History and histories

Japanese spiders

Photo credit: Toyota, Mazda, Honda, Nissan, Lexus, Wheelsage

The spider is a dream for everyone. A dream that comes true less than people would like for reasons of practicality, cost and space. This applies to everyone, including the Japanese. Despite this, manufacturers refuse to stop proposing these models, sometimes only to seduce, as Toyota did with the beautiful 2000 GT Convertible made in just two examples for Sean Connery in the James Bond film “You Only Live Twice”. 

1967 Toyota 2000 GT Cabrio
Sean Connery with the Bond-girl on duty with the 1967 Toyota 2000 GT Cabrio, made specifically for the film “You Only Live Twice”

The same fate awaited Lexus with the seductively unique example of the LFA – V10, 550CV – first seen in 2005 and the Nissan 300 ZX. In this niche market, Honda offers a broad range, starting from the smaller 360 (the engine displacement necessary for tax exemptions of the kei car category), rising to the 500, 600 and 800 models and, finally with the Beat, to the 656cc three-cylinder engine which, however, was never made in significant numbers. On the other end of the spectrum, we have the NSX, marketed in America under the Acura brand name but otherwise identical to the Japanese version. Halfway between them, this time with considerable commercial and technical success, was the beautiful S2000 which, with its DOHC-VTEC engine with variable valve timing, guaranteed spectacular performance.

Whether you call it the MX-5, Miata or the Eunos Roadster, the car is always the same since it was introduced in 1989 and has been so successful that more than one million units have been produced. What’s more, Fiat produced the 124 on the MX-5 platform

The Japanese have nevertheless managed to score a spectacular record with their spiders: more than one million Mazda MX-5s – also known as the Miata or Eunos Roadster – have left the production line. Introduced in 1989, it has now in its fourth generation. Two seats, light and very well balanced, strongly inspired by the tradition of the English and Italian spiders of the sixties, it has been certified by Guinness World Records as the world’s “best-selling two-seater open sports car”.

Toyota MR2
Less fortunate than the Mazda was the Toyota MR2, born 4 years earlier but with lower production numbers. In the photo the spider version from 1999 with the Targa initials
Honda S360
This delightful little Honda S360 was born in 1962. The abbreviation comes from the tiny engine displacement. Later, 500, 600 and 800 engines would join the line up
A completely different destiny awaited the Honda S2000 from 1998, a wonder of Japanese mechanics with its naturally aspirated VTEC engine with variable valve timing
Honda NSX
Honda ambition: in 1990, in response to the Ferrari 348, Honda presented the NSX which, in 1995, was joined by the T – or Targa – version
Nissan 300ZX
The sporty Nissan 300ZX was also offered in a Convertible version in 1994, with a rear arch that served as a rollbar
Nissan 350Z
With its 3.5-litre 280 hp V6 engine, the Nissan 350Z replaced the 300ZX in 2002, and in 2004 was joined by the Roadster version
Do not ask Toyota if this Lexus ever existed: they will say no. Yet they made it, tested it and, judging by the aesthetics and performance, unfortunately abandoned without it ever going into production. The Lexus LFA Spyder of 2012