Speaking of Japanese cars, it is not uncommon for us to also talk about classic Japanese cars.
“Respect your elders”
We often hear the above sentence and several times we will also find it in the form of stickers attached to classic cars.
Like humans, in the world of cars also known as the generation or era. There are generations 60, 70, 80, 90, 2000 and so on. The current generation is undeniably the result of the formation of previous generations. So is the case with cars. Today’s cars are produced from experience and improvements from previous generations.
So when we talk about Japanese cars, its popularity cannot be separated from its predecessors. Some of these predecessors became history that successfully raised the name of Japan in the international car scene.
Nissan Skyline GT-R, Toyota Supra, Mazda RX-7, Honda NSX, and other legendary Japanese cars are certainly familiar. Most of these cars are from the 90s generation, which is indeed the time period known as the golden era for the automotive world of cars, including Japanese cars.
Then what about the predecessors of these legendary cars?
Here we will discuss some of the best Japanese classic cars and of course it is still pleasant to look at. I don’t feel expert in cars, especially Japanese classic cars, hehe. But hopefully this review can take us a little back to the heyday of these elders .
Nissan Skyline GT-R Hakosuka
For car lovers, the word GT-R has become a word that is synonymous with speed. It started with the Nissan Skyline GT-R which is indeed one of the legendary JDM cars with no doubt about its performance. This series is increasingly known to the world thanks to its popular trio namely Skyline R32, R33, and R34 GT-R.
GT-R itself is an acronym for Gran Turismo Racer. This code name is used by Nissan for the highest caste of the Skyline models. In addition, this name also aims to lift sales where western manufacturers began to give a special code name for their car performance series.
Now, want to know the world’s first GT-R ? Meet the Nissan Skyline GT-R Hakosuka.
This Hakosuka is a nickname which is Japanese from the combination of the words “Hako” and “Suka”. Hako means box. Whereas Suka is short for Sukairain (Skyline). In short, the meaning of Hakosuka is Skyline box , because it’s a boxy alias.
There are also enthusiasts who call it based on the chassis code of this car, the PGC10 (and KPGC10 for the coupe version). This name is sometimes used to distinguish the GT-R version from its skyline cousins (C10), namely Skyline 2000 GT and Skyline GT-X. These two cousins certainly have performance under the GT-R series.
The Hakosuka GT-R arrived in 1969, one year after the Skyline C10 was first introduced. As the highest caste, this car is equipped with a S20 engine with a 2.0L capacity capable of spraying power of 160 hp. The power was quite large for classic Japanese cars in that era, in contrast to its two 2000 GT cousins and the GT-X which were equipped with L20 engines with 109 hp power.
Nissan did make this GT-R series as their flagship performance series . Hakosuka was included in the touring car racing championship. The results are amazing. This classic Japanese car won 49 championships in a row . An achievement that carved the early history for the big name GT-R. The victory also made Hakosuka one of the legendary classic car icons in Japanese automotive history. Unfortunately, in the 50th championship this car surrendered to the Mazda RX 3 which reportedly caused a mechanical error.
Nissan Skyline GT-R Kenmeri
After the Skyline C10 production ended, Nissan then introduced the latest generation of Skyline, the C110. This car was produced from 1972 to 1977. The engine is the same as Hakosuka, which is S20 with 160 hp power.
C110 is known by the name Kenmeri. This name comes from a car ad featuring a pair of young people named ” Ken ” and ” Mary “. This advertisement was considered successful in increasing C110 sales in Japan and also made C110 earned the nickname Skyline Kenmeri.
Nissan first introduced the GT-R variant of the C110 in September 1972. This is the second GT-R after Hakosuka, which has been awaited by enthusiasts. Kenmeri Skyline GT-R.
Unfortunately Kenmeri GT-R is very short-lived, that is, only 7 months until March 1973. Very briefly, yes.
This is caused when there was an oil embargo by OPEC member Arab countries. One of the countries affected by the oil embargo is Japan. The embargo made an oil crisis in embargoed countries with a 4-fold increase in oil prices. Imagine, it’s 4 times the price.
Soaring oil prices have resulted in many production series performance cars being stopped. Of course at that time, consumers will choose a car that is more fuel efficient. Long story short, the GT-R finally stopped production.
Nevertheless, it gives its own uniqueness to the Kenmeri GT-R. Its production which only briefly made the number of cars very limited. There are only 197 units of the Kenmeri GT-R in the world that make this Japanese classic car a rare car that is hunted by collectors. Not added 197 units are only produced and sold in Japan, aka JDM . At the auction the price of 1 car with smooth conditions can sell up to 2.3 billion !
Another uniqueness, after the GT-R kenmeri, Nissan decided not to make the GT-R version again. This makes this car “had” earned the title ” The Last GT-R ” until finally 16 years later, Nissan revived the GT-R in 1989.
