QotW: Which People’s JNC is due for a remake?

Honda Z360

Italy had a Beetle; It was called the Fiat 500. So did Britain, the Mini. The VW Beetle was Germany’s Beetle, obviously, but it was America’s too. What all these cars had in common is that they started out as affordable, economical People’s cars and ended up as icons. What’s more, they’ve all been reborn in modern times as fashion statements capitalizing on nostalgia, European cool, and design.

Which People’s JNC is due for a remake?

The best example to come out of Japan is likely the Honda N-One. The modern kei car was inspired by the 1967 Honda N360. Since they’re already halfway there, we’d jump for joy if Honda did a similar take on the N’s sportier sibling, the Z360. Honda Z-One, anybody?

What say you, dear reader? As always, the most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What car is not worth preserving?” 


This one generated a lot of debate, and although we’d agree with those among you who said all cars are worth preserving, especially ones that people least expect to be valuable. However, the reason we posed the question in the first place was to get ideas for a car that might serve as stunt double to our Cressida wagon.

It seemed, going purely on the entertainment value of your comments, that our next daily driver was either going to be Greylopht‘s Saabaru, Spudenator‘s eighth-gen Mitsubishi Galant, or Jim-Bob‘s Chevy Celebrity. But ultimately, the prize goes to returning champion dickie‘s bravura tirade against the Isuzu I-Mark and Geo Prizm GSi, even though it must be said that we completely disagree with his actual premise.

Hyundai Tiburons seemed to radiate complete worthlessness even when they were brand new. The owner demographic for used examples somehow manages to scrape the proverbial barrel bottom without ever showing signs of hitting the metal.

I’ve discussed the Scion tC in-depth before and I won’t bother with copy/pasting any part of those diatribes here. Suffice it to say, it fills a uniquely pointless place in the model lineup and caters to a specific set that pretty much ensures few examples will survive past a second owner.

New cars are all easy targets though; they lack the requisite character needed to attain sentimental value with age. As the 90s came to a close, we saw the death of quite a few long-running nameplates and a transition into mediocrity for several others. To properly answer the question of the week, I’m aiming for something with a little more relevance to the subject matter this site is known for. It’s going to be:

1. Japanese
2. Notable in its time
3. Classic or near-classic status

The 25-year rule has been a boon for those of us with later-model machinery in our garage, simultaneously enhancing the value while making the cost of registration, maintenance and insurance more affordable. Some of the newly-inducted “classics” won’t be benefiting, however.

The foremost contender for that dubious title is the Isuzu I-Mark RS/LS. Intended to take a swipe at the burgeoning sporty compact segment and featuring a “Lotus tuned” suspension, the RS version managed to wheeze out an anemic 125hp in its most robust incarnation. Joe Isuzu’s Flachbau-driving nemeses said it best: “That’s an economy car!” and he couldn’t have been more right. The tagline for the commercial was “… under $10,000,” which slots in around the ~$19,500 mark today.

Falling just behind the I-Mark is another unassuming economy sedan with a bastardized heritage that overshadowed its sporty intentions. First shown in 1989 as a 1990 model, the Geo Prizm GSi was a NUMMI product and a follow-on to the NovaRolla. A sport-tuned suspension, disc brakes and 14″(!) wheels were it’s selling points, but lift the hood of any junkyard denizen GSi and you might be surprised to see a redtop 4A-GE staring back at you. Built on the AE92 platform (thus its Japanese heritage) by GM workers (thus its inherently low value), they’re worth exactly scrap value these days. It’s not a huge secret these were packing high-compression twin cam Toyota power under the hood, and I can say that I have pulled one destined for an AE86 as I’m sure countless others have.

If you can find one of these cars and you’re itching to buy, you’d be better off hacking it into a Chumpcar or Lemons entry than you would restoring or preserving it.

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

JNC Decal smash

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13 Responses to QotW: Which People’s JNC is due for a remake?

  1. cesariojpn says:

    Subaru is lacking in the “cheap car” segment worldwide abit. Their lineup is basically a Rally Fighter and it’s detuned brother, a crappy psuedo-station wagon/crossover, and a SUV. What they need is a revival of the Subaru 360. Pretty much build a car that can hold 4 people and is affordable for a family to buy and use. It also needs to be both reliable and rugged enough to survive a beating. It’s amazing how Subaru pretty much started the who Kei-Car Segment with the 360.

    Start at 8:30: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wlDtIdNx2Rc

    Amazing fact: The 360 sold for 425,00 Yen, half of what a full size car was going for at the time.

