The Japanese had an unwritten code that any automobile had to be designed with performance baked in. A wide variety of enthusiast vehicles are entering the Japanese market ranging from Kei cars to SUVs. Some of the most iconic vehicles were born in this era, including the Nissan Skyline GT-R, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, Subaru Impreza WRX STI, and the Nissan Stagea 260RS. Today we will be discussing the most iconic JDM Sports Cars of 90s.
What a great collection of Japanese automobiles there were in the 1990s. JDM stands for Japanese Domestic Market, which encompasses a range of products built solely for the Japanese market, although many of them later found fame and fortune worldwide.
There are some cars from that period on this list that were sold domestically in the United States albeit with lesser motors or specs. However most of the most amazing Japanese sports cars were never exported outside of the country, but we weren’t denied. Although the Celica GT-Four or Civic Type-R never arrived in the United States, several crazy Japanese sports cars were still available to drive during this era. Some legendary Japanese sports cars have vanished along with the dinosaurs, but we remember these legendary Japanese machines like those beasts of old.
History of JDM
Japanese Domestic Market refers to Japan’s home or domestic market for vehicles. It also refers to vehicles and parts designed to conform to Japanese regulations and to suit Japanese buyers. The term is abbreviated to JDM.
To clarify, JDM cars were mainly for the Japanese market; they weren’t exported, although private imports were allowed when they reached a certain age. The true definition of JDM means that the models are manufactured exclusively in Japan and usually differ only slightly from the versions that have gone on to be exported.
The JDM cult has its roots because these cars were frequently fitted with early technology that the manufacturers weren’t yet willing to release to the broader world. The reason for this was either that it was still in its infancy and not entirely perfected or that it was devised to keep its home market customers entertained and loyal; whatever the reason, the cars had toys in abundance.
Also, JDM cars are popular because they cover half the miles of their European and American cousins, so when available on the used market, you can find yourself with a tremendous low-mileage example, and cars are swapped fast and often in Japan.
Most Iconic JDM Sports Cars Of the 90s
Even though they’re getting close to thirty years old, there’s still quite a few of these cars on the market. All differentiates show that their prices continue to rise – premium prices for pristine examples of early JDM cars are starting to be paid – partly due to their rarity and partly due to their cult status among gearheads.
You don’t want to let your budget be blown before you know it, or your neighbor’s get their hands on it. How can I find my loan application form?
Nissan Skyline GT-R
The 90s saw the creation of many unique and groundbreaking models but none more so than the revival of the GT-R. The R32 GT-R known as Godzilla saw possibly the greatest leap of all 90s models when compared to the R31 Skyline. The GT-R nameplate was discontinued in 1973 and took up until 1989 to see its revival. The R32 took the world by storm breaking the previous lap record for a road-legal car at the Nurburgring and taking its title as the fastest road-legal car in the world. It dominated the competition of the Australian and Japanese Touring Car Championships. It also paved the way for the R33 and most famously the R34 GT-R.
Nissan 180SX is a Rear-Wheel Drive Japanese sports car that was powered by the CA18DET from 1989-1991 and most famously the 2.0L SR20DET from 1991-1998. Even though it features a relatively low curb weight 2600lb-2800lb the 180SX is a completely different animal compared to the Miata. A 4 cylinder turbocharged engine produces 205hp and considering this is an early 90s car this is quite impressive. These are some of the all-time preferred drifting platforms ever produced. Known as the S Chassis the 180SX belongs on the Mount Rushmore of well-known drift chassis. The 180SX had excellent handling and natural steering and was favored by budget-conscious enthusiasts. Two decades later, the 180SX remains popular among drifters for its small, lightweight body shell with rear-wheel drive.
The Toyota Chaser JZX90
One of the best driving sedans to ever come out of Japan, the Chaser is an understated sleeper car that often falls under the radar. This car is famous in the drifting community due to its modification potential and the superior handling it offers. This has been a best-kept secret for many years until YouTubers started to display interest in the JZX90 model and as a result interest and demand for these have exploded. A rear-wheel-drive sedan powered by the timeless 1JZ engine the potential for power production from this legendary Toyota engine is impressive even by today’s standards.
Toyota MR-2 SW20
Toyota’s small mid-engine sports car gained sportiness and sexiness in 1990 with the introduction of the second generation SW20. The MR2 received a substantial boost in power from the introduction of the 2.0L 3S-GTE. A well-balanced car under 2,600 pounds with a powerful engine of 242 horsepower (Revision 3 Model). The SW20 was a huge advance in terms of performance and iconic body styling when compared to the previous generation. The more rounded body lines saw a departure from the previous boxy shape and for some seeking a car that had the appeal of an NSX or Ferrari but lacked the finances to do so, the SW20 was a fantastic option. A famously build mid engine rear wheel drive platform that has to be driven to truly understand just how fun it is to own and drive one of these second gen MR2s.
