Table of Contents
The Top 15 JDM Cars of the 90s
By: James Diaz | July 28, 2023
Table of Contents
Join us as we explore fifteen show-stopping 1990s JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) cars and their cutting-edge descendants of today! These are among the most thrilling road cars of their era, and at MotoPickers we think they still look great today. So read on for a bit of nostalgia, and see what takes your fancy. You might find your new ‘must-have’ ride among the delicious selection we’ve put together for you!
Your Guide to the Ultimate 90s JDM Machines
Ah, the 90s! Remember those cassette tapes, flannels, and yes, the JDM cars? For car lovers, this was the golden age for Japanese whips! The 80s were a bit sluggish and the 2000s were too high-tech. But the 90s were perfect.
This was a time when electric cars existed only in science fictions and Japanese cars were purely mechanical and absolutely thrilling. Japan’s economy was booming, people had plenty of spending money, and it was reflected in their motoring!
Let’s Time-Travel to a Golden Age of JDM rides
The 90s car scene was all about appeasing car junkies. Japanese motor brands were rolling out some serious tech and spot-on designs specially for JDM cars. These speed demons, once they hit the roads, created waves. Few of us back then knew these rides would gain such a die-hard fan base globally and remain such hot properties, but prices and popularity continue to skyrocket!
So if you’re looking to buy a car you can tune and tweak to your liking, check out our MotoPickers article on the best tuner cars. For now, grab your time machine as we take a trip back to the good old days. Buckle up as we revisit our favorite JDM chariots of the fantastic 1990s and you decide which you’ll have!
Mazda RX-7 FD
MotoPickers Rating 8.5/10
- Production Years: 1991-2002
- Engine Size: A punchy 1.3 litre with twin-turbo
- Power Performance: A solid 252-276 horsepower
- Drivetrain Setup: Braced for rear-wheel drive fun
A firm favourite is the legendary Mazda RX7’s third version – the FD. A beauty with a front-engine, rear-wheel drive setup, this sports car turned heads with its svelte design and potent performance.
The RX-7 stood out for its feather-light build and quirky twin turbochargers. Fun fact: It was the first car from Japan with mass-produced sequential twin-turbocharger tech. The petite rotary engine, placed behind the front axle, gave the car an ideal weight balance and a low center of gravity. And those pop-up headlights? Totally unforgettable.
As for speed, how about 0-62 mph in a mere 5.9 seconds, and a top speed of 155mph? Thanks to the twin rotors, the power came on strong and stayed strong. Great control and ample fun on the go—no wonder it’s a top pick in the Madalin Stunt Cars 3 game!
Over in the UK, it started off slow but the popularity soared after a price reduction. It reached a point where more of these made their way to the UK via the grey market than Mazda UK had actually imported! Undeniably a classic!
MotoPickers Rating 9/10
- Manufacturing Span: From 1990 – 2005
- Engine’s Grunt: A massive 3 liters
- Horsepower Rating: An impressive 270 to 290 bhp
- Drive Setup: Thrilling rear-wheel drive
Enter the first-generation Honda NSX, a bit of an outlier in the pool of budget-friendly JDM cars. This baby was built to rival Ferrari’s high-speed champs and became known as the first “everyday supercar.”
Look under the hood, and you’d find a robust 3.0-litre, 24-valve VTEC V6 engine. Honda cleverly integrated variable valve timing and added titanium connecting rods. These nifty add-ons reduced weight and increased vehicle strength. And with an extra 700 rpm, we’re talking 8000 rpm redline!
Adding to its unique style, the body design got a dose of inspiration from the F-16 fighter jet’s cockpit. The goal? 360-degree visibility through a forward-placed cabin, and a long tail for high-speed stability.
With acceleration from 0-60 mph in a snappy 5.7 seconds, and a top speed of 168 mph, the NSX was a tech showpiece for Honda. Everything from its Formula One motorsports division contributed, including F1 drivers, Saturo Nakajima, and the late Ayrton Senna testing its chassis tuning.
