"JDM" stands for “Japanese Domestic Market” and is a simple way to say that a car is Japanese-made. Even if a car was made in the US, people will call a vehicle a JDM if the brand of the car itself is Japanese. For instance, a 240SX isn't a Japanese domestic-market car (and was sold in American domestic markets), but it’s still considered a JDM. The most common JDM brands are Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Toyota, and Nissan.
Many of these JDM import cars have been “detuned” in order to meet regulations in the United States—to make them street legal. For instance, swapping a Japanese engine into an “American” Honda Civic is considered integration in true form.
The fact is, JDM modified cars are some of the coolest out there, so much so that Urban Dictionary has a section highlighted for JDM as a term to “one-up” a friend or acquaintance in areas outside of cars. But here, we’re focusing on the super modified, heavily integrated vehicles that companies like Mugen, Biko Works, Top Secret, Spirit REI, and Top Fuel Japan build.
Japanese car owners typically look toward innovation rather than long-term ownership, driving them fewer miles/year and for less time than US owners, which forces Japanese carmakers to refine new technologies and designs in their domestic cars. Here are 20 of the most heavily modified JDM cars that any mod junkie will appreciate.
20 1971 Nissan Skyline 2000GT-R KPGC10 (by Biko Works)
We’ll start with the oldest car on the list. This JDM mod sprouted from the body of a 1971 Nissan Skyline. It was modded by Biko Works, one of the old-school master crafters of modding.
Biko restores and resells classic vehicles, like the GT-R pictured here. This bad boy is an all-original GT-R with, of course, some heavy modifications.
The mods done to this car include: an original 2.0-liter S20 engine; Solex side-draft carbs with velocity stacks and heat shield; a Biko Works Coilover; Project Mu pads; Brembo calipers; 15 x 8.5” / 15 x 10” RS Watanabe R-Type wheels; a Protec front lip, headlamp covers, and front fender flares; a genuine Nissan rear wing; and a NISMO bucket seat for racing.
19 1971 Nissan Skyline GT-X KGC10 (by Marco Vargas)
Marco Vargas built another heavily modified Nissan Skyline, constructed from the original body of a ‘71. It’s rare to see GT-X KGC10 Skylines on the road, though they’re becoming a bit more common these days. Before importers brought them over en masse, however, a few made it over to the US via military personnel and other means.
Nissan fanatic Marco Vargas owned some of these first models ever produced, including an S13, an R32 Skyline, a Bluebird, and this GT-X.
Some of the mods include a ’78 Nissan 2.8-liter L6 engine with a 2.0-liter L6 head, electronic ignition and triple Mikuni carbs, a TBO roll bar and a TBO front spoiler and rear wing, Cusco coilovers, a NISMO clutch, Nissan OEM over fenders, and Recaro SRD seats.
18 2008 Nissan GT-R R35 (by GReddy and Trust Japan)
This awesome-looking GT-R R35 was built by GReddy, with the help of Trust Japan. It was first shown at the 2008 TAS, with very few aftermarket parts, and nowadays, there are quite a few GT-Rs put out by GReddy with reasonable price tags, but this was the first.
Considering how badass this car looks, it’s surprising that has probably the fewest modifications of any on this list—but it’s still worthy of being something that JDM mod junkies would appreciate. The titanium exhaust is a GReddy Power Extreme, the wheels are Tan-ei-sya RATSEL S18 wheels, and the graphics are powered by GReddy, too. Other than that, it’s just a regular Nissan GT-R.
17 1984 Honda CR-X/Mugen GT-4 (by Comptech)
This converted Honda CR-X was built by Comptech. It’s a classic Mugen GT-4, built back in 1984 as the brainchild of AHM and Mugen. Many of the specs of this historical car are still unknown, but what's known is that #37 here won the GT-4 National Championship and an SCCA competition in the same year. Those wins helped solidify Mugen in the US as a historical racecar company.
Here are some of the modifications on the Mugen GT-4: it has a Mugen XA-1 USR engine, upgraded transmission, a roll-cage customized and modified by Dix Erickson and the Special Project Team, CF-48 wheels, a special wide body kit, and an upgraded steering wheel and header.
16 1991 Nissan Silvia S13 Odyvia (by Motohiro Taniguchi/Spirit REI)
Originally built by Nissan, this S13 Coupe/Odyssey was heavily modified by Motohiro Taniguchi and Spirit REI. As you can see, it looks pretty far from something from 1991. Back before all the weird lighting and bright body parts became a popular thing to add to your car, Spirit REI was one of the first to do it in a stylish way. They managed to find a smart, clean way of graphing parts of a Honda Odyssey onto the front end of an S13 Coupe, creating the “Odyvia.”
