Showing posts with label Japanese Sports Cars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Japanese Sports Cars. Show all posts

Honda NSX

Honda NSX 1990s Japanese supercar

For a car maker seeking feedback in the late Eighties, Ayrton Senna was probably first on your wish list! In '89 - with the NSX in the pipeline - that was the enviable position in which Honda found itself. As luck would have it, Senna was in Japan, at the time. Honda wondered whether he would like to take the NSX prototype for a spin? What could the world's finest F1 driver do, but accept! On returning the NSX to its technicians, Senna declared it impressive - but delicate. That could be remedied. In short order, Honda had made the car half as strong again.

A new NSX bagged you £5 change from £60K - which you, of course, used to tip Ayrton Senna! As supercars go, sixty grand was cheap. Assuming you considered the NSX a supercar, of course. Not everyone did - among them, some with pronounced European tastes. But - if you could stand a few withering looks from more 'discerning' drivers - the NSX gave you plenty of sports car bang for your bucks. Or indeed, yen. For a start, a top speed of 168mph was not to be sniffed at. It came courtesy of Honda's VTEC V6. Said engine was fixed to the first all-aluminium chassis and suspension set-up installed in a production car. The result was fast acceleration - plus, firm but finely-tuned handling. Especially when Honda's Servotronic steering system was added to the mix.

The design of the NSX was inspired by the F16 fighter plane. Good aerodynamics, then, were a gimme! With so much going for it, it is no surprise Honda held a special place in its heart for the NSX. Only their best engineers were allowed anywhere near it. Okay - so Honda did not have quite the cachet of supercars' past masters. That said, the NSX still had plenty to offer less picky connoisseurs ... particularly ones who liked a bargain!

Mazda Cosmo

Mazda Cosmo 1960s Japanese classic sports car

The Mazda Cosmo was the first rotary-engined production car. Dr Felix Wankel's motor was sewing-machine smooth. It was flexible, too. Compromising a tad on top-end power, Mazda put the peripheral inlet ports in the engine casing. That gave more low-down torque. It also provided seamless idling and improved low-speed fuel economy. Not that the upper end of the rev range was ignored! The Cosmo's 116mph top speed testified to that. The twin-rotary motor produced 110bhp. Capacity was 2,000cc. The Cosmo came with an efficient power-to-weight ratio. Its gearbox was 4-speed manual - connected to a DeDion rear axle. Revs maxed out at 7,000rpm. The B model Cosmo, released in '68, delivered 125mph - from 128bhp.

Sports car that it was, the Cosmo handled well. Its DeDion rear suspension set-up was complemented by front wishbones. Steering was agile. The ride was firm. Brakes were out of the top drawer - discs fore, drums aft. The B grew a longer wheelbase. It also came with a closer-ratio 5-speed transmission. Just 1,176 Cosmos were built - between '66 and '72. That implied that - for Mazda - the Cosmo was more of a work-in-progress, than a short-term grab at the big yen. That would come later - in the more lucrative form of saloon cars.

Styling-wise, the Cosmo sought to emulate European sports cars. Its front headlights, for instance, were straight out of the E-Type Jag school of design. To be fair, the rear light set-up was more radical. The bumper split its upper and lower sections. In motor manufacture terms, Mazda continued to take the rotary route. The high-grossing RX7 rewarded their faith. The Mazda Cosmo, then, was the rotary-powered template for one of the top Japanese sports cars!

Datsun 240Z

Datsun 240Z 1960s Japanese classic sports car

The Datsun 240Z was released in '69. It would go on to become the best-selling sports car of the Seventies. It was proof positive that Japan was now in the top echelon, when it came to car - as well as bike - design. That was thanks, in no small part, to Yoshihico Matsuo - head of Nissan's Sports Car Styling Studio.

The 240Z was not just about looks, though. Its mean and lean straight six motor saw to that. It transported the Z to a top speed of more than 125mph. 151bhp was available. Capacity was 2,393cc. There was a 5-speed manual gearbox. As well as all-independent suspension ... struts up front, strut-and-wishbone at the rear. Rack-and-pinion steering was positive and precise. Last, but not least, was the Z's ear-splitting exhaust note!

Though its interior trim was not plush, as such, the Z came comfortably enough equipped. Its build quality let the side down a tad, however. Let us just say - rust took too many 240Zs before their time! 156,076 cars were built - up until '78. A lowish price tag - relative to its European rivals - helped the car's cause in the showrooms. All in all, the Datsun 240Z was a pukka 2-seater, to rank with the best of them. Japan was permanently plotted on the world's sports car map!

Nissan GT-R

Nissan GT-R 2000s Japanese sports car

Launched in '07, the Nissan GT-R followed on from the Skyline GT-R. The new model was effectively two cars in one. Insomuch as it was equipped with a speed switch - to toggle between performance and cruise modes. Full-on, its 3.8-litre twin-turbocharged V6 put out 479bhp.

Key to the GT-R's success was its exotic drive-train. It comprised a paddle-shift transmission, twin-clutch transaxle and 4-wheel drive. With all that in place, the GT-R's power delivery was straightforward to manage. A 6-speed gearbox helped, too. 0-60 took just 3.5s. The GT-R maxed out at 194mph.

Despite such high-performance credentials, the GT-R sported a well-appointed cabin. The deep front seats were a deliberately close fit - to assist quick, but controlled driving. Soft leather upholstery kept things comfortable. If you liked cutting edge sounds - as well as cars - there was a high-tech music centre in situ. It came complete with downloading capabilities, of course. There was even an LCD screen - courtesy of Sony Playstation. As filed under ultimate all-rounder, then, the Nissan GT-R was pretty hard to fault!

Toyota 2000GT

Toyota 2000GT 1960s Japanese classic sports car

The Toyota 2000GT was designed by Graf Goertz - an industrial design firm, based in New York. The GT's styling was clearly influenced by the Jaguar E-Type. The lines of its bodywork were off-the-dial subtle. That was a mixed blessing. While immensely pleasing on the eye, manufacturing costs soared. Just 337 GTs would be built. As a result, the car is now highly sought-after. To be fair, the GT was intended to be a loss leader. That said, Toyota did not intend the losses to be as large as they became. For all that, when the 2000GT prototype appeared - at the '65 Tokyo Show - Toyota's brand-image sky-rocketed!

The 2000GT's speed matched its staggering good looks. A twin-cam straight-six engine developed 150bhp. Top whack was 135mph. The motor's hemi-head set-up featured straight-through ports - and large valves. Suffice to say, it took deep breaths! On the inlet side were two double-throated Mikuni/Solex carbs. The engine was connected to a five-speed gearbox. Mercifully, high-grade disc brakes were fitted all round. The backbone chassis came with a full set of wishbones. Options for the final drive ratio were duly provided.

Crucially, the 2000GT failed to crack the States. A mere 63 American drivers saw fit to buy one. That was due, in large part, to its relatively high price tag. It far exceeded that of both the Porsche 911 and, indeed, E-Type Jag. In a desperate bid to placate the American market, Toyota went on to produce no less than nine more versions of the GT. To a car, they were more conservatively turned out than the original. As a bonus, they came complete with air conditioning and optional auto transmission. To no avail - as US sales continued to stagnate. Nonetheless, the Toyota 2000GT - along with the Datsun 240Z - were the strongest of signals to the sports car world that the Japanese were coming!