• Rare Versions Of Japanese Cars You Didn’t Know Existed

These are some of the rarest special versions of popular Japanese sports cars

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The Japanese car community is among the biggest and most fanatic automotive communities out there. Although the term JDM is being widely misused (that’s a topic for another time), there are cars out there that even the most adamant fans do not know about. Sure, everybody is familiar with the Mk IV Supra, or the R34 Skyline, among others, but even they have versions that are quite exclusive and, quite often, sold only on their home turf: Japan. These are some of the rarest versions of popular Japanese vehicles we’re willing to bet that you did not know about.

Mazda Miata (NA & NB) Coupe

Starting with what’s probably the most loved compact sports car from Japan, the Mazda MX-5 has enjoyed great success since 1989. What you probably didn’t know, however, is that Mazda worked on a proper coupe version of the MX-5 as early as 1996. It all started with the Mazda Miata M-Coupe Concept and the M2 1008, both based on the NA, but with different styling. Neither was produced.

Eventually, the NB generation came and, with it, Mazda made 179 Coupe versions of the MX-5.

They were sold in Japan only, which makes the MX-5 Coupe a true JDM car. In terms of specs, the car was powered by the same engines. There were four trims – the base car, Type-S, Type-A, and Type-E, which had a strange body kit and the four-speed automatic. The base car is the only one, equipped with a 1.6-liter engine and a five-speed manual. The Type-S and Type-A used the 1.8-liter engine mated to a six-speed manual.

About 53 were the standard 1.6-liter cars, while 63 were the Type S models. Less than 10 Type E were produced, which leaves around 53 Type-A cars. According to sources, the reason the coupe never gained much traction is a fire in one of Mazda’s painting facilities in Mazda’s plant in Ujina.

The coupe is actually 22 pounds (10 kg) heavier than the roadster. Mazda essentially welded a roof on top of the roadster variant and called it a day. Versions equipped with the 1.8-liter and the six-speed manual could execute the 0 to 60 mph (97 km/h) sprint in around 7.9 seconds on to a top speed of 127 mph (205 km/h).

Engine 1.8-liter four-cylinder
Transmission six-speed manual
0 to 60 mph 7.9 seconds
Top Speed 127 mph (205 km/h)

Nissan NISMO 380 RS

In 2007, Nissan won the Japanese Super Taicyu Endurance Series with a Z33-based NISMO 380 RS. Then NISMO thought it would be a good idea to shove the racing engine into 300 road-going cars and sell them to the public. The NISMO 380 RS used a 3.8-liter version of the VQ35HR unit found in later versions of the 350-Z.

Most of the engine internals come straight from the race car and the bespoke aero package improves downforce. Upgraded Brembo brakes hide behind the new forged RAYS wheels. Additionally, the 380 RS features Yamaha chassis dampers. The interior features a new steering wheel, gear knob, and NISMO Alcantara seats.

Rare Versions Of Japanese Cars You Didn't Know Existed
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While in racing trim the engine produced 380 horsepower, the 300 streetcars were tuned down to 350 horsepower and 293 pound-feet (397 Nm)

. This resulted in a 4.6-second sprint to 60 mph (97 km/h) and a top speed of 175 mph (282 km/h).

Engine 3.8-liter VQ35HR
Power 350 HP
Torque 293 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 4.6 seconds
Top Speed 175 mph (282 km/h)

Nissan Skyline R33 GTR LM & LM Limited

These are two different variants with almost identical names. The R33 may be considered the fat ugly child, but the rarest Skyline GTR is, in fact, from the R33 generation. The first one (the not limited) is a one-off homologation car built in 1995 so the R33 could compete in the GT1 endurance series. It featured a unique wide body kit and RAYS forged wheels.

The interior is, pretty much, your standard R33 GTR, with the exception of the NISMO Alcantara steering wheel and Alcantara racing seats with a checkered texture in the middle. While the glorious RB26 DETT pumped out 400 horsepower for the racing version, the one-off road-legal R33 GTR LM was detuned to 300 horsepower. The R33 GTR LM is stored in Nissan’s Zama storage facility.

Ironically, the R33 GTR LM Limited wasn’t as “limited”, as the one-off “not limited” LM. Only 188 Limited editions were built in 1996. Of those, 86 were built on the standard GTR R33 car, while the other 102 were built on the V-Spec models. Carbon rear wing blade, N1 cooling ducts, commemorative decals, and a bonnet lip were the only editions. All cars were painted in Championship Blue. The engine was standard and produced around 320 horsepower.

Toyota Supra TRD 3000 GT

Just like the R33 GTR LM, the Supra TRD 3000 GT was a homologation car. A total of 35 cars were made so the Supra can enter the 1994 Japanese Grand Touring Championship (JGTC). Based on the fourth-generation Supra, each of the 35 cars had a unique VIN number and was classified as a TRD 3000 GT.

The car featured a unique body kit, resembling that of the Supra GT500 race car. The TRD 3000 GT included the usual “breather” mods for the 2JZ GTE engine, as well as upgraded suspension but the main focus was on replacing the heavy body panels with more aerodynamic ones, made from fiber-reinforced plastic. In addition, the body panels feature additional air vents.

