5 Japanese cars that are continuing to soar in value
Shining the spotlight on five of the most prominent Japanese cars in existence, whereby the penny is only becoming prettier...
5. Nissan Skyline GT-R (R34)
A true petrol-head's kryptonite and a pop culture icon among JDM fans in particular, the R34 model of the long-established Skyline name represents one of Nissan's most successful models of all time - a car that to many, would arguably be considered as the face of the marque.
Essentially, the R34 was designed to be a race-bred coupe that reserves the need to flaunt obnoxiously huge spoilers and pointless aerodynamic attachments - but the few aerodynamic components that the R34 is equipped with serve a key purpose in minimising air resistance.
Under the hood sits Nissan's highly-acclaimed RB26DETT in-line, six-cylinder engine - accompanied by twin ceramic intercooled turbochargers for good measure. The four-wheel drivetrain, 155 mph top speed and 0-60 mph figure of 5.2 seconds all sit pretty with owners of this formidable machine. Some R34 models have been seen to fetch beyond the 100 thousand dollar mark, so it's no cheap steal.
Several reasons can be laid out on the table as to what is causing the value of the aesthetically humble R34 to rise at a continuous rate - there is a growing scarcity for low-mileage R34's as time passes, usually due to existing models suffering major mechanical failures or being written off after getting involved in accidents. Additionally, the market for classic cars as a whole is on the rise - mostly thanks to Covid.
But at the cruxe of the explanation in terms of the US market is that R34's are on the cusp of becoming fully legal to own in the US - as outlined by the 25-Year Import Rule - stating that any car that is 25 years or older is legal to import to the US without having to meet the United States vehicle regulations. And with the R34 turning 25 years old in 2024, it's definitely a birthday you don't want to miss.
4. Toyota 2000GT
Regarded as, and praised for being Japan's very first super car, the Toyota 2000GT justifies its demand for such a high price through just about every element of its existence - both on the inside and on the outside. A feature in a James Bond movie probably also helped to catalyse the rise in value for this particular Toyota.
Re-imagining the design language of elite European sports cars from the likes of Ferrari, Maserati, Jaguar and Lamborghini, the 2000GT was greeted with expansive proving grounds among its contenders.
Carefully integrated beneath the hood in a front-mid layout, the 2-litre straight-6 engine producing 150bhp was no joke of performance figures in the late 60s. Supposedly maxing out at 135 mph, these figures alone would warrant the supercar classification being earned for the Japanese supercar. Only 351 2000GT models were released from their birthplace, which has undoubtedly driven up the value over the years. After all, the car was the first Japanese vehicle to sell for over $1,000,000.
Nowadays, the average used price for an original 2000GT lies anywhere between £650,000 and £900,000 - validated by a timeless design, a highly exclusive luxury wood and leather interior and an even more extraordinary backstory than most supercars of the era. This is a staggering appreciation when you compare it to the original retail price of this Toyota, which would have cost you $6800 in 1968 (equal to $52,248 in 2021).
3. Honda NSX (First Generation)
Emerging from the golden era of Japanese motoring, the Honda NSX is easily one of the most recognisable sports cars designed and manufactured in the country of all time. Combining the brain power and dedication of both Ayrton Senna himself, along with the highly influential Shigeru Uehara, (who also brought us the S2000) the NSX was a project that aimed to develop a car that true drivers like Senna really desired. And because it's a Honda, it won't complain when you actually want it to drive. It won't be breaking down at every inconvenience or costing a mortgage to maintain.
Rigged with Honda's signature bulletproof 3-litre V6 (C32B) engine that pushes out 276 bhp, the 2002 is just the tip of the iceberg of all first-generation NSX models produced across 15 years from 1990 to 2005. A top speed of 170-ish mph combined with the rear-wheel drivetrain added an element of fun to a car that was nearly perfectly balanced in terms of performance, handling and reliability. Essentially a fast car for the sports/supercar market with a lower price point than its primarily European competitors.
