come to mind.

  27. Lucien says:

    It is close between Mazda and Honda here, but I have to go with Mazda. Here is why:

    Unlike the mainstream Japanese auto makers, Mazda has never been content to fall back to being a high volume producer. They have intentionally steered away from the path of higher profits and instead they have always *attempted* to create products that appeal a great amount to specific customers.

    They have the slogan zoom-zoom, and it isn’t for nothing. True their lineup at present isn’t especially exciting, but just go drive them. Every one of their cars (from the lowly 2 to the huge CX-9) feels like it was purpose-designed to please the driver. No other large volume car maker does this.

    Mazda also has a team of truly bright, brave, and forward thinking engineers. In an age where most car makers are resorting to big, heavy, complicated, and sterile hybrid drive systems to meet emissions and fuel economy expectations, Mazda has chosen a path untrodden. Their new suite of technology they call skyactiv is quite something. It isn’t about one particular aspect of a car…its about the entire car. The results are profound. The cars featuring skyactiv are lighter, more powerful, more efficient, more aerodynamic, and more fun than the cars they replace. Only Mazda, the company responsible for the only series of successful production rotary engines, could make an engine with 14:1 compression truly workable for street applications, and on 87 octane no less!

    For their unique, daring, and unconventional conceptual base, to their attitude of self identity, Mazda has to be Japan’s proudest marque, it’s almost self evident.

    Mazda defys convention. They do not do it just to do it, they do it because they seek solutions in places nobody has ever searched.

    Small anecdote:
    Ever wonder why the FD RX-7 was so much lighter than the cars it competed with, yet is still made out of conventional steel and not aluminum? Mazda took two separate teams of engineers and, for a year, had each devise every single way of making the car lighter. And it was done secretly; neither team could see what the other was doing in order to keep them thinking of original ideas. It’s things like this that make me love Mazda.

  28. Lucien says:

    meant to post this links as well, phenomenal advertisement.

  29. Lucien says:

    I disagree with Hondas motorsports pedigree being better than Mazdas. Honda never won a F1 world championship with a Honda. The Mclaren had a Honda engine, but that’s it. A “real” Honda F1 car, as far as I know, only ever won one grand prix, back in the 1960s.

    Mazda has been a contender.

    This website has a pretty thorough history of Mazda’s Le Mans campaign, beginning in 1970 and culminating in the 1991 victory.

    Le Mans aside, Mazda has been a huge player in American and Australian sports car racing since the 1970s. The RX-8 GT is *still* winning in grand am racing, and Mazda enjoyed over 100 victories in IMSA racing throughout the 1980s and 1990s. Not to mention the brief stints in world rally.

    That’s all just on a professional level. At the club level, there is an enormous amount of Mazdas out there racing every day.

  30. gypsy says:

    Without a Honda engine, mclaren would never have won an F1 title ! It was called the Honda Mclaren team. A team that Honda was a major component of.

    On the world stage don’t forget Honda’s dominance of the world super bike series as well. They are king of motor cycles and car engineering for that matter. As for road cars their s2000 had the highest HP per litre for a NA engine until recently. No easy feat. Despite Mazda’s quirky rotary engine I don’t think its really evolved in the real world in the last 30 years which is why its no longer used across most models. They were gas guzzlers 40 years ago and they are still gas guzzlers today. The rotary is nothing more than a novelty these days.

    Despite all this I love my 60s and 70s Mazda’s classics but that doesn’t make Mazda Japan proudest brand.

  31. IMO says:

    I am a big fan of Nissan, and still believe they are something Japan has to be proud of, but I definitely follow Gypsy in that Honda would probably be a bit more important than Mazda. They have done much more for the automotive world than Mazda, not speaking about racing, compared to Mazda a company that has been at some point owned by Ford, though not saying this is bad, but probably not their shining moment… I would assume. JUST IMO. And I see more Hondas on the road than Mazda, but I do not live in Japan, so I dont know if that counts. I think I see more Toyodas then everything… but they are cursed.