The Mitsubishi GTO was an incredible technological feat. There are several optional features on the 2+2 sports coupe, including an all-wheel drive, four-wheel steering, and active aerodynamics system, an electronically controlled suspension, and a two-mode exhaust system.
Though the GTO would undergo three iterations throughout the 1990s, the basic shape and basic form will never change. At the start, the most potent 3000GT had a 3.0-liter turbocharged V6 making 296 HP and 306 lb-ft of torque. With the increasing power of the Japanese competition, the 320 HP engine had gained up to 320 lb-ft of torque by the middle of the decade.
Its biggest problem throughout its run has been weight. The Mitsubishi sports car tipped the scale at almost 3,800 pounds when fully loaded. Those numbers may not seem very substantial today, but back in the 90s, they were rather hefty.
The Mazda Eunos Roadster
The Eunos Roadster took the British roadster concept of fun, engaging, open-air motoring and added Japanese livability and reliability, and it was an instant hit. The 1990 Eunos Roadster was powered by a 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 116 HP and weighed under 2,100 pounds.
By the end of the decade, numerous unique accessories were added to the Miata, and the power steadily increased. By 1999, a special 10th-anniversary edition was available with a 140 HP 1.8-liter turbocharged engine, a six-speed manual transmission, a limited-slip differential, and Bilstein shocks.
For one thing, the RX7 used a rotary engine that was both tiny physically and physically – 1.3 liters – but still produced some serious horsepower thanks to the two turbos – between 247 – 276 horsepower, depending on the exact spec.
Mazda could switch the engine place behind the axle line for near perfect 50:50 weight distribution with the car’s small size. That combination resulted in some outrageous styling, which made the RX unique even today; an excellent example is still worth finding.
A lightweight design made it possible for the RX7 to push through 0-60 mph in six seconds and quickly reach a top speed of 155 mph. The engine is tiny, but it performs like a giant.
Subaru Impreza WRX STi
The WRX STi (Subaru Tecnica International) was mainly made for the Japanese market and not available abroad, although other versions eventually appeared on US shores.
Some of these car brands were made famous by drivers like Colin McRae and Richard Burns, who were exceptionally talented and made them fly. The standard road-going trim saw them knocking 247 – 276 horsepower, which was plenty for most types of fun, but the WRX STI came with upgraded and tuned engines, better transmissions, and uprated suspensions.
WRX is short for World Rally eXperimental, so you get just a hint about its history. The flat-four motor had a distinct sound, aided by the big turbo, especially when the dump valve whooshed & whistled. In case you’re on the hunt for one, make sure it comes in triple-five colors.
Honda DC2 Integra Type R
Many people consider the Integra Type R to be one of the most excellent front-wheel-drive cars ever built. Forget your prejudice towards front-wheel-drive cars, and this car can handle.
This was a vast improvement over the sportier Integras in the range that makes it around 200bhp. It was different for each market and searing its way to a VTEC-enhanced redline of 8500rpm+. The Honda engineers went through great lengths to ensure this car was a proper performance machine; in addition to the engine overhaul and chassis strengthening, it also reduced weight were practical, and fitted a limited-slip differential.
Toyota went to perfect lengths to make the 4th generation Supra light hollow carpet fibers (really), a magnesium-aluminum steering wheel, plastic gas tank, turbodipped rear wing, and plastic gas tank were just a few of the delights to discover.
Despite the addition of dual airbags, traction control, bigger brakes, tires, and wheels, the 4th generation Supra weighed just over 200 lbs less than its predecessor. However, it was not relatively as svelte as the RX7 or NSX.
A 3.0-liter engine with sequential twin turbos gave it a top speed of 156 mph and a 0-60 sprint time of 5.1 seconds. Pretty impressive for the traffic light Grand Prix racers. They look great, handle like they are on rails, and pack a punch….. What JDM driver wouldn’t want one?
These are ten of our personal favorite Japanese Domestic Market vehicles from the nineties. No doubt there is one or two missing off this list such as the Honda NSX and the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution that are worth an honorable mention.
In the nineties, Japanese automakers were always one step ahead of the competition. Introducing the most unique and innovative designs with groundbreaking technology.
Although it’s fun to take a trip down memory lane we must remember that these cars are now considered by many to be collector’s items. With ultra-high demand and limited supply, the price of these JDM legends has skyrocketed. As such it is essential that you work with a reputable importer that can deliver you the car of your dreams.
Here at JDM Sport Classics, we take the mystery out of the import process. Each vehicle we sell is landed and titled. We provide all of the import, export and customs paperwork including translated copies of the export certificate. As one of our customers, you have the opportunity to come to inspect and test drive any vehicle in our inventory. We have a dedicated team of technicians and sales staff on hand to answer any of your questions. In addition, we also permit third-party inspections prior to purchase. With arguably the greatest level of diversity in inventory nationwide we are certain that we have the perfect classic JDM vehicle for you in stock or en route.
We offer nationwide shipping and have multiple finance options available.
We can be contacted directly on (269) 348 5520