QotW: What’s the greatest JNC of the 1980s?

KDR30 Nissan Skyline Super Silhouette

If the question was simply the greatest JNC, it would be hard not to choose something legendary like a 2000GT or KPGC10. But since we’re on an 80s kick with our Made in the 80s theme for Toyotafest, let’s limit the answers to hachimaru heroes.

What’s the greatest JNC of the 1980s?

From touge terrorizing AE86s to Wangan blasting MA71 Supras, Bubble Economy Japan was a nonstop onslaught of fantastic machinery. From insanely turbocharged kei cars to the first wave of VIP ultra-luxe sedans, the land of the rising sun had it all.

What say you, dear reader? As always, the most entertaining or inspiring comment by next Monday will receive a toy. Click through to see the winner from last week’s question, “What’s the greatest Japanese Nostalgic Motorcycle?” 

Honda CB 750 Four

The unanimous marque seemed to be a Honda, but what kind? After much debate, it was dankan who gave us the most well reasoned argument.

It’s a toughie, but I think the original Honda CB750. The original UJM and superbike all rolled up into one. When it came out, exotic MV Agustas were the only bikes with 4 cylinders that didn’t have Grand Prix number plates on the front. And those MVs were crap.

Suddenly the average person could have the most technically advanced, exotic and spectacular bike ever conceived. From the guys who would sell you a Super Cub. It was such a leap forward over everything else around it, and has such an iconic look now that you can essentially demarcate the motorcycle market into pre- and post-CB750 periods. It’s the Honda Civic, Toyota 2000GT and Hakosuka all rolled into one.

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


Image courtesy Honda.

This post is filed under: Question of the Week.

36 Responses to QotW: What’s the greatest JNC of the 1980s?

  1. Ryan says:

    Well of course everyone’s going to say Ae86, but Im going to say FC3S.
    This car was so far ahead of its time and was able to keep up with anything the 90’s golden era could throw at it.
    Handling, braking, acceleration, for a time it had NO peers, until the formidable R32 GTR came along, but this was four years later.

    Savannah vs GTR, battled through the 70’s….

    ……and the 80′ where no different!

    • Ryan says:

      Imagine if all the cars of the 80’s had a race, and this is the final lap,
      FC and the Godzilla in Pole position.

  2. boyee says:

    No doubt, the series-two first generation Mazda RX-7. It was this iconic car that had the inherent advantage of Mazda’s engineers finally having perfected the reliability for the Wankel rotary engine. It was faster than a Porsche 924, the RX-7’s rival at the time, and it was definitely a true value for what the owners were getting! The reverse opening hood was the last of its kind on a Japanese sports car in the 80s. I mean pop-up head lights are awesome and this feature continued on in the RX-7 line, but paired with the reverse opening hood made this sports car so much cooler! Let’s take a look at the interior: full “business-like” instrumentation, proper bucket seats, and a shift knob that was designed to give the driver immediate comfort and ease of commanding. Also, remember this very truthful advertising slogan: “The more you look, the more your like.” It is unmistakeable every time one nostalgic first gen RX-7 passes by with its unique and aerodynamic styling; this car has instant recognition. All of this is certainly why, hands-down, the series-two RX-7 is the greatest JNC of the 80s.

  3. Nigel says:

    A car that was everywhere back in the days of Atari and CD’s or Cassettes was the
    X71 Toyota Cressida.
    I don’t have any great argument as to why they where the greatest.

    But you could carry four friends due to the four doors. And cops never followed anyone in
    a Cressy.

  4. maximo says:

    i know i may not be the only one with this answer but the FC Rx7.
    like that Ryan dude said,”This car was so far ahead of its time and was able to keep up with anything the 90′s golden era could throw at it.”
    and look at those sexy angular line’s, scream 80’s much? pop-up headlights are another awesome thing of that era and the Fc has ’em! Mazda’s stylists, led by Chief Project Engineer Akio Uchiyama, focused on the Porsche 944 for their inspiration in designing the FC but they made something sexier than a Porsche (im not hatin’ but i really love Porsche!).
    it was fun to drive, handles like no other car, fast,sexy,rotary and great looking,i could go on like this about the FC so what more do you need?

  5. acbpanda says:

    I think the best JNC of the 80s? Well it has to be the Starion, or is that a 90s model?
    I don’t know, i’m new here, just i think Starion or “THE OVERTHETOP OBVIOUS CHOICE” AE86 Levin.

