10 Modern Japanese Cars That Make Great Projects

See any list JDM Cars with maximum tuning capabilities, and always in first place, the Mazda MX-5 Miata. In truth, the Miata is one of the most reliable sports cars you can get on the cheap, and make tons of customizations to make it as fun as possible. The Miata has always been a lightweight car with a good power-to-weight ratio, resulting in pleasant driving dynamics. The car is so easy to modify that anyone with a wrench can turn it into the car of their dreams.

However, some people have unique tastes and want something exciting that isn’t always the Miyata. Let’s face it, being predictable to find a Miata on every car list is boring. Thanks to Japanese car manufacturers, there are so many options for affordable, reliable and easy-to-tuned cars that you can safely build your dream car without breaking the bank or being too expert. Let’s take a look at 10 of those.

10 Subaru WRX

If you’re fond of something unique, Subbie’s iconic clank is entertaining and confidence-inspiring. If you want power, Subbie is well capable of taking some heavy tuning and making serious power.

There are cult-like followers behind the WRX platform, which means it will be easy for new tuners to get the most out of their Subaru. While these cars hold their value well, they are relatively affordable and easy to modify.

RELATED: Here’s Why Gearheads Should Consider Buying a Used Subaru Impreza WRX STI Hatchback

9 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo

The Evo Lancer is a legendary racing car that has challenged and dominated multiple times in its class. While its arch-rival, the Subaru WRX, is a great wear in the sports sedan class, you do get a much sharper ride than the Evo. Even the latest Evos has improved steering and suspension compared to previous generations.

The powertrain is responsive and ready to be tuned to turn an already fast car into a sleeper car. Competition between the Evo and WRX is rife, from manufacturers to owners of the two brands. It is this competition that has made these cars even better over the years. Once inside the Evo, you will find a loyal brand community and aftermarket ready to support you throughout your building journey.

8 Honda S2000

The Honda S2000 is another JDM icon that fanatics love dearly for its high-speed engine with a redline at 8900 rpm. Although it has a nice, curvy body to look at, the appearance of the hood will reveal the center of the show, the VTEC engine.

What the S2000 excels at is its ability to produce significant horsepower per liter, all while naturally aspirated. The introduction of compression adjustments such as a turbocharger or a turbocharger is enough to produce serious power in the order of 500 horsepower. Given that the S2000 already has world-class handling and transmission, you could easily bring this super-cheap performance car to wrecking supercars.

7 The second generation of Subaru Forester

Fanatics of this car anywhere will tell you it’s one of the best sleepers on this list. The XT version came with a turbocharger and a wide range of tuning options. The familiar model is switched over to the STI engine, though others will go for a wild build. Whatever your style, Subaru’s all-wheel drive system will suffice.

XT Foresters had turbochargers earlier in the 2000s, but they didn’t see a more powerful engine setup until the 2006 model year. If you’re keen to get started with one of these, you’ll be glad to know that they’re relatively inexpensive and maintain Well worth it.

Related: Why the 2022 Subaru Forester Wilderness remains your best off-road companion

6 Nissan Patrol

While the Forester can be modified to be a wild beast, serious off-roaders will tell you that the Nissan Patrol is one of the best off-road SUVs apart from the Toyota Land Cruiser. Some popular modifications include heavy-duty off-road suspension, interior and exterior lighting, roof racks, winch, tires, turbochargers, and superchargers for more power and torque.

These cars are known for being very reliable while on the go. You can find Patrol 2000s at a reasonable price and immediately get a great build foundation.

RELATED: These Off-Road Buggies Will Make You Rethink Your SUV Purchase

5 Toyota 86 / Subaru BRZ

These two modern sports cars are the same, except for the tuning and trim differences. They are mechanically solid vehicles with great handling, great aftermarket support and parts availability. While the car has a great sporty design, it can be underpowered. The naturally aspirated engine produces around 200 horsepower but can feel sluggish at lower speeds.

It is likely that future restyles of the Toyota86 / Subaru BRZ will have a turbo option, which could solve the acceleration problem. But until then, serious gear heads who value this car are already known for adding their own turbochargers. The stock platform can be pushed past 300 horsepower without reliability issues.

4 Nissan 350Z

The Z line of Nissans has found favor among many gearheads for good reason. This stunningly designed coupe is not only affordable, but capable of making insane power. Although the newer 370Z is more powerful, fanatics remain loyal to the 350Z. Furthermore, minor chassis changes and small electrical bumps put the two aside.

When the 350Zs debuted, their 3.5-liter V6 engines had good 287 to 300 horsepower, making them an instant hit. By the last years of production, engine upgrades were able to exceed 306 horsepower. These motors can be tuned to 360 hp very cheaply and affordably, which makes this car a decent beast.

3 Acura RSX

The Honda DC5 Integra is a legendary board in Japan that is one of the best front-wheel drive engines ever, and the Acura RSX is its American version. The 2003 and 2004 models were known for their delicate handling and smooth transmission. With a little shopping, you can find the Magical Type S, which features larger ventilated brakes, larger sway bars, and sportier suspension.

Although it produces 160 hp from the factory, one can squeeze up to 400 hp from the K20A3 engine very reliably. Because these cars are relatively inexpensive, the RSX gives you a solid option for under $10,000.

RELATED: 8 Things We Love About the 2023 Acura Integra

2 Toyota GR Yaris

GR Yaris perfectly embodies the phrase “there is an alternative to displacement”. Thanks to modern technology in turbocharging, Yaris proves that you don’t need bulky V8 and V12 engines to generate proper power. While automakers like Mercedes have already demonstrated that an engine block as small as a four-cylinder is capable of making more than 400 horsepower, Toyota’s three-cylinder Yaris pushes this narrative to the extreme.

Yaris is not an ordinary hatchback. Instead, you’re looking at the proper hot hatch resulting from Toyota’s racing experience. When its new 1.6-liter engine is capable of 270 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, the tuners on this platform easily made more than 450 horsepower.

1 Mazda RX-8

The standard-looking Mazda RX-8 has beautiful curves to round necks wherever you go. However, the market offers plenty of body parts, such as a wide body kit that would instantly turn the RX-8 into a beast.

While the car’s engine may have a history of unreliability and inefficiency, it still has amazing looks and great control. These problems have since found solutions, and the wonderful little 1.3-liter rotary engine is capable of 231 horsepower. Even stock, it can always outperform many sedans or sports cars. Now, enthusiasts can build any performance monster using the RX-8 as a foundation.

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