There is great news coming the way of enthusiasts that love the Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) cars. A line-up of amazing cars like the Nissan Skyline R34, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution V, and many others are now street-legal in the United States. Thanks to the US Import Rule that allows you to legally import a car manufactured 25 years ago, you can now drive Skylines around as your daily car.
As the first batch of Nissan Skyline R34 was produced in May 1998, their imports are now street-legal. The same applies to a host of JDM cars that have a lot of fans. The JDM from the class of 1998 also features a host of legendary cars, starting with the Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R, launched in January 1999. Continue reading to see if your favorite JDM car has become street-legal or not with the latest update.
Why Were These JDM Cars Illegal?
Japanese Domestic Cars have been gaining popularity and prominence for a long time. JDM cars place in car culture, especially among tuners and enthusiasts. It becomes clear when you consider how prevalent cars like the Nissan GT-R, Toyota Supra, and Mazda RX-8 played in Hollywood blockbusters like the Fast and Furious series. But these are not really cars you can drive around to your work or friend’s place in the US.
All cars that you can drive around in the US need to comply with applicable import laws. Unfortunately, JDM cars don’t necessarily comply with some of these laws, especially those related to emission control and safety. Cars you import directly from Japan’s Domestic Market also come with right-hand drive. While it’s legal to drive right-hand cars in the US, cars tailor-made for the US all come with left-hand drive. Lane traffic in the United States is also ideal for left-hand driving, which makes navigation through traffic difficult on a right-hand drive.
Why Are These JDM Cars Legal Now?
So how did the illegal cars you could not use as a daily drive till now suddenly become street legal? The answer lies in a simple loophole in car import laws and regulations. If you can prove the car you want to import is older than 25 years, you can legally import it! As we are now in 2023, any car made in 1998, up to the current date, can be legally imported. As these are older cars, the emission norms and safety aspects we have today did not exist back then. Therefore, these norms and regulations do not apply to these cars.
Japanese Domestic Market’s Class of 1998
More than just a batch of JDM cars coming to age, and becoming street legal in the United States, the class of 1998 cars, mark a beginning. It was the year Nissan introduced the Skyline R34, which would later pave the way for the iconic Nissan GT-R series. Apart from Skylines, the class of 1998 also witnessed the introduction of many other popular JDM cars like the Honda Accord SiR. It was also the year that introduced JDM rally legends like Lancer Evolution 5 and Subaru Impreza. With that said, let’s take a closer look at some of the best JDM cars that became legal in the US in 2023:
Nissan Skyline R34
While you must wait until January 2024 to get your hands on the Nissan Skyline GT-R R 34, the first batch of regular Skyline R34s are now legal for imports. The Skyline was originally introduced as a successor to the hot-selling Nissan R33 GT-R at affordable pricing and superior performance. While the Skyline R34 launched without the GT badging, Nissan unveiled the performance variant GT-R R34 in October 1998. It would only be until January 1999 that the first GT-R 34 made it to sales.
The Skyline was the base variant of the GT-R and came with a 2.0L RB20DE inline six-cylinder engine that checked all the boxes. Capable of producing 155 bhp and 186 Nm of torque. Contrary to the GT-R two-door coupe, the Skyline also came as a four-door sedan. The Skyline is also much cheaper than the GT-R but can be tuned to match the GT-R variant, making it a win-win car. The RB20DE I6 is also a high-performance engine popular for delivering exceptional fuel efficiency.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution V
The list of street-legal EVO variants is getting bigger in the United States, with the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution V being the latest entrant. Introduced to global markets in January 1998, the Lancer Evolution V was a definite upgrade from the EVO IV. In terms of design, Evolution 5 got wider with flared wheel arches and bigger thanks to 17-inch wheels that ran 225/45 tires. As the stock lancer EVO 5 came with Brembo brakes, it was a pure mix of rally and streetcar DNA blended into one.
While Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution V maintained the original design of the Evolution 4, there were notable differences. The rear spoiler came with adjustable foils, which could be adjusted to alter the downforce settings. Evo V is powered by a 2.0L 4-wheel drive 4G63T turbocharged inline 4, capable of delivering 274 bhp. The Evolution 5 also came with extra welding points, making it a much more rigid and stronger car than the previous iterations. Now these are features that made an enthusiast fall in love with the car back then and will continue to do the same, even today.
Subaru Impreza 22B
The 1998 Subaru Impreza 22B is one of the rarest Subaru you could own. Introduced to celebrate Subaru’s 40th anniversary and their triple consecutive manufacturer’s championship, it was a proper street-legal rally car. Subaru only made a total of 424 Impreza 22 B, making it a very rare car. We don’t know how many of these 424 Subaru 22B STi are still in mint condition and up for sale but expect a fair price tag on these blue beauties.
The Subaru Impreza 22B is powered by the EJ22B engine, which is based on the same architecture and framework as the iconic EJ20. Expect peak performance similar to what you could get from the EJ20 mated to Subaru Impreza WRX STi. The adjustable all-wheel drive system, wider bodywork, and close to 300bhp of heart-pumping acceleration make it a must-have for any true JDM car fanatic. The adjustable central differential makes it more of a rally car than a streetcar. If you come across a Subaru 22B, buy it before it gets sold out.
Honda Accord SiR
The class of 98 marks the beginning of some of the best JDM cars from Honda. This is a list that starts with the Honda Accord SiR, coming of age. Powered by the iconic 2.2L H22A engine, the Accord SiR was a well-built JDM car. The stock engine offered a maximum of 180 bhp at 7000 rpm and a maximum torque of 192.2 nM. While it’s derived from SiR-T, the SiR came with S-Matic automatic transmission that featured sequential manual shift mode.
Honda cars are also high mileage cars that last a lifetime, making them a favored choice for JDM cars. Accords are also cars that can be tuned to achieve superior performance. However, the Honda Accord SiR’s highlight must be the true JDM spec with which it came from the factory. While most Accords came with F22B1 engines, the SiR came with Japanese spec H22A.
Honda Prelude Type S
The Honda Prelude Type-S was initially introduced as a Japan-exclusive car, making it impossible to import into the United States. As the car comes to age, enthusiasts will now be looking to import this beast of a JDM. Powered by a 2.2 L H22A V-Tec engine, the Prelude delivers 220 bhp. The spec sheet is also very impressive, regardless of how you look at it. The Prelude is also one of the few Hondas of its time to come with ATTS (Active Torque Transfer System).
The ATTS improved the handling of the Honda Prelude. Honda front-wheel drive cars were not popular for their handling at that time. Interestingly, the Honda Prelude is also one of the last JDM cars to come with ATTS. The Honda Prelude Type S is also one of the most beautiful cars from the Japanese Domestic Markets. Being an exclusive, you also get to own a car that’s very rare to see on the streets.