Japan, the land of anime, sushi and Alice in Borderland. Seriously, watch that show. Japan is also known as one of the best global suppliers of awesome cars. From gas-saving sports cars to twin-turbo supercar slayers, I think just about any enthusiast worth his salt has lusted after a Japanese car at some point.
The best part of Japanese cars is they can handle themselves around cars costing three times as much. Even the ones that can’t take down Italian supercars straight from the factory can be tuned to insane numbers.
So, let’s dive in to seven Japanese tuner cars that can slay supercars. Let’s go!
1993 – 2002 Toyota Supra MkIV – Is That a Supra?
The first car on our list is obvious, but still one of the best. The 2JZ, the classic bodylines, and unreal market value. You know it. You love it. It’s the MkIV Supra.
The Supra is everywhere in tuner culture. From the roads of Mount Haruna, the underground car parks or the drag strips, the MkIV Supra is the do-it-all tuner. The legendary 2JZ’s block is hardy enough to make up to 800 horsepower without modification. This means that, unlike other tuners, the Supra can be tuned to high numbers without any work on the bottom end of its engine.
The Supra also has looks to back up that supercar-slaying performance. The design follows basic sports car ideology, with a long front hood housing the engine, and a swooping cockpit leading to a stout tail end. You just can’t go wrong with the Supra.
Now, how much will a MkIV Supra cost you? That’s where things get complicated. A premium example is going to run you over $50,000, and usually a lot over that, thanks to the fact that the Supra has become somewhat of a cult classic. Yeah, around the same or more than a new MkV Supra.
So, depending on what you want, you’re looking at the same amount for either a manual original or redressed BMW. Just make sure you make the right decision.
The Supra is the obvious first choice for a giant killing tuner, it essentially won the 1990s Japanese arms race, but this next car is what I would call the runner up. What do you get when Nissan lets the 240Z marinate for a few generations? The 300ZX Twin Turbo.
1990 – 2000 300ZX Twin Turbo – Speed Wedge
The 240Z was one of the all-time greats from the import market. And with its many generations, still to this day, we all probably know someone who’s had one. Over the years, the Z car grew in size and luxury. Nissan began targeting drivers who expected more grand touring than autocross.
In its debut, the Z32 was awesome. A new V6 with two turbos pumped out 300 horsepower, and cracked highway speeds in only 5 seconds, which was insane in 1990. Unfortunately, the V6 engine is plagued by packaging issues in the engine bay, making it a nightmare to work on.
But, as we all know, if you throw enough money at a car, it’ll make all the power you need, like 500 or 600 horsepower if your wallet is big enough. One very special ZX completely destroys at the drag strip, aptly named “The Devil Z”, this demon proves just what the 300ZX is capable of.
So, overall, the Z32 is a great, but fairly complicated, platform to work off of, and one of my favorite 90s Japanese tuner cars. Unlike the Supra, however, you won’t have to pay an arm and a leg to get one. A decent Z32 Twin Turbo with a 5-speed is going to run you around $15,000. And all that money you saved not buying a Supra can be spent on more power!
Plus, you can brag that you have a car with the same headlights as a Lamborghini. Google it, it’s true!
After staring at that triangular-shaped Nissan, do you have a sudden craving for Doritos? Well, you will after we tell you about our next car on this list, the FD RX-7!
1993 – 2002 Mazda RX-7 – Angry Lawnmower
That’s right, the Mazda RX-7 replaces the traditional pistons with a set of spinning Doritos! Okay, not real Doritos, but the rotary engine is one of the most unique features of the RX-7. High-revving and able to make enormous power even with its small displacement, the rotary engine boosted the RX-7 to legendary status as soon as it came out back in 1993. And with an 8,000 RPM redline, you’ll be screaming by the competition.
Better still, it’s usually recommended to redline a rotary engine, to prevent carbon build up. So, if you do get the cops called on you for disturbing the peace, you can just say you were giving your car regular maintenance.
And, of course, since this is a list of tuners, you know we have to talk about the RX-7’s tunability. Head to any drift event in Japan and you’ll likely see an FD RX-7 running the course. These cars are purpose-built for hitting way above their weight class. With the right turbo combination you can see 700+ horsepower, and stretch that already high RPM even further.
Now, you can build your own RX-7 to insane horsepower numbers, just make sure you have a mechanic ready, because rotary engines can be temperamental machines to say the least.
Now, on to the price. From our research, prices hover around the $40,000 range for an FD model, especially if you want the 5-speed and low miles. If you still want to spin triangles and shred apex seals on a budget, you can do the previous generation FC RX-7 for all the fun and none of the clout. Well, all the fun of constantly working on your RX-7, I guess.
We’ve looked at drag strip kings and drift monsters, so now let’s cover all our bases and feature something you can take off-road. This is your JDM red pill, the Lancer Evo IX.
2006 – 2007 Lancer Evo IX – Lancer Armstrong
The Lancer has been in the Mitsubishi lineup for a while. It started out as a regular commuter car, about as special as a Camry, while its bigger brother, the Galant, was out having all the fun. Mitubishi had been using its larger sedan in rallies around the world for a while, and they had a decent amount of success with it.
However, rules in World Rally competitions started to change, and a smaller car was needed to meet those regulations. Thus, the birth of the Lancer Evolution. As with most other motorsports, homologation rules required a certain number of production cars to go along with the competition cars. So, lucky for us, the Lancer Evo made its way to the streets.
