Question of the Week: What is the most underrated nostalgic car?

Nostalgic Hero‘s top 20 list has caused quite the stir among Mazdafarians, upset that the Cosmo Sport was the sole Hiroshima machine to make the cut. As we warned, the same car can mean different things in different countries and it’s true that classic rotaries are not nearly as common at shows like the New Year Meeting as they are at JCCS. So for this week, we ask JNCers:

What is the most underrated nostalgic car?

We think the Honda 1300 Coupe 9 is a strong candidate. Constantly overshadowed by the S-series and similarly-sized coupes from other marques, yet it was innovative and stylish and imbued with the spirit of Soichiro Honda. Plus it had one of the all-time most beautiful engines.

The best comment will win a little JDM tchotchke of unspecified make. Click through to see the winner of the last week’s QOTW.

Last week’s question was “If Nissan does revive the Datsun brand, what should be the first model to wear that badge?” The winner is Jim Mistick with his epic Datsun Revival Plan that he obviously put a lot of thought into. Will it ever happen? Perhaps when pigs soar forth from a frozen Hell, but one can dream.

Congrats, Jim! You will receive a Choro-Q Nissan Silvia CSP311 in the mail.


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42 Responses to Question of the Week: What is the most underrated nostalgic car?

  1. Lukas says:

    My vote will be the most obscure here I think, but I would say the Subaru Leone III from 1984 on. It was a big success for Subaru, the predecessor of the famous Impreza, best selling import wagon during the 80s in the US, the car that made Subaru big in mountainous parts of Europe, it had 5 different bodystyles, was the base-model for the XT, has a Rallye-history but there isn´t even a die-cast-model of it! Without the Leone III, Subaru wouldn´t be where it is now. But there isn´t even a die-cast-model! I would say that´s the most underrated japanese car ever, not only nostalgic!

  2. Nigel says:

    The first generation Honda Civic. At the time late late 70’s early 80’s there where still a
    lot of these around in my old neighborhood.

    The first car that I remember that could take a corner like a “race car”.

  3. xs10shl says:

    Series 1 Honda Accord LX. A little Luxo-mobile with great build quality, and a great standard feature list, including power steering. Should have been heeded by other auto makers as a sign that there was more to Japanese cars than the old one-sided econobox shtick. They probably still don’t know what hit them.

    • Ethan Strok says:

      I second that! As an owner of an 81 i’m biased but this car was the first of a long tremendously successful line. Aside from a large list of modern features (relatively speaking) it made good use of it’s small interior, and is a great highway ride. Mine happily cruises along @70-80ish and soaks up the bumps like a old Cadillac, without feeling sloppy like one. A nice balance of fuel economy, power and classy comfort, all in a small well built package. I wouldn’t trade mine for anything.

  4. cesariojpn says:

    Toyota Tercel.

    Think about it. Basically the car version of a consumable product. Nobody thinks of saving them anymore. Essentially now throwaway cars where you run them into the ground and then have them junked.

  5. Smetje says:

    Toyota Carina TA12.

    Everybody wants a celica but the Carina is almost the same mechanical.
    There is the 2door and the coupe, both very beautifull cars yo never see.

  6. dave says:

    This is not gonna be a winner, but I must cast a vote for the HB Mazda Cosmo of the ’80s, the rotary version. The rotary turbo coupe model was, for a time, the fastest production car in Japan. It also looks pretty cool…in a very ’80s way. I see it very rarely in any kind of meet, but it’s one of my favorites.

  7. ralf says:

    The 1st gen Isuzu I-Mark fastback diesel! 😀

  8. Kelly Greenidge says:

    Mazda RX2

    I’am a Mazda guy and I don’t own a RX2. But they are wonderful cars and one of my favorite Rotaries to dat.

    • Victor says:

      I disagree with this comment, being a owner of one, the RX2 gets much praise in where I live in the States, and especially in Puerto Rico. From what I’ve seen when I take it out there are many people who remember them; when I go to certain places some people tend to drive wrecklessly to try to get a better look at it… lol When it grabs the attention of those that aren’t into Japanese cars, they usually have some story saying that the last time they saw one was at a race tack somewhere, so I think that the most underrated car is probably going to be a Isuzu. Just my 2 cents.