Breaking the mould, the NSX was the first production car showcasing an all-aluminum semi-monocoque unit body, with a cutting-edge frame and suspension components made from an extruded aluminum alloy. This game-changing innovation shaved nearly 440lbs off the car’s body weight!
Coupled with an anti-lock brake system and electric power steering, the easy-to-handle NSX offered durability and excellent bang for your buck. No wonder it quickly climbed the charts of most-loved JDM cars.
Toyota Supra MKIV
MotoPickers Rating 9.5/10
- Production Years: Ran from 1993 all the way to 2002
- Engine Capacity: A hearty 3 liters
- Power Show: Dishing out anywhere from 276 to 326 horsepower
- Drive Layout: Ready for back-road fun with rear-wheel drive
The Toyota Supra’s fourth generation took a dramatic turn from its 80s roots. It traded in its brick-like aesthetics for a sleek, curvy silhouette crowned by a large rear wing.
This remodel was all about boosting performance, and it’s impossible to talk about it without mentioning the legendary twin-turbocharged 2JZ engine. That dual turbo? It worked in harmony to amp the engine and elevate torque levels. This automotive marvel could go from 0-60 mph in just 5.1 seconds and reach a top speed of 156 mph. It immediately became iconic.
Toyota really leaned into shedding weight for this rework. The recipe included a whole lot of aluminum and innovative elements like hollow carpet fibers, a lightweight magnesium-alloy steering wheel, a plastic gas tank and lid, a gas-injected rear spoiler, and a single-pipe exhaust system.
Even with added features—think dual airbags, improved traction control, bigger brakes, wheels, and tires, and an extra turbo—it managed to debut 200lbs lighter than its predecessor. Sure, it was heftier than the Mazda RX7 and the Honda NSX, but its handling was impressive.
With its massive aftermarket demand, the Toyota Supra isn’t just a car; it’s a beacon of counterculture. It’s been a star in video games like Gran Turismo and Need For Speed, and let’s not forget its Fast And The Furious film cameos. It’s safe to say the fourth-gen Supra is considered by many as the face of JDM cars in the west.
Nissan Skyline GT-R
MotoPickers Rating 9.6/10
- Built Between: The golden period of 1989 to 2002
- Engine Size: Packed with a 2.6-liter heart
- Power Delivery: A solid thrust of 276 horsepower
- Drive Setup: Armed for all-terrain action with all-wheel drive
Back in 1969 to 1973, Nissan rolled out the Skyline GT-R, a touring car that later gained the legendary “Kenmeri” status. Almost two decades later, Nissan brought it back to the spotlight with a passion for ruling the motorsport world.
Three incarnations of the GT-R became Nissan’s performance darlings. The R32 was born to rule Group A racing, the R33 brought a style upgrade, and the R34 won hearts with its onboard analysis and killer looks. Advanced features like the ATTESA E-TS all-wheel-drive and SUPER-HICAS four-wheel steering were the cherries on top.
This car was the epitome of a decade of racing wisdom, securing itself as a leading figure among JDM cars. The Nissan Skyline GT-R became iconic, hailed by Top Gear as the “Japanese mega contributor to the supercar family,” and by Jeremy Clarkson as “one of the best cars in the world.”
Subaru’s Impreza WRX STI
MotoPickers Rating 8.5/10
- Production Span: Created from 1992 to 2000
- Engine’s Grunt: A comprehensive 2 liters
- Power Show: Cranking out a neat 247-276 horsepower
- Drive Mechanism: Built for grip with all-wheel drive
The powerhouse Subaru Impreza WRX STI was born to rule the World Rally Championship (that’s what WRX stands for—World Rally eXperimental!). Its innovative tech made it legendary: all-wheel-drive, a sturdy suspension and a turbocharged engine.
Those STI versions (courtesy of Subaru Tecnica International) were exclusive JDM models you couldn’t get outside of Japan. Think of them as souped-up WRXs, with performance-tuned engines, transmissions, and suspensions.