  6. Tom Westmacott says:

    Nissan Silvia S13, March 1988

    This car took the boxy styling that formed the signature of the Eighties, and refined it beautifully with smoothly chamfered edges that kept the overall boxy stance, just with an added sense of visual heft and grace through the slightly softened edges. Under the bonnet, the ultimate CA-series twin-cam turbo intercooled 1809cc engine – modern power in a traditional rear-drive layout. This being the tech-tastic eighties, the options list included choices such as a head-up display projected on the windscreen, rear wheel steering (HICAS), and a chilled glovebox for cold drinks. With it’s oh-so-eighties signature two-tone paint (the lime green two tone launch colour is still remembered in Japan today), it was the perfect car for young Japanese men both to attract the opposite sex and, of course, to attack the touge.

    The Silvia went on to become the Mustang of bubble and post-bubble Japan, with huge numbers being sold, modified, and driven hard from Okinawa to Hokkaido. Unlike other eighties cars, the basic chassis was so good that it lasted until 2002, when the S15 model was ‘retired’ to avoid stealing sales from the brand new 350Z.

  7. Patrick Strong says:

    The critical word in this question is “of.” Many ’80s-born Nostalgics can lay claim to greatness, but too often it’s in retrospect. I want to nominate a car that is an explosion of all things ’80s, a car that is a Duran Duran video, a power tie, and an 8-ball of cocaine all wrapped into one neat origami package…a car that could only exist in its time.

    That car, of course, is the AW11.

    Half a decade before the advent of the Miata, here was a sports car with unassailable credentials PLUS Japanese reliability. Scalpel-like mid-engine handling? Check. A screaming multivalve engine that was once described as a “Cosworth DBA that actually works?” Check. Outrageous wedge styling that was more Milan than Aichi Prefecture? Oh yeah.

    The AE86, the CRX, the S13…they’ve all led productive lives as motorsport entry points and pop-cultural icons to an extent that they defy categorization as “80’s cars.” But the Mk. 1 MR2 remains blissfully mired in the Me Decade, its anachronistic styling unfettered by any level of modesty or self-awareness. The MR2 was a car that loved to party, and never apologized for it. What could be more ’80s than that?

    • Patrick Strong says:

      And of course I meant “Cosworth BDA.” That’s what happens when you do contracts for a living.

    • Patrick Strong says:

      Let me clarify what I said in the first paragraph: when I wrote “in retrospect,” what I really meant was “they achieved greatness over the course of time…yes, the AE86 is an all-time classic, but would it have achieved the same stature had it not been for Initial D? As great as the CRX was in its time, would it be looked upon as such a classic had it not been the foundation for thousands of half-baked “tuner” builds in the 1990s and 2000s? Do we judge the S13 purely on its intrinsic merits, or is its greatness informed by its dominance in the drift scene?” You get the idea.

      To summarize: MR2. F*** yeah.

    • Ben says:

      No bias whatsoever here 🙂

  8. dankan says:

    Thank you very much for the honour of a JNC Hot Wheel! It shall go next to the Bellett GT-R puzzle I won for venting my spleen on the styling of the Toyota Echo.

    For the title of greatest JNC of the 1980s I nominate the car in your photo. The Hasemi Skyline. I don’t know how many there are, but I have seen that car in person at a Fukuoka Nissan dealer (in IMS Plaza on the 4th floor, they only have a couple of Skylines and a Note on display, that I recall). It was parked next to the 2008 Xanavi GT-R. And it was considerably cooler than the new GT-R. Yes, the new car was lower, had a massive wing and smelled like victory.

    But the ENORMOUS slicks, huge spoiler and almost home-built feel (in comparison) of the older car radiated such charisma. Also, blame Gran Turismo 2.

    The AE86 should probably win, but when I think 1980s Japanese cars, I think that Hasemi machine is the first thing that comes to mind.

  9. Tyler says:

    The greatest JNC of the 80’s was the Hilux and its 4Runner-spawning spinoffs.

    Not only did they become legendary for their reliability and durability, becoming the truck of choice for anyone from farmers to militants everywhere, they started the ball rolling for popular Japanese trucks that continues to this day.

    Sure, you can go up a mountain sideways in an FC3S, but when you get to the top can you sleep in the back of the car? If a bridge is out, what do you want to be in, a low-slung sports coupe or a literally battle-tested 4×4 pickup? You guessed it: a Hilux.

    To top it all off, Google “FC3S” and “Toyota Trailblazer” and see which one has more righteous graphics packages. You’d be hard pressed to find anything nearly as amazing as that found on an 80’s Toyota pickup, and don’t forget which made its way into the Hot Wheels lineup first (in both pickup and SUV versions, no less).

    From backwoods to battlefields (and even mini-trucking), the best JNC of the 80’s is the Toyota Hilux.

  10. Steven says:

    Nissan Cedric/Gloria Cima. Straight six engine, rear wheel drive, air suspension, wool seats, touch screen CRT computer system, pillarless hardtop body, and unbelievably beautiful styling. Plus, show one to anyone who isn’t an expert on Japanese cars and they’ll have a hard time even guessing what country or decade it came from. Hands down my favorite JNC (and hopefully one day I’ll be able to import one to the US).