The Honda Odyvia front-end conversion was done by Spirit REI. Motohiro Taniguchi added the HKS GT-RS turbo, the 18 x 10” / 18 x 10.5” Work VS-KF wheels, the Nardi steering wheel, and the Bride Gias II and Stradia II seats.
15 1992 Honda Civic CX (by Katman/FF Squad)
This heavily modded Honda Civic was built by Katman and FF Squad, two of the most premiere JDM builders in the business. Katman is heavily influential in the industry, and even though this Civic might not look like much, on the inside, it’s crazy. Many of the parts used were to enable it for track use.
Modifications on this ’92 Civic CX include a K20 engine swap with a Hondata K-Pro hardware/computer software upgrade and an AEM EMS standalone engine-management system for track use. Other JDM gear includes the Spoon Sports ITR calipers, the 15 x 7” Enkei ES-Tarmac wheels, the R Crew K-series header, a Mugen oil pan, and—for good measure—a Taco Lita antenna ball.
14 1992 Acura Integra RS (by Jason Haradon)
This ’92 Acura Integra RS was built and modded by Jason Haradon. This DA Integra is super clean, with the original paint and only the best JDM parts. These types of subtle-yet-powerful modifications are what Jason Haradon is known for. And even though it might look a little plain, this beast has some serious upgrades.
Modifications include a 2000 B18C5 Integra Type R long block with an HKS header; a Mugen head gasket, oil pan, valve springs, valve cover, and ECU; 15 x 6.5” Mugen RnR wheels and Mugen side skirts; Toda cam gears with Civic Type R cams; a J1 transmission; an N2 steering wheel, shift knob, and steering boss; JDM Xsi gauge clusters; A’PEXi N1 coilovers and an VAFC air-fuel controller; and Spoon Sports calipers.
13 1995 Honda del Sol (by Top Fuel Japan)
This car was built by Top Fuel Japan out of “sheer boredom” when they decided to build a successor to their CR-X dragster. The late ‘90s and early ‘00s had many companies trying to make a rear-engine Honda, but most were failures.
This del Sol, however, customized with a turbocharged Integra Type R motor in the back, only needed 550 hp to get a 10.8 time at the 400-meter shakedown track in Japan.
Some of the other modifications by Yasuji Hirano’s Top Fuel are the custom rear-mounted B18C engine with HKS GT3240 turbo; Top Fuel pistons, connecting rods, cams, block guard, stainless manifold and dual turbo exhaust; an APEXi Power FC and intercooler; Endless NA-S EK9 brakes; HKS Hiper Damper coilovers; 17 x 9.5” ADVAN RG wheels and Yokohama ADVAN A048 tires; Mugen front and rear bumpers and side skirts; and Top Fuel fenders and a Zero-1000 wing.
12 1996 Honda Civic (by Sunny Stylings)
This ’96 Honda Civic hatchback was modded by Sunny Lau of Sunny Stylings, a stylist from before JDM conversions were super popular. Sunny put his own twist on this Civic hatchback, creating a sort of pseudo-CTR. Some of the parts he made himself, including the Buddy Club aero body kit with custom carbon-fiber pieces. The car also took a 1.6-liter B16B engine from a ‘98 CTR and was given Blitz KKK/K3T turbo from Top Fuel Japan.
Other modifications include a turbo manifold and blow-off valve from Top Fuel; A’Pexi N1 coilovers; a Mugen strut tower bar; a ’98 Integra Type R 5-lug conversion; 17 x 7.5” Blitz Technospeed Z1 wheels; JDM CTR headlamps and “Championship” white paint; and the A’PEXi Power FC and FC commander.
11 1998 Honda Civic Type R (by Signal Auto)
The third of four Honda Civics on this list, this ’98 Type R was modded by Signal Auto, who came over to the US in the late ‘90s to try drag racing. This unique Civic Type R was the first car they brought to the game, complete with a chopped roof and cool, stylish graphics. This JDM dragster ended up clocking some very low times, cementing Signal Auto’s legacy in the US and putting skeptics to rest. Nowadays, Signal does awesome body work and paint for their Show-Up division in Japan.
Some of the mods here include Tanabe Sustec Pro coilovers; a 1.6-liter B16B SARD/KKK turbo engine with Cross transmission and LSD; 17 x 7” Volk Racing Daytona Speed wheels; a 4.7” lowered roof, custom paint from Signal Auto Show-Up; a Mosquito Super Air body kit; and Bride racing seats.
