When it comes to imported JDM cars, Nissan and Toyota products get most of the attention. While there’s plenty to love about Skylines, Silvias, and Land Cruisers, some very interesting machinery was being produced by other Japanese manufacturers. Here are a few notable ’90s gems that are worthy of more attention.
The Lancer Evolution III won the 1996 World Rally Championship
The first Mitsibishi Evo models were simple and light weight, with a turbocharged engine and all-wheel drive to provide plenty of traction. Picking up where the Galant VR-4 left off, they helped Mitsubishi rise to the top ranks of stage rally competition. In 1996, Tommi Mäkinen drove an Evo III to the World Rally Championship title, winning five of the nine events in the process.
The Evo III was the last of the original body style, which were known for their tossable handling and pure analog fun. The 4G63 four-cylinder engine is generally robust if maintained well. And in a car that weighs 2700 lbs, 266 hp goes a long way.
The Eunos Cosmo was a JDM technology showcase
While the RX-7 has been the most popular Mazda rotary car, the Eunos Cosmo is definitely the most advanced. When it came out in 1990, it was the first production car with a three-rotor engine and the first with twin sequential turbos. It was also the most powerful car in the Japanese market. Per MotorTrend, the Cosmo was the potential flagship model for a proposed Mazda luxury brand called Amati.
When those plans never materialized, Mazda continued selling the Cosmo under its JDM-only Eunos sub-brand. In addition to the groundbreaking powerplant, the car boasts a lavish and high-tech interior. With just under 9000 units ever produced, the Eunos Cosmo is a rare but impressive piece of Japanese engineering. Its twin sequential turbos would go on to serve in the FD RX-7.
The Subaru Legacy GT-B was a fast Japanese wagon
The 1996-1999 Subaru Legacy GT-B was an oddity for Subaru, given that it had twin-turbochargers instead of a single. Called the EJ20R, the engine made 276 hp and revved to 7500 RPM. Much like its distant successor, the Legacy GT Spec B, the GT-B packed the punch of a WRX but in a more subdued form.
Legacy GT-B models were also notable for their sport-tuned Bilstein struts, as well as a unique front bumper. To complement the Bilsteins, Subaru also equipped larger sway bars and swaybars. Overall, it’s a very potent and practical package.
Though not as popular as the heavyweights from Nissan, Toyota, or Honda, these JDM vehicles were each impressive in their own right. From motorsport success and innovative technology to fast wagons, they all helped set the stage for later models from their respective companies. With limited production numbers and prices for JDM cars on the rise, it’s likely all of these will increase in value going forward.