9 Cheap JDM Classics You Can Modify Into Complete Beasts

9 Cheap JDM Classics You Can Modify Into Complete Beasts

There’s a good reason why ’80s and ’90s JDM cars are still so popular and iconic among gearheads, despite being cheaper and slower than almost any of their western sports car counterparts. Japanese cars were mostly reliable, well-built, affordably priced, extremely fun, and superbly advanced and tunable. This era was just right for the Japanese car companies to establish a foothold across the globe.

In other words, classic JDM sports cars were objectively a great deal. They also featured quirky features new to the automotive industry, and most of all, they were affordable. Their tunability was their most prominent feature as their respective drivetrains and powertrains were built like tanks. This goes especially for JDM sports cars of the ’80s and ’90s that were produced under the Gentleman’s Agreement and could easily handle much more power than their powertrains produced—sometimes double or triple their original horsepower!

They were also relatively easy to work on when compared to their American and European counterparts. These cars are hugely underrated sleeper cars and can morph into utter beasts. Best of all, you can modify each one of them to your liking and make it the car of your dreams. Related: These Japanese Tuner Cars Are Still Ridiculously Cheap

9 1995-1998 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX ($8,500)

The Mitsubishi Eclipse was the halo car for Mitsubishi, apart from the Lancer EVO. It was decently powerful and well-balanced, making it the perfect platform for mods. It gained a huge fanbase when it was featured in the Fast and the Furious franchise. The Eclipse GSX is an unassuming car looks-wise, and only a true enthusiast would know what lurks beneath the hood. It has a transversely mounted turbocharged 2.0L 16-value DOHC 4G63T monster with AWD and LSD. It gives around 210 horsepower.

9 Cheap JDM Classics You Can Modify Into Complete Beasts

The iron block, aluminum head engine allows one to modify the heck out of it. With just an ECU tuning, cold air intake, and performance fuel injectors, one can get double and even triple the original horsepower with a few more mods. At about $8,500 you can get a gem of a car.

8 1989 Toyota Cressida GLX ($15,100)

The word ”Cressida” is of Greek origin, and it means ‘Gold.’ The Toyota Cressida GLX is the most restrained car on this list and is the definition of a classic sleeper. It houses a 3.0L inline-six with a 4-speed auto making around 190 horsepower. The engine is the same as that found in the Supra, though tickled a bit to eke out more power.

Its sturdy engine allows for insane levels of tuning. One can bolt a turbocharger a 5-speed manual and a couple of other mods to it resulting in a horsepower bump similar to that of a Supra, or even more in a ”Cressida” all for a relatively negligible $15,100. That’s a fraction of a price of a Mk-4 Supra. Its pure blandness became its popularity feature among enthusiasts and has become a cult classic. It is truly the ”golden” standard of underrated cars.

Related: Here’s What’s Special About The Mark 4 Toyota Supra

7 Mazda Miata MX-5 ($9,210)

Ah! The MX-5 Miata—the apparent, headlight-popping mini car. The Miata roadster is the JDM tuner and cult-classic car. It was so good that multiple car companies made replicas and cars inspired by it. It has several records and awards under its belt, including the “2005-2006 Japan Car of the Year Japan,” and “Guinness world record for most roadsters sold.”

Mazda MX 5 Miata

Stock, it produces between 115 and 181 horsepower (depending on the model year) from its 1.8L 4-banger, which always felt like decent power considering how lightweight the car is. Owing to its large fanbase, huge after-market support, ease of work, and sheer simplicity, it has easily been the most customized car of all time. The icing on the cake: good examples can be commonly found for under $10,000.

6 1996 Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IV ($28,000)

After all the trophies it has taken in the WRC, the Mitsubishi Lancer EVO scarcely needs any introduction. It’s the best car presented by Mitsubishi, be it any generation. Rivaling the Subaru WRX STI, the Lancer EVO was a genuine rally car for the roads with two huge fog lights, a rear wing, lightweight racing wheels, and complicated tech wizardry on board.

