There are few things that get most car enthusiasts quite as excited as JDM cars. Japanese cars first arrived in North America in response to the oil crisis, and due to the fact that they were smaller, nearly more practical, and more fuel-efficient, many consumers flocked to them quickly, abandoning their traditional American sedans and wagons. the operation. Then automakers began to bring in their sports cars, but their popularity began to wane at the end of the nineties. But that wasn’t always a thing, because also in the late 90’s there was Gran Turismo, which rekindled the love for Japanese cars in a lot of people and even gave them some new cars. Even if there were a few classic JDM cars we wouldn’t touch.
Then, in the early 2000s, The Fast and The Furious made things crystal clear for Japanese automakers: People wanted these tokens back. Unfortunately, while some popular Japanese cars made their way to North America, like the Evo and Subaru WRX STI, most of them remained only for Japan, and for years, enthusiasts wanted them. There are now some great JDM cars that are over 25 years old, or 25 years old in 2022, which allows you to import them.
6 Honda Accord wagon (CF6)
The CF6 generation Honda Accord was available in North America from 1997 to 2002, and was essentially the same model that Honda sold in Australia and Southeast Asia. However, the Accord version that Honda offered in North America only came as a sedan or coupe. Japan was the only market that got the wagon version, and Europe didn’t even get it. But in Japan, she was a staple in the lineup.
This is still a Honda Accord, so it’s not particularly great. But, it’s still great to have a piece of the forbidden fruit like this one in North America. The wagon version was, of course, more practical than its sedan counterpart, and we might argue that it looks cooler, too. What’s more, Honda offered an Accord wagon in SiR trim, which means a 2.3-liter F-four with 200 horsepower. You can even get it with AWD, although these models are fairly rare.
5 Nissan Skyline GTR (R33)
In fact, the R33 Skyline GT-R became legal for import into the US in 2020, with the first models appearing in 1995. We’re still two years away from the R34 becoming legal, and it’s also significantly more expensive, so the R33 will have to do . The R33 improved over the R32 variant even more, although a lot of things stayed the same. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.
The R33 GT-R used the same RB26DETT 2.6-liter twin-turbo V6, which was rated at 276 horsepower. Obviously, thanks to the gentlemen’s agreement, this production was understated, and the GT-R actually developed more power from the factory. It features standard AWD, plus a five-speed manual transmission, with no automatic option at all. The R33 is a great example of the GT-R breed, but given the R34’s outrageous popularity and hype, it doesn’t get all that much love, although it deserves it.
4 Toyota Estima
Now for something significantly more left-over. Most Americans are probably familiar with the Toyota Previa, which was introducing the Toyota minivan in North America during the better part of the 1990s. Japan also got its own version of previa, except that it was not called previa at all, but estima. It was also significantly different.
In addition to the marginally different styling, Toyota has also offered smaller versions of the Estima in Japan, where the Japanese auto tax system itself is dependent on size. Similar to the Previa, you get the Estima with a supercharged four-cylinder engine, all-wheel drive and a five-speed manual transmission. You can also select a diesel engine. Perhaps the most notable difference compared to the Previa was that the Estima was available for eight seats, while the Previa could only seat seven. It’s a pickup truck, sure, but it’s a cool and unique minibus with some interesting mod capabilities.
2 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IV
North America didn’t officially get a Mitsubishi Evo until 2003 with the Evo VIII we love. However, the Evo board has been around in Japan long before that, originally launched in the early 1990s. The mid-to-late 1990s saw the birth of the Evo IV, which used the sixth generation Lancer as a springboard. While the Lancer was just a modest budget-focused little car, the Evo was something completely different.
As we all know, Mitsubishi built the Evo to embody the Lancer for rally championships. The Evo IV, aided by the newer Lancer underpinnings, brought some major improvements, including turning the powertrain 180 degrees to reduce torque vectoring. You also get the Evo IV as a very basic RS model, with crank windows and an extra chassis. Some of them even had steel wheels. Power came from the iconic 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 engine, dubbed the 4G63, which also developed “276 hp.”
1 Toyota Land Cruiser Prado (J78)
All of the off-road drivers are all the rage right now, so why not try the JDM Off-Road Code? Japan had a Toyota Hilux Surf, which was basically just a four-wheeler, but they also had this brutal, boxy off-road vehicle, the J78 Land Cruiser Prado. Nowadays, the Land Cruiser Prado is still as much in North America as the Lexus GX, but prior to the 2000s, that was what the Prado was. The Prado was slightly smaller than the full-size Land Cruiser, and although this car looked a lot like the 70 and 80 Series Land Cruiser models, Toyota offered it throughout the 1990s, and it was much more modern.
It had a surprising amount of modern negatives, including the air conditioning and, being a Land Cruiser, it was pretty much unstoppable. Not just off-road, but everywhere. Interestingly, despite being a tough and brutal off-road engine, the Land Cruiser Prado’s 2.4-liter turbodiesel that Toyota offered in Japan only made about 95 horsepower. It even came with a primitive adjustable suspension system.
There are plenty of other JDM cars from the ’90s that are now legal to import. However, most of them are either too expensive, or you see them often. Things like this will definitely catch your eye, and these unsung heroes of JDM cars from the 90s definitely deserve your attention.