  9. mister k says:

    what was funny about the previous blog entry was most responses ignored it was japanese car enthusiasts rating nostalgic domestic cars

    so now we get our chance .. datsun b210 honeybee
    why? because 1/2 of every non-car person who comes up to me asks me
    if my car is a b210, and the other 1/2 want to tell me they used to drive a b210

    • John says:

      Yes! The ’74-78 B210 and ’79-83 210 are definitely the most underrated. Everyone outside the hobby loves them, everyone inside the hobby ignores them. 🙂

  10. PowerTryp says:

    I know the list doesn’t need another Nissan but the Silvia S10 with the JDM bumpers is one of the most attractive cars out there in my mind.

    • Yuri says:

      I agree with this. Without the S10, there’s no S13,S14,S15. They’re beautiful and rare. And I’m biased. It took me 5 years to find mine.

  11. Slade says:

    It may not be at the older end of the spectrum but what about the mazda 323 gtx?
    Sure it may have looked like a regular 323 with some 4wd stickers and a little urathane wing but for anyone whos driven one I think they will agree as to just how under rated these little beasts were.
    At least in north america anyways.

  12. jivecom says:

    Probably only underrated here in the land of “I NEED A MASSIVE TRUCK TO GO TO THE STORE BY MYSELF BECAUSE IM A MAN,” but any sporty kei car, the Autozam AZ-1 in particular. Actually I just love kei cars, trucks, and vans. If I had a two-car garage and more money than I do now it’d probably have 4 kei vehicles in it

  13. Steven Endo says:

    I enter my vote for the Subaru BRAT. That funky flat four, AWD, El Camino-istic design, and the spare tire above the motor made it seem so strange to compete against the standard-layout Datsuns, Toyotas, and even the Mazda rotaries. Those silly Subaru commercials (the old lady and everyone else saying “SU-ba-rooo!!!” didn’t help and the northwest treehugger types adopting Subaru as their official car really doomed the brand. It wasn’t until the WRX/Sti that Subaru finally shook off all that baggage…

    But I sometimes wonder if I should have gone against the tide and purchased a Subaru BRAT back in 1979 instead of my Celica…

  14. Kurt says:

    1971 Dodge Colt, 100hp and a blast to drive fast….. Only drove one in 1971 and it stuck with me since….

  15. Beans says:

    I normally read and never comment but this is one for everyone. With a title of Most Underrated Nostalgic would lead me to think of cars with potential for great performance or style but went by unloved or low sales history due to another popular make shape or brand. A “hidden talent” as some may like to think of it. Or maybe an oddball of a car in its day that people grew to love over time?

    But it seems to be a popularity list of cars in the nostalgic scene, how is a Hako GTR underrated beats me? they are rated and loved everywhere. Proven time and time again.

    For my 2 cents worth of input my vote would be for a car like the Mazda R100 or presto depending on your country, as it is often overshadowed by the earlier Cosmo or later rx2 and 3. For those “Mazdafarians” out there the R100 holds a special place as the true start of the R badged export Rotaries.
    The underrated side of the vote is the fact the car was tiny weighed next to nothing and had the rotary engine. The performance potential is now seen world wide from these cars and motors. Back then oil crisis and other related things make for more reason they are underrated and forgotten. Then there is the style, mazdas attention to detail with chrome striping and garnishes, alloy grille, its a small sleek coupe, round lights, flight cockpit styled dash and lastly the awesome flat rear guard giving the rear end a sleekness not seen in many cars since.. this car was first released in 1968!

    If I have got it wrong and it is a popularity contest i’m sorry.

    • John says:

      I’m sure by underrated Ben means a car that currently doesn’t get the credit it probably deserves. It’s certainly not a “popularity contest”.

      While I think the early rotaries are great cars, I don’t think you can argue they are “underrated”. They have legions of fans.

  16. JB says:

    KE36 Toyota corolla wagon. 4k engine is easy to swap for 4age. looks so sick low on watans.

  17. Alvin says:

    I would say the Honda Prelude. Very classy looking sport coupe.

