Home / News / 10 Awesome Japanese Classic Cars That Turn Heads

10 Awesome Japanese Classic Cars That Turn Heads

May 26, 2023May 26, 2023

You don't have to drive a ridiculously expensive exotic car to catch everyone's attention; these classic JDM cars will do the trick.

Also known as the PGC10 and nicknamed the Hakosuka, the Nissan Skyline 2000 GT-R is the Skyline that started it all. Before one of the best JDM cars of all time, the R32Skyline GT-R, this was the must-have Nissan sports car. Although it looks nothing like the GT-Rs which came after it, the 2000 GT-R's silhouette has an unreplicable blend of Japanese blood and American muscle too. But we digress.

Powering the Hakosuka was a 2.0-liter inline-six pushing out 160 hp and 130 lb-ft of torque that was sufficient to push the PGC10 to 60 mph from a stop in around 8 seconds. However, the main reason why the first-generation Nissan GT-R is so revered among auto enthusiasts is because of the cars that came after it.

Related: The Nissan GT-R Is Reborn Digitally To Crush The Crossover Market

Often confused with the Ferrari F335, it's easy to see why the first-generation Honda NSX would garner the attention of everyone it drives past. In fact, not only was the Honda NSX an absolute stunner, but it was also revolutionary considering it was Japan's first-ever supercar. Mounted behind the driver of the NSX was a 3.0-liter V6 engine that sounded as good as the car looked.

The NSX was such a smashing success that Honda continued building it until the 2000s, and they revived the name through means of a hybrid supercar. There is only one slight drawback to the NSX however... they're nowhere near as affordable as they used to be. At least they're just as fun to drive as they are to look at we suppose.

Related: 13 Cheap JDM Cars That Are A Blast To Drive

Put on the same pedestal as other drop-dead gorgeous cars like the Jaguar E-Type, it's a no-brainer why the Toyota 2000GT earned itself a spot on our list today. No matter from which angle you look at the 2000GT, it remains a stellar piece of automotive art. It's a shame that only 351 total Toyota 2000GT models exist.

But don't think for one second that because the 2000GT is one of the most beautiful JDM cars ever made, it didn't pack a punch. After all, this was Toyota's way of saying to the world that they're serious about building sports cars too. Underneath the meticulously crafted hood of the 2000GT sat either a 2.0-liter or 2.3-liter inline-six with up to 148 hp, but because the 2000GT only weighed 2,469 lbs, it could go from 0-60 mph in a lick over 8 seconds.

Many often neglect the Mazda Cosmo 110S and completely forget that it was actually the first-ever rotary-powered sports car that Mazda made; not the RX-7 (but more on that later). But the true characteristic of the Cosmo that will cause everyone to stare at you while floating down the road isn't its engine's unique rumble, but rather its styling.

Apart from its unique powertrain, the Cosmo was a truly stellar-looking car. Built in the late '60s, the Cosmo existed amid the Space Race, hence its futuristic design. The combination of its fender mirrors, chrome-drenched exterior, clear headlights, and long tail all add to the Mazda Cosmo 110's sophisticated design. And best of all, very few people know of the Cosmo's existence in the first place...

With the new Nissan Z being a bargain manual sports car with 400 hp sales success, more and more people are starting to notice older Z cars roll around. Although all Z-cars grab attention when driving by (yes, that includes the 350Z), the classics just do it better – especially the Datsun 240Z; the original Z-car. Powered by a 151-hp 2.4-liter inline-six, the Datsun 240Z was ready for action since the day it left the factory.

However, it comes as no surprise that the 240Z would struggle to keep up with modern-day mundane traffic since it had a 0-60 mph time of 8.5 seconds. Alas, the Datsun 240Z is however one of the very few affordable JDM sports cars perfect for budget enthusiasts left on the market. The fact that it's strikingly beautiful is only a plus.