Mazda RX 3 Savanna
Before we discuss the classic Japanese cars next, let us review a little about the rotary engine (wankel) which is the engine of the RX 3 Savanna.
A rotary engine is a unique machine. Not just from the design and working system. Even the weaknesses are unique for enthusiasts.
Why is that possible?
As we know, despite its advantages, a rotary engine has several disadvantages. In the early days of its development, the weakness lies mainly in reliability. This is what makes many manufacturers raise their hands, giving up on continuing to use this machine.
NSU , the company that found the rotary engine was lost after their flagship car, Ro80 experienced various engine complaints. This makes NSU almost bankrupt until finally rescued, bought by Volkswagen. Citroen and Ford also suffered the same fate, not long until the cars with their rotary engines began to break down. Even General Motors (GM) spent billions of dollars but their rotary engine project eventually ran aground halfway.
Mazdalah who managed to “conquer” this rotary engine.
After purchasing a license from NSU, Mazda then ordered 47 of its engineers to explore this machine and create a rotary engine that is far more reliable. Although at the expense of fuel consumption. This business was successful and Mazda then sold half a million cars with rotary engines in 1973.
Well this is where the uniqueness of the Mazda RX 3 Savanna. The car which was introduced in 1971 is one of the historical proofs of Mazda’s efforts in conquering rotary engines .
Savanna RX 3 has two engine variants. The first is 10A with 105 hp power which is equipped with an emission reduction device called the Rotary Engine Anti Pollution System (REAPS). The second is 12A, a machine with a larger capacity and is also the same engine as the Mazda RX 2 and the first generation RX-7. The 12 A engine on the Savanna RX 3 has 130 hp power, but the speed of the car is a little slower than 10A. That is because REAPS reduces torque and also adds a weight of 44 kg. Even so the top speed is slightly better than 10A.
Of the 930,000 rotary-engine cars sold by Mazda before the RX 7, the RX 3 is the most popular car. Of all the RX 3 that were sold, more than half were coupe variants which later became the inspiration for the RX 7 design.
The JDM variant that is only sold exclusively in Japan is the Savanna GT RX-3 . This car has a 5 speed transmission compared to other variants which are only 3 or 4 speed. Some other advantages are wider wheels, lower suspension, exclusive tail light and dashboard, and some exclusive emblems such as the GT emblem and RE12 emblem.
Nissan S30 and Nissan S130
The next car is not just 1 car or 2 cars but 4 cars. We just put it together because all four have similarities both from the exterior design and from the engine family.
Nissan S30 is the first generation of the Z sports car family which was produced from 1969 to 1978. This classic Japanese car consists of three generations, namely 240Z, 260Z, and 280Z. At out-of-Japan sales, the Nissan S30 is marketed under the Datsun brand.
Yoshihiko Matsuo, led designer from S30 was given the task by Nissan to design a sports car that is able to compete with imported western brands such as Jaguar, BMW, Porsche, Alfa Romeo, and Fiat. The results are in line with expectations. Born a car with a stylish design, modern with a capable engine and a relatively cheaper price. This 2 door coupe car design is timeless and even feels elegant and beautiful to this day.
All S30 engines use L engines with 6 inline cylinder configurations. Increased capacity of 0.2L from each generation. The 240Z has an engine capacity of 2.4 L (151 hp), 260Z 2.6L (162 hp), and the biggest is 2.8L (170 hp) at 280Z.
Continuation of the S30 is a car with the code name 280ZX. This classic Japanese car which was produced from 1978 to 1983 has many upgrades from the previous Z version. This is clearly seen from a different chassis code, S130.
280ZX is designed with a focus on comfort and luxury. This car has a softer suspension, more soundproof, and a more comfortable and luxurious interior. The exterior is designed more aerodynamic, making the car look more elegant and modern. No wonder the 280ZX then feels more like a grand tourer than the previous Z sporty car.
In the engine sector, Nissan buried the same engine with the 280Z. Inline 6 cylinder engine with 2.8L capacity which is equipped with a multiport fuel injection system. 280Z and 280ZX is the first Japanese car with this technology. Despite having the same engine, there is a significant power difference between 280Z and 280ZX. Due to the regulation of emissions and additional loads, 280ZX has a power of 135-145 hp, in contrast to 280Z which reaches 170 hp.
Nissan then presents a new variant of the 280ZX with an additional turbocharger system on the engine. The 280ZX turbo system is able to restore engine power that is “lost” and increase its engine power to 180 hp. Uniquely, the Japanese Ministry of Transportation considers this machine to be too powerful . At that time in Japan, the turbocharger system was only allowed to be installed on engines below the 2.0L capacity. Therefore the 280ZX turbo was never sold in its home country.