The STI shone bright in rallies, became a street participant favorite, and even graced the silver screen in Edgar Wright’s acclaimed film, Baby Driver.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VI
MotoPickers Rating 8.3/10
- Manufacturing Run: Between the years 1999 and 2001
- Engine Capacity: Compact yet powerful 2 liters
- Power Performance: Punching out a solid 276 horsepower
- Drive Setup: Equipped for traction with all-wheel drive
Let’s talk about the mighty rival of Subaru Impreza — the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution. It was kitted out with turbocharged inline four-cylinder engines and a five-speed manual gearbox. The sixth generation received a makeover to boost cooling and engine durability.
New bodywork? Check. Smaller fog lights moved to corners for better airflow? Yup. And did we mention the Tommi Makinen edition? Named after the Finnish ace who bagged four World Rally Championships for Mitsubishi, this model sported 17-inch white Enkei wheels, a titanium turbine that spooled up faster, lower ride height, and sharper steering. It has undeniable swagger.
The Lancer Evolution became more robust and even more attractive, earning its spot among significant JDM models. Initially, these beauties were exclusive to Japan, but demand from grey import markets had them cruising into the UK, Europe, and the USA.
Honda DC2 Integra Type R
MotoPickers Rating 9.2/10
- Production Timeline: Crafted from 1995 through to 2001
- Engine Size: A nimble 1.8 liters
- Power Stats: Delivers a nifty 200 horsepower
- Drive Layout: Geared for hustle with front-wheel drive
Say hello to the Honda DC2 Integra Type R, a special treat for the Japanese market. Many hold it in high acclaim as one of the finest front-wheel drive cars ever to hit the road. Its Type R variant came equipped with a 200 PS engine, a close-ratio five-speed manual transmission, and a helical limited-slip differential, marking a significant leap from older Integra models.
This version delivered consistency in improved performance and handling, plus an added advantage—it looked amazing!
The laundry list of improvements spotlighted a fortified chassis, lighter weight (thanks to less sound insulation, a slimmer windscreen, and less heavy wheels), a power surge, a handcrafted engine, redone intake and exhaust systems, and suspension upgrades. VTEC technology took the engine redline sky-high to an awe-inspiring 8500 rpm.
The Type R got another makeover in 1998—reworked rear bumper, 16-inch wheels, amplified brakes, and higher gear ratios. The 2000 refresh offered a revamped intake camshaft and more finely balanced driveshafts.
Producing the DC2 Integra Type R meant dipping into the red for Honda, owing to its hand-finished production and elevated manufacturing costs. But it was well worth it. The model earned accolades for its legendary handling, high-revving engine, and landed among the top JDM cars of the 90s.
MotoPickers Rating 8/10
- Built Between: The prime years of 1989 to 2002
- Engine’s Heart: A reasonable 2 liters
- Power Delivery: Ranging from a sturdy 133 to 247 horsepower
- Drive Setup: Ready for some rear-wheel drive fun
This two-door sports coupe was a knockout at its home ground in Japan, even snagging the country’s Car of The Year Award in 1989. The first 90’s reincarnation began as the Silvia S13. It originally featured the CA18 engine, later replaced by the SR20 in the successive S14 and S15 models. Power options included a turbocharged or naturally-aspirated engine for the 1.8-liter CA engines, and a sizeable 2-liters for the SRs.
The Silvia has etched its mark as a budget-friendly, sporty ride offering a mass-friendly chassis. Its fame carries on today among enthusiasts who can’t get enough of 90s JDM magic.
Nissan 300 ZX
MotoPickers Rating 8.5/10
- Production Run: Spanning from 1989 till the turn of the millennium in 2000
- Engine Size: A hefty 3 liters
- Power Stats: Cranks out a robust 300 horsepower
- Drive Specs: Tailored for rear-wheel drive shenanigans
Nissan decided to keep their focus on the Japanese home ground with the 300 ZX. In a pioneering move, they used the Cray-2 supercomputer and early CAD software to design the car—making it one of the first production cars designed this way. It unveiled a fresh, rounded body, bidding goodbye to rigid edges.
