Cheap doesn't have to mean bad as these cars from Land of the Rising Sun clearly show. Here are the ten cars Jalopnik readers identified as the most collectible Japanese econoboxes.
Welcome back to Answers of the Day — our Jalopnik summer feature where we take the best ten responses from the previous day's Question of the Day and shine it up to show off. It's by you and for you, the Jalopnik readers. Enjoy!
10.) Honda Z600
Suggested By: rawtoast
Why It's Cool: Sold here in the States from 1970 to 1972, the Z600 was America's first taste of four-wheeled Honda transportation. It was sold at their motorcycle dealerships, as freestanding Honda car dealers wouldn't arrive until the Civic came to our shores a year later. The Z600 had a 598cc engine which was good for 36 horsepower, and featured a big thick plastic surround around the rear hatch, causing nicknames like "swimming goggles" or "TV set."
Photo credit: Baileyusa115
9.) Mazda 323 GTX
Suggested By: Kate's Dirty Sister
Why It's Cool: For the JDM market, Mazda put all kinds of special editions of the 323 (called the Familia over there) together. The GTX leaned towards more performance; it came with four wheel drive, limited slip differentials, and a turbocharged 1.8 liter engine. The car could be ordered in GTR spec as well, or for the truly crazy, 300 were prepared to GT-Ae spec, which were lightweight race cars for the road.
Photo credit: Christopher Keach
8.) Toyota Starlet GT
Suggested By: witless_protection
Why It's Cool: Introduced in 1990, the GT was the hot stuff version of the fourth generation Toyota Starlet. It featured Toyota's legendary 4E-FTE engine with a turbocharger on top, as well as rear strut bars and optional limited slip differentials on special limited editions. The cars are rare, but command a cult-like following.
Photo credit: Kevin Cheng
7.) Mitsubishi Galant VR-4
Suggested By: AgentRockstar
Why It's Cool: Imagine, if you can, a time when Mitsubishi made more than one car that we'd want to own. From 1987 to 1992, the top-of-the-line, really cool Mitsu was not an Evo with some Roman numerals after it, but a Galant that was intended to go Group A rallying (after the four wheel drive Starion was left in the cold by the demise of Group B). 2000 VR-4 Galants came to the United States in 1991 with four wheel drive and a turboed two liter engine, good for 237 horsepower and 224 pound-feet of torque. It even had four-wheel steering, which activated above 30 miles per hour. Production of the VR-4 would continue through the next two versions of the Galant, until 2003.
Photo credit: gregory_gdp
6.) Subaru Justy 4WD
Suggested By: Desu-san-Desu
Why It's Cool: The Justy got multi-port fuel injection in 1992 (it had used carburetors until then) and was killed off for a rebadged Suzuki in 1994. For those two years though, if you were an enterprising hoon, the Justy could be your performance-upgrade canvas. The cars were tiny, light, and took parts from Mazdas, Suzukis, and Geos with ease. In the snow, they were planted. With the right bits stuck under the hood, they could embarrass CRX or AE86 drivers. The Justy was a sneaky little car that could be made to be very impressive.
Photo credit: Axel Schwenke
5.) Toyota Celica
Suggested By: rawtoast
Why It's Cool: The first iteration of the Celica has to be on the list of all-time best-looking cars from Japan. In its second year in the United States, 1972, the Celica came with Toyota's 18R-C engine, which made 97 horsepower and 106 pound feet of torque. It looked great, but if you needed to get anywhere in a hurry, too bad. Later, in 1976, the liftback model would arrive, and then a facelift for the whole line of cars, but we think the earlier models are the way to go.
Photo credit: GS1311
4.) Mazda RX-3
Suggested By: rawtoast
Why It's Cool: The RX-3 hit American shores in 1972 with Mazda's 12A rotary engine, and a long racing pedigree. It had done battle in Japan against Nissan's Skyline, winning the 1972 Japanese Grand Prix Touring Car category, and ending the Skyline's winning streak at 49 races. On the road, the 12A engine was good for 110 horsepower and 100 pound feet of torque. The RX-3 is a great looking car, and if you can find one you'd do well to bring it home with you as quickly as possible.
Photo credit: Grant C
3.) Nissan Sentra SE-R
Suggested By: Jeb_Hoge
Why It's Cool: The B13 SE-R, produced from 1991 to 1994, has achieved a cult-like following amongst Japanese car fans. It had 140 horsepower and 132 pound feet of torque under the hood, stock, and MacPherson suspension at all four corners. Its party piece was its limited-slip differential though, which improved the car's handling even more. Car and Driver raved about it when it was new, and good luck finding one now.
2.) Honda CRX Si
Suggested By: frogberg
Why It's Cool: The CRX Si hit all the major food groups: it was quick, it handled well, and it boasted exceptional fuel economy. In slightly less-tuned trim, the car would regularly return mileage numbers well over 40 miles per gallon. In Si form, the CRX came with Honda's D16A6 engine, which was good for 108 horses and 100 pound feet of torque, which were more than adequate to move the small CRX rapidly.
Photo credit: zanthrax-dot-nl
1.) Datsun 510
Suggested By: The Big Cone
Why It's Cool: What isn't cool about the 510? It's great-looking. It's raced all over the place, even today. Did I mention it looks really cool? The 510 had an engine list as long as your arm, but in the United States they all had front-wheel disc brakes, independent suspension all around, and were rear-wheel drive. You could get one in two-door, four door, or four door wagon flavors, and with either a four speed stick or three speed automatic transmission. And then, go crazy: full-on race car? Roadworthy autocross car? Bone-stock showpiece? It's your call. The 510 is just that good.
Photo credit: DigitalK