In the world of JDM cars, there are names we’re all familiar with, but there are also a lot of very cool JDM cars that you’ve probably never heard of. So, we’ve compiled this list of the coolest JDM cars you’ve never heard of!
#1 Mitsubishi FTO
The first awesome JDM car you’ve probably never heard of is the Mitsubishi FTO. This was an awesome little two-door front-wheel-drive car with Mitsubishi offered from 1994 to 2000. The reason you’ve probably never heard of the FTO is that it was never sold in the US. Under the hood you’ll find either a 1.8L four-cylinder or a 2.0L V6, that’s right, a 2.0L V6.
That tiny 2.0L V6 paired with a fantastic lightweight chassis made the FTO a pretty potent FWD performance car. Power output ranges from 123 to 197hp depending on the model. It was such a good car that it was awarded Car of the Year in Japan for in 1994 – 1995 when it first hit the market.
#2 Mazda Lantis Type R
The next car on the list is the Mazda Lantis, which you might recognize as a Mazda 323. The Lantis by itself is a super boring little econobox, but the super rare Type R model is what we’re here to talk about. As you can see from the massive optional rear wing, the Lantis Type R means business.
The Type R model was only sold in Japan and it was equipped with a 2.0L V6, like the FTO, and a limited-slip differential. You can find this engine in the Mazda MX6 in the US, which, if you didn’t already know, sounds incredible *insert sound clip*. Other the features of the Type R include a front lip, side skirts, and colored front indicators.
#3 Dome Zero
If you grew up playing racing games like Gran Turismo, you might recognize this next car. If you don’t recognize it or you’ve never heard of it, it’s probably because it never made it to the public. The Zero was born from the small company Dome, which was originally founded to build race cars. It took Dome over two years to build their prototype which ended up using various parts from Honda, Toyota, and Subaru.
It sat at 38 inches tall, used a mid-engined setup which was powered by a 145 horsepower Nissan L28 engine. Although the Zero never made it the Japanese market for various reasons, a few journalists had the opportunity to drive the Dome P2, which was the production-ready version of the Dome Zero, and there were reports of fantastic handling characteristics, however, it was a little hard to drive.
#4 Mazda Eunos Cosmo
When it comes to rotary-powered cars, everyone knows about the RX7 and RX8, but you there’s a pretty solid chance you’ve never heard of the Eunos Cosmo. This car was the flagship vehicle for Mazda’s short-lived Eunos luxury brand and you could buy it with either a 13b or 20b rotary engine. Interestingly enough, the Eunos Cosmo was the only production to ever receive the 20B-REW.
Unfortunately, at the time it was released, it didn’t comply with Japan’s regulations and anyone who bought one was liable for extra taxes and fees because of the dimension regulations. Part of the reason you may have never heard of this car is the fact that it sold in pretty low numbers. From 1990 to 1995 Mazda produced less than 10,000 units of the Eunos Cosmo.
#5 Autozam AZ-1
This next car is another one you might recognize if you grew up playing racing games, and that’s the Autozam AZ-1. If you’re like me and you’ve never heard of Autozam, it’s because they were a small company under the Mazda brand which built Kei cars. The AZ-1 is a tiny mid-engined sports cars which Mazda designed and manufactured with the help of Suzuki, who supplied the 657cc turbocharged engine for it.
One of the most notable features of the AZ-1 are the gullwing doors which are typically something you only see on very high-end cars. Looking at the AZ-1 by itself, it might not seem that tiny, but when you compare it to a modern car or truck, you realize how comically small it is.
#6 Honda City Turbo II
Continuing on the theme of tiny Japanese Kei cars, is the Honda City. The standard Honda City is just another boring tiny Kei car, but the City Turbo is not just your average Kei car. More specifically, the City Turbo II, is what we’re talking about. The City Turbo II used a 1.2L turbo engine, outputting around 100 horsepower, which was quite a lot more a car that size in the 80s.
Aside from the turbo engine, the Turbo II also received fender flares, side skirts, and overall aggressive design. It used independent suspension front and back, with a wider overall track thanks to the additional space granted by the fender flares. With 100 horsepower pushing a 1,600lb car, the City Turbo II went from 0 to 60 in around 8.5 seconds which, at the time, was pretty impressive.
#7 Toyota Mega Cruiser
You’ve probably heard of the Toyota Land Cruiser, but have you ever heard of the Toyota Mega Cruiser? The name kind of sounds like a weird joke, but the Mega Cruiser is a real thing. At first glance, it might look like a rip off of the Humvee and it shares a lot of design features with the Humvee, although, the Mega Cruiser a bit taller, a foot long, and 1,000 lbs lighter.
It was developed during the 1980s economic bubble in Japan, and it was designed to be an off-road monster that would be used as an all-purpose military vehicle. It used independent suspension all the way around, portal axles, and a central tire inflation system, all of which are features the Hummer also had. Although it was originally designed for military use, Toyota saw the potential for a civilian version and built the BXD20 Mega Cruiser. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much demand for the civilian version and only 149 were built between 1996 and 2002.
#8 Mitsubishi Galant AMG
The last vehicle on the list is the Mitsubishi Galant, but not just any old Galant, we’re talking about the Galant AMG. You probably heard AMG and thought Mercedes, but AMG wasn’t Mercedes exclusive until 1999 and before then, they occasionally branched off to weird projects like the Galant AMG. As far as I can tell, around 500 AMG Galants were built and they were all built for the Japanese Market.
The AMG tuning consisted of working over the 4G63 engine, which had its power increased to 170 horsepower without the help of forced induction, which was quite impressive considering the turbocharged Galant VR4 only output 200 horsepower. Other AMG touches include an interior with wood trim and a small aero package. At this point, a few Galant AMGs have been imported to the states, but it’s pretty unlikely you’ll ever see one.