Anyway, this Z car is marketed in Japan under the name Nissan Fairlady Z. So, as the name suggests “lady”, this car is female.
Previously we have discussed this car in the Yamaha and Toyota Collaboration review . So it seems we will discuss just a little, so it doesn’t stand too long.
Seeing from the appearance, we certainly realize this car has similarities with the Nissan S30 and S130 discussed earlier. The design concept of the Toyota 2000GT is indeed the initial design of the S30. Initially the design of the car ( A550X ) was made by Yamaha to continue the Fairlady series. However, Nissan did not agree especially with the DOHC 2.0L engine concept offered by Yamaha. Extend the relationship between these two automotive manufacturers.
Shortly thereafter, Yamaha offered the concept car to Toyota which later accepted the offer.
This Toyota 2000GT is a historic car. Not just one of the important (and rare) cars in Toyota’s history. This classic Japanese car is also a car that is a prelude to the acceptance of Japanese cars in the eyes of the international world .
When the car business began to boom in Japan in the 1960s, Japanese-made cars remained unable to compete and were accepted by overseas consumers, particularly America and Europe. At that time, there were no specific Japanese cars for Westerners. In addition, the defeat of Japan in World War 2, sometimes makes Japanese-made cars a joke for western consumers .
Toyota also developed 2000GT with Yamaha to show Japanese cars with an attractive performance and design to the international world.
The concept is taken from the Jaguar E-Type which is formulated in Japanese style. The engine was taken from the Toyota Crown 2.0L SOHC which was changed to DOHC with 150 hp power. The reliability of this engine was then tested with endurance tests at the Yatabe Speed Trial in 1966. The result of this engine was able to survive driven 207 km / hour for 72 hours (3 days) without stopping !
The 2000GT body is hand made by Yamaha from a strong yet lightweight aluminum. This car is also equipped with four-wheel independent suspension , limited-slip differential and magnesium alloy wheels. All of this is the first time used in Japanese cars. 2000GT is also equipped with four disc brakes and do not forget the interior panels nuanced elegant woody .
Toyota and Yamaha businesses also bear sweet fruit. The international world was captivated by the presence of 2000GT and this car was crowned as ” Japan’s First Supercar “ .
Mitsubishi Galant GTO
Discussing the competition of Japanese classic car manufacturers in the 60-70s, certainly not complete with the presence of Mitsubishi. This manufacturer has long been known for its masculine car design, firm with a thick rally aura. In that era, Nissan and Toyota were not the only ones who tried to attract western consumers with their cars. Mitsubishi did not want to miss and mix a car with an American Muscle-style design.
The Mitsubishi Galant GTO was first introduced at the Tokto Motor Show in 1969. The classic Japanese car with designs such as the Mustang and Firebird consists of three variants, M1, M2 and MR.
GTO itself is an acronym from the Italian language, Gran Turismo Omologato . Omologato ( Homologation ) is a term in motorsport which means it is approved or meets the standard (approved) for racing purposes. So in short, GTO is a car with a grand touring spec that is used daily (street-legal) which is also capable of competing in racing.
Please note, Mitsubishi did not make this car. The maker is Colt (Colt-Speed), which does design performance cars for Mitsubishi. Probably the same as Brabus or AMG on Mercedes-Benz. There is no Mitsubishi logo on the Galant GTO, except the three diamond logo on the frame plate (VIN). This makes this classic Japanese car called Colt Galant GTO or Mitsubishi Colt Galant GTO.
The highest caste variant of Galant GTO is MR, which means ” Motorsport and Rally “. This MR is also a variant of JDM which means it is only marketed in Japan. The number is limited, only produced 835 units which makes it an endangered species. The engine is already using a different DOHC system with other variants that are still SOHC. With a capacity of 1.6L and a twin-carb system , the engine is capable of releasing 125 hp at 6800 rpm.
Interestingly, despite being named Motorsport and Rally, Galant GTO MR only participated in the official racing championship once. Mitsubishi has also introduced the Galant GTO R73-X race car at the 1972 Tokyo Auto Show. The engine is really a racing engine with a powerful power of 280 hp. If the GTO MR had a chance to take part in a championship, the R73-X never even took part in the championship.
How can be like that?
As we discussed earlier. the oil crisis that struck Japan in 1973 stopped the production of performance cars. Like the Kenmeri GT-R, the fate of the Galant GTO R73-X ended. Even worse, this car was never made official, aka just a concept car.
Although Mitsubishi is a large company whose business includes air conditioners, ships, elevators, to the military, Mistubishi Motors is smaller than other Japanese car manufacturers. Mitsubishi produces Galant GTO with a small amount of 96,000 units. At present the number is estimated to have shrunk to just 500 units .