10 Japanese oldtimer and youngtimer to love

Youngtimer and classic cars from Japan 10 Japanese to love

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as the saying once went about Japanese automakers. But from the ’60s on, they set off a technical and marketing fireworks display. We tell the story and present ten trendsetters.

In 1967, the first Japanese car to be tested by auto motor und sport made author Gert Hack’s heart beat faster in time with the revs of its 791-cubic-centimeter engine. A “little scoop” be this tiny car, which revs up to 10.000/min effortlessly, writes Hack. Its elasticity, sporty driving characteristics and highly developed engine technology also made it a model for German carmakers – especially in view of the favorable price: “It’s worth taking a look under its hood”, judges Gert Hack. You may have known it: We’re talking about the Honda S800.

The “mad slide

Just one year later, under the headline “Der Rappelrutsch” (The mad slide) the ice cold shower. This time it’s about the Honda N360, also a kei-car, as the popular, because tax-subsidized small cars are called in Japan. Engine characteristics and comfort were an imposition, tester Reinhard Seiffert complained, and the car was at best a city car. “A Citroen 2CV is in comparison a comfortable road cruiser.” That did the trick!

Datsun Cherry 100 A

It is a fine line on which the Japanese manufacturers walk at that time, until they gain a foothold on the German market from the early 1970s onwards. The backlog seems huge. In 1919, when Stuttgart had already developed into a car metropolis, Japan’s government enacted its first road traffic regulations – whereby the term “roads” was used to describe the city The slopes in the Land of the Rising Sun are at best suitable for horse-drawn carts. Mitsubishi, for example, which had grown up with ships, banks, mines and a brewery, had built its first car only two years earlier and unabashedly copied it from Fiat. Toyota, on the other hand, owes its rise to the mechanical loom developed by Sakichi Toyoda. Cars are built only from 1936.

After the Second World War, when the large corporate alliances were initially broken up, there was still no sign of a significant car industry. In addition, the Japanese market is sealed off by high import duties. In the country itself, small cars, cargo tricycles and trucks for reconstruction are in demand. As a result of the Korean War (1950-1953), an upswing sets in, supported by financial injections from the USA. But it was not until after a national economic crisis in 1963 that Japanese manufacturers began to pursue an increasingly export-oriented sales policy: In 1961, they exported only 11.000 cars, by 1975 the number had risen to almost three million.

Groundbreaking technology

Subaru XT, Japanese trendsetter

Japanese engineers quickly discover that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. As early as the 1970s, for example, Mitsubishi developed the so-called silent shaft technology for four-cylinder gasoline engines. Two balancer shafts with counterweights rotate at double crankshaft speed. The consequences: excellent running smoothness and competitors such as Porsche, Saab and Fiat, who used the technology under license, were taken by surprise.

Silent shaft technology is used, among other things, in the Starion presented in 1982, which helped the turbocharger achieve a breakthrough in Japanese mass production. With electronically controlled fuel injection and ASBS anti-skid braking system that uses a G-sensor to control brake pressure, the Starion looks as modern as a contemporary Atari games console.

Technology innovations: VTEC, 4WS, etc.

Honda Prelude 2.0i-16V, front view

Honda, in turn, introduces the VTEC variable valve timing system in 1983 – initially for motorcycles. It is also used later in a variety of cars. Developed originally for Honda’s Formula 1 engines, which continue to score victories in series until the early 90s. Mitsubishi, Subaru and Toyota, on the other hand, are successful off-road: In the 1990s, they won tirelessly on rally tracks around the globe.

With the Colt introduced in Germany at the end of 1978, Mitsubishi even aims successfully into the Golf segment. Highlight of the GLX version is a special countershaft, with the help of which it is possible to switch between an economy and a so-called spurt stage.

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