The second generation kept its predecessor’s turbo-charged V6 engine but had an upscale touch—faster, bigger, and fancier with a heftier price tag. Twin-turbo models also offered four-wheel steering, dubbed the Super HICAS (High Capacity Actively Controlled Steering).
Available as a hardtop, T-top, or convertibles, this non-turbo-charged engine model was a nod to the sports car era. With acceleration going from 0-60 mph in just over 5 seconds and a top speed of 155 mph, it was among the speediest Japanese sports cars in the 90s.
Add its well-tuned chassis, sport-centered suspension, and active rear steering to the equation, and you’ve got an impeccable all-rounder. Belonging to the elite group of JDM cars, it boasted versions with attributes not available globally.
This included the “Version R” with Recaro front seats, leather rear seats on a four-seater, and beefier side skirts. Now rare, if you find one, bag it!
Honda EK9 Civic Type R
MotoPickers Rating 8/10
- Manufacturing Years: From 1997 through to 2001
- Engine Capacity: Packs in a nimble 1.6 liters
- Power Performance: Churns out a brisk 182 horsepower
- Drive Setup: Fine-tuned for speed with front-wheel drive
Meet the top-tier version of the Honda Civic – the Civic Type R, a front-runner among JDM cars mainly because it wasn’t available anywhere outside Japan. It’s a sleek three-door hatchback featuring a light yet sturdy body, custom-tuned engine, and upgraded brakes along with the chassis. The sporty interior is a riot of red elements, topped with a sleek leather-wrapped steering wheel.
A distinguishing red badge set it apart from other Honda models. This sports-focused vibe amped up in 1998 with the release of the Motorsports edition, which swapped out luxuries for raw racing readiness – think steel wheels, no AC, power windows or steering, no radio, and the standard Type R interior trim.
Just like the Integra Type R, Honda reimagined the Civic Type R as a high-performance track star. Shared features included axing sound-deadening, other weight-loss steps, a hand-ported B16B engine, a front helical limited-slip differential, and a close-ratio five-speed manual gearbox – all contributing to more stability and less wheel spin during races.
Nissan Pulsar GTI-R
MotoPickers Rating 8.4/10
- Produced Between: 1990 to 1994
- Engine Size: Sturdy 2 liters
- Power Delivery: Dishes out anywhere between 186 to 227 horsepower
- Drive Mechanics: Built for grip with all-wheel drive
Meet the fourth-generation Pulsar, a Nissan vehicle packed with traits from the Nissan Skyline GT-R, like its high-performance all-wheel drive and turbo-charged engine. Visually, it may not be the most stunning car on the block, but it’s a testament to power triumphing over beauty!
This petite powerhouse compensates for its boxier style with raw power and a thrilling driving experience. Earning its namesake from a cosmic pulsating star, the Nissan Pulsar quickly gained a dedicated fan base in Japan.
Surprisingly, it attained a cult-like status despite little push from Nissan itself. This unassuming five-seater hatchback, created specifically for the World Rally Championship, boasts a 0-60 mph sprint in just 5.4 seconds and a top speed of 144 mph.
MotoPickers Rating 9.5/10
- Production Years: Spanned from the end of the millennium (1999) to 2009
- Engine’s Grunt: A reliable 2 liters
- Power Show: 247 horsepower
- Drive Setup: Rear-wheel drive
You might be surprised to see Honda popping up again in our list, but they were superb in the 90s. The S2000, released in 1999, is a perfect example. It might not have had all the appreciation it deserved, but with its F1-inspired F20C engine, it held the title of the highest-powered naturally aspirated production engine for an astounding ten years—until the Ferrari 458 Italia rolled out.
Yet, even with the Ferrari’s fancier overall power, the S2000’s 9,000 rpm F20C engine offers 123.5 HP/L, just about a hair behind the 458 Italia’s 124.5 HP/L.
Aside from its dreamy 50/50 weight distribution and heavy-duty engine, the S2000 is a real looker. While Honda was selling a staggering 3.1 million Civics, only a relatively modest 66,860 S2000s found homes in the US before production came to a halt, making them scarce and increasingly desirable.
