10 Coolest Japanese Concept Cars of the 90s

The 1990s were a time of great innovation in the Japanese automotive industry, with many of the country’s most sought-after cars released during the decade. Each manufacturer battled to reign supreme in the world of performance cars, with the Nissan Skyline GTR, Toyota Supra MkIV and Mazda RX-7 battling it out on the streets and on dealership forecourts. But, for this innovation to take place, concept cars were needed to show off and develop each automaker’s ideas.

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While many of these JDM concepts led directly to production cars, it’s often the ones that didn’t that are considered the coolest today. They point out that for every successful innovation, there are ten others that have not come off the drawing board. Let’s take a look at ten of the coolest Japanese concept cars from the 90s that deserve more credit than they get.

ten MazdaRX-01


MazdaRX-01
Through Mazda

The 1995 Mazda RX-01 was released in response to criticism that the company’s flagship, the RX-7, was becoming too heavy and complicated in its construction. The RX-01 took things back to basics, with a lightweight and simple construction inspired by the first generation RX-7.


MazdaRX-01
Through Mazda

Originally, Mazda’s intention was for this concept to lead to a production vehicle that would replace the RX-7, but that never happened. It took until 2003 for the RX-8 to arrive and continue the lineage of rotary sports cars.

9 Honda Silver Vivo


Honda Silver Vivo
Through Honda

This collaboration between Italian design house Pininfarina and Honda surfaced in 1995, and it’s one of Honda’s best-looking concepts, period. It featured several state-of-the-art innovations, including a folding carbon fiber hardtop and a 2.5-liter inline-5 engine developed specifically for the car.


Honda Silver Vivo
Through Honda

Although the concept never reached full production, it caught the eye of the Sultan of Brunei who, at the time, was known to have bought almost every high-end performance car he could put his mind on. hand. Several working examples are believed to have been built for the Sultan and his family, although exactly how many are unclear.


8 Mitsubishi HSR-III


Mitsubishi HSR-III
Through Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi’s series of HSR concept cars ran for ten years between 1987 and 1997, with each new version featuring the latest performance technology developed by the company. The 1991 HSR-III was the first roadster in the series and featured cutting-edge innovations like a flexible “skin” on the rear spoiler for better aerodynamics.


Mitsubishi HSR-III
Through Mitsubishi

The HSR-III also moved away from the purely performance-based design of previous HSR models, focusing on durability. Almost all major parts of the concept car have been designed to be easily recyclable when they have reached the end of their life.


7 Isuzu XU-1


Isuzu XU-1
By Isuzu

Built on the chassis of the Isuzu Trooper, the XU-1 took a futuristic approach to SUV design. Most SUVs on the market at the time focused on function over form, being essentially boxes on wheels for the most part.


Isuzu XU-1
By Isuzu

The XU-1 took a different approach, with a sleek body that was unlike anything the brand had done before. Company bosses reportedly considered production before deciding against it, which is a shame because Isuzu was onto something. After all, many SUVs sold today focus on sleek aerodynamics and styling rather than actual off-road functionality.

6 Yamaha OX99-11


Yamaha OX99-11
Through Yamaha

It’s impossible to talk about Japanese concept cars of the 90s without mentioning everyone’s favorite hammerhead shark-like car, the Yamaha OX99-11. It made global headlines when it was released for its unusual design, and even today it’s still one of the weirdest sports car models out there.


Yamaha OX99-11
Through Yamaha

Yamaha planned to put the car into production, but its exorbitant price and financial problems in Japan led to the cancellation of the OX99-11 in 1994 after only 3 prototypes were made.

5 Honda SSM


Honda SSM
Through Honda

Some readers might recognize that this concept looks a lot like the Honda S2000, and yes, the SSM is a direct predecessor to that car. It was introduced at the Tokyo Motor Show in 1995 and attracted a lot of attention, which encouraged Honda to consider the idea of ​​making it a production version.

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Honda SSM
Through Honda

The biggest difference between the SSM concept and the production S2000 has to be the headlights, which are much lower on the concept. The SSM also featured an inline-5 engine which was replaced with an inline-4 on the later S2000.


4 Nissan 240Z Concept


Nissan 240Z Concept (1999)
Via Nissan Global

After the 300ZX was phased out with no direct successor, Nissan introduced the 240Z concept in 1999 to gauge what interest there might be in a new Z model. The concept had several stylistic similarities to the eventual next-generation Z, the 350Z, but it’s not a carbon copy.


Nissan 240Z Concept
Via Nissan Global

The biggest difference between this concept and the production 350Z would be its engine, as the concept featured a 200hp four-cylinder engine inspired by the Nissan Altima. Eventually the bosses decided it wouldn’t be powerful enough, and a 3.5-liter V6 engine was developed for the production 350Z.

3 Mitsubishi SST


Mitsubishi SST
Through Mitsubishi

The original Mitsubishi SST press release describes it as “a study for a sports model that Mitsubishi Motors is developing”, and that model will arrive in the form of the third-generation Eclipse. However, the concept comes with a few interesting features that the production car didn’t have: for starters, the yellow-green paint job is unlike anything Mitsubishi has ever offered to customers.


Mitsubishi SST
Through Mitsubishi

Conjoined taillights aren’t present on the production car either, and it’s not as wide or low. It’s a shame, because the SST concept is arguably better than the production Eclipse, and it might have sold better had Mitsubishi stuck more faithfully to its original design.


2 Honda J-VX


Honda J-VX
Through Honda

A sporty two-door sedan with unique doors and an innovative hybrid drivetrain, the J-VX has aged very well considering its 1997 debut. It was Honda’s attempt to make hybrid technology cool, and to be fair , she did her job, like the concept still looks awesome.

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Honda J-VX
Through Honda

It never reached production, although Honda eventually released a production car with a similar premise in 2010, the CR-Z. This car was criticized for its lack of sportiness and limited practicality, moreover, it was nowhere near as good looking as the original J-VX concept.

1 Nissan trail runner


Nissan trail runner
Through Nissan

One of the biggest industry trends during the 90s was the obsession with finding new market niches. This ultimately resulted in the creation of the crossover SUV, an invention that took over the modern automotive market and pushed some traditional body styles to the brink of extinction.


Nissan trail runner
Through Nissan

In its search for new niches to fill, Nissan unveiled the Trail Runner, a 4×4 sports coupe that combined the idea of ​​an affordable sports car with a rally-raid off-roader. The concept featured a 185 hp 1.8L engine with all-wheel drive, and had it ever reached production, it might have become a hit. Unfortunately, it never did, and nothing like it has ever been made since by any manufacturer, Japanese or otherwise.


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