The Japanese Decade

 The Seventies was the beginning of the rise of the Japanese automobile manufacturers in the US. The Oil Crisis had caught the Big Three unprepared, whil ethe Japanese were selling exactlt what was needed in the changed market conditions. Performance-wise, things were not so bright. Toyota had it's newly introduced Celica, which was more show then go, but by the end of the decade there was the Mazda RX-7, Toyota Celica Supra, and the fabulous Datsun 280ZX, all harbingers of what the future held.

 The eighties was when the Japanese really started to expand their horizons, and performance took a huge leap forward. It was also the decade that front wheel drive started to dominate drivetrains, which led to the introduction of the MR2, a mid-engined sports car. The specialty coupes like the Celica and Prelude gained more horsepower and better handling, and higher prices. The GT cars like the Supra and 300ZX were approaching Corvette territory by the end of the decade.

 It was the nineties where the Japanese really showed their prowess in sports cars. Nissan kicked it off with the new Z, arguably one of the best GT cars ever made. Mazda and Toyota took the RX-7 and Supra beyond their GT roots into true sports car territory. Honda had the coup de grace though, with it's fabulous NSX, the first Japanes exotic.

 The specialty coupes were reaching the performance levels of the previous decade's GT class, and there was an explosion of different models. Long timers like the Celica, 240SX, and Prelude were joined by the Probe/MX-6, Talon/Eclipse/Laser, and the Subaru XT. Along with the jump in performance level came an increase in price, resulting in a swarm of cheaper coupes. The pack included the Geo Storm/Isuzu Impulse, the Toyota Paseo, Nissan NX/200SX, and the wonderful Mazda MX-3 with a 1.8 liter V6!

 It was also the decade that the roadster made a well deserved return with Mazda's Miata, a sensation when it was introduced. Truly it was the decade of the Japanese sports car.

 Now we're in the 2K's, and it's rather boring on the performance front. Sedans are the new performance vehicles, while coupes have faded. Nissan has dropped the 200SX, 240SX, and there is no longer a 2-Door Sentra. Mazda no longer makes the MX-6 or MX-3. Toyota still has the Celica, but the Paseo and Supra are history. Mitsubishi's 3000GT went the way of the dinosaurs, and Subaru and Suzuki don't even make any coupes.

 Yes, the Lancer and the WRX are impressive performance vehicles for the price, but they're still sedans. A sports car comes with only two doors, not four. At least Scion is bringing out the tC, but I fear that coupes are an endangered species in the automotive market. Young people are leaning more towards SUV's instead of sports cars as automotive expressions, but when the SUV bubble finally bursts (seen gas prices lately?), will the sports car make a comeback? I can only hope. I miss the nineties.


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