No doubt the S2000 is on its way to becoming a future classic.
Mazda MX-5 / Miata / Eunos (JDM)
MotoPickers Rating 9/10
- Built Between: 1989 to 1997
- Engine Capacity: Between a lively 1.6 to 1.8 liters
- Power Delivery: Puts out a perky 116 to 128 horsepower
- Drive Layout: Rear Wheel Drive
Meet possibly the most adorable car on this list, the MX-5. But don’t let its visual cuteness deceive you. This tiny dynamo delivers an epic drive you’d be hard-pressed to find in another JDM car.
If you’re longing for a fun yet budget-friendly Japanese roadster from this era then start your search with the Miata (also known as the JDM Eunos). Just bear in mind, good quality ones have seen a price hike recently.
The first-gen Miata, better known as the “NA”, originally sported a 1.6-liter gas engine. Over the years, Mazda upgraded this petite roadster with a zestier 1.8-liter engine, boasting a cool 128 horsepower and 110 lb-ft of torque. That may not sound like much bhp in this company, but the drive and ride are glorious.
The designers had one goal in sight — to make driving this car a hoot. It funnels all its power exclusively to the rear wheels through a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic transmission. But let’s be honest, who’d want an automatic MX-5? The manual is an unequivocal classic with a worldwide reputation for brilliant fun.
MotoPickers Rating 7.5/10
- Manufactured From: The stretch between 1995 and 1999
- Engine Size: Nestles between a hefty 2.0 to 2.4 liters
- Power Performance: Packs a punch between 140 to 210 horsepower
- Drive Setup: All set for some rear-wheel drive action
If you’ve ever watched the first Fast And Furious film, you’ll likely understand why the Mitsubishi Eclipse makes our list. This car played a crucial role in bringing JDM culture into the mainstream.
US MotoPickers might recognize this car under another name: the Eagle Talon. Although they sported slightly different looks, underneath the hood they were virtually identical. The chic two-door coupe was available in three trim levels. Its fastest model, the GS-T, housed a turbocharged inline-four engine kicking out an impressive 210 horsepower and 214 lb-ft of torque.
Added to all that power, the GS-T version had a few more bells and whistles — luxurious leather upholstery and a factory-fitted sunroof to name a few. While the Eclipse as we knew it is no longer in production, you can still hunt down and own one of these classics and, for a moment, step back into Mitsubishi’s performance heydays.
MotoPickers Rating 8.3/10
- Produced Between: 1989 to 1999
- Engine Capacity: A robust 2.0 to 2.2 liters
- Power Stats: Delivers anywhere between 156 to 218 horsepower
- Drive Mechanics: Set for rear-wheel drive fun
You might find it surprising, but the Toyota MR2 shares more traits with the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of its era than with its fellow Japanese makes. This is because, unlike the standard front-engine layout, the MR2 houses its engine behind the driver. In the 90s, this car was an assured head-turner thanks to its raked style.
Its mid-engine, rear-wheel-drive layout granted it a top-tier driving experience. Being agile and sensitive, it gave every drive an edge. Nowadays, there’s a whole fleet of engine-swapped MR2s out there, some pushing out shockingly high power levels, if you fancy something souped-up even further.
Forecasting Future JDM Legends
These vintage JDM charmers are now getting revamps and fresh tweaks from a new wave of car enthusiasts, relishing every bit of the ride. At MotoPickers we think these mighty wonders are future classics. If you can get one now, you could well be sitting pretty in years to come!
MotoPickers Rating 8.9/10
Against all odds and early speculations expecting the latest Nissan Z car to be called the Nissan 400Z, the Japanese car giant opted for a minimalist approach with the simply named – Nissan Z.
The retro design enhances its vintage charm, paying a sweet tribute to the early Fairlady models. Peek under the hood, and you’ll find a glorious 400hp twin-turbo V6 engine that first made its debut in the Infiniti Q50 Red Sport.
