The best classic JDM cars aren’t appreciated that much in the JDM car scene. Some of these vehicles revolutionized their forerunners, most of which are still in production. For Example, the Nissan Skyline 2000 GT-R was the first skyline to wear the GT-R badge, which continues in the R35 GT-R.
You’ll rarely see such classic cars in a car meet, and when you do, there will be only a handful of them. However, some of these classic JDM cars for sale are rare, or the probability of finding one is near zero. The Toyota 2000GT is among the rarest of them all, and it’s worth over $900,000.
Some manufacturers only made a limited number of such classic vehicles as homologations or special editions, making them rare. Not all classic JDM cars are expensive, as you can get some of them for around $30,000, which is a good deal for a vehicle produced in low-figure units.
#1 Toyota 2000GT
The Toyota 2000GT was made by Toyota in collaboration with Yamaha to improve Toyota’s influence in the automotive market. It was produced between 1967 and 1970. Only 337 units were made, and they all feature either a 2.0-litre 3M I6 or a 2.3-litre 2MB I6.
Both engines were not that powerful, but they did the job perfectly. The 2.0-litre had a power output of 150 horsepower, while the 2.3-litre made 140 horsepower. By the time production ended, all 2000GTs were sold out, and the classic JDM car for sale price started hiking shortly after.
The 2000GT influenced other Toyota sports cars such as the Celica and the Supra MK4. The uncanny resemblance between the MK4 Supra, Celica, and the 2000GT is undeniable.
#2 Nissan Skyline 2000 GT-R (KPGC10)
The Nissan Skyline 2000GT-R was the first-ever GT-R to be made and is equipped with a 2.0-litre S20 I6 pushing 160 horsepower. Designers drew inspiration from the Nissan R380 racecar that raced in the Japanese Grand Prix.
It was available in both sedan and coupe body configurations, both front-engine and rear-wheel drive. Drifters such as Kunimitsu Takahashi used the Skyline KPGC10 for drifting, among other JDM classics. Only 1945 units of the Skyline 2000 GT-R were made.
Finding one is tricky since most were made for the local Japanese market. Prices start from around $40,000, and some have sold for over $100,000.
#3 Toyota AE86
This was the ultimate car for petrol heads in the 90s. This specific JDM sport classic was used in various motorsports, and it was one among few classic Japanese drift cars. The 4A-GE engine only made about 120 horsepower but was put in a vehicle that weighed slightly above 2100 pounds.
Drifters and racers considered the Toyota Corolla AE86 the ultimate track car due to the front-engine rear-wheel-drive configuration. Keiichi Tsuchiya used a Toyota AE86 to drift, which is another factor that influenced drifters to get it. The AE86 is the ultimate classic JDM you can get if you are on a budget. You can get one for around $10,000, but some go for figures above $30,000.
#4 Toyota Mark II GX71
In the 1980s, if you were looking for a 200-horsepower family sedan, the Toyota Mark II (X71) Grande was the ultimate sedan. It’s fitted with a 2.0-litre 1G-GTEU twin-turbo inline-six mated to a 5-speed manual or 5-speed automatic transmission.
The Mark II GX71 was also used in drifting among other classic JDM drift cars such as the Toyota Cressida, Corolla AE86, and the Chaser JZX100. Its front-engine rear-wheel-drive configuration and tuning potential, the 1G-GTEU, made it a suitable drift or race car.
#5 Datsun 240Z (Nissan S30)
The Datsun 240Z was marketed as the Nissan S13 in the US, but both vehicles featured the 2.4-litre L24 inline-six making around 150 horsepower. The 240Z would later influence other Z series JDM classics, such as the 280Z and the 300ZX.
Like other front-engine rear-wheel-drive JDM classics, the Datsun 240Z was also used in Japan’s drifting and racing scene. In the 21st World Rally Championships, the 240Z took 1st podium position driven by Shekhar Mehta alongside Lofty Drews.
The Nissan Z lineup continues with the 350Z, 370Z, and the new 400Z (Nissan Z), which resembles the Datsun 240z.
#6 Mazda RX2
The Mazda RX2 was the first passenger car to feature a rotary engine. It has a 1.2-litre 12A twin-rotor engine making 130 horsepower. In the United States, it was known as the Mazda Capella. Still, it was discontinued in 1974, while production continued in other parts of the world until 1978.
All power is sent to the rear wheels via a four-speed manual or 3-speed automatic transmission. Like other Classic JDMs, it was also used for drifting as soon as tuners and mechanics knew how to modify and tune the 12A rotor engine. The RX-2 had other engine options, such as the 1.5-liter UB14, but the 12A rotor engine was the most common.
#7 Nissan Figaro
Probably the only classic JDM produced for a short period, the Nissan Figaro is one of the best classic JDM minis. Production only ran through 1991, and only 20,000 units were made.
This front-engine, front-wheel-drive JDM classic mini is powered by a 1.0-litre turbocharged MA10ET engine combined with a 3-speed automatic transmission. It was based on the first-generation Nissan Micra and had a similar appearance to the Nissan Pao.
The Nissan Figaro makes the perfect city car, and you can pick one for just under $10,000. Makes the ideal Skyline GT-R companion.
#8 Mitsubishi Starion
The Mitsubishi Starion was among the first front-engine rear-wheel-drive cars made by Mitsubishi. Like other manufacturers, Mitsubishi was slowly recovering and did so with a bang. The Starion emerged looking better and performing better than its rivals, such as the Nissan 300ZX.
There are 2 optional turbocharged engines available in the Mitsubishi Starion. A 2.0-liter G63B 0r a 2.6-liter G54B. Both engines feature electronic fuel injection.
You could get the Starion in the United States. Still, it was marketed as the Chrysler Conquest, Dodge Conquest, or the Plymouth Conquest. Prices start at around $10,000, but you could get one that needs some work for less than that.
#9 Subaru Legacy RS Turbo.
This was the first STI-tuned Subaru Legacy made as a rally-spec Group A car produced between 1989 -1993.
The STI-tuned EJZOG made 220-horsepower and drove all four wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission. Prices for a Subaru legacy RS start at around $5000. Most owners prefer keeping them stock as Rally Spec Subarus are pretty quick. However, the Subaru Legacy RS is known for turbo lag, especially in mid RPMs.
#10 Honda Beat
Belonging in the Kei car category, the Honda Beat has a 660cc E07A three-cylinder engine pushing out 63 horsepower. It was among the first Hondas to feature the Multi Throttle Responsive Engine control system (MTREC) and individual throttle bodies for each cylinder.
Power is sent to the rear wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission. There was no automatic transmission available for the Beat. The Honda Beat is one of the very few JDM classics that you can buy for under $5,000. You can even get one for under $3,000. They make fantastic drift cars due to the configuration of the front-engine rear-wheel drive.
#11 Nissan Pulstar GTI-R
The Nissan Pulstar GTI-R is an all-wheel-drive hot hatch made to homologize the Pulstar Rally car as per the WRC group A rules. It had the same engine as the Silvia, SR20DET, with a power output of 230 horsepower.
This hot hatch would match up to Skyline GTRs and Supras as it did 0-60 in 5.3 seconds and completed a quarter-mile in around 13.5 seconds, making it the fastest classic JDM hatch. Prices start at approximately $15,000 upwards. Special editions such as the Nismo Pulstar GTI-R, GTI-RA, GTI-R, and the Sunny GTI-R are likely to cost way more. A total of 14,613 Pulstar GTI-Rs were made.
Like Classic JDM Cars? Keep Reading:
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- How to Import a Car from Japan: The Ultimate Guide
Featured image by Aaron Bank from Motortrend