This post was most recently updated on January 22nd, 2022
If strange cars are your thing, Japan has you covered. Some of the most distinctive JDM automobiles are available for less than $15,000.
JDM – those three initials may appear innocuous to the untrained eye. Still, today’s automotive fans denote rare and coveted Japanese automobiles that were never supposed to be seen in North America. “Japanese Domestic Market” is the abbreviation for “Japanese Domestic Market.”
While this may appear to be a simple concept, JDM exclusivity has spawned its subculture of car enthusiasts outside of Japan, thanks in part to video games like Gran Turismo and films like The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift, which showcase never-before-seen cars in North America in the best possible light.
But the fascination with JDM Cars isn’t just a yearning for something unique; cars reserved for the Japanese market remain some of the best vehicles of all time, with performance beasts like the Nissan R34 GTR being so far ahead of them their time that they continue to impress to this day.
However, JDM cars aren’t all straight-up performance cars; a variety of unusual vehicles were also restricted solely for JDM sales. While legendary JDM cars like the Supra and GTR have skyrocketed in price, there are still plenty of really excellent JDM cars that are still extremely inexpensive. So keep reading to see ten of the most awesomely unique JDM cars under $15,000.
5: Subaru Vivio RX-R
Have you ever wished for a WRX but only in the shape of a microcar? If that’s the case, the Subaru Vivio RX-R is the vehicle for you.
Starting out as the pretty unimpressive Subaru Vivio Kei, the Vivio RX-R takes things a step further by injecting the small hatchback with Subaru’s most famous trait: rally-bred performance.
Surprisingly, Subaru used the Vivio as a rally car in the Safari Rally and Japanese WRC series, piloted by the great Colin McCrae. The Vivio RX-R is a little hot hatch even in road-going form, with a supercharger and AWD providing it excellent performance for the diminutive Kei vehicle class. Even better, they can be had for under $5,000.
4: Mazda Eunos Cosmo
When it comes to interesting rotary engine automobiles, Mazda’s RX-7 gets all the limelight, yet the Mazda Eunos Cosmo has gone mostly unnoticed as a true rotary monster.
The Eunos Cosmo is a performance beast powered by either a twin-turbo dual or three-rotor engine that produced up to 280 stated HP due to the “Gentleman’s Agreement” in Japan at the time, but most likely produced well over 300 HP.
The Eunos Cosmo was designed in the early 1990s with more than simply power in mind, with a comfortable and stylish interior and the world’s first in-car GPS system. However, as a result of all of this, the Eunos Cosmo was expensive when it was new, and due to a financial crisis in Japan at the time, the Eunos Cosmo’s legendary status was limited, allowing them to be purchased for under $15,000 today, a great deal when compared to its now prohibitively expensive rotary brother, the RX-7 FD.
3: Nissan Stagea
The Stagea is the closest that enthusiasts of the Nissan Skyline can get to a station waggon variant of the now legendary JDM sedan.
The Stagea shares a surprising amount of extra performance goods from the R33 GTR, including the wicked RB26DETT engine and AWD system, while giving all the practicality of a station waggon. It’s based on the R33 generation Skyline from the mid-’90s. Despite the fact that they are optional, Stageas are still a lot of fun, even in their lower-level trims, thanks to the fact that RWD is standard and the Skyline’s wheelbase has fantastic handling characteristics.
Even if you aren’t a fan of Skylines, the Stagea is a fantastic car in its own right, with its unique and aggressive styling. At about $5,000 for the non-RB26 powered version, the Stagea is a terrific value for JDM automobiles as a practical and high-performance quirk.
2: Mitsubishi Delica Starwagon
Typically, full-size beasts like Jeeps or pickup trucks are the popular and seemingly reasonable choice for rugged off-roading adventure vehicles, but the diminutive Mitsubishi Delica can keep up the trail just fine.
The Delica, one of the most unusual minivans of all time, may appear odd, but it is an extraordinarily capable vehicle both on and off the road. The Delica is an excellent and distinctive little van with a strong 4WD system, truck-like suspension and chassis, and the practicality to carry everything your journey may require.
Get the Starwagon version of the Delica for a snug yet spacious cabin with a glass top that gives the Starwagon a distinct bus-like vibe (in a good way). The Delica Starwagon is a wonderful value at under $10,000; whether you’re interested in it primarily for off-roading or simply want a distinctive and small-size minivan, you can transport it everywhere.
1: Subaru Legacy GT-B
The phrases “Subaru Legacy” and “performance monster” don’t usually go together, at least not when it comes to the Legacy as we know it in North America.
However, in Japan, various special versions of the tough and humble heritage were produced, with additional features and special parts to elevate the car to the level of other Japanese performance greats of the time.
The GT-B, a special edition JDM Legacy that kicks the generally calm car up a few levels, leads the group of tuned Legacy models. A sequential twin-turbo setup improves the engine’s power output to a “Gentleman’s Agreement” compliant 276 horsepower.
But it’s the GT-handling B’s that really shines, thanks to a set of Bilstein performance-oriented suspension that takes the GT-already B’s excellent handling to full sports car levels. Overall, at roughly $10,000, the Legacy GT-B is an unassuming performance and utility bargain.
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