The early 1990s were an exciting time in Japanese automotive history.
Car lovers in Japan had a lot to be thrilled about 25 years ago in the early to mid 1990s. Even residents not terribly interested in automobiles were energized by the Japanese automotive scene. I was there as an enthusiast and will never forget it.
Japanese carmakers were competing like crazy to produce cooler, faster, more beautiful and efficient cars that were the envy of the world. Every year, they were leaving American carmakers further behind and catching up with the best from Europe. Even Ferrari, Porsche and Mercedes-Benz were worried. It seemed like there was no end to what Japanese ingenuity could achieve and Japanese automotive dominance looked poised to keep growing.
As an American, I was embarrassed to see Detroit losing its edge. But I couldn’t help but applaud the hungry Japanese carmakers that were improving every aspect of performance, quality and style through unrivaled passion and innovation.
For the best deals on used JDM cars from the early to mid 1990s — which are now or soon will be 25 years old — contact Japan Car Direct.
Honda was on top of the world in the early 1990s thanks to years of Formula One racing success with Ayrton Senna at the helm and an extremely popular automobile lineup that included the Accord and Civic, among the world’s best selling cars; the stunning NSX, universally celebrated for matching Ferraris in performance while surpassing them in reliability and affordability; and the nimble Integra, which earned the respect of serious enthusiasts for its handling and performance. In fact, many people still consider the Integra Type R the greatest front wheel drive car ever built!
I was writing sales promotional materials for Honda at the time, drove several of its pre-release models on test tracks and attended periodic orientations from its top engineers. The company impressed me in so many ways that I continue to be a Honda enthusiast to this day. My Japanese girlfriend at the time was also a huge fan of Honda and Ayrton Senna (she caught pneumonia while waiting in the rain to catch a glimpse of him following an event) and the tickets I gave her to see him compete at Suzuka Circuit helped convince her to marry me. It was a sad day indeed when Senna died in 1994.
Of all the cars I drove at Honda’s test circuits over the years (and I drove competing cars as well as Hondas), the one that impressed me the most was the Integra Type R. Its linear response, controlled braking, taut ride and precision handling were really amazing and I was confident that even if I pushed it too far (which I did), I could always bring it back under control. This made it extremely fun to drive.
The highly rigid Integra Type R body is stripped of excess weight and equipped with a specially tuned suspension, large brake rotors and a 5-speed close-ratio manual transmission. Its DOHC VTEC engine is only 1.8 liters in displacement, but produces 197 hp at 8,000 rpm on the JDM model — an amazing 108 hp per liter! Both the horsepower and compression ratio are higher on the JDM model than the US model.
The legendary 1995 Integra Type-R, a vehicle I can heartily recommend from personal experience, will become available for Americans to import in 2020. My guess is that enthusiasts will snap them up quickly and prices will rise. So grab one while you can. The experts at Japan Car Direct would love to lend you a hand.
Americans lacking the patience to wait until 2020 for the Integra Type R can satisfy their Integra appetite by importing a 1994 Integra GS-R in 2019. This model may lack the legendary status of the Type R, but it offers a big slice of the same kind of outstanding quality and sporty performance.
As a Honda enthusiast in Tokyo, I considered the Toyota Supra Turbo RZ arch enemy number one after it was released in the Japanese market in 1993. It was really fast. Rubber burning fast.
I remember watching a video of a Supra racing an Integra on a curved track and being amused by how differently they handled. The Integra stayed in perfect control, a model of grace under pressure, while the Supra slid this way and that like an overly energetic puppy. At the time, I felt justified in preferring the poised and refined Integra. But the Supra won the race.
The performance specifications of the JDM 1993 Toyota Supra Turbo RZ leave most contemporary competitors behind. Its big, screaming 3-liter 6-cylinder engine (2JZ-GTE) with inline cylinders and twin turbochargers generates 320 hp and 431 N⋅m of torque — making it a true supercar contender capable of zero to 60 mph acceleration in 5 seconds flat. This power is optionally put under the driver’s command by a manual 6-speed transmission. Given a huge empty parking lot and thick tires, I can think of few cars I’d rather drive.
The unforgettable appeal of this legendary sports machine and other fourth-generation Supras inspired Toyota to reintroduce the Supra in 2019. In the Japanese and European markets, the entire year’s allotments already sold out by March! That’s how much respect and love the Toyota Supra commands.
So far I’ve been focusing on used JDM cars that are 25 years old as of 2018, 2019 or 2020. This age makes these models ripe for legal import from Japan by savvy enthusiasts in the United States. But I can’t resist mentioning one of my all-time favorite models that was released a little earlier in 1992 and is definitely worth importing as one of the great JDM models of the early 1990s — the JDM 1992 Mazda RX-7.
When the third-generation Mazda RX-7 JDM model was launched in 1992, I considered it close to automotive perfection. It was absolutely gorgeous, both inside and out, as well as technically inspiring with its powerful rotary engine and 50:50 front to rear weight distribution. This, to me, was the way cars were always meant to be.
No matter who I was with in Tokyo in the early 1990s, we would all turn our heads whenever a Mazda RX-7 passed by. Its aura of beauty and confidence seemed to express the future of Japanese cars, which (as I already mentioned) were technologically superior to their American counterparts and gradually catching up with Italian sports machines.
I’ll never forget my one and only ride in a 1992 Mazda RX-7 through the streets of Tokyo in 1993. It was fun being the center of attention in the most beautiful car around and I was blown away by the smoothness of the engine. While stopped at a quiet intersection with the windows rolled down, I noticed that there was absolutely no engine noise or vibration and warned my friend behind the wheel that the engine had stalled. He smiled and pressed the pedal, since the signal had just turned green, and we rocketed forward to my utter surprise at a very high speed. In these days of electric vehicles and start-stop systems, this may seem like nothing, but I was mightily impressed in 1993. The more I looked into the 1992 Mazda RX-7’s twin turbocharged engine and incredible handling, courtesy of midship configuration and 50:50 front to rear weight distribution, the more I dreamed of owning one in the future when it became more affordable.
This model, part of Series 6 sold from 1992 to 1995, was highly acclaimed by sports car lovers, car magazines and the automotive industry in general. It received car of the year awards from Motor Trend, Playboy and the RJC in Japan, and entered Car and Driver’s ten best list three years in a row.
Its 1.3-liter twin turbocharged rotary engine with optional 5-speed manual transmission delivered 252 hp and 217 lbf⋅ft of torque, as well as linear acceleration throughout nearly the entire rpm range. In Japan, it was sold through a sub division called Efini.
Mazda vehicles powered by rotary engines were doing extremely well in racing at the time and one even became the first model from a Japanese carmaker to win the 24 hours of Le Mans, in 1991. So the future looked extremely bright for Mazda rotary powered vehicles and nobody dreamed that Mazda would stop making rotary engines twenty years later in 2011. Of course, Mazda recently announced officially that its rotary engine will return as a range extender for its first electric vehicle in 2020. You’ll be able to import that JDM model in 2045!
When you’re ready to import a used JDM car from the early 1990s, be sure to contact Japan Car Direct for the best all-around support and most helpful assistance in English!
Here are some related models exported to lucky owners around the world by Japan Car Direct:
Allows bidding on one vehicle up to 1 million yen.