  11. Nakazoto says:

    My vote goes for the 1987 to 1989 Nissan 300ZX Turbo, particularly the 1988 SS Model.

    There are plenty of reason why I think the SS is the best, from the indestructible VG30ET, to the very classy styling, and even to the decent handling and ludicrous top speed of 150+ mph. The main reason though, is that once you slide into the awesome Recaro seats and situate yourself in that cockpit, it becomes abundantly clear that this was one of the best interiors the 80s ever produced. The simple, yet purposeful dash with perfectly appropriate gauges, the comfortable and supportive Recaros, the driver oriented design, it all makes you feel special and comfortable.

    I’ve driven this car from Texas to New York and back again and it just swallowed the miles with ease while keeping me plenty comfortable. The sheer reliability mixed with still relevant performance and an interior that fits like a glove make this simply the best. I will own my 88 SS until the day I die.

  12. yoda says:

    I’d have to go for the complete thirdgen Civic line. There was the CRX for pure fun, the 1500S/Si hatch for 99% of the fun of a CRX with the ability to carry more than one friend, the base hatchback for cheap basic transportation, wagons for the family and even a notchback sedan for the tradition-minded.
    All really great at what they do.

    • Tyler says:

      I’m curious why you chose to nominate the 3rd gen instead of the more popular 4th gen.

    • The black CRX says:

      Of course I have to agree with this, but I think yoda nailed all the reasons why. Four bodystyles, each sharing no sheet metal, with a variety of engine and trim-level options to suit almost anyone. And all with great driving dynamics and bulletproof reliability that made them a satisfying purchase even without considering their low prices. And you could choose the highest-mpg car in the US or the lowest-priced car in the US from the same family of cars.

      As for Tyler’s question of why nominate the 3G over the more popular 4G (outselling its predecessor was normal growth for every generation of Honda), I can’t speak for yoda, but Honda has long updated the Civic in an alternating two-generation step, with a radical redesign followed by a more evolutionary refinement, then radical again. The 1G-2G, 3G-4G, 5G-6G-7G (they kinda lost it here) and 8G-9G pairings are each more closely related to each other than what came next, while the 3G was a dramatic break from the 2G. It was also the most radical change of any Civic generation.

      Because it jumped so far ahead in design, packaging and performance, to me the 3G is the quintessential ’80s Civic and the one that really changed the small-car game in that decade. Yup, 4Gs got double wishbones and more power, but to me the 3G is an icon, whereas the 4G is “merely” an excellent follow-up.

      • Tyler says:

        Ah, I see. It was mainly the introduction of new body styles.

      • Tyler says:

        And, you know, mechanical stuff!

        • The black CRX says:

          There ya go. It was the everything. And the all that. 🙂

          The 3G catapulted the Civic from a clever, fun and reliable but still a little quirky car to an ultramodern compact that still looks and feels modern today (except for the 850 lbs of “modern” bulk and safety features added to Civics since then). And it gave us the CRX. 🙂

  13. Russ From Okinawa says:

    This is a tough one. There are a lot of of great cars that come from the era that brought us MTV, Back to the Future and Although I own an pristine 80’s classic, I would not consider my AE86 the greatest JNC from the 80’s. What car comes to mind for me? The car that a certain manufacture “got right” which dominated motor sports and had (and still have) fanboys the world over drooling for one. Seeing the badge or saying the name will conjure images of this iconic car which spawned a newer, technological wonder which shares the same passion as well as badge. Of course I’m referring to the 1989 BNR32 GTR. In my opinion, no other Japanese car to come out of the 80’s had such a big impact on the automotive industry as the GTR. There are worthy close seconds for 80’s JNC, but they don’t call this car Godzilla for nothing!

  14. Russ From Okinawa says:

    This is a tough one. There are a lot of of great cars that come from the era that brought us MTV and Back to the Future. Although I own an pristine 80’s classic, I would not consider my AE86 the greatest JNC from the 80’s. What car comes to mind for me? The car that a certain manufacture “got right” which dominated motor sports and had (and still have) fanboys the world over drooling for one. Seeing the badge or saying the name will conjure images of this iconic car which spawned a newer, technological wonder which shares the same passion as well as badge. Of course I’m referring to the 1989 BNR32 GTR. In my opinion, no other Japanese car to come out of the 80’s had such a big impact on the automotive industry as the GTR. There are worthy close seconds for 80’s JNC, but they don’t call this car Godzilla for nothing!

