These little Japanese sports cars prove that fun things come in small packages


They say size doesn’t matter. And before you raise an eyebrow and ask who, exactly, is saying that; our answer is the Japanese sports car makers, many of which are Kei cars. For those who do not know very well JDM, as in the Japanese domestic market, Kei cars are the smallest of Japanese cars, carrying the smallest of engines.

Think of them as microcars, road legal in their smallest possible avatar. The Kei-car can roughly be translated into a light automobile and saw the light of day in 1949. Since then, the regulations for engine size and displacement have been revised several times. The appeal of Kei cars is that they are inexpensive, offer tax and insurance benefits, and are much more maneuverable than larger four-wheelers.

Normally you would think Kei cars are cheap passenger cars, but a lot of them are fun Japanese sports cars. Since Kei cars’ affordable price makes them appealing to young people, automakers have long tried to make them fun, despite the limitations of the engine. And these 10 Japanese small sports cars prove that good things come in small packages.

ten Honda’s sports car entry: 1963-70 Honda S-Series Roadsters

1965 Honda S600 Sports Car
Via: Mecum

Honda’s entry into the automotive world of four-wheeled passenger cars began with the S500. It was tiny, rather adorable, and was powered by a 500cc inline-four, spinning at 9500 rpm on a roller-bearing camshaft.

1964-1970 Honda S600 JDM sports car
Via: Facebook

It might have been rudimentary at first, but still it came with four carburetors and was rear-wheel drive, via chain drive. Slowly, along with the fame, the displacement went to the S600 and then to the S800. And Honda’s rise has become meteoric, but retained all the fun, making it a leader in Japanese sports cars.

Related: 15 Of The Smallest Sports Cars Ever

9 Japanese sports car of Italian design: 1971-76 Suzuki Fronte Coupé

Suzuki Fronte Coupe 1971-76 designed by Giugiaro
Via: Facebook

Suzuki is remembered by the United States for blunders like the Samurai and the X-90, but in Japan and Asia Suzuki is a leader in the automotive industry. In 1971, Suzuki launched the Fronte coupe designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro. The Fronte Coupé was bold and reminiscent of the Lotus Esprit up front, but the beauty was in its engine.

Suzuki Fronte Coupe 1974 of Italian design
Via: Flickr

It was a real Japanese over-performer, with a production of almost 100 horsepower per liter. More than just a beauty, the Fronte Coupé was designed for thrilling driving, making it the perfect Japanese sports car.

8 Undernourished Japanese Sports Car: 1973-75 Daihatsu Fellow Max HT Coupe

1972 Daihatsu Mate Max HT Coupe
Via: Flickr

Somehow, even though the Diahatsu Fellow carried an engine that no self-respecting motorcycle would ever run on, they still made it a dune buggy version, the Max HT Coupé. The fellow was seated 10 feet long and 4 feet wide and all handled 40 horsepower or less.

1972 Daihatsu Fellow Max Hardtop Coupé: a Japanese classic
Via: Flickr

And yet, it is endearing and it is rather pleasant. It was not a car to thrill but certainly a car to be happy, as its popularity showed. Even now, it is appreciated as a classic.

seven Japan’s first sports car: the 1958 Subaru 360 Young SS

1969 Subaru 360 Youth SS
Via: BHAuction

The Subaru 360 Young SS is best remembered for being the first Japanese sports car, rather the first Japanese sports car to produce 100 horsepower per liter, a ratio observed so far in very expensive cars like the Ferrari 250. GTO. It hit top speeds of 75 MPH, exceeding the legal limit three times.

Subaru 360 Young SS 1969 2-door
Via: BHAuction

It was as important to Japan, in terms of automotive development and popularity, as the Model T in the United States and the Volkswagen Beetle in Europe. It is also one of the first serious Kei cars in Japan, although at the time the engine restrictions were 360 ​​cc.

