Japanese Car Staff Picks - David Morley

By: David Morley

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Subaru impreza wrx Subaru impreza wrx

Dave Morley nominates his top three choices of Japanese cars

Subaru Impreza WRX 1994 to 1998

Until the first WRX arrived in the mid-90s, the idea of going quickly involved eight cylinders and rear-drive. But the little Suby pitched that right on its head. Marketed as a refugee from a WRC forest stage, the combination of a perky turbo-motor and all-wheel-drive rewrote the book. Even now, an early WRX can feel great provided it’s been serviced and driven sanely for the past two-and-a-half decades. Speaking of which, early examples of this thing are now old enough to qualify for the club-permit scheme in some States, so values are only going to go one way from here on in. I’ll have the conventional sedan over the odd looking liftback variant, and make mine Subaru rally blue with gold alloys. The trick now, of course, is finding one that hasn’t been thrashed and crashed or, perhaps even worse, modified for a LOT more grunt via a dose of boost-botox.

Value Range: $5000 to $9000

| Read next: 25 years of Subaru WRX

 

Mazda RX-5 1976 to 1979

mazda-rx-5.jpg

I like RA40 Celicas for the way they shine a goofy Japanese light on an American inspiration. And the 121-based RX-5 is more of the same from where I sit.

The big, toothy grille and weirdburger B-pillar window stamp it as, er, individual, to put it mildly. The interior was a triumph of fake wood over actual taste and there are a thousand little J-market touches that are special in 2019. Then there’s the allure of that rotary engine. Yeah, I know a rotary can be trouble, but any still getting around will have been rebuilt, presumably with improvements like modern apex seals and stuff. And if you want to get back to your childhood real fast, you could always slip a turbo-rotor into it. The best news is that the ugly-duckling RX-5 hasn’t suffered the price spiral of pretty much every other rotary-powered Mazda in the last few years. Make of that what you will.

Value Range: $4000 to $15,000

 

Toyota Cressida MX32 1977 to 1980

Okay, so an MX-5 is a walk-up start here, but I’m sick of writing about them, so let’s put the wee roadster to one side for the sake of the argument.

Which makes my first choice a weird one – the MX32 Cressida. I can remember when these arrived Down Under and owning one meant you had made it. I wouldn’t mess too much with mine, either – leave the stock engine and trans and just cruise it. Got to be either off-white or metallic brown, though. As much as I love old Crowns, the Cressida with its unitary construction should be a more modern drive. Lowered springs, groovy JDM alloys, velour trim…you know it makes sense.

Value Range: $1000 to $8000

 

 

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