God knows we Malaysians are addicted to the JDM culture. Though I will acknowledge that recently the European car scene is spilling onto us, especially the hot hatches, the JDM culture is so deep-rooted that we simply cannot NOT gravitate to it. So here are a couple of JDM classics that we Malaysians love and why. Feel free to debate.
1. Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution (I-X)
I had to start with this one. The Evo spawned from the rally world hence why it has a rugged nature. In Malaysia, the craze for Evos come from the Proton and Mitsubishi marriage. Our Proton Wira and Satria are near-identical copies of the Mitsubishi Lancer. Meaning we can modify then into Evo’s. Automatically, all the JDM parts we needed started making their way to our half cut shops from Japan. Started la all the conversions. Before you knew it, we even had AWD swaps! Illegal yea, but who cares, it’s cool as hell.
Still, there is a difference between a conversion and a proper full-on Mitsu Evo. It has driven the prices of authentic Evo’s to unimaginable numbers. You’d need upwards of RM50k for a clean Evo I, II & III, and even more so for the younger ones. We love to throw the Evo at our mountain roads and, for those with the budget, on track as well. The Evo is a versatile platform for tuners and is relatively cheap for the performance it offers.
2. Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R
Ahhh yes, the big one. The R34 is not just one of our favorites, but will very well go down in history as one of the most loved, if not JDM, cars to ever exist. It comes down from a line of potent and precise machines, the R32 and R33. Both of which had cemented the GT-R’s name in motorsports and was breaking records in the street tuner scene. Then the R34 came along and started an even larger cult following for the brand. Those iconic tail lights began hypnotizing petrolheads worldwide and we too were mesmerized by it.
Though we don’t see that many R34’s on the road here, those that exist are exquisite. We have full-fledged show cars, extremely rare spec units, garage queens, and my personal fav, drift cars. Some of the R34s we see are actually GTT models converted to look like a GT-R but I don’t blame them. The GT-R is so madly priced that we almost have no choice but to just window shop and make do with what we have.
3. Honda Civic
We have love for VTEC. Could that be the biggest understatement in this article? Scroll through Mudah or Facebook Marketplace and look at the prices for an EK9 Type R. Or for that matter, just look up the prices for any Honda hatchback from the era. See the price? Yea, it was driven up to that amount by us. We are absolutely addicted to the VTECs. We’ll put a VTEC engine in almost any Honda body we can find. Heck someone even swapped it into a Satria before. Don’t quote me on that but I’ve heard rumors. The whole range, B16A, B16B, B18, B20 block+B16B head, they all have their unique traits and share one big one. Flicking open at 5.5k rpm like John Wick going after a dog killer.
How did it start? I’m not so sure, probably like any other car craze. Took a few brave newcomers to rep the NA against a couple of turbo’s and stand a fighting chance. VTECs garner a tonne of attention thanks to their 9000rpm redline and ear-popping soundtrack. On the roads, they’re most famous for the kanjo culture. On track though, they can really rip apart lap times, with the right driver of course. Confession: I’m starting to dip a toe into that world too. Ever since I drove a buddy’s B18CR powered EJ. It has a weirdly abusive charm, this VTEC thing.
4. Toyota Corolla KE70
This one exists for the drifters. Not to belittle it, but the KE70 is the go-to no brainer startup drift car in Malaysia. The damn thing costs just a few grand. The recipe is pretty easy too. Weld the diff, drift till you blow the weak stock 4K engine, then swap in something more potent. Depending on your budget, an SR20DET or RB20 is usually the choice. Or if you’re into NA drifting, the 4AGE from an AE86. The KE70 started life as a city runabout but thanks to its rear-wheel-drive platform has become an affordable key to unlock the world of drifting. Malaysians also explore the stance culture with the KE70, mimicking the Japanese with extravagant body kits, wild exhaust tips and close to zero ground clearance.
5. Toyota Supra JZA80 (MKIV)
Is that a SUPRA?!? Oh hell yes this is on the list. Come on, the only thing that is holding back most of us from owning one is the cost. It’s famous, it is mad from factory, it has insane amounts of potential as a machine and it looks dope as f***! If the Supra wasn’t etched into human consciousness through movies, it would be the ultimate sleeper sports car. The lines on the Supra are not attention grabbing at all. Its smooth curves and wide hips serve up a simple and almost dull outlook. While the GT-R was proudly making a name for itself on the world circuits, the Supra was humbly living its life without showboating anything at all.
Despite having one of the most iconic engines ever made. Make that 2, the 1JZ AND 2JZ. Both can sail way over the 600hp mark with a stock bottom end. Plus it is rear-wheel-drive and has a unique interior that is almost entirely driver-focused, like a cockpit. In the current moment, the MK4 Supra is pure presence. We dig.
6. Mazda RX-7 (FD)
Well, off the bat, the road tax is a win for us. 1.3L engine means it is just RM70 a year. For other reasons to love the rotary powered icon, just take a step back and look at one. With the RX-7 it somehow screams JDM louder than the others on the list for me. The design of the headlamps, the ridiculously long bonnet, short cabin, and massive rear end (Both length and width). In stock form, the RX-7 is already a poser. Unlike the Supra above, the RX-7 goes toe-to-toe with the R34, not necessarily in terms of performance but for its fan base.
Performance wise, the 1.3L force induced rotary makes all kinds of sounds that awaken your inner petrolhead. I’ve had the liberty to drive a bridgeported one, let me tell you, the experience is utterly unique. The way a rotary delivers its power is so different and rev happy despite the fact that it’s turbocharged. And then you factor in the knowledge that you’re driving something that looks so dope and you just KNOW everyone be lookin.
Nissan A31 Cefiro
Honda DC2 Integra Type R