    • Steve says:

      +1 — Just bought a pristine ’82 Prelude – last year of the 1st generation body. What a terrific car! 30 years and it still runs and ride well. Also gets a number of questions from folks as I drive it around. Not too many of these left on the road anywhere. I would also add the 2nd gen Civic as another one — not too many around, but was a real advance over the 1st gen Civic.

  18. banpei says:

    It sounds obvious, but I’m going for the AA63 Carina GT-R. 😉

    Here is why:
    First of all this was the last Carina to feature the FR layout. After the launch of the Carina FF (T150 series) it was marketed as the Carina FR for a while. The AA63 was marketed as a sporty sedan (just like any GX71 series one year later) featuring the all new 4AGE engine and launched at the same time as the AE86 which was also introduced with the same engine.

    Second of all the Carina has always been overshadowed by its sister model Celica. The two cars were in general mechanically identical but the Celica was more focussed on its sporty image. The same goes for this third generation: both the Celica and Carina had AA63 and TA63 models.

    Third of all the Carina GT-R AA63 was overshadowed by its more powerful GT-TR TA63 model advertised as the “schwincam tarbo” in various advertisements. The GT-TR couldn’t be more eighties even if you would grow a mustache and mullet while, even though its 4AGE engine was 80s, the GT-R AA63 still suffered from some 70s echoes.

    Fourth of all the Corolla Levin/Sprinter Trueno AE86 was about 115kg lighter, the same new powerful 4AGE engine and had more sporty looks than the Carina GT-R AA63. Weight distribution is almost identical and the Carina features IRS, so technically they are quite challenged.

    Fifth of all the Carina GT-R looks like a normal sedan (hardly any body modifications compared to its lesser models) and is really a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Most Celica A60 and AE86 parts fit so it is easy to tune it to more modern standards as well. 😉

    Sixth of all one drove the Paris Dakar rally in 1982 and 1983 (actually that was a lesser 1.8 ST model)

    If those six reasons did not convince you yet, here is a seventh: a good Carina GT-R AA63 can easily be found for less than 2000 dollars on Auctions Yahoo while the AE86. Carina TA63 and Celcia counterparts go for far greater numbers.

    In summary: it was/is underrated and wedged in between various other Toyota models, it played a very important role in Japan as the sporty sedan and they rapidly disappear because grassroot racers are using them more often because the AE86 is getting ridiculously expensive.

    I know 99% here will disagree with my pick, but nevertheless I tried. 😛

  19. Freddy! says:

    1985 Toyota Celica RA64/RA65…Last of the RWD’s, 2.4L bulletproof 22re in mine, at least, great gas mileage, rare to find these days..LOVE IT!!

  20. Dutch 1960 says:

    Isuzu I-Mark with “suspension by Lotus”. Never driven one, haven’t seen one in 20 years. Owners swear by them.

  21. JP says:

    I think the mitsubishi starion does not have the attention it deserves. it may look a bit too savage but is a great ride.

  22. Arroz says:

    1 more vote for the Silvia S10.

  23. Rico says:

    1973 Dodge Colt 1600.

    fun little thing to drive… can’t put it into words.. but i’m biased cos its my car. hehe 🙂

  24. Myron Vernis says:

    Thanks for posting a pic of my Honda! Ironically, I took advantage of the great weather in Ohio today and had it out for the first time this year. It is an absolute blast to drive, extremely comfortable and very refined.

    I also have a Cosmo Sport of similar vintage and, even though the character of each car is completely different, the Coupe 9 is every bit as much fun.

  25. Jonee says:

    Unknown on this side of the the Pacific, but I think the Daihatsu Compagno is a really pretty little car that doesn’t seem to get much attention.

  26. GEC says:

    Mitsubishi Celeste

  27. sunny310 says:

    Datsun B310 Sunny!! this car is so underrated its not funny. it has so much potential. its just really overshadowed by the 510 bluebird. I personally love the b310s…they’re good looking(the early roundlight ones are my favorite), lightweight,rwd and look great when hooked up.

  28. Rotary_Bern says:

    Mazda Luce R130 Rotary Coupé. Italian styling, 13A engine, and front-wheel drive. One of the prettiest cars to come out of Japan ever.

    And on the list from last week, the Savanna RX-3 was definitely a huge oversight, even for Japan.

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