Factory specials are a dime a dozen these days, with hot hatches labelled as “special edition” cars after having some tacky stickers stuck onto it. If anyone knew how to make a factory special car, it was definitely the Japanese in the late 80s and 90s – they built cars that were actually special, and a solid improvement over the mass produced models. As the prices of JDM rockets like Skylines and Supras shoot up worldwide, we run down the list of the rarest and best JDM factory specials – cars which might be modern classics of a bygone era soon enough.
Nissan Skyline GTR NISMO 400R
When the R33 was launched, it was faster around the Nurburgring than the R32 by 24 seconds. How do you improve on that? By adding double the power and making your in-house tuner develop race spec parts for the road car.
Nissan Skyline GTR NISMO Z-tune
The NISMO name was already a legend among JDM enthusiasts - the R34 Z-tune would be the ultimate product that Nissan’s in-house tuner would develop to date. The Z-tune had incredible power - 500 HP enabled this final model of the Skyline R34 to do 205 MPH and sprint to 60 MPH in just 3.8 seconds. Only 19 were made.
Nissan 300ZX Turbo Shiro Special
The original Nissan Z-car introduced Japanese reliability and efficiency to the sports car market, but later models were sub-par. The 300ZX Shiro Special tried to take the Z back to its roots. The name refers to the all-white paint.
Mitsubishi Galant AMG
Before AMG became Benz’s official in-house tuner, they were hired by Mitsubishi to warm up the Galant. 170 HP meant it was not exactly hot. But look at it.
Subaru Impreza Prodrive RB320
In the UK, the Subaru Impreza became extremely popular thanks to local rally drivers like Colin McRae and Richard Burns. Subaru themselves gave customers plenty of reasons to buy these manic AWD sedans by offering up special Prodrive tuned models. The RB320 competed with Mitsubishi’s UK only FQ Evolutions, using a whole host of custom parts to bump the power beyond 320 HP. Road testers think the RB320 nearly, nearly rivals the 22B STI in terms of driving experience.
Honda Civic FD2 Type R Mugen RR
No one doubts the performance and handling abilities of the FD2 Type R, and most agree that it's a brilliantly fast FWD car. When Mugen, Honda’s in-house tuner, took the Civic and upped the ante, they saw fit to remove weight, add better cams, exhaust and ECU. Only 300 were made.
Subaru Impreza 22B STI
The 22B is the holy grail of Subarus, using a 2.2 litre boxer 4 producing 300 HP, with bigger brakes, better suspension and lighter weight. Only 400 22Bs were made, making it the rarest, most exclusive Subaru ever made. Prices regularly go beyond $100,000, and most enthusiasts agree it’s one of the best handling cars ever.
Acura NSX Alex Zanardi Edition
The first gen NSX is one of the best drivers’ cars ever, and this special edition, named after famed racing driver Alex Zanardi, came with special lightweight alloys, significantly stiffer suspension and manual steering. All of that made this special NSX sharper and edgier, and only 50 were made.
Mazda RX7 FD Spirit R
The RX7 FD3S is one of the most desirable JDM icons of the 90s, and the Spirit R is the ultimate RX7 with bigger brakes, less weight and more special features. The Spirit R models were the final 1500 units of the FD RX7, divided into three models - Type A, B and C. Best part is, Bangladesh has a genuine Spirit R Rx7 - easily the rarest Rx7 model in the world thanks to the low production numbers and huge collectible value.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI Tommi Makinen Edition
Combine one of the best AWD rally cars of the 90s with one of the sport’s greatest drivers and you get motorsport glory. Tommi Makinen won 22 of his 24 World Rally Championship victories in Mitsubishi Evolution 3/4/5/6/6.5s, making a mark on the rally world and establishing the Lancer Evolution badge in the world of rallying and performance cars. Only 2500 TME Evos were made, with special colours, wheels, bumpers and livery.