Japan is one of the automotive capitals of the world. As Americans, we like to think we’re the cock of the walk when it comes to car culture. But there’s no arguing that the seven continents are packed with some serious contenders. (Don’t believe us, just check out our new column All Roads Connect.) And the island of Japan particularly stands out as a hot spot for some seriously unique, fun, and all-out builds. So today, we turn our attention to what they’re whipping up in the Land of the Rising Sun. And no, we’re not talking about the silly or gaudy builds that are too often associated with the culture. Instead, we want to talk about some of the best and baddest Japanese builds —a few of which you may not have seen coming.
Top Secret’s R32 with an R35 Powerplant
R35 means a lot to the world of Japanese car enthusiasts. It’s the latest and greatest of the Nissan Skylines and everyone loves it. In fact, just last week the automaker donated the first R35 GT-R police car to Japan’s Tochigi Prefecture.
R32’s, on the other hand, really don’t get that much appreciation. (Which isn’t all that unexpected, considering its birth was in the late 1980s.) So, what do you do with an uncool car that has a fantastic legacy? You smash the latest and greatest drivetrain in it, obviously. That’s exactly what Top Secret did with this R32 when they stuffed the R35 powertrain in it, along with all sorts of other goodies from the top dog car. Said to make 790 hp at the wheels, this is easily one of the baddest Japanese builds we’ve ever seen.
Mercedes Benz 6×6 Threefer
Japan and off-roading…an unlikely pair? Well, this is more of a show piece than a mud bogger, but we really wanted to touch base on the fact that trucks have their place in Japan, too. This particular build really stands out, considering it’s actually three trucks mashed together to make one bold statement of a ride.
The real structural work consists of two Suzuki Jimny’s combined into one truck with two axles in the rear. To button things up, the truck was finished to look like a Mercedes AMG J-Class. The best part, this ride was put together by students of Nihon Automotive College and was proudly displayed at Tokyo Auto Salon.
Land of the Low-Riding Sun
Here again, we find a car that breaks the norm. You probably thought that Americans were the only ones into the whole “Low rider” thing. While at a first glance it would be easy to think that this car is located somewhere in the lower 48, it actually comes from a totally different hemisphere.
The car itself is a Mitsubishi A33 Debonair. And from top to bottom, every square inch of this car has been retouched. From a masterful paint job with detailed pinstriping, to custom side mirrors and rear wheel covers, to the decked-out rotary phone installed in the console area, Autobody N has ensured that this is definitely one of the baddest Japanese builds to hit the car show circuit.
The Nissan Skyline is to Japan what the Mustang is to America. It’s their poster child of performance. While there are tons of over-the-top builds to highlight, over time you really start to appreciate the R34s and realize that sometimes less is more.
This particular R34, built by Takashi-San, is embodied by that exact principle. With most modifications being subtle to the eye, it leaves a lot to the imagination. But that minimalist approach leaves you free to appreciate every body line, the color, the stance, and the overall feeling it sends out. And when you learn that this beautiful beast is sending nearly 450 hp to the wheels? Well, true beauty does lie on the inside, right?
We can all agree that the baddest builds are usually the ones where newer engines and drivetrains are jammed in older platforms. That way you get the best of both worlds: a classic look with the standards of modern vehicles. Well, we’re happy to say that the Japanese share this appreciation for restomods.
Take for example, this Datsun 510 built by Aireal Auto Works with a SR20 DET engine stuffed under the hood. It’s unique. It’s elegant. And with a larger turbo paired up with the already more powerful engine, it totally kicks ass. The harmony of old-school styling and new-school performance definitely makes this one of the baddest Japanese builds on this list.
Expand Your Horizons
A touch of a particular cultural style is usually evident in every build–I mean, we really like to over-power things here in America, right? But it’s not always present. Japan is rich with culture and trends that extend past what you’ve seen in Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift or at a sport compact meet. Much of their car passion is just like ours, just with their own unique twists and touches. We hope these truly impressive Japanese builds have opened your eyes a little more to the car culture that lies beyond your own garage.