6 A successful Japanese sports car: the Mazda R360 Coupé 1960-66

1960-66 Mazda R360 Coupe
Via: Facebook

As an example of the prowess of the Mazda R360, summarize this: on the day of its launch, it sold 4,500 units. At the end of 1960, two out of three Kei cars sold in Japan were Mazda R360s.

1960-66 Mazda R360 Coupe 2-Door
Via: Facebook

It was powered by a rear-mounted V-twin engine, something that powers motorcycles today, and also had sedan and pickup versions, aptly named P360 and B360. It was not the first Kei car on the market, but it did go on to become one of the most popular Japanese Kei sports cars of its time.

5 Original Japanese Sports Car: 1991-96 Honda Beat

1992 Honda Beat Roadster
Via: BringaTrailer

After the success of the S-Roadsters which were both Kei and Japanese sports cars, Honda was unstoppable. In the 90s she introduced the Beat, with a mid-engined setup and a high-revving three-cylinder engine, with a soft top.

1992 Honda Beat In Yellow Roadster 2-Door
Via: BringaTrailer

The Beat was a fun and quirky Japanese sports car and only recently ended its 25-year import ban, which is why sometimes you can see one on the streets of the United States. He catches all eyes as he walks past in all his kindness.

Related: 15 Classic JDMs That Will Cost You Peanuts

4 Thrilling little Japanese sports car: Daihatsu Copen 2002

Via: Facebook

The Diahatsu Copen reminds you of old British classics, like the MG and the Austin Healey. It’s small and a convertible, and comes with a small engine that makes a lot of sense. The Copen is affordable and looks great, not to mention its 660cc engine.

Via: NetCarShow

It looks like a conventional roadster, only shrunk to adorable proportions, and has also managed to give you a thrill, given that these Japanese Kei sports cars are very light.

3 Japanese Bubble-Era Sports Car: 1991-98 Suzuki Cappuccino

1992 Suzuki Cappuccino 5-speed sports car
Via: BringaTrailer

The Suzuki Cappuccino was very modular in setup as it could come as a full convertible, Targa, or even a T-top. It was a very light car, weighing just over 1,500 pounds, which made its 63-horsepower turbocharged inline-three cylinders more than adequate.

1992 Suzuki Cappuccino Roadster 2-Door
Via: BringaTrailer

It was a pretty sleek car and would have done well, except for the economic downturn in Japan in the 90s. As a JDM you might not be able to take it to the track, but you can. relax and enjoy the double takes in your small Kei JDM sports car.

Related: 10 Most Underrated Japanese Cars On The Used Market

2 Japanese Super Sports Car: 1992-94 Autozam AZ-1

1992 Autozam AZ-1 Sports Car
Via: BringaTrailer

The Autozam AZ-1 looked very futuristic and wore gullwing doors, all things to do with a Kei car. This showed that although Kei cars were tiny, they were not unimportant in Japanese automotive history and had plenty of claws to take on their rivals.

1992 Autozam AZ-1 Turbocharged Seagull Winged Sports Car
Via: BringaTrailer

The AZ-1 had hood scoops and fender vents, although much of it was just for cosmetic purposes rather than actual function. Autozam was a sister company of Mazda, and the AZ-1 was mid-engined and was the sportiest of all Japanese small sports cars. Enough to even tempt Jay Leno.

Related: 10 Awesome Cars No One Asked But Everyone Loves

1 The latest Japanese sports car: Honda S660 2015-2022

2019 Honda S660 Sports Car
Via: Facebook

The Honda S660 is also a Kei car and its end has already been announced, for March 2022. Think of it as a baby roadster. And also think about the fact that if you want to in the United States, you can get the 2022 model in 2047, after the required 25 years.

2020 Honda S660 2-Door Roadster
Via: Facebook

It’s a long, long wait indeed, at a time when gasoline-powered cars could be the new classic after Tesla overtook the world. The S660 is simply a revisit of Honda’s famous S Series Roadsters and fully does justice to their heritage.

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