    P.S. a rotary in my nissan project would be amazing <3333

  32. gypsy says:

    The following examples would be proud moments for any Japanese manufacturer especially when on foreign soil. I think you have to ad up examples like these that are significant events outside of Japan.

    George Fury putting his 1984 Turbo Nissan Bluebird in pole position at the 1984 Bathurst 1000 race(Australia) in front of a hostile crowd. This was Nissan backed but prepared by local company Gibson Motorsport. This car is currently for sale with Group C log books for $195K if you guys have some spare change, I’d love to own it 🙂

    Mazda beating the big name prestigious European marques at LeMans

    Honda powered F1 Maclarens taking several world championships with Aryton Senna and Alain Prost

    Honda Winning and dominating multiple back to back victories in Motorcycles premier classes.

    Carlos Sainz in his Toyota GT4 Celica who I think won 2 WRC Rally titles and beating the large Euro teams.

    Mazda having confidence to fit rotary engines across all passenger cars and exporting them to all markets in the 70’s. Maybe all the dud engine replacements wasn’t such a good moment 😆

    Jim Richards/ Mark Skaife driving their R32 Nissan backed Skyline to victory again in a hostile environment. The only Japanese manufacturer to ever win the premier class race in Australia’s biggest race. Anything that wasnt Holden or Ford normally had beer cans thrown at it ! We seem too prefer watching NASCAR style taxis these days over here in Australia rather than real cars race from Mazda, Porsche, Honda, Nissan etc, and it’s only because the local “taxis” aren’t competitive. Unfortunately most of the followers don’t realise these have nothing in common with the road cars. Both marques are the same with different panels fitted.

  33. Sprinter 1969 says:

    Seems I generated some debate over pride in Japanese brands competing in Australia, namely at Bathurst.

    I’m glad I have. The latest decision by Nissan to race in touring cars here in Australia needs to be loudly applauded. At the time Nissan claimed that they had the deepest racing pedigree in Australian touring cars! This of course was a subject for much debate – is it wins alone that constitute “pedigree” (if it is its hard to overlook both Toyota, and believe it or not, Suzuki) or is the lengths of development and campaigning (then hard to over look Mazda and Nissan) or is it who was first to enter (again hard to overlook Toyota, but not forget Prince).

    However, let me just say that whilst I had originally been a Holden fan (and still revere their biggest muscle cars) the thing I hold dearest to my heart is real motor car racing. The current “two horse race” in Australian touring cars between Holden and Ford is an insular joke that has been 20 years too long! Real car racing has a mix of brands, models, engine capacities and configurations – not just an homogeneous platform and single engine capacity.

    I can only hope that Nissan’s return inspires others like Toyota, Mazda and Honda to get back into the show.

    I also hope that CAMS see it fit in time that there is more than just a V8 category!

  34. Kevin T says:

    I think all Japan marques are all proud of their accomplishments and achievements.

  35. Beenman says:

    Since I worked for many years at SAMCOR (South African Motor Corporation), which sold Mazda’s, I have always had a real soft spot for Mazda products and would like to think its Japan’s proudest marque. But whenever I’m scouring the web for car stuff, its inevitably pictures and articles of Datsun/Nissan’s where I spend most of my time. I think, in my eyes at least, it would make them Japan’s most proud marque.

  36. sabin simard says:

    What is the proudest japanese carmaker? Probably the kind of carmaker who encourage and suport all consumers who bought their cars to keep them for life (think of today’s nostalgie), especialy when you have to find parts for a car who are about 10 years old. Try to find trim parts for any toyota of twenty years old, see the face of the man at the parts store, the japanese carmaker (and all the others,see cash for clunkers) don’t want to see any car of ten years old or more on the road, they only want to sell new cars and make lot of money. It’s sad, they don’t seen my bone stock 1979 black MX32, she’s breathtaking.

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