With a petite body, gullwing doors, an oversized rear wing, and a face like a toddler's, the Autozam AZ-1 is arguably one of the cutest cars ever made – even more adorable than the Na Mazda MX-5 Miata. Built to be one of the smallest road-legal cars possible, the Autozam AZ-1 microcar is a Japanese car built to cost the least amount of money in fuel and road taxes possible.

Mounted behind the driver (like a proper supercar) sits a whimsical 657 cc three-cylinder engine that puffs out 63 hp and 63 lb-ft of torque. This was enough to drag the Autozam AZ-1 to 60 mph in 10.5 seconds. But as you could guess, the Autozam AZ-1 was never intended to be a straight-line speed demon or a racecar in any which way or form. The AZ-1 was all about being a quirky little racecar-looking kei car, and we love it for that.

Coincidentally, next up we have another car that's name ends with AZ1, but this Nissan couldn't be more different than the aforementioned Autozam. Built by Nissan and styled by the Italian design house Zagato, the Autech Zagato Stelvio was equally beautiful as it was ugly, it's just a matter of opinion.

One objective thing, however, is the fact that everyone will stare at you when cruising down the road. After all, how many cars existed that have a fiberglass clamshell hood that houses two sets of integrated headlights? And as far as engines go, the Nissan Autech Zagato Stelvio AZ1 featured a 3.0-liter twin-turbocharged V6 engine derived from the one found in the Nissan 300ZX.

Back in the day, the Mazda FD RX-7 was one of the best cheap sports cars that can accelerate from 0-60 mph in under 6 seconds, but due to increased demand and the rise in popularity of the Fast and Furious film series, the FD RX-7 became significantly more valuable. That said, the RX-7's increase in price doesn't take away how beautifully styled this JDM icon is.

As you may know, the FD RX-7 features a twin-rotor twin-turbo 1.3 Wankel engine that works overtime to generate 252 hp and 216 lb-ft of torque. But the real reason this car gains so much attention (apart from its Hollywood success of course) relates back to the tuning potential of the RX-7. Many consider the FD RX-7 to be the greatest tuner car ever made... or perhaps second-greatest due to the next entry's existence.

Featuring one of the best inline-six engines with bulletproof reliability in history, the Mk4 Toyota Supra, also called the A80 Supra is the most recognizable classic Japanese car ever made. Why is the Mk4 Supra such an icon though? Other than the legendary 2JZ engine with near-limitless tuning potential, the Toyota Supra used to be an underdog in the performance world capable of wiping the floor with other sports cars much, much more expensive than it.

Furthermore, the MK4 Toyota Supra gained its stardom by getting the lead role in the first Fast and Furious movie, The Fast and The Furious, as Brian O' Conner's go-to 10-second car he owes Dominic Toretto. Also, Tik Tok and Instagram played significant roles in the rising reputation of the Supra too... we mean, who can ever forget the 'Is That A Supra?' meme.

Related: 10 Cheap Sports Cars That Are Perfect Tuners

Not many people recognize the Honda S800 Coupe as a Japanese sports car but rather imagine it being an obscure, compact classic British sports car. That reason alone is enough for us to want to drive around in one of these things. Sure, its 791 cc four-cylinder engine only generated 70 hp, but back in 1967, that alongside its 10,000 rpm redline was enough to secure it the title of being the world's fastest production car with a sub-1-liter displacement engine due to its 100 mph top speed.

So yes, to a tight-knit community, the S800 Coupe was a record-breaking performance car, but the rest of us all admire it for its dashing looks. The more we look at it, the more we see the Honda S800 taking the shape of what seems to be the offspring of an Aston Martin DB5 and Jaguar E-Type, don't you agree?

Sources: Car and Driver, Classic Driver, Fastest Laps, Road & Track,

Marnus Moolman is a young aspiring automotive writer from South Africa who is making a name for himself, despite his young age. Currently, he is studying to obtain a Bachelor's Degree in Accounting to pursue his lifetime dream of running his own automotive detailing establishment.