Mike Stevens | Jul 10, 2008

We've seen the JDM style of car customization grow from unknown to played out to solidly ingrained in automotive culture. We've also seen bizarre reversals of the trend in which Japanese owners buy a Japanese car only to trick it out USDM style (more on this in a later post). Now, to really twist your noggin into a Möbius strip, it's possible to get something American and trick it out JDM style.

What car epitomizes America more than the Corvette? It's a gorgeous, front-engined, rear-wheel-drive two-seater - sensuous and curvy on the outside, but hiding a thundering 6.2L 430hp (7.0L 505hp in Z06 trim) aluminum V8 under that racy bonnet. Despite mid-engined and rotary-powered concepts, the production version has always eschewed fancy tech with mountains of computerized acronyms for a pure, simple V8. A down-to-Earth, hometown type of car, it never attempted to join the country club of European exotics, but on the track it can hang with the best of them. There's really no other car in the world like it, and for some Japanese owners, that makes it more desirable than domestic favorites like the Nissan GT-R.

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For others, that's still not enough. That's where the Corvette S-Limited comes in. A new limited edition version of the Yankee supercar offered exclusively by GM of Japan, it follows all of the standard requirements for the typical JDM special edition car. It has exclusive grey alloy wheels, a rear spoiler, and plenty of mesh screens in every outlet. The custom two-tone ivory and black leather interior does wonders for what is the Corvette's weakest point - it's interior materials. Wrap that up in a ¥7,980,000 sticker price and offer only 30 for sale, 15 in each limited edition color of black or white, and you've got one hyper-exclusive JDM slice of Americana.

Of course, if that's too expensive for your tastes or your local Nihon Corvette dealer is simply out of them, there's always the Toyota Cavalier. The Cavalier was a front-wheel drive compact spawned from the sudden flood of Japanese imports into the US market after the 70s oil crisis. It was sub-par to its Japanese competition from day one and GM even badge engineered a Cadillac version called the Cimarron in one of the worst marketing decisions in automotive history. Still, the model persevered and sold well simply because it was Amurricken. After years of complaining about how Japan doesn't allow enough US auto exports into their home market, the Toyota Cavalier was born.

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The main differences between that and its US sibling were the RHD steering wheel, amber signal lights and some higher-quality interior appointments. Oh, and the Toyota symbol on the hood. But guess what? It didn't sell. Even as the smallest car in GM's lineup, it was still a somewhat large sedan for the land of kei cars' narrow roads. Despite plusher carpets and extra cowhide, the interior still felt extraordinarily cheap, gappy and hollow compared to its JDM counterparts. And something about its design just didn't fit with its environs. I've seen a Toyota Cavalier cruising around Tokyo, and it looks about as fitting as an oxcart in downtown Los Angeles.

So although you can get a JDM-spec US car for less than the Corvette S-Limited, I guess you wouldn't necessarily want one. But perhaps you can still have a little piece of JDM Americana:

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A Toyota Cavalier bonnet emblem from a GM parts store.

[GM Japan Product Site via Jalopnik, Shaw.ca, Automobile via Jalopnik]

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