In the 1980’s some of the best rear wheel drive sports cars on the market were from Japan. The 1980’s was a very good decade for the Land of the Rising Sun. One generation after being defeated in World War II, Japan had a booming economy that the rest of the world was envious of. Keep in mind this is only forty years after two atomic bombs were dropped on their country. There are parts of the Southeast United States still feeling the results of the Civil War. I am reminded of a scene from one of my favorite movies, Back to the Future III. In this particular scene, Doc Brown from 1955 comments that the reason the time machine is broken is because it has parts from Japan. Marty tells the stunned doctor “All the best stuff comes from Japan.” Take a look at some of these cars and you might agree with Marty.
My Fair Lady: The Nissan 300ZX was quite a bit different than its 240Z predecessor. The car had become somewhat heavier and luxurious. The ‘80’s were of course all about abundance. The car buying public was not interested in a stripped down purpose built sports car at the time. The 300 also brought the first V6 to the Z which is something that has continued to modern Z’s. One feature not found on modern Z’s is a turbo.
It’s Super: In 1986 Toyota divorced the Celica from the Supra forever. The models would be sold for nearly two more decades on their own. While Nissan got rid of the inline six for the 300ZX and following models, Toyota kept it in the Supra throughout its lifespan. The turbo version of this engine produced almost as much power as the V8 in the Corvette. The Supra makes good sense with its power and seating for four people.
The Rotary: The Mazda RX-7 is one of the more unique cars to ever make it into production. It may be the only true sports car in this group with its light weight construction. Part of that lightness is due to its rotary engine. Yes, it is true all three of these cars mentioned so far were replaced by more powerful, more iconic cars in the 1990’s. However, those cars were more expensive, and compared to offerings from America and Europe, they weren’t the best stuff anymore.
AE86: At least the previous three cars kept their soul after the 1980’s. The Toyota Corolla of modern day shares nothing with its predecessor apart from its name. While several car fans see only a drift car when they see Corollas of the 1980’s, in actuality it is a bit under powered especially compared to the Supra big brother. Drivers of the classic rear wheel drive Corolla know its nimbleness is its best quality. Toyota at least gave its newest sports car, the GT86, a name honoring the AE86 version of the Corolla.
Two Face: Sadly not all rear wheel Japanese cars lived to see the 1990’s like the cars mentioned above. The Mitsubishi Starion has all the tick marks that should have made it a classic sports coupe. It had a turbo, cool color options, a wide body; it even had a starring role in a popular movie. Jackie Chan drove one in a somewhat racist role in the movie Cannonball 2. Mitsubishi did continue the making sports coupes into the new millennium with the Eclipse and the 3000GT. Both were front wheel drive based cars and in the case of the 3000GT, far too heavy to be a sports car in the way the Starion was. Some of readers may recognize the Starion by its other name the, the Conquest which it was sold by Chrysler. Do not be fooled by this two faced American badge-engineering. The Conquest is still a very Japanese sports coupe.