Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, the Japanese automotive industry was at an all-time high. The booming economy led to the development of numerous iconic, quirky and groundbreaking cars, such as the mid-engined Toyota Emina MPV and Autozam AZ-1 and Subaru Alcyone SVX. Car enthusiasts were also treated to a wide selection of high-performance cars. The almighty GT-R badge was revived in 1989 and fought alongside the Supra (launched in 1992) on the race track, while Mitsubishi and Subaru were roughing it out against each other in the rally stages.
But many claim that today, due to fierce competition from Europe, North America and shockingly South Korea, as well as a sluggish economy, Japanese cars are no longer competitive. They say that sports cars from the land of the rising sun is dead. I beg to differ. Here are some Tomica representations of modern-day sports and supercars from Japan that can give its foreign rivals a run for their money, and then some.
Lexus has recently brought their A-game to the battlefield with these two. First to break away from the company’s dull image is the LFA. Screaming V10 engine with the symphonic sound of an F1 car? Check. Weaved carbon fibre body panels? Check. Bespoke interior with a movable digital tachometer display? Double check. This is Lexus (and Toyota) at its finest, and it shows.
The RC F is a follow-up of the LFA, albeit in a much more restrained form. It is designed to compete with the BMW M4 and Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG. That does not stop it from being insane. The RC F uses the same naturally-aspirated 416 horsepower V8 engine as its sibling, the IS F, a similar fantastic digital instrument cluster as the LFA, and is also rear-wheel-drive. All of this results in a high-class version of a hoonmobile.
In the old days, Honda was highly revered for producing true enthusiasts’ cars. The CRX, Integra Type-R and S2000 were just some of the many fun-to-drive cars they made. But today, Honda is infamous for making toasters. And by that, I mean extremely uninspiring Civics. But that is not the case for Japan.
See, Honda actually did not completely ignore their most popular model in its entire line-up. To appeal to the track-day crowd, they made the Civic Type-R (FD2), launched in 2007. It may still be front-wheel-drive with four seats, but it is much quicker than the 2-door Integra Type R(DC5), with a record of 4 seconds difference at the Suzuka Circuit. Unfortunately, due to emission regulations, it was discontinued 2010. Still, a pretty darn good effort by Honda.
The NSX-R shown above is technically a 90s beast in a fancier dress. Updated mechanical components and HID headlights are some of the changes made to differentiate it from the original NSX Type R. It is essentially Ayrton Senna-approved, with tasteful upgrades. What is there to not love? We cannot wait for the new generation to arrive.
And now we come to the Mitsubishi. I really wished for its Lancer Evolution the speed well past the 10th generation, now that technology has improved leaps and bounds in the 21st century. This was Mitsubishi’s trump card; the only model in the lineup that made an impact in the car industry since its debut in the 90s. But alas, that was not to be, and the Evo X will officially end production this year.
The GT-R, on the other hand, is just destroying records with each iteration. We all watched in awe when it was unveiled in 2007, dominating its rivals with Nürburgring Nordschleife lap times. It was consistently faster than the 911 Turbo, Audi R8 and the likes in numerous tests by international reviewers such as AUTOCAR, Road & Track and Sport Auto. At the Top Gear test track in 2012, it recorded a lap time of 1 min, 17.8 seconds, putting it above even top-tier supercars, such as the Bugatti Veyron and Pagani Zonda F. Unlike the Evo, the GT-R is here to stay for good. It is no wonder then, that it is often said to be Japan’s national treasure.