This is the first of a series of articles about rare vehicles for the person who wants something original and totally awesome. Today I will be focusing on 70’s Japanese muscle cars: a mostly unknown and under-appreciated genre of truly wicked vehicles.
The Originality of Japanese Muscle Cars
During the ’70s, Japanese car companies attempted to compete with American cars by making smaller versions of American muscle cars. The result was beautifully made, powerful mini versions of cars resembling classic Ford Mustangs and Dodge Chargers. Few examples can be seen today but they are out there and surprisingly, they go for much less than their American counterparts – if you can find them. Truly, if you want an original car that stands out while looking tough but not douchey, these vehicles are a very sick choice.
In the late ’60s, Mitsubishi sent Hiroaki Kamisago, one of their designers, to the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. His creation, the Mitsubishi Galant GTO would herald a new wave of American-style Japanese muscle cars throughout the ’70s. Compared to their American cousins, Japan’s vehicle offerings were lighter, smaller and had much tinier yet still powerful engines. These vehicles were in a class of their own and became popular in the states after the oil crisis of ’73. Stand out examples include the Toyota Celica, the Mazda RX-3/RX-4, the Nissan Skyline, the Nissan Laurel C130, the Datsun 610/710 SSS and of course the Mitsubishi Galant GTO.
Usually, the best way to find these cars is by putting an alert on Craigslist as that’s one of the few places they tend to show up. With American classic muscle cars averaging $40-$100K, these Japanese mini versions are way cheaper and obviously cool as hell. Many of these cars were released in the states but in somewhat limited supply. Japanese right-side-steering-wheel versions are easier to find so it might be worth the steering wheel compromise to get your hands on one. Just look at the pics and then close your eyes and imagine yourself cruising in one of these glorious metal beasts.