  15. s30plz says:

    As a z31 owner I’m biased and have to say 1987+ z31 300zx. (;

  16. David Corbitt says:

    1987 Nissan Mid4 II. It might have only been a concept but man, if Nissan had actually built it…. Even the Godzilla would’ve been left crawling in it’s wake! Out of actual production cars though, 1989 Nissan Skyline GTR. No contest.

  17. RdS says:


    If we’re going to be sneaking in late 80’s introductions, then its simple – the BNR32 cant be beat.

    But I like my 80’s a little more… undoubtedly 80’s. cars that managed to come AND go entirely in that decade of awesomeness. So close to dated at the time they were introduced, that they were quickly refreshed or replaced.
    It was a decade chrome made way for black plastic – set against sharp lines, electronic/digital everything, and loud decals. It has DOHC or an intercooler? People. Need. To. Know. ..In 4″ Text down the side..!

    MA61, AE86, AW11, EP71, DR30, HR31, N12, GX71, CC72V.. Just some of many awesome and thoroughly 1980’s products.
    My favourite? The one that most sums up the decade to me? A red-over-black DR30 2000 Turbo RS-X would be my choice.
    But the best? I’m going to have to go with an AE86. Its the car that’s lasted through the decades since as a great car on its own – not just a rolling showcase of a decade I find hugely amusing.

  18. Nick says:

    When I think of the best “80’s” car, it would to me have to be a car that debuted and was discontinued in that decade-something that was a product of that era that could have only have existed at that moment in time. My honorable mentions thus go to the Starion, Z31 300zx and AW11 MR2…

    But for me it has to be the Toyota Celica Supra MA61; the baddest sports car in the Toyota lineup, and for me the epitome of 80’s cool. Low, sleek, sharp angles, fender flares, “sunshades”…plenty fast for an early 80s car with nice low end torque and state of the art suspension for it’s time…not to mention the most comfortable bucket seats ever and factory wheels that still look good on any old school toyota.

    I’ve owned two now, and the one I’m driving now probably won’t be my last.

  19. Brad D. says:

    Starion. Its the car that launched Mitsubishi into the mainstream in the USA. It had everything a car needed to cause a splash in the 80’s; Turbo; Fuel Injection; Digi Dash; Trip Computer and the word “Turbo” in bold print literally hundreds of times all over the car. It was like driving a period arcade game!
    Mitsu’s first year full in the US without relying on strictly rebadged Chryslers was 84, and while they had a good line up of bread and butter cars, I can’t imagine the brand recognition being what it was without the Starion.

  20. Ellen Ripley says:

    i’ll stand alone and say the AW11 MR2. toyota allowed the masses to own a reliable mid-engined 2 seater sports car powered by the steadfast 4age, and later supercharged 4agze. the car continues to suprise on the road or on the track to this day & whether you love or hate the space wedge shape, it’s a classic through and through.

  21. Erik Hernandez says:

    I say its the Ae86. Why not choose the Skyline, Supra, Rx7, and the others? Well for one its the last lightweight, rwd compact coupe that Toyota produced. The car has a rich motorsports history and its still being piloted today in all kinds of different racing disciplines. Sure its down in power from the majority of cars, but nothing handles like one. Its a car that is just special. Even today it has a great following and the owners are some of the coolest people you can meet. 30 years and the little hachiroku is still going. I love my Ae86. It has changed my life for the better. When they said the hachiroku is the master and you’re the student, they weren’t lying about that. Here’s to another 30 years of the Ae86!!!

  22. Maverick says:

    My favourite 80’s car would definitely be the MITSUBISHI STARION.
    Nothing looks as 80’s as these cars.
    The sharp body angles and bulbous guards make these cars look so tough. Nothing needs to be modified, even the stock wheels look great!
    And the fact that they’re rear wheel drive and turbo is win/win.
    I haven’t been in one so i don’t know what the handling’s like.
    But I’d like to own one someday, black, stock body, stock wheels but slammed

  23. invinciblejets says:

    4th generation celica gts and alltrac/gt four

    I mean come on.

  24. pstar says:

    The great Japanese 80s car has hard angles, two-tone paint, and words on the side.

  25. Nappuman says:

    My pic is the ’85 Subaru XT Turbo 4wd.
    It had every possible tech available for a car in the 80’s. It was Subarus way of showing what kind of a car they can build! It had auto/manual-adjusting air suspension, full time awd, Turbo 1,8L Boxer 4, Everything electric.

    As to eye candy it had a sleek 80’s doorstop wedge design, pop-up headlamps, two-tone paintjobs available, scifi interface like digital dash, with steering wheel adjusting instrument cluster, assymetric steering wheel, aircraft joystick like gearstick (manu/auto).

    If you’ve never hear of it you have been missing out!
    ..super jelous. a neighbour just bought one.

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