For some transmissions, the ultimate dream when it comes to car ownership does not lie in a classy Italian number that screams at high revs or the deep roar of American V8 muscles, but in the hectic turbo rattle of a Japanese classic.
Known for getting high performance from intricate, smaller displacement engines, the Japanese sports car offers a unique perspective and technical approach to making a car go fast. The Japanese are considered to be some of the most reliable vehicles in the world classic cars offer an enticing opportunity for those looking to purchase a special piece of automotive history.
However, scratching under the surface and pushing the myths of unbreakable reliability aside, every potential buyer should know that not all classic Japanese cars are a delight, and with great performance, many hours of ugly displeasure can arise than what a simple maintenance chore should be in end with a three-day mechanical full expansion.
Toyota MR2 Turbo
When Toyota decided the second-generation MR2 could use a little more horsepower, they simply took the 2.0-liter 16-valve engine and buckled up a turbocharger to deliver up to 250 horsepower on a very tunable platform .
The problem with this, however, is that thanks to the mid-engine layout and the amount of piping housed in such a small space, any form of maintenance on the engine requires either the lump coming out or the owner’s giving high.
The lightning-fast third-generation RX-7 was powered by a sequential twin-turbo rotary engine that delivered a hectic 276 hp in top equipment, enabling a very fast time of 0-60 mph in less than five seconds.
Immensely complicated, even before you even consider adding two turbos, the rotary engine is a nightmare to work on. Plus, when the inevitable happens and the apex seals fail, the wiring harness dies and the turbo manifolds just crack big bills and sleepless nights.
Fairly cheap to buy and run, the Honda Beat is a cute little open-kei car that lulls potential buyers into a false sense of mechanical safety due to a tiny 656cc naturally aspirated engine that produces a pathetic 63 horsepower.
Hated by mechanics around the world, the Honda Beat packs so many oily parts into such a small space that maintenance becomes hell. To change the toothed belt, both the motor and the gearbox must be removed with a lifting platform, otherwise failure is guaranteed.
Also known as Mitsubishi GT3000 or Dodge Stealth, the GTO was a technological marvel that featured a 300 hp twin-turbo 3.0-liter V6 in conjunction with all-wheel steering, all-wheel drive, active aerodynamics and electronically controlled suspension.
With more processing power than NASA at the time, the GTO will happily spit out its dummy and suffer a flurry of electronic errors that require expertise and deep pockets to fix. Even Mitsubishi abandoned the technology in later cars because it was so unreliable.
More than happy to stow far too many mechanics in a confined space, Nissan once again triumphed with the twin-turbo 300ZX, a 300 hp Targa roof coupé that would accelerate to 60 mph in a Corvette in 5.0 seconds .
Another complicated engine that ultimately needs to be removed for work on if it goes wrong due to lack of space under the hood. Owners may as well overhaul their automatic transmissions while they are outside as it is guaranteed to fail.
The all-wheel drive Impreza is a great way to quickly find ground. On the road and dirt tracks of the World Rally Championship, the all-wheel drive Impreza beat the teeth of its competitors, with early cars now considered modern classics.
Skip an oil change, however, and a catastrophic engine failure could be the reward, requiring a full rebuild. Since parts like the standard plastic oil baffle and clutch assembly are ridiculously cumbersome to replace, it takes days, not hours, to complete the job.
A mid-engined, gull-wing door kei car, the lively little Suzuki Cara, also available as the Autozam AZ-1, was actually made by a division of Mazda but developed through a Suzuki project and featured a 3-cylinder turbo 657 engine ccm equipped with 63 hp.
With fewer than 5000 models sold, the Kara is another headache because almost all of the components are absent and replacement parts are harder to find than a unicorn.
Nissan Skyline GT-R R34
Nicknamed Godzilla, the skyline is an icon not just for those who love performance cars, but for anyone who has ever picked up a Playstation controller and has become one of Japan’s most sought-after machines.
Built when Nissan had to count the pennies, the R34 isn’t as bulletproof as one might think. Blown head gaskets are common, as are porous engine blocks that cause the engine to come out. In addition, all of the fancy electronics require expensive software to diagnose regular faults.
The SVX is probably the wildest design Subaru has ever dared reveal to an unsuspecting audience.
Much more complicated than it had to be, the SVX smugly falls into emergency mode thanks to its sensitive computerized brain, resulting in hours of head-scratching diagnoses. In addition, the seat belt mechanism of all things is ridiculously mature and prone to failure.
Mitsubishi Ralliart Pajero Evolution
As a rally raid vehicle for the road, the Pajero Evolution was way ahead of its time, offering powerful SUV appeal twenty years before the boom. Equipped with a 3.5-liter, 24-valve V6 and 280 hp, the Mitsubishi loved drinking premium gas at an alarming pace.
Equipped with a bespoke body kit, parts of which are harder to find than fairy dust, the Pajero is notoriously unreliable. Mechanical parts are extremely expensive, and the rally monster needs special items supplied by Mitsubishi for most of the work.
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