Discovering the 20 Rarest Japanese Vehicles Ever Made

Japan’s rich automotive history has always fascinated enthusiasts with its array of iconic models and groundbreaking engineering. Yet, beneath the known legends lie hidden treasures, often overshadowed but equally significant. We dive deep into the world of Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) to uncover the true rarities—vehicles so unique and scarce that they remain virtually unknown to the mainstream.

Toyota 2000GT

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The Toyota 2000GT, produced from 1967 to 1970, was Japan’s first supercar and a clear challenge to European sports cars of the era. With only 351 units built, its rarity is undeniable. It boasted a 2.0-liter inline-six engine, producing around 150 hp. Its sleek design and performance gained international acclaim, especially after its appearance in the James Bond film “You Only Live Twice.”

Mazda Cosmo 110S

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The Mazda Cosmo, introduced in 1967, was the first car to house Mazda’s revolutionary rotary engine. Only 1,176 of the Series I and Series II combined were produced. With its futuristic design and the distinctive hum of its Wankel rotary, it’s a highly sought-after classic today.

Nissan Skyline GT-R (R32) V-Spec II

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While the R32 Skyline might not be rare in its base forms, the V-Spec II is. Produced in limited numbers, this variant featured improved brakes, ATTESA E-TS Pro system, and the iconic RB26DETT engine. It cemented the GT-R’s reputation as a “giant killer” in the motorsport world.

Honda S800 Racing

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The Honda S800, while known as a compact sports car, had a “Racing” version produced in 1967. Only 140 were ever made. With a 791cc engine producing around 70 hp and weighing less than 1,600 pounds, it was an agile competitor on the racing circuit.

Toyota MR2 Super Edition

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The MR2 Super Edition was a limited run of the AW11 MR2, with only 270 units made. It featured a distinctive black and gold color scheme, a naturally aspirated 4A-GE engine, and unique interior touches. (Note that the standard AW11 MR2 is shown above).

Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI Tommi Mäkinen Edition

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This edition, named after the legendary rally driver, was a tribute to Mäkinen’s four WRC championship wins with Mitsubishi. It had a unique red paint, white wheels, and special Recaro seats. Only a limited number were produced, making it a collector’s item.

Subaru Impreza 22B STi

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The 22B, produced in 1998, was Subaru’s way of celebrating its 40th anniversary and its third consecutive WRC title. Limited to just 424 units, it boasted wider fenders, a unique hood, and an upgraded 2.2-liter turbocharged engine.

Toyota Celica GT-Four ST205 WRC

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This Celica variant, limited to around 2,500 units, was produced for homologation purposes for the World Rally Championship. It had distinctive rally-inspired features like a water injection system and a unique hood with cooling ducts.

Datsun Fairlady 2000 Roadster Racing

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This variant of the Fairlady was a factory-prepared racing version, making it exceptionally rare. With its high-winding 2.0-liter U20 engine, it was a formidable opponent on the racing circuit in its time. (Note that the standard version of the Datsun Fairlady 2000 Roadster is shown above).

Nissan Figaro (1991)

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The Nissan Figaro is a retro-styled compact convertible, produced only in 1991 in limited quantities of about 20,000 units. With its classic 1960s European look, leather seats, and a turbocharged 1.0-liter engine, the Figaro offers a blend of vintage charm and modern reliability, making it highly coveted among collectors and enthusiasts.

Mazda RX-7 Spirit R (2002)

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The RX-7 Spirit R represents the final edition of Mazda’s iconic RX-7 series. Limited to just 1,504 units, this model features enhanced handling, lightweight materials, and a powerful twin-rotor rotary engine. Its unique attributes and limited run make it one of the most desirable RX-7 variants ever produced.

Toyota Century Royal (2006)

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The Toyota Century Royal is an ultra-luxurious limousine produced exclusively for the Japanese Imperial Household, with only four units ever made. Featuring wool upholstery, granite entry steps, and a 5.0-liter V12 engine, this car combines imperial grace with unmatched exclusivity.

Honda NSX Type R (1992)

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The Honda NSX Type R, known for its focus on performance enhancements, was limited to 483 units. Its lighter weight, stiffer chassis, and a 3.0-liter V6 engine optimized for track performance make it a rare collector’s item praised for its exceptional handling and speed.

Subaru Forester STi II Type M (2002)

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This special edition of the Subaru Forester was produced only for the Japanese market with limited numbers. It featured STi performance upgrades, a robust turbocharged engine, and distinctive styling cues, making it a rare find for performance SUV enthusiasts.

Nissan Pulsar GTI-R (1990-1994)

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Often referred to as a “mini Skyline,” the Pulsar GTI-R was Nissan’s rally car for the roads. With its turbocharged SR20DET engine, ATTESA all-wheel-drive system, and aggressive styling, only about 14,000 were produced, making it a hidden gem among rally car lovers.

Isuzu VehiCROSS (1997-2001)

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The Isuzu VehiCROSS is known for its distinctive, futuristic design and limited production run. With only about 6,000 units built, this compact SUV featured a torque-on-demand four-wheel-drive system and a 3.5-liter V6 engine, making it a rare sight and a cult classic.

Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4 Spyder (1995-1996)

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The 3000GT VR-4 Spyder was the first car with a fully automatic retractable hardtop, produced by Mitsubishi in collaboration with ASC. Limited to less than 1,000 units, this model combined the performance of a twin-turbo V6 with the luxury of open-top driving.

Toyota Sera (1990-1995)

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Known for its butterfly doors, a feature rarely seen in economy cars, the Toyota Sera was a compact car produced exclusively for the Japanese market. Around 16,000 units were made, with its distinctive design and glassy canopy making it a beloved car for enthusiasts of unique designs.

Mazda Autozam AZ-1 (1992-1994)

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The Autozam AZ-1 stands out with its gullwing doors and tiny, lightweight design. Powered by a turbocharged 657cc engine, this kei car was limited to around 4,400 units, making it an extremely rare and fun-to-drive vehicle.

Nissan Silvia CSP311 (1965-1968)

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The CSP311 Silvia is a classic example of Nissan’s early sports car efforts, with fewer than 600 units produced. It featured a hand-built body, a luxurious interior, and a 1.6-liter inline-four engine, making it a rare and highly sought-after model among classic car collectors.

This article originally appeared on MyCarMakesNoise.

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Author: Dave Johnston

Dave is a hands-on automotive technician with experience in performing service, diagnostics, and repairs on domestic and imported vehicles. He enjoys writing and sharing his knowledge far and wide.

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