Home 10 Weird And Wonderful JDM Cars We Wish Were Sold Here

10 Weird And Wonderful JDM Cars We Wish Were Sold Here

Japanese carmakers have churned out some strange creations over the years… as well as some truly awesome ones!

Forget the Fast And Furious with its customary orgy of fantastic cars, these are some of the weird and wonderful JDM cars that never make it to US shores.

Japan as a nation is well respected for its manufacturing prowess, turning out some of the best and weirdest gadgets to date. The same level of weird wonderment also seeps down into the Japanese car industry, for every wonderful reliable Japanese sports car there exist dozens of JDM specials destined never to see tarmac outside its home nation.

10 Weird And Wonderful – Autozam AZ-1

Only in Japan will gearheads find the diminutive Kei car, made popular for its cheap running costs and small size. Despite the often quirky appearances, these Japanese-only microcars are big business, accounting for sales of 1.7 million vehicles in 2020 alone with Daihatsu, Suzuki, and Honda leading the way.

However, this is Japan where obscurity generates a cult following. None more so than Autozam’s discontinued AZ-1, a quirky two-seater sports car with supercar aspirations, boasting a mid-engine layout out and unmistakable butterfly door arrangement. Sure its tiny 657 CC turbocharged engine isn’t going to cut it on the highway but around town, it’s the perfect city car, even ideal for the urban jungles.

 9 Wonderful – Honda S660

Times have changed, with quirkiness dispatched to the annuls of history Kei cars have matured with their customers, as a result, these pocket JDM cars appeal to a wider audience.

If only Honda would consider marketing their excellent S660 two-seater roadster in the US. Yes,it’s a tad small compared to the glut of SUVs clogging up American city streets, size, however, is the S660s best selling point. It’s able to dart through the smallest of gaps, and park in less than half the space of a minivan. Then we come to the looks, we challenge you not to see a scaled-down NSX in the S660.

8 Weird – Nissan S-Cargo

Even Nissan must have seen the problem with their S-Cargo, too big for Kei Car status and way too retro to appeal to Japanese buyers, the weird light-commercial disappeared from the Japanese carmaker’s lineup in 1991 after poor sales of 8000 cars.


Without a double weird, but in the right market as say a light catering delivery vehicle or courier van the S-Cargo could be a huge success. Western buyers, in particular, are suckers for anything retro, even if the car itself is a modern design. Underneath that cutesy exterior is a capable urban van with a useful payload of 660 lbs courtesy of Nissan’s E15 1.5-liter four-banger.

 7 Wonderful – Nissan GT-R34 Vspec

Moving onto more serious machinery, Nissan’s Skyline GT-R is the most important Japanese car ever made. Its game-changing levels of performance, power, and handling are legendary even if you’re not a gearhead, thanks to a certain movie franchise.

Launched in 1999 the fifth model to bear the Skyline GT-R branding, Nissan brilliantly combined all-wheel-drive grip with a potent turbocharged 2.6-liter straight six producing around 276 hp, the results speak for themselves, with a sub-five-second sprint to sixty. Ownership at least for American gearheads isn’t easy, the GT-R34 deemed illegal on safety grounds meant Nissan never imported the Skyline to US shores.

 6 Weird – Dome Zero P2

Ambitious plans to build the first Japanese supercar never materialized, Dome produced two versions of the Zero, the later P2 destined for export markets. On appearances alone, a crowd stopper with futuristic wedge-shaped styling mirroring that of European brands, even going so far as replicating Lamborghini’s scissor doors.


It’s only once you delve deeper into this weird ’70s supercar project that it becomes apparent Dome didn’t have full control of the Zero’s design. Under the razor-sharp bodywork, Nissan’s L28E straight-six 2.8-liter punched out 143 hp, in a power-to-weight battle on par with Porsche’s 911. However, despite the huge efforts Dome couldn’t or possibly wouldn’t meet homologation regulations, spelling the end for Japan’s first supercar.

5 Wonderful – Mitsubishi Evo X FQ440

The fastest all-wheel-drive rally car of all time, Mitsubishi’s EVO through ten generations paved the way for gearheads to go faster over any terrain, only in the US stringent safety measures make owning one all but impossible.


At this point, you’re probably thinking ahh but the EVO VII was road-legal from 2003, which is correct, but does mean anything before this is a no-go, including the Tommi Makinen specials, and more recently, the FQ440 built exclusively for the UK.

 4 Weird And Wonderful – Mitsubishi FTO

Another sweet-riding Mitsubishi fell foul of federal import restrictions, leaving US gearheads with the option of a gray import, at the time under show and display restrictions. Nowadays, with the more owner-friendly 25-year rule coming into play, importing, owning, and driving the FTO is much easier.

Originally launched as a domestic-only model in 1994, the FTO quickly found fame in other markets, encouraging Mitsubishi dealers to list the model overseas. Given its FTO or Fresh Touring Omologation monicker, you might expect a front-rear drive layout, however, Mitsubishi weirdly went for the cheaper to build front-wheel-drive design. Despite the weird layout choice, the FTO is still fun to drive, the best of the lot is the later GPX models with 197 hp V6 power units.

 3 Wonderful – Mazda Cosmo Series 1

Credited as the first Mazda production car to feature the Japanese carmakers first twin-rotary engine, the Cosmo 110S very much a halo car dressed in a stunningly beautiful two-body. At the time when semi-automated production lines were common, Mazda built the Cosmo by hand, limiting production and sales numbers.

Designed from the outset to use rotary power, the Cosmo Series 1’s featured twin-rotor Wankel engines with a displacement of 982 CC rated at 110 hp with Mazda claiming a top speed of 110 mph. Initially a batch of pre-production test Cosmo’s appeared for dealer appraisal, which in the US amounted to 6 cars, the last time the Cosmo was officially imported.

2 Weird – Nissan Pulsar GTI-R

The Pulsar GTI-R is another weird example of Nissan keeping their hottest models for home customers and denying US gearheads some serious cool rally-inspired fun. Admittedly, at first glance, this boxy-looking compact might not have much in the way of attention-grabbing features, but that hood scoop surely hides something worthy of interest.

Under FIA Group A regulations, engines were restricted to 2 liters. Nissan, like other carmakers, circumvented the limit with turbochargers to produce 227 hp. Beneath the skin, the Pulsar GTI-R shared little in common with lesser models, SR20DET engines, and all-wheel drive propelling this JDM hatch to 144 mph.

 1 Wonderful – Nissan Silvia S15

A new generation of Silvia sports coupes, the S15 launched in 1999 quickly became a popular choice with gearheads in Japan, packing a 2-liter turbocharged four-cylinder motor good for 247 hp. Once again, the SR20DETT is the unit of choice in an aggressively styled front-rear-drive layout, perfect for drifting.

Officially never offered for sale in the US, the S15 doesn’t meet the NHTA safety requirements, meaning even if you could import one there is no getting around the current road use ban. Unofficially, purely by word of mouth, the S15’s amazing drifting abilities is the reason it was banned in the first place.




Shuhein Chui, Nov 21, 2017

Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam.

Shuhein Chui, Nov 21, 2017

Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam.

Shuhein Chui, Nov 21, 2017

Sed ut perspiciatis unde omnis iste natus error sit voluptatem accusantium doloremque laudantium, totam rem aperiam.