We, Americans, love our classics. Enjoying the revving sound of an old Mustang? Riding around in a ’67 Impala? Maybe even showing appreciation for the delight that a classic Cadillac is? Heck, yeah!
But just because we are attached to our “homemade” vehicles, does not mean we cannot show foreign beauties some love. Obviously, people are open to trying something more exotic. Though one could argue European vehicles are not all that exotic. What will you say about Japanese cars then?
Today, we are going to look at 5 classic cars from the Land of the Rising Sun. It turns out Japan has quite a few tricks up its sleeve that even a car enthusiast may not expect. Let’s jump straight into it!
What makes Japanese classics so special?
Do you like generalizations? I do not! That is why I believe it is not fair to put all these cars under one umbrella description and call it a day. They are all unique in their own way. The only thing in common? They are all Japanese, obviously.
Of course, there are many similarities between cars from all over the world. And yet Japan has a particular spin to the vehicle formula. It is not so much of design philosophy, but rather the lack of one. So if you still want to clump them all together, the right adjective should be “distinct”.
One car, many names – Datsun 240Z
What the American market may know as the Datsun 240Z, is actually the Nissan S30. Now, if you combine the two names and get Nissan 240Z, things start to look a bit familiar. That is because this is the first generation in quite the famous vehicle series. It has led to the masterpiece that the 350Z. The latter is popular among sports car enthusiasts and Fast and Furious fans.
The great thing about the 240Z is that it can actually be found for quite cheap, somewhere around $20,000. As far as classics go, this one is a steal. Touch it up a bit, treat it gently, and you will be able to enjoy this piece of Japanese engineering for years to come.
Is it a car, is it… an SUV? – 1951 Toyota Land Cruiser
The Land Cruiser model is quite popular nowadays, with the distinction that it shoots straight into the luxury car territory. Recent trends have turned the off-road vehicles of the past into luxury city tanks. This is not what the original Land Cruiser was designed for!
Let me get this straight – the LC is not your usual classic. It is not slick, and it cannot pass for a sports car. But it is still quite the treasure. The first-gen has been manufactured for 30 years with very minor changes throughout its lifespan. Well, if it ain’t broke…
The 1951-1980 Land Cruiser can be found quite cheap as well, for a quarter to a third of the price of its successors (or about $20-30k).
The luxury car standard – Lexus LS400
In all honesty, I could fill the entire article with entries by Toyota. The company is so prolific that it has left its trace in history with several models. But the Lexus LS400 is something particularly interesting.
The car looks alright. For a 1990 vehicle, it barely passes the 25-year mark that would deem it classic. And yet it has revolutionized the luxury car market. It has set the standard of what such a car should be. Its quality control was so high that other car makes were at a disadvantage. They had to catch up.
The LS400 is definitely not for everyone. It does not have the “classic” look, at least not yet. But it has a lot going for it. Luxury is luxury, whether in the ’90s or now.
Did someone say supercars? – Mazda RX-7
High-end Japanese vehicles nowadays are associated with sports, not luxury. Sure, you can get your SUVs and whatnot, but it is the supercars that draw all the attention. And it all started with the Mazda RX-7 back in… Well, it depends.
Most people would consider the third-gen to be the staple RX-7 look that we know today. But the model itself dates back to 1978. And honestly, its design language is not that different. The real change in aesthetics comes with the jump from RX-7 to RX-8. But that is a story for another time.
In my opinion, all the generations are winners. They are as sporty as old sports cars get. The fact that they are becoming more and more of a classic is an added bonus. However, there is a slight caveat. The third-gen production ceased at the beginning of this century, so… Not quite classic. But the first two generations sure are!
The definition of evolution – Honda Civic
If the previous entry on this list managed to carry its design over the generations, Honda Civic is a whole another matter. There is a stark difference between the first and last generations. Plus it is not only in design. Its whole philosophy has changed.
Some people may cringe at the idea of calling the Civic a classic vehicle. Because it does not sound (or look) classic. I mean, we still have it today, right? That may be so, though the first generation dates back to 1972. Granted, it is hugely unremarkable. It was a small car for the regular guy. Nothing fancy.
Throughout the generations, it changed a little bit. It grew bigger and stronger. It turned into a sedan and held its place as an everyday car until the end of its seventh-gen in 2005. Then something changed.
From the eighth generation onward the car has been completely redesigned. Now in its tenth iteration, it bears no resemblance to the small vehicle that was the first gen. The right business move, for sure, but still a bit sad. So if you want to treat yourself to a petite Japanese classic, you should definitely look at the first two generations of the Civic.
How can you get your hands on a Japanese classic?
Maybe you are now interested in getting one of these cars? I would not be surprised. After all, who does not want to have something special in their garage? But it may not be that easy to find all of them here in the States. So what is your next move? Get them straight from the source (sort of)!
The good news is that classics, by definition, are cars older than 25 years. That means you will not have many restrictions and importing them will not be too much of a bother.
You should not forget that overseas prices may also be lower as well, due to the market difference. Maybe it will take some research and a bit of patience, but I bet you can find the right Japanese classic for you!
Alternatively, you can still track the domestic used market. Deals are popping up every day, so you may be lucky enough to score one.