Nine generations in and the Lancer had evolved into what most people consider its best form. This is the most recognizable and widely known generation of the Evo. With all-time all-wheel drive and an ACD system to help the differential distribute power, the Evo IX came out the gate with max performance in mind.
As it came from the factory, the little Lancer was able to keep up with the most expensive supercars. Seriously, watch the Top Gear review of the Lancer and you’ll be convinced its worth the hype. Most tuned Evos will be making around 500 horsepower after a few mods, but it’s not unusual to see some cars make upwards of 700! And you don’t have to completely sacrifice practicality with that, because the Evo is a four-door with an actual trunk, so you can chase down a Ferrari and still fit your hockey gear in the back!
Our next car is the rally-inspired blue pill to the Lancer’s red pill. This is a rivalry decades in the making. Our next car is the WRX STI.
2008 – 2014 Subaru WRX STI – T-Rex WRX
Like the Evo, the STI is an all-wheel drive rally-inspired legend. In fact, Subaru went through the same development process to get to the STI. They had been dominating the World Rally Championships with the Legacy, but updated regulations and the demand for a smaller platform made the change to the Impreza necessary.
So, Subaru added a turbo and pumped some rally-spec goodness into the chassis, and the STI was born. Several generations later, and the STI has outlived its rival into 2020, with plans to continue the model for years to come.
The STI was even available as a wagon for most of its life cycle, with the most recent model being the only exception. And if there’s anything we know as enthusiasts, it’s that wagons are always the better choice.
Look it up on YouTube and you’ll find endless videos highlighting the STI’s capabilities as a daily driver. Whether you want to take it off-road, slam it, or keep it stock, the STI is a true jack of all trades.
And prices for the STI are pretty modest. Most models will run for about $20,000. So, get the kids ready for a weekend of rallying, because the STI is more than prepared. Or, you know, get a babysitter.
Let’s keep the all-wheel drive theme going with our next car. This one, however, doesn’t have its history in rallying, but in the deep roots of Group A competition racing. This is the beast from the east, the son of Godzilla, the R33 GT-R.
1995 – 1998 R33 Skyline GT-R – OMG JDM
Sure, you could get an R32 GT-R and have the real deal Godzilla, or wait a few years for the R34, the PlayStation on wheels with so much hype. But this, this is the middle child, and it might just be the sweet spot of GT-R goodness.
The R33 isn’t as widely regarded as a halo car for Nissan’s performance. The R34 cemented itself in car culture thanks to its staggering performance, and its role in both the Fast & Furious and Need for Speed franchises. But we think the R33 is worth some recognition for continuing to carry the GT-R name through the mid-90s.
The R33 featured the same all-wheel drive system and inline-six from previous generations, but with added tweaks and improvements to make it sharper and better performing. The looks were also massively updated, giving the GT-R a more contemporary design language. It’s probably one of the best looking Japanese cars of its era.
Several of these changes were made to better fit changing Group A regulations. So, this is a car that was designed for the track and then modified for road use later on. That’s a package for success. And thanks to an expansive modding community, serious supercar-slaying numbers aren’t that hard to achieve. Some GT-Rs have been modded out to make nearly 900 horsepower, and that paired with the all-wheel drive system is more than enough to take down the biggest prey.
Thanks to the fact that the R33 has constantly lived in the shadow of the R34, appreciation hasn’t hit it like other models in the range. A model in good condition will cost anywhere from $35,000 to $40,000. And then importing, well, that’ll be a few thousand more on top of that. Still an ideal deal at that price!
You may not be able to take the R33 off-road, but you can certainly smoke almost anything off the line at your local drag strip.
The last car on this list is going to come as a bit of a surprise. Let’s call it an honorable mention. We wanted to feature a Honda/Acura for our list, but the obvious choice seemed a little cliche. So, we decided that the last car for this supercar-slaying list should be the Acura Integra.
1993 – 2001 Acura Integra – The Integral Integra
I already know what you’re all thinking, the Type-R. But, thanks to some bonkers spikes in prices for used Type-Rs, we’ll be ignoring the super-spicy Integra and looking at the more benign models. This isn’t a bad thing, because the Integra was fitted with one of the legendary series of Honda’s VTEC engines. Who doesn’t love a good VTEC?
Anyway, the engine in question is the B-series of Honda’s four-cylinder. Most trim levels made around 140 horsepower and 127 pound-feet of torque, not too bad for a car only weighing around 2,400 pounds.
But, we know that you’re looking to get some serious punch from the Integra’s 4-pot, and that’s where the tuning community shines brightest. This generation of the Integra came out right as a little movie called The Fast and the Furious made its cinema debut. And what was one of the cars featured in the first drag race? That’s right, the little Integra being driven by Ja Rule.
Anyone who’s owned a Honda in the 90s will tell you that you can easily make serious power from the B-series of engines. That’s why it makes our list. Oh, they’re also seriously reliable because, you know, Honda.
Due to some funky things happening in the used market, Integras are running at a surprising premium for cleaner models, but that doesn’t mean their prices are completely unrealistic. We found an incredibly clean model with 54,000 miles on it for $12,000. Not too shabby for something that can easily be turned into a lethal weapon.