Nine screamers from the land of the rising sun that stoke our fires of desire
1. LEXUS LFA
Easily the most special modern Japanese car, the LFA took a decade to develop, but it was time well spent. The searing 4.8-litre V10 is the highlight, but its steering and handling are equally sublime. Just 500 built and a guaranteed future classic.
2. LANCER EVO VI TME
Throughout the 1990s, Subaru and Mitsubishi waged war in the WRC and in the showroom. Mitsubishi’s best wore the name of the man who made it famous, WRC champ Tommi Makinen. A bit brutal, but it’s the definitive road-going rally car.
3. INTEGRA TYPE R
Front drivers don’t come better. It isn’t very fast (0-100km/h: 7.3sec) but a screaming 8000rpm 1.8-litre engine and super-short gearing make it a frantic experience. In the bends it’s equally great thanks to its light weight and a playful, talkative chassis.
4. NISSAN S15 200SX
Unlike others on this list, the S15 isn’t rare, exotic or even that fast, but for pure fun it might be the best of all. Like the Toyota 86, it has a sweet rear-drive chassis but with turbocharged torque to make the most of it. Good ones now hard to find.
5. HONDA NSX-R
Add an extra letter, lose a heap of weight. Honda’s first NSX-R (1992) shed 120kg with stiffer suspension and shorter gearing. The second-gen (2002) followed a similar theme, lapping the ’Ring in just 7min56sec, despite having just 220kW (officially).
6. NISSAN KPGC10 GT-R
Known as Hakosuka among the Nissan faithful, the original GT-R was a dominant racer and made one of the best noises in motorsport. The road cars produced 120kW/177Nm, but it’s here for its provenance rather than its performance.
7. SUBARU WRX STI 22B
The 1997 WRC regs meant you didn’t have to make road versions any more. Subaru did anyway. The 22B was 80mm wider than a boggo STi and the engine grew to 2.2 litres, but still only made 206kW (yeah, right). Officially, five came to Australia.
8. TOYOTA 2000GT
Probably the most beautiful Japanese car ever, Toyota’s 2000GT was also quite potent. Like Nissan’s Hakosuka, it used a 2.0-litre six producing 112kW and had handling to rival Porsche’s 911. The best examples now command $1million.
9. NISMO R34 Z-TUNE
The ultimate pre-R35 GT-R, built to commemorate 20 years of NISMO. Twenty R34s were bought and rebuilt into 368kW/540Nm monsters capable of 0-100km/h in 3.8sec thanks to the 2.8-litre engine. Now worth huge sums of money.