5 Japanese Cars We Would Never Dare To Mod (And 5 That Make Great Projects)
The Japanese make excellent technological products, exhibiting a level of quality rarely seen in today’s mass-produced world. This meticulousness extends to their automotive industry, with Japanese companies creating some of the best cars ever made.
JDM the cars, although brilliantly made, are usually overengineered to such an extent that the full potential of the car cannot be unleashed without the aid of a few modifications. Take the Toyota Supra MK4 for example. A new owner could get around 600bhp out of a stock engine with relatively easy mods, making the stock Supra MK4 extremely rare. While it’s fun to modify and customize a car and outfit it with a striking body kit, bigger turbos and go crazy with changing parts, some Japanese cars just don’t need be modified. It’s because they’re good enough already, or they’ve become so legendary that the cars are worth a lot of money in factory condition.
So while it’s fun to outfit your Japanese car with big spoilers, silly wheels, and Bosozoku exhausts, some cars should just be left alone. Here are 5 Japanese cars that you would never dare to modify, and 5 that would make excellent projects.
ten Would not dare to modify – Toyota 2000GT
The Toyota 2000GT is one of the coolest cars ever made. It was Toyota’s first attempt at building a sports car, and it was the genesis point of all the legendary coupes that graced the Japanese marque’s dealerships. The 2000GT wasn’t fast, but it had character and an impressive 2.0-liter inline-6 inspired by the Crown sedan. The 2000GT produced 148 hp and 129 lb-ft of torque, with power sent to the rear wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission and a top speed of 135 mph.
The greatest thing about the 2000GT was its history in a James Bond movie. Everyone was given the green light, but when Sean Connery arrived in Japan for filming, he was too big for the car. Toyota then cut the roof off two cars and called it the 2000GT Roadster – of which only two exist. You would never dare modify a single thing on a 2000GT.
9 Would not dare to modify – Lexus LFA
The Lexus LFA has been heralded as the best sounding car on the planet, with some claiming it is the best car ever made. Although the second statement may cause some debate, the first is certainly true. The entire LFA experience has been meticulously engineered and tested to deliver the glorious sound it produces.
The LFA isn’t the fastest, nimbiest or prettiest supercar ever made, but it’s one of the most perfect. Yes, it lacks cupholders, the infotainment system leaves something to be desired and the seatbelt situation is idiotically complicated, but the rest of the car is bespoke – designed specifically for the LFA. It’s a supercar that needs nothing more to make it perfect because when you drive it all the little worries become an afterthought next to the screaming V10.
8 Would not dare to modify – Toyota Century
The Toyota Century is a car many people have probably never heard of. It’s the Japanese company’s most luxurious model, even more sophisticated than any Lexus, and it compares to most other luxury sedans from Germany, Britain and America. It’s a car that’s the opposite of every other Toyota model on the market – built with no expense spared.
The Century is a unique car, with the second generation being the first, and so far only, V12-powered Japanese production car ever made. The latest generation ditched the V12 in favor of a 5.0-litre hybrid V8, which produces 425bhp, mated to an eCVT with power going to the rear wheels only. The second generation Century was the only model sold outside of Japan. However, the current model is only available at select dealerships in Japan.
7 Would not dare to modify – Honda S800
The Honda S800 was the precursor to the legendary S2000 and was produced between 1966 and 1970. As the name suggests, it was a small sports car with a 0.8 liter engine, producing around 70 hp. The party trick of the S800 was that it could spin up to 10,000 rpm – back in 1967! The S800 was Honda’s first car capable of going 100 mph, while returning an impressive 35 MPG.
When the car went on sale in Britain in 1967, Honda had redesigned the car with normal transmission parts, rather than using chains and motorcycle suspension. The S800 was a success and most importantly, it was cheaper than the Mini Cooper and the Triumph Spitfire. The S800 is a classic car that doesn’t need any modification because it’s already pretty awesome.
6 Would not dare to modify – Mazda Cosmo
The Mazda Cosmo – also called 110S – was one of the first Japanese cars to be powered by a rotary engine. It was fitted with a 982 cc (60 cui) twin-rotor engine developing 110 hp. It was opted for the rotary engine as it produced more power than the equivalent inline engine, but negated the heavier Japanese road tax on engines over 1.0 litres.
The original Cosmo was updated in 1968 to the Series II, which featured a longer wheelbase for improved interior space, retuned suspension and 20 more hp. The front has also been improved for better cooling. The Cosmo Series II also came with a 5-speed manual transmission as opposed to the Series I’s 4-speed. The Cosmo is a unique classic car because it looks like a spaceship and sounds like a race car. Certainly not a car that needs modifications.
5 Would make a great project – Toyota Hilux
The Toyota Hilux is one of the most popular vehicles on the planet. It is renowned for its reliability and durability, being used for everything from luxury transport to agricultural workhorses. The older generation Hilux is a great project car as it offers a host of performance aftermarket parts.
Many owners have even swapped the Hilux engines, replacing them with Lexus V8s. This improved the overall performance of the truck, but also requires some transmission strengthening – easily achievable with aftermarket tuning. The Hilux is a versatile pickup truck that feels just as at home in the city as it does in the great outdoors.
4 Would make a great project – Nissan 300ZX Z32
The Nissan 300ZX is one of Nissan’s best-known sports cars in the JDM world. The 300ZX Z32 available in the United States came with a 3.0-liter V6, either naturally aspirated or twin-turbocharged – the former produced 222 hp and the latter 300 hp.
Like many other JDM cars such as the Toyota Supra Mk4, Mitsubishi 3000GT and Subaru Impreza WRX STI, there are many upgrades available for the 300ZX. Popular upgrades include a sportier body kit, a retuned ECU, bigger turbochargers and a better clutch. The 300ZX is a great sports car and marks one of the coolest eras in the JDM market.
3 Would make a great project – Lexus LS400
The Lexus LS400 was the first model launched by Toyota’s new luxury division. It featured a 4.0 liter V8 engine – one of the most reliable V8s around and undercut the competition in the luxury sedan segment, while offering most of the same features and options.
The LS400 is a great car to buy as a project or for everyday driving. The LS400 launched and cemented Lexus’ incredible customer service and reputation for reliability, which means that when the car is serviced, it won’t let its owner down. It’s also in the old-school luxury segment, definitely holding up better than equivalent German cars.
2 Would make a great project – Honda Accord Coupe
The Honda Accord Coupe might not sound like the most exciting car to customize, but surprisingly, there’s a market for them. The Accord Coupe is a slightly more luxurious version of the normal Accord sedan, but mostly since it comes in a different body configuration.
The Accord Coupe, like most other Japanese cars, has plenty of spare parts available, from new steering wheels with carbon inlay to body kits and forced induction. The Accord Coupé is a very good project car.
1 Would make a great project – Toyota Celica
The Toyota Celica can be considered the smaller and cheaper version of the Supra. The two most popular generations of the Celica were the sixth and seventh. The sixth generation was famous for its racing history – even if Toyota cheated. The seventh generation was completely redesigned and was only available with front-wheel drive and a 1.8-liter engine.
The Celica features excellent aftermarket upgrades, from monstrous rear fenders to forced induction kits like turbochargers and superchargers. Many owners also opt for the rally look with the classic Castrol livery, or they give it a body kit, huge wheels and a striking color change to make it stand out from the crowd. The customization possibilities are endless.
Cheap and easy project cars that won’t go unfinished for years
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