10 1998 Nissan S13.5 Sileighty (by Fumiaki Komatsu of Signal Auto)
Fumiaki Komatsu was the man who defined this car. Dubbed Drifter X, Komatsu was Signal Auto’s first US driver to explode on the drifting scene, and he set the bar for future Signal US drivers all over the world. He’s responsible for turning many JDM street drifters into household, recognizable names.
This Nissan S13.5 Sileighty is called such because it’s a Nissan 180SX with a Nissan Silvia’s front fenders, headlights, hood, and front bumper (hence the ‘Sil’ in front of the ‘eighty.’) In 1998, only 400 of these cars were made.
Mods on this one include an S15 Strawberry Face conversion; Majiora Galaxy II paint; a Target aero kit; a 2.0-liter SR20DET engine with Trust TD-06-L2 turbo; a Type R intercooler and wastegate, and TEIN HE coilovers.
9 2000 Track Attack Toyota Altezza (by HKS Japan)
This awesome racer, a ’00 Toyota Altezza, was built by HKS Japan. HKS decided in 2001 that they wanted to build a car called “Track Attack,” in order to win some Super Lap Battles in Japan. What they designed was a Toyota Altezza IS300, and they threw $300,000 at it and ended up breaking the lap record at Tsukuba Circuit, at 55.85 seconds—in one lap time. Due to chassis restrictions, the HKS Track Attack Altezza never went on the track again.
Some of the mods that went into the $300,000 transformation include: a 2.2-liter 3S-GE engine with HKS GT3037S ball-bearing turbo; a racing wastegate with intercooler, camshafts, forged piston-counterweighted crankshaft; titanium-coated piston rings; an F-Con V-Pro ignition cut rev limiter with EVC Pro boost control, and other top-secret HKS mods the company wouldn’t disclose; XTrac 6-speed sequential transmission; 18 x 11” ADVAN TCII Pro Centerlock wheels; Alcon brakes; custom carbon body panels and flares; and Bride seats.
8 2001 Nissan Silvia S15 (by HKS Japan)
Another car modded out by HKS Japan, this ’01 Nissan Silvia S15 is known as Taniguchi’s original drift machine. It's considered the best-looking and best-performing vehicle at D1 events worldwide, with no other car ever coming close to being as great as it is. Let’s take a look at some of the mods that made this infamous car so special.
First, it had an HKS GT30 Pro S turbo engine, with forged pistons, Super Power Flow, and an R-Type intercooler; Hipermax D coilovers; 18” Super ADVAN Racing Version 2 wheels and Endless brakes; a Vertex Ridge aerodynamics kit with Yashio Factory hood and carbon doors; an Esprit rear wing, Craft Square mirrors, and a Defend Racing Service shroud panel.
7 2001 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VII RS (by Sun Automobile)
This ’01 Evolution VII is owned by Japanese dentist Masamichi Takizawa, who's clearly a JDM mod addict. Sun Automobile turned this Evolution into a car that posted 55.801 at the Tsukuba Circuit and then a best time of 1:48.906 at the Super Lap Battle at Buttonwillow Raceway, which broke a record previously set by Signal Auto’s R34 Skyline.
Here are some of the heavy mods that went into making this record-breaking car: a JUN Auto 2.2-liter stroker kit with cams, pistons, connecting rods and crankshaft; an F-Con V-Pro ignition cut rev limiter with A’PEXi RX6 turbo, wastegate, intercooler, and aluminum radiator; a Power Enterprise timing belt with 1,000 cc injectors; Garage HRS carbon-fiber driveshaft; 17 x 9.5” Volk Racing CE28 wheels; a C-West aero kit with Sun Auto Cyber Speed GT wing and Garage HRS wide fenders; and a Recaro SP-G seat and Garage HRS dashboard.
6 2005 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX (by Evasive Motorsports)
Evasive Motorsports started out as a purely online company but then branched out with this Evo. They showed that with the right aero, suspension, and driver skill, you didn’t need huge power to dominate the track. They’ve made relationships with key Japanese tuners and manufacturers and have established themselves as one of the US powerhouses when it comes to JDM modifications.