Most recognizable are the geometric vents on the bonnet, which we also see on the orange Supra from the original Fast & Furious movie. The vents are also functional, as they relieved all the negative air pressure while improving the engine cooling. However, special panels attached to the underside of the hood, rendered them obsolete (unless you remove the panels), but offered protection from water and debris.

Eventually, the TRD 3000 GT package became available to individual clients, with normal versions of the Supra.

Nissan Skyline GTR (R34) Z-Tune & S-Tune

Rare Versions Of Japanese Cars You Didn't Know Existed
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Back in 2003, Nisan scoured the used car marked for the 20 best R34 GTRs. They bought them and modified them extensively. Full N1 engine conversion was performed on the RB26 DETT unit. In addition, its displacement was increased to 2.8-liters. The new engine was called the RB28 DETT. The turbochargers were now bigger IHI pieces, as opposed to the stock Garrets.

As a result the R34 GTR now produced 500 horsepower at 6,800 RPM and 398 pound-feet (540 Nm) at 5,200 RPM, allowing for a 0 to 62 mph (100 km/h) time of 3.8 seconds and a top speed of 203 mph (327 km/h)

. Only 19 of the 20 intended NISMO Z-Tune cars were made.

Engine 2.8-liter N1
Power 500 HP @ 6,800 RPM
Torque 398 LB-FT @ 5,200 RPM
0 to 62 mph 3.8 seconds
Top Speed 203 mph (327 km/h)

NISMO S-Tune was basically the same, but with less power – 450 to be exact. The car was a bit tamer and was essentially a more street-oriented version of the Z-Tune.
In 2019, the NISMO Omori factory introduced performance kits that essentially replicate the Z-Tune and S-Tune versions.

The 500 horsepower variant was called R2, and the 450 horsepower – S2. As with the previous NISMO versions, the R2 was more racetrack-oriented, while the S2 was tuned to be more compliant on the streets.

Nissan 370-Z Clubsport 23

2018 Nissan Project Clubsport 23 Exterior
- image 802830

At first glance, this might look like a normal 370-Z with some side skirts and a more aggressive front splitter, but there’s more to it. The car features many upgrades, such as a heat exchanger, AMS air intake, KW coil-over suspension, NISMO brake lines, two-piece slotted brake rotors, and an upgraded intercooler.

Wait! Intercooler? Here’s the kicker. The 370-Z Clubsport 23 is powered by the VR30DDTT engine from the Infiniti Q50 and Q60 Redsport. As we know, the twin-turbo V-6 makes 400 horsepower and 350 pound-feet (475 Nm). The car is expected to reach 60 mph (97 km/h) from a standstill in around 4.2 seconds. Moreover, the car was equipped with a six-speed manual, just as a proper driver’s car should be.

Engine twin-turbo V-6 VR30DDTT
Power 400 HP
Torque 350 LB-FT
0 to 60 mph 4.2 seconds
Transmission six-speed manual
Rare Versions Of Japanese Cars You Didn't Know Existed Exterior
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In addition, you get additional leather padding on bits of the interior, while the exterior is finished in bright orange, complemented by the RAYS forged wheels, finished in black. Sadly, the 370-Z Clubsport 23 is a one-off, although many of the bits can be ordered from the dealerships.

Read our full review on the Nissan 370-Z Clubsport 23

Honorable mention: Nissan Skyline GTR (R33) NISMO 400R

Before the R34 Z-Tune, there was this. 1997 was the last year of the R33 generation and Nissan wanted to celebrate it. What resulted was the NISMO 400R. Overall development was done by NISMO, but the engine was built by a company called REIMAX. Like the R34 Z-Tune after it, the RB26 DETT was enlarged to 2.8-liters. This particular version was called the RBX-GT2 and boasted 400 horsepower at 6,800 RPM, 347 pound-feet (470 Nm) at 4,400 RPM, and a 9,000 RPM redline.

The 3,417-pound (1,550 kg) Skyline blasted to 60 mph (97 km/h) in 4.0 seconds and to a top speed of 186 mph (300 km/h). Among the other upgrades were the improved chassis rigidity and the updated ATTESA ET-S Pro all-wheel-drive system. The plan was to produce 100 400Rs, but only 44 ended up being built.

Engine 2.8-liter RBX-GT2
Power 400 HP @ 6,800 RPM
Torque 347 LB-FT @ 4,400 RPM
Weight 3,417 lbs
0 to 60 mph 4.0 seconds
Top Speed 186 mph (300 km/h)
Dim Angelov
Dim Angelov
Born in 1992, I come from a family of motoring enthusiasts. My passion for cars was awoken at the age of six, when I saw a Lamborghini Diablo SV in a magazine. After high school I earned a master’s degree in marketing and a Master of Arts in Media and Communications. Over the years, I’ve practiced and become skilled in precision driving and to date have test driven more than 250 cars across the globe. Over the years, I’ve picked up basic mechanical knowledge and have even taken part in the restoration of a 1964 Jaguar E-Type and an Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint. Lately, I’ve taken a fancy to automotive photography, and while modern cars are my primary passion, I also have a love for Asian Martial Arts, swimming, war history, craft beer, historical weapons, and car restoration. In time, I plan my own classic car restoration and hope to earn my racing certificate, after which I expect to establish my own racing team.  Read full bio
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