Cars

16 Japanese Cars That Need to Make a Comeback

Published On 02/23/2016 Published On 02/23/2016

Some of the coolest sports cars ever to grace the great American road have been, well, Japanese. Yet so many have suffered the ignominy of cancellation or been dismissed as bland and inferior. Blessed few have managed a revival: the Toyota AE86 lives today as the GT86, aka the Scion FR-S, and the NSX's return was many years in the making. These are 16 of the very best that, for various reasons, died and haven't (yet!) achieved resurrection. If the car gods are smiling, perhaps a couple of these will see the light of day in the coming years.

Flickr/Vetatur Fumare

Datsun 510

This car is all but forgotten among the masses. Amongst the car-loving community though, it sits upon a pedestal of respect, as a tiny, lightweight sedan that could kick some serious butt on a racetrack. Nissan knows that this is a car that needs to come back -- it even teased a concept car that was a very clear homage. Hopefully the car gods will answer the prayers here.

Flickr/ilikewaffles

Mitsubishi 3000GT/Dodge Stealth

The Mitsubishi GTO, aka the 3000GT and Dodge Stealth stateside, is in many respects the epitome of the 1990s Japanese high-performance scene. Ask yourself this, though: if a brand-new car debuts tomorrow with styling that's eminently sleek, all-wheel drive, plenty of tech, and more horsepower than a Mustang or Camaro, would you want it? Thought so.

Flickr/Moto "Club4AG" Miwa

Toyota 2000GT

You have to wonder why Toyota never made a successor to the 2000GT. In many respects, it's the patriarch of Japanese sports cars, born from an interest in Formula 1. Aside from being a Bond car in its own right, it went toe-to-toe with the Jaguar XKEs and Porsche 911s of its day. Is there room for Toyota to bring this kind of sexy back? Hell yes.

Flickr/Steve Arnott

Toyota MR2

The MR2 was the Mid-Rear engined 2-seater that represented Japan's entry against the Pontiac Fiero. Something similar is very sorely lacking from today's market, at least at prices south of Porsche and Alfa Romeo territory.

Flickr/Moto "Club4AG" Miwa

Toyota Celica

The question shouldn't be whether the Celica should return, but which Celica. During its 35-year run, the Celica ran the gamut from a nimble two-door sports coupe to a winning rally car during the height of the legendary Group B. Along the way, it gave birth to both the Supra and the Camry.

Flickr/Christopher Keach

Subaru SVX

The Subaru SVX was a great example of a beautiful idea unrealized. Designed by a legend, complete with those crazy windows, its look was well ahead of its day. By all accounts, though, its transmission -- it was automatic only -- wasn't up to snuff. Given a proper revisit, Subaru would have a winner on its hands.

Flickr/Greg Myers

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution

Of every car on this list, this is undoubtedly the saddest, if only because its loss is so fresh. At the time of writing, the last of the famed Evos hasn't even been delivered to its owner yet. The Evo name, though, is officially toast. Given its traditional place in the Japanese hierarchy, and its longstanding rivalry with Subaru's WRX STI, it's inconceivable that the Evo's passing is permanent.

Flickr/Greg Myers

Mitsubishi Eclipse/Eagle Talon

The earliest Eclipses were small, agile, quirky cars brimming with performance potential. As the years went on and the car migrated away from those core qualities, the enthusiast love waned, as did sales. It's time for it to come back now, with the painful past serving as a guiding light for the next generation.

Flickr/ilikewaffles

Isuzu Impulse

Let's see here: the Impulse featured a body designed by the same guy that designed some of the world's most legendary supercars, on a rear-wheel-drive chassis featuring suspension developed by Lotus. That's a reasonably timeless formula that Isuzu could theoretically replicate relatively easily... if it ever decides to return to the US market.

Flickr/Dave_7

Acura Integra

The Integra, especially the early 1990s variant, remains a standard bearer for great handling front-wheel-drive cars. The tiny two-door was crazy light, and its absence weighs heavy on the market. Maybe someday we'll get something comparable again. After all, the NSX eventually returned, so anything's possible.

Flickr/Tim Moreillon

Honda Prelude

The Prelude was a victim of Honda's own success, in a way, stuck somewhere between the Civic and the Acura Integra. Forget that for a moment and look at it for what it is: a two-door car with just enough sportiness to be entertaining, just enough luxury to get you through your 30s, and enough frugality and reliability to satisfy your inquiring accountant.

Flickr/Greg Myers

Mazda RX-7/8

So much of Mazda's history is wrapped up in rotary engines (for the unaware, that's the "R" in RX), it's hard to fathom the company getting by without one. But as with the Nissan/Datsun 510 above, Mazda's not stupid. It's dropping plenty of hints that it'll bring it back. Whether that means the return of the RX-7 or RX-8 remains to be seen, but we'll wait with fingers crossed, just in case.

Flickr/Rick Flores

Honda S2000

Honda's history of making great roadsters dates to the 1960s, and while the marque's open-air heritage isn't completely dead -- the new S660 is by all accounts a great little car, but it's not coming to the US anytime soon -- your options right now for a great handling convertible at a reasonable price will take you far from Honda's dealer network.

Flickr/Greg Myers

Nissan Silvia/SX

The Nissan Silvia fanbase is still going strong -- if the name doesn't ring a bell, you knew it in America as the 240 SX -- and it was Nissan's practical alternative to the Z and the ever-more-expensive GT-R. As a viable rear-wheel-drive car that was perfect for daily driver status, its void was filled to an extent by the Hyundai Genesis. The Genesis might be a great car, but it's not the Silvia.

Flickr/RAVDesigns

Mitsubishi Starion/Dodge Conquest

The Starion's run in the 1980s was an odd mix of racing success and sales failure. Depending on its configuration, the turbocharged four cylinder under the hood could produce nearly 200hp, perfectly on par for the American pony cars with which it shared more than a few design traits. 

Flickr/Ole Bendik Kvisberg

Toyota Supra

To some, it's absolutely inconceivable that the Supra is in its second decade of hibernation, having enjoyed a reign at or near the top of the performance heap for much of the '80s and '90s. Rumors have been rampant for years that it's set to make a return, possibly on a platform shared with an upcoming BMW. The irony would be rich, since in the mid-1990s, the Supra Turbo could rightly be considered a faster, more luxurious, and more expensive version of the M3.

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Aaron Miller is the Cars editor for Thrillist, and can be found on Twitter. He wants to own most of these cars and is considering setting up a GoFundMe to make it happen.

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