6 Japanese heroes you can actually buy for under 10k (more or less)
DISCLAIMER: In order to write this list I've been looking at car classifieds on one of Europe's major second-hand cars website currently available in seventeen countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Germany, France, Italy, Croatia, Luxembourg, the Nederlands, Poland, Romania, Russia, Sweden, Spain, Turkey, Ukraine and Czech Republic.
I have only looked at JDM cars with a minimum power output of 200 CV (197 HP).
Toyota Celica 5th Gen (1989-1993)
This vintage-looking coupe was the last Celica you could buy with pop-up headlamps before Toyota decided to change that in favour of four round headlights. It was available in several different countries and markets with several different engine options. Almost every listing I found was for the 2-litre engine with 200 HP. The only rear drawback is the FF layout. The power is translated into motion via the front wheels.
Old school engine with an old school 5-gear manual for an old school manual experience. I found several good examples on sale, most were under €10k.
Mitsubishi 3000GT/GTO (1990-2000)
This is exactly the sort of car you would start winning races with in Gran Turismo because, when you start the game, you can't afford to buy the good stuff. However, I'll go out on a limb here and say that this is also "the good stuff".
It is available with several different power outputs but the most common available engine is the 3-litre 24V V-6 with 220 HP. Bad things? Well, most of these cars were put on sale with a 5-speed manual, which is good, but I also found several examples with a 4-speed auto, which is not good. The car stayed in production for around a decade, from 1990 to 2000, but most cars on sale today were made in the early 1990s.
Nissan 300ZX / Fairlady Z (1983-1989 , 1989-2000)
At first, I wasn't even going to look because I didn't think I would find any 300ZX for less than 10,000 euros. But then I did check and amazingly I found a few. Both models were available. The Z31, with pop-up headlamps, and the Z32, which is probably the one that springs to mind when somebody says 300ZX.
As always with this type of cars, several engine options were available but most listings are for the 3-litre twin-turbo V6 with 279 HP. I'll be honest, I only found two cars with this exact engine for sale under 10k, every other example on sale was either more expensive or with the less powerful engines. However, I did find one car in Varese (near Milan), in good nick for exactly €10,000. Not a penny more, not a penny less.
Mazda RX8 (2003-2012)
The Mazda RX8 is the only car I actually owned (I've done about 30k miles in it) of the six cars I've mentioned here which is why it is the only car in this list I suggest you stay away from. Almost every RX8 on sale in Continental Europe has the 228-HP version of the rotary engine. It is smooth as silk, super quick, very comfortable, vaguely practical, more modern than any other car on this list and only version was available and it had everything from heated leather seats to climate control.
Having said that, it is atrociously expensive to run and unreliable which means that you can buy an RX8 for under 10k. Actually, you can buy it for a lot less than that. But you probably shouldn't unless you live very close to where you work and unless you own a petrol station or an engine oil shop.
Mitsubishi Eclipse (1989-2011)
Mitsubishi recently brought the Eclipse name back to market one of its recent crossover creations, the Eclipse Cross. A sound commercial idea, no doubt, but petrolheads usually associate the name "Eclipse" with the little coupe sold for almost two decades.
I was surprised to find a 2007 model for sale in Germany, sounds too good to be true but even so, there are several 1st and 2nd Gens on sale throughout Europe. The first generation Eclipse was available with a 1,8L with 92 HP and three different versions of a 2L with 135-185-195 respectively so that's out of the equation because it doesn't meet the minimum power output criteria I've set for this quest. The second generation, which is the one I'd go for, is available 2-litre petrol engines, the most powerful of which has 210 HP. A 2,4L was also available but I couldn't find any on sale with this engine.
The first generation hasn't aged well and the third generation didn't look very good to begin with. The fourth generation did look good but it's too recent to come at a good price which leaves us with the second generation (1995-1999). It was available either as a coupe or a convertible and the only rear drawback, once again as it is the case with most cars on this list, unfortunately it was front-engined and front wheel drive.
Toyota MR2 (1984-2007)
There's a very good reason why I didn't include the MR2 in the list: I forgot. Sorry about that. So by popular demand, I'm also including the MR2.
There are currently various MR2 on sale for under 10k. I found one a 1992 Turbo with 200 HP from Sciacca (that's in the South of Italy) in red, good condition and... pop-up headlamps! (I love those.). The best example I found is probably a 1991 black MR2 Turbo available from a dealership in Milan. Excellent condition, 60k on the clock and it costs exactly €10,000. The only drawback? Five different previous owners.