Pair that with a hefty 350 lb/ft of torque, and it’s clear the 2023 Nissan Z doesn’t mess around. Even previous 350Z and 370Z owners will find this ride quite a step away from their usual wheel time.
Toyota GR Corolla
MotoPickers Rating 9/10
Toyota’s Gazoo Racing – its performance arm – has been lighting up the stage lately. It’s been rolling hit after hit off the assembly line, for instance, the GR Yaris, GR 86, and the revamped Supra. Their latest wild innovation, the GR Corolla, has just begun to reach the hands of eager drivers.
It sports an all-wheel-drive, mirroring Toyota’s rally cars that have been making waves in the WRC. It shares its turbocharged three-cylinder engine with the GR Yaris, but here it pumps out a whopping 300 horsepower, which is 43 hp more than its Yaris counterpart.
The GR Corolla’s standout feature is its four-wheel-drive system. It offers various driver-selectable power distribution modes, promising maximum thrill regardless of the road ahead.
Thanks to its jaw-dropping power and ample traction, the GR Corolla dashes from 0-60 mph in a mere 4.9 seconds and hits 100 mph in 11.4. If you’re on the lookout for a fun, dependable, and actually quite spacious family car offering heaps of road-riding prowess, it’s hard to beat the GR Corolla.
Toyota Supra A90
MotoPickers Rating 9.2/10
After a grand introduction at the 2018 Goodwood Festival of Speed, the A90 Toyota Supra rolled out into showrooms the following year and has been flying off the lots ever since!
The Supra’s 2019 launch was among the most awaited in the performance car world, and it lived up to the buzz. With its no-compromise attitude, the Supra is among the fiercest cars you can buy today.
Under the hood, the feisty beast hides a 3.0-liter turbo-charged in-line straight-six engine pushing out 330 bhp and 450 Nm of torque (with a 50Nm overboost option). It does a 0-62 mph dash in an electrifying 3.8 seconds.
In terms of size, it stretches to 4.38m in length, 1.86m in width, and 1.29m in height, with a wheelbase of 2.47m. The six-cylinder variant weighs just under 1500kg. Despite only having an automatic option at launch, Toyota rolled out a manual model down the line, which met with rave reviews. Touted as a “pure sports car,” many Supra owners have customized their cars to their own unique tastes.
Toyota’s new Gazoo Racing team played a crucial role in shaping up this ride, and the Supra made its entry in multiple racing championships in the ensuing years. As of 2023, buyers can choose between two Supra versions – a base 2.0-liter four-cylinder or the more powerful and pricey 3.0-liter straight-six. And yes, both are turbocharged!
A Peek into the Next Nissan Silvia S16
MotoPickers Rating: we expect Great things!
Despite swirling rumors since as far back as 2021 about the much-awaited return of the Nissan Silvia S16, we’re still keeping our fingers crossed. The model was shelved in 2002, and JDM enthusiasts would definitely throw a party if a new Silvia hit the scene!
The potential comeback model promises to uphold the Silvia family’s name for quality and an enjoyable drive. Nissan is reportedly cooking up a bespoke platform for the S16, leaning towards the lighter side. The fruits of this labor would, therefore, align with the classic ethos of a lightweight rear-wheel-drive sports car sporting an almost spot-on 50:50 weight distribution.
Word on the street is that the car might come equipped with a new-gen 2.0-liter turbocharged in-line four-cylinder engine, packing more than 300 bhp.
MotoPickers Rating 9.5/10
The latest Nissan GTR is a supercar that genuinely packs a punch. Sporting a 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6 engine, it offers more horsepower and torque than its predecessor, clocking in at 565 bhp and 637 Nm, boasting a mind-boggling top speed of 196 mph.
The model comes with enhanced aerodynamics – think more downforce and increased body stiffness – promising stability and sharp handling like never before. For 2024, the GTR receives a fresh makeover that accentuates its exterior. The return of the T-spec has had GTR fanatics buzzing with excitement. As the rumor mill goes into overdrive about the possible launch of an all-new R36 GTR, stay tuned to MotoPickers for an in-depth review as soon as it’s out.