Boasting a rich and well-respected history in Motorsport, the base model of the NSX in a way, pays homage to its race-ready siblings. The famous Super GT saw the NSX presented in a number of iconic and memorable liveries, while being subject to various fashionable extras such as large curved spoilers, triangular roof intake vents that were very shark-esque - along with a selection of overstated body kits throughout its racing career.
Sitting rather comfortably in the bracket of classic Japanese sports cars, the NSX has been able to accumulate a demand for itself by being part of this category. It's one of the more pricey Japanese classics in the category, but this doesn't make it any less worth the asking price.
Depending on the version of NSX models available on the market, there is no solid figure for how much you could bag yourself one for. However, it is said with confidence that you might end up around £100,000 poorer.
2. Mazda RX-7 (FD)
Even when offered as new in 1993, the hugely popular Mazda RX-7 was a costly commitment. Priced around $32,000 USD, Japan's famous rotary-powered sports car left people questioning whether it was worth all that cash - since the 1993 dollar value would cost around $58,300 in 2020. But with a certain degree of exclusivity due to the model not being mass produced, the unique and enticing RX-7 quickly became desirable - not just in Japan.
First off, the RX-7 was equipped with Mazda's patented and renowned Wankel rotary engine - a compact and lightweight 2.6-litre engine that was quite different to any other engine used by other car manufacturers at the time, since it didn’t require a piston to work. Three outputs were available with the FD - 236 HP, 255 HP and 276 HP. Very respectable figures for a sports car of the 90s. The rear-wheel-drive sports coupe was able to reach a top speed of 155.3 mph, without compromising fuel economy thanks to the intuitive and purposeful design of its rotary engine. The RX-7 has the potential to be heavily modified from an aesthetic point of view, which also appeals to many people.
Even restoring an RX-7 from the ground up will set you back tens of thousands - specialist parts are becoming increasingly harder to come by, and even the pure shell body of an FD RX-7 could cost thousands. And due to the unfortunate fact that rotary engines were not made for the utmost durability, most people will have their eyes set on low-mileage RX-7s that don't require the constant babysitting of the engine.
So, if it wasn't for the rise in the classic Japanese car market and more notably the fanbase of the RX7's cult following thanks to fictitious characters such as Dominic Toretto or Han Seoul-Oh, then maybe the demand for these cars would be less than a smidgen compared to the current market situation.
1. Toyota Supra Turbo Mk. IV
Rounding the list off with one of the most well-known cars to grace humanity, the Mark IV Toyota Supra earns its place with ease. A car that is known for a plentiful invitation to fulfill its untapped capabilities combined with an incomparable aesthetic presence, the Supra is one of the most justified features on the list.
The King Kong to Nissan's "Godzilla" GT-R, the Supra has always been at centre stage of car culture all over the world. But again, like other cars on the list, it was only after the Fast and Furious franchise that the rest of the world struck up a thirst for the Supra.
As you would expect, I'm on about the 2JZ-bearing model of the Supra - you know, the one that can be tuned to push out over 1000 bhp and will not stop appearing on my YouTube recommendations. At its bare minimum, the twin-turbo 2JZ pumped out 320 bhp, and supposedly was electronically limited to 155 mph. It also massacred the 0-60 times for most Japanese sports cars at the time - the Supra Turbo hit 60 mph in 4.6 seconds.
The Supra also retains its popularity on the inside too - Toyota aimed to cater the driving experience towards the driver themselves. For example, all the controls and the center console are inclined towards the person behind the wheel.
Pop culture once again remains the prime suspect for the rise in value of the Supra - movies, social media and video games such as the Gran Turismo franchise all contribute to an upshift in the market. You'd be lucky to get a high mileage Supra for tens of thousands of dollars, and ones closer to stock have been seen to sell for over a hundred-thousand dollars.
I hope you enjoyed the belated article - it's certainly been a while!
| Ollie Funnell, Student Journalist, Coventry University