The Japanese make excellent technology products, showcasing a level of quality rarely seen in today’s mass-produced world. This meticulousness extends to their auto industry, with Japanese companies creating some of the best cars ever made.
JDM cars, while brilliantly made, are usually over-engineered to a point where the car’s full potential cannot be unleashed without the help of a few modifications. Take the Toyota Supra MK4 for example. A new owner could get around 600 hp out of a stock engine with relatively easy mods, making stock Supra MK4 extremely rare. While it is fun to modify and customize a car and fitting it with a striking body kit, bigger turbos and generally going mad with changing parts, some Japanese cars simply do not need to be modified. This is because they are already pretty good, or they have become so legendary to the point where the cars are worth a lot of money in factory condition.
So, while it is fun to fit your Japanese car with big spoilers, silly wheels, and Bosozoku exhausts, some cars just need to be left alone. Here are 5 Japanese cars we’d never dare modify, and 5 which would make excellent projects.
10 Wouldn’t Dare Modify – Toyota 2000GT
The Toyota 2000GT is one of the coolest cars ever made. It was Toyota’s first try at building a sports car, and it was the genesis point for all the legendary coupes which has graced the Japanese marque’s dealerships. The 2000GT was not fast, but it had character and an impressive 2.0-liter inline-6 lifted from the Crown sedan. The 2000GT produced 148 hp and 129 lb-ft of torque, with power going to the rear wheels via a 5-speed manual transmission, and a 135 mph top speed.
The greatest thing about the 2000GT was the story of it starring in a James Bond movie. Everyone got the go-ahead, but when Sean Connery arrived in Japan for filming, he was too tall for the car. Toyota then chopped the roof off two cars and called it the 2000GT Roadster – of which only two exist. We would never dare modify a single thing on a 2000GT.
9 Wouldn’t Dare Modify – Lexus LFA
The Lexus LFA has been heralded as the best sounding car on the planet, with some claiming it to be the best car ever made. While the second statement may inquire some debate, the first one is definitely true. The whole experience of the LFA was meticulously designed and tested to make the glorious sound that it does.
The LFA is not the fastest, not the most agile, and not the prettiest supercar ever made, but it is one of the most perfect ones. Yes, it lacks cupholders, the infotainment system has much to be desired, and the seatbelt situation is idiotically complicated, but the rest of the car is bespoke – designed especially for the LFA. It is a supercar that does not need anything extra to make it perfect because when you drive it, all the little niggles become afterthoughts next to the screaming V10.
8 Wouldn’t Dare Modify – Toyota Century
The Toyota Century is a car that many people are likely to never have heard of. It is the Japanese company’s most luxurious model, even fancier than any Lexus, and it goes up against most of the other über-luxury sedans from Germany, Britain, and America. It is a car that is the complete 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-liter hybrid V8, which produces 425 hp, 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 within Japan.
7 Wouldn’t Dare 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 S800’s party trick was that it could rev up to 10,000 rpm – in 1967! The S800 was Honda’s first car that could do 100 mph, all while returning an impressive 35 MPG.
When the car went on sale in Britain in 1967, Honda had re-engineered the car with normal drivetrain parts, rather than using motorcycle chains and suspension. The S800 was a hit and best of all, it was cheaper than the Mini Cooper and the Triumph Spitfire. The S800 is a classic car that needs no modification as it is already pretty great.
6 Wouldn’t Dare Modify – Mazda Cosmo
The Mazda Cosmo – also called the 110S – was one of the first Japanese cars to be powered by a rotary engine. It was fitted with a 982cc (60 cui) two-rotor engine producing 110 hp. It was decided on the rotary engine as it produced more power than the equivalent inline engine but negated the heftier Japanese road tax on engines larger than 1.0-liter.
The original Cosmo was updated in 1968 to the Series II, which featured a longer wheelbase for improved interior space, retuned suspension, and 20 hp more. The front was also improved for better cooling. The Cosmo Series II was also fitted with a 5-speed manual as opposed to the 4-speed in the Series I. The Cosmo is a unique classic car as it looks like a spaceship and sounds like a racecar. Definitely not a car that needs any 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 anything from luxury transportation to farm workhorses. The older generation Hilux makes for a great project car as it has a multitude of aftermarket performance parts to choose from.
Many owners have even swapped the engines from Hiluxes, replacing them with Lexus V8s. Doing so improved the overall performance of the truck, but also requires some strengthening of the drivetrain – easily done 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 the best-known sports cars from Nissan within the JDM world. The 300ZX Z32 available in the US was fitted with a 3.0-liter V6, either naturally aspirated or twin-turbocharged – the former produced 222 hp and the latter made 300 hp.
Like many other JDM cars such as the Toyota Supra Mk4, Mitsubishi 3000GT, and Subaru Impreza WRX STI, there are a whole host of upgrades available for the 300ZX. Popular improvements include a sportier body kit, a retuned ECU, larger turbochargers, and a better clutch. The 300ZX is a great sports car and marks one of the coolest eras for the JDM market.
3 Would Make A Great Project – Lexus LS400
The Lexus LS400 was the first model to be launched from Toyota’s new luxury division. It was fitted with a 4.0-liter V8 engine – one of the most reliable V8s in existence and undercut the competition in the luxury sedan segment, while still offering most of the same features and options.
The LS400 is a great car to buy as a project, or for daily driving. The LS400 started and cemented Lexus’ incredible customer service and reputation for reliability, which means that when the car is cared for, it will not let its owner down. It is also part of the old-school luxury segment, definitely holding up better than the equivalent German cars.
2 Would Make A Great Project – Honda Accord Coupe
The Honda Accord Coupe may not sound like the most exciting of cars to customize, but surprisingly, there is a market for them. The Accord Coupe is a slightly more luxurious version of the normal Accord sedan, but mostly since it is in a different body configuration.
The Accord Coupe, like most other Japanese cars, has lots of aftermarket replacement parts available, from new steering wheels with carbon inlay, to body and forced induction kits. The Accord Coupe makes for a pretty good project car.
1 Would Make A Great Project – Toyota Celica
The Toyota Celica can be seen as the smaller and cheaper version of the Supra. The two most popular generations of the Celica were the sixth and seventh. The sixth-gen was famous for its racing history – even though Toyota cheated. The seventh-gen was completely redesigned and was only available with front-wheel-drive and a 1.8-liter engine.
The Celica has some great aftermarket upgrades available, from monstrous rear wings to forced induction kits such as turbo- and superchargers. Many owners also go 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 possibilities for customization are endless.
Cheap And Easy Project Cars That Won’t Sit Unfinished For Years