Modified Mitsubishi Lancer EVO IV

Under the hood, the 2.0L Turbo 4G63T Inline-4 produced 276 horsepower at 6500rpm for the Lancer Evolution IV. Though preferably left stock, some have tuned these cars to insane horsepower figures ranging from 500 to 700 horsepower. Needless to say, it has both cool and tunability factor leading it to appreciate over the years. However, a decent example can still be had for $28,000 if you hurry. Related: Here’s How The Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution Evolved

5 1989-2000 Nissan 300ZX ($15,883)

The Nissan 300ZX is a forgotten and controversial car. Some say it’s the least reliable of the Z-cars while others argue that it’s one of the finest Z-cars. It is true that it possesses reliability complications due to the overly-complex 3.0L VG30 V6 with DOHC, variable valve timing, and dual turbos. It also featured sophisticated electronics and technology prone to go wrong. Producing around 222 horsepower at 6400rpm, without the turbos, it was no slow car.

It was also one of the most expensive cars during its production years. Thankfully it has lost its value and now can be found for around $15,000. With a design that’s reminiscent of Lamborghini and a highly popular engine meant for modding to the max with 500-600 horsepower, the 300ZX is an enthusiast’s dream.

4 1991-1998 Honda Civic Type R ($20,369)

The ’90s era Civic Type R is the crème da la crème of hatchbacks. Utter simplicity, sturdy B16B engine, and mad tuning factor stand out the most in the Civic Type R. The 3-door hatchback pumped out a mighty 182 horsepower from a 1.62L NA inline-4 with a redline at a bonkers 8,400 rpm. For the type R model, weight reduction, chassis rigidity, and interior conversions were made.

1998 Honda Civic Type R

Modifying the Type-R is a fun and rewarding journey, and since its $20,369 price tag is a bargain, highly modified versions are frequently seen everywhere and stand out from the crowd.

3 1995 Nissan 240SX ($13,500)

The Nissan 240SX, or the Silvia as it is more commonly known, is a cult classic, to say the least. It has a sleek design, handles some insane horsepower numbers, and boasts colossal aftermarket support and racing pedigree.

Rocket Bunny Nissan 240SX Silvia (S14) Rear on the side of the road

It is the ideal beginner’s project car since it is easy to work on and handles boost like a champ. The 2.4L DOHC KA24DE engine produces 155 horsepower. Surely it can’t race supercars in stock form, but modified versions might just be able to. Priced at $13,500 for a decent used model, the Nissan 240SX is a killer deal, and you can undoubtedly bet on it.

2 1997 Toyota MR2 ($12,839)

Another underrated classic, the MR2 also goes by the name ‘Mister 2,’ and it’s also often called the ‘poor man’s Ferrari.’ This is a mid-engine, RWD two-seater sports car. It is Toyota’s only mid-engined car thus assigning huge importance to the car. A small and fun coupe, the MR2 gained quite a lot more fan following than most people anticipated. For a measly $12,000, you can get Toyota’s legendary reliability and build quality, a timeless design, ease of modification, and a bit of motorsports mixed in.

Toyota MR 2 2nd Gen

It is a finely tuned driving machine with a NA 2.2L engine and 5-speed manual churning out 130 hp and a solid turbocharged version producing 200 horsepower and 200 lb-ft of torque. It is a classic and irresistible Toyota attracting car enthusiasts and tuners alike with ample mods from a plethora of aftermarket companies.

1 1993-2003 Acura Integra GS ($6,401)

One of the most appreciated ’90s JDM legends and the only FWD car on this list, the Acura or the Honda Integra GS (GS for Grand Sport) is a respectable and endlessly tunable car. The GS came with a rear spoiler. With its reputable handling and driving dynamics and looks to match, no wonder it’s skyrocketing in value by the day. A price of $6,401 is an absolute bargain for such a car. Most, however, are modified on the used car market. Related: Watch This Stunning 1500-Horsepower Acura Integra Humiliate A Nissan GT-R

Red 1994 Acura Integra GS-R

Its 1.8L B18 VTEC DOHC Inline-4 produces 140 horsepower and revs up to 8,500 rpm. Although it’s FWD, it was capable of overtaking the GTR and the WRX STI of the time. It was the quintessential, cheap, and easily modifiable performance car.

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