This Evo IX comes with JUN titanium retainers and valve springs; G-Reddy 1,000 cc injectors; Garage HRS titanium exhaust; HKS GT3037 turbo; Voltex oil cooler; TEIN SRC coilovers; 18 x 10.5” Volk Racing RE30 wheels; a C-West front bumper, hood, and side skirts; Voltex rear wing, overfenders, diffuser, and front canards; Kel’s Garage/APR carbon splitter, and Cosworth cams.
5 2005 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution VIII CT230R (by HKS Japan)
This is one of HKS’s most famous racing vehicles, a CT230R Evo driven by NOB Taniguchi. It’s a revision of the former TRB-02 racecar, which was a record-setter at Tsukuba (until beaten by this CT230R). After beating that record, it was brought over to the US to compete in the Super Lap Battle series of 2008.
Taniguchi broke Sun Auto Cyber Evo’s lap record there with a 1:43.523 lap time, a record that would go untouched for a while.
Some of the mods that gave it that speed were the 2.3-liter HKS 63L engine' the HKS Valcon System with GT3037S turbo; GTII wastegate, camshafts, prototype pistons, crankshaft, and connecting rods; a 1.2 mm metal head gasket and SUS SPL manifold; a GD-Pro SPL clutch with SPL suspension; HKS Racing aero bumpers, fenders, rear wing; and 18 x 10” ADVAN RG II wheels.
4 2006 Acura RSX Type S (by Fred Chang)
This super cool Acura RSX was modified by Team Fred (Fred Chang) that was willing to do a complete makeover of a regular Acura in order to get it onto the front cover of Super Street magazine. We have to say it was worth it because this heavily modified supercar looks just awesome.
The modifications on this guy include an HKS 2835 turbo kit and a Type S intercooler with Hi-Power exhaust; JDM DC5R valve covers, with final drive and LSD; an ARC spark plug cover, HKS F-Con V-Pro, 18 x 8.5” ADVAN RG II wheels, a Mugen N1 front bumper, side skirts, rear bumper, rear adjustable wing, tow hooks, rear carbon license-plate filter, and gas cap; Vision Type DC mirrors and carbon fiber hood; and a Personal 360 steering wheel.
3 Toyota Supra GT-300 (by Top Secret)
This golden car was the golden egg for Top Secret, helping catapult them into superstardom in the JDM mod world. An original Super GT’s engine was swapped with a 2.2-liter SW20 MR2 motor, which helped create a 50/50 power-to-weight ratio. It made the car 720 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque and enabled it to go 200 mph. Many modern show cars got their design influences from this car, including the pain, the widebody styling, and the wheel selection.
Besides the engine, some of the mods include a Garage Fukui crankshaft, pistons, and rods; Trust T88-34D turbo kit; Type C wastegate, intercooler, and oil cooler, with Pro-FEC B-spec boost controller; Top Secret Pro GT300SPL exhaust manifold and Titan Pro 100 exhaust; 19 x 9.5” Top Secret Edition Volk Racing LE37T tires, Alcon/GERX brakes, and the Top Secret Super G-Force body kit.
2 Mugen NSX RR Concept (by M-Tec and Mugen)
Last on our list is this super sexy, spaceship-looking Mugen concept car. We believe the NSX RR is what every Honda and Mugen fanatic dreams to have/own/build. It’s definitely a JDM vehicle that mod junkies can appreciate. The engine is longitudinally-mounted and is a 3.2-liter C32B engine.
Other mods include the custom Mugen RR carbon-fiber intake plenum with roof scoop and spark plug covers, headers, radiator cap, dual exhaust, custom gearbox, and custom RR coilovers and 18” GP wheels also provided by Mugen. There are also the RR Spec-forged brake calipers with rotors, the RR Recaro seats, the RR Concept aero kit, and the RR navigation display. This could be the ultimate modified JDM car, and it only makes sense that Mugen would be the one to make it.
1 2008 Honda Civic Type R/Mugen RR (by Mugen)
There were only 300 of these Mugen RRs originally made, and they were only $50,000. It’s a super limited-edition version of a Civic Type R (CTR) built by Mugen and made with a whole lot of upgraded performance parts to increase engine power and aerodynamics.
Practically everything on this car is Mugen-made, including the camshafts, the valve springs, the intake, the 4-2-1 header, the catalytic converter, the exhaust, the carbon intake manifold cover, and the 5-level adjustable coilovers.
There were also the 18” wheels; the aluminum hood; the carbon front bumper; the carbon adjustable rear wing; the side skirts; the rear spoiler (with air diffuser); and the Mugen-only Recaro seats, shifter (and knob), tachometer, and meter gauges. This is one suped-up Civic that only Mugen could've made.