    • Stuart Kayrooz says:

      yeah, I like this!^ 🙂

      Subaru’s flat 4 design seems (on the face of it, at least) ideal for slipping under the boot of a little city car, a little short stroke 1.2 perhaps for export,and a horizontally opposed turbo 660 twin, mounted at the rear driving the rear wheels, not dissimilar to the new Renault Twingo. Even has the added benefit of staying true to the original RR layout.

      Plenty of room for 4 occupants, and there’d be enough of a market for it in Europe for it to stand on it’s own 4 wheels and justify building it. Subaru is one of the few manufacturers that seem to still lack a strategy for improving fuel consumption, with little to no hybrid or very small engines in their range, something like this could get their average consumption down quite nicely.


    • JHMAB2 says:

      Agreed! That was a good video on Kei cars, I really wish the US would adopt similar ideas.

      That video linked me to this newer video on Nat Geo’s channel about the Japanese and classic cars.

  2. JHMAB2 says:

    This post took me through a string of older amazing articles, that S360 at the New Year Meeting 2011! Holy crap!

    I’m glad the N-One was mentioned, I remember reading about it a few years back so excited that it had original N styling. I feel we need something like this in the states, something basic, something fun. I’m glad Toyota came out with the GT86. Overall though, I feel we’re moving into a world of computers that transport us. I heard an ad on the radio the other day, “Come see the new Apple’s new CarPlay! You can check e-mails, Facebook, and the internet all from your vehicles entertainment center!”

    The hell?!

    I’m so tired of all the technology that’s being crammed into cars these days. It’s ridiculous. Ride the bus if you want to check Facebook and emails. Drive to enjoy yourself! Coming from the Honda dealership as a tech, I’ve experienced the good the bad and the ugly that Honda has to offer in their current line-up. Let me tell you, all this crap on the dash is distracting, it’s very cool, but distracting. Not to mention having to update crap, or having whole head units going out. UgH! I’m so much happier leaving in my ’96 manual Prelude, after all you’re driving, why have a huge screen telling you stuff all the time.

    As for what car is due for a remake? Eh, I dunno. Honestly, I think N360 was it, thee car that changed the face of what a small cheap car could be in Japan. A Z-One would be awesome, but it should be a car for the people, a fun runabout, not a computer on wheels. Something, that puts a smile on your face just pulling the keys out, and a third pedal on the floor. Something that’s also cheap to make your own, like fun affordable aftermarket support. Scion has the idea, but something cheaper still, as well as being more creative. We don’t need any more Fast and the Furious inspired boxes running around.

    A special Mugen tuned Z-1 (yeah numerical) would give those little Abarth 500s a run for their money. Could you imagine? Bare bones manual windows and locks without any sound deadening? Think Ferrari F40 level of creature comforts in a little Honda hatch, bright red. Now that’s a car the people.

  3. mideng says:

    1988 Civic CRX or Civic Hatchback…EF9 or EF8

  4. Mike McDonald says:

    Ah, the FIAT500 AKA “Topolino”, the Italian Mickey Mouse.

  5. Gene says:

    A new celica that’s REAR WHEEL DRIVE ONLY!

  6. Negishi no Keibajo says:

    I know it’s a bit early to make the 25 year mark but we NEED an Autozam AZ-1!

  7. Randy says:

    How about the Toyota Publica?

    Small, economical, all that good stuff. Had the various body styles that we don’t see anymore.

    Would it be somewhat like the Aygo? Maybe based on that, but with less tech and more focus on price?

    I’m absolutely with JHMAB2 about the stupid amounts of technology in vehicles that distract from driving. Nobody gives that much of a rat’s tushy ’bout your “status” on social media, that it can’t wait ’til you get to the office, and tick off your boss for the third – and last – time.

    Other than a GPS (AFTERMARKET – $200; not the $2K factory deal), I can’t think of anything that has really added to my own driving. There are even times that ABS has worked against me, but I know that ain’t gonna get pulled.

  8. pstar says:

    Except in a few cases (new Scirocco, the retro T-bird), retro cars are just a disappointment. They are insults to the originals they are exploiting. I’m not sure which is worse the New Beetle or the Mini in this regard. If a Subaru 360 is due for a “remake”, expect it to be 15′ long and 2800 lbs. Same with a Carol or Publica or anything really.

    Besides that, Nissan did the whole retro nonsense way before it was cool. They made those cheesy Micras. That was more than enough. Also, there’s always the B13 Sentra. Lots of people think that’s a 510 homage or something.

  9. Ramon Mora says:

    Toyota Starlet KP-61 !!!!

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