And why Japanese cars are on the rise.

Around Christmas of 1997 the very first Gran Turismo game was released on the Sony Playstaion and sold around 11 million copies. This made the best selling title on the PS1 console. Being developed by Polophony Digital and published by Sony, it comes as no surprise that the cars featured in the game were primarily JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) cars. Of course a handful of American and European cars were also represented. To many (including myself), this was the first taste of what it could be to drive iconic Japanese sports cars like the Nissan R34 Skyline, Toyota Supra and Mazda RX7. Fast forward 25 years and those kids are now the next generation of collectable car buyers. Take a guess at the kind of cars they are interested in. Hint: Its not an Austin Healey from the 60’s.

Japanese car

I don’t have to remind you of the absolute legends such as the R34 Skyline, Mk IV Supra, Honda NSX and Mazda RX7. They all come with great motor-sport pedigree and iconic car cult status. Their prices also reflect this, rivalling the likes of Porsche and other European brands in the classic car collection space. However, unlike their European rivals, the rise of Japanese car collectability is still in its infancy. Hagerty tends to agree, monitoring the average selling price of most Japanese icons and noticing un upward trend on every single one.

Japanese Cars

might already be out of reach

And while the icons like the Skyline, Supra and RX-7’s might already be out of reach for most young car enthusiasts, the less noticed (but no less capable) Japanese legends are starting to show promise. As a new generation of buyers are looking for more approachable ways to enter the market. The likes of the Nissan 300zx, 280zx and even the 200sx have increased in value substantially over the last 24 months. Then lets not forget the early Mazda Mx-5’s, Honda S2000’s and even classic Toyota Land Cruisers.

most people love the idea of an Outlaw Porsche or Alfa Romeo

Now, I’m not here to convince everyone to go and buy up Japanese cars and park them away as an investment hedge – never to see a piece of tarmac ever again. I’m rather advocating for car enthusiasts to not see these cars as inferior to the German or Italian counterparts or scoff them off as ricers. On that note, I find it ironic that most people love the idea of an Outlaw Porsche or Alfa Romeo. Yet these same people don’t give two glances at a tastefully personalised Japanese sports car. Emphasis on tastefully though.

Japanese Car

Now, I do recognise that I might be biased since purchasing my Nissan 300ZX earlier this year. However, since growing up with mostly German and Italian cars in the household, the Nissan has surprised me in terms of driveability, sheer performance for its time and ease of maintenance. Due to the customisation craze around Japanese cars, parts are much more freely available compared to other marques. Considering the car is 30 years old and I’m still able to order OEM parts from dedicated suppliers like Z1 Motor-sport in the US. It just makes ownership that much more reassuring.  

parts are much more freely available

If there has to be a chink in the Japanese armour though, I’d have to say its the interiors. While they might be well designed and driver orientated, the plastics do tend to feel cheap and creek a lot compared to the European brands. Finding a well looked after interior is like looking for hen’s teeth. However, you do tend to find replacement or upgraded bits easier than most other classics. Another upside is that there is a very high chance everything in the interior will still work. Whether its the 30 year old climate control unit or the clock next to the radio.

Japanese Car

Japanese cars show continued support for enthusiasts

The question of whether these cars would be something the current buying generation would be interested in, is actually irrelevant. I’m pretty sure Baby Boomers were equally scoffed at by the previous generation. Especially when they decided an 80’s Porsche 911 Targa SC is a R1m car during the Porsche frenzy of the last couple of years. Thats just the way the demand shifts depending on who has the buying power at any stage. The kids that grew up playing Gran Turismo and Colin McCrae Rally are next in line with their wallets. I’m pretty sure carmakers know this as well. Hence the continued support for enthusiasts in the form of relatively affordable Japanese coupes like the Toyota 86, updated Supra, Mazda Mx5 as well as the newly unveiled Nissan 400zx.

If not for Japanese coupes, the market for affordable and reliable enthusiast cars for young people would look very different. And quite frankly, thats not a world I’d like to be in.

Japanese Car

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