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'70s and '80s Japanese Cars: Too Practical For Collectors?

hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
Although there seems to be a mild uptick in collector interest in pre-1990 Japanese cars, it remains sub-proportional to the numbers sold. Will their appliance-like practicality preclude them from ever achieving significant collector status?

One could argue that most of the collector excitement associated with American and European cars predates the significant increase in Japanese cars on North American highways. While there seems to be little interest in cars of the '70s and '80s, in general, American and European models form this period seem to garner most of what interest does exist.
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Comments

  • lemmerlemmer Posts: 2,699
    The '70s Japanses cars (RX-7 and Z) make a little more sense to me. When you can get to the '80s cars, the Japanese cars are a little cheesy. And when you can still get a nice 944 for $5000, why would you spend more than $2-3000 for a Japanese car? Other than maintenance costs, the Germans have them beat in almost every way.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    I think it will get better, but I don't see Japanese cars as ever being really "hot" like muscle cars. The muscle cars were a) the cars that today's collectors grew up with and b) rather bestial, conspicuous, flashy, huge, noisy, powerful and in many cases very very rare.

    Seems like the japanese cars possess very few of these qualities. Even some very fast, very powerful Japanese cars (NSX, Supra Turbo, RX7-TT) are so inconspicuous that you'd trip over them in a parking lot.

    Let's face it--older Japanese cars just aren't sexy or very interesting to look at for very long.

    But who knows how today's 25 year olds, who will be tomorrow's pot-bellied 55 years olds, might feel about what they want to collect?
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    "... who knows how today's 25 year olds, who will be tomorrow's pot-bellied 55 years olds, might feel about what they want to collect?"

    That's the big question because, in my opinion, the muscle car craze will crest (if it hasn't already) and recede, and some of the other cars that today's collectors hold in high regard will also be less interesting to those who didn't own one, or know someone who did. Although it's hard to imagine today that all but a few pre-'90 Japanese cars will be of interest to tomorrow's collectors, the next generation of collectors may have a very different set of priorities than we do. For example, brute power may not be as much of an attribute as it is today, while other features, which I'm at a loss to even identify at the moment, may gain traction.

    Another possibility is that there may be a reduced interest in older cars compared to now.
  • texasestexases Posts: 9,445
    Try and get specific, and, other than the ones you mentioned, can anyone think of a single '80s Japanese car of interest? How about '70s? Of course the early/odd/small/etc. ones get collector interest from being rare, but once Japan became a major player the interesting cars became few and far between. Of course, I'm talking about US market cars, not the very odd JDM stuff.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 24,389
    the Nissan/Datsun Z-car? Aren't the original 240Z's pretty hot items these days? I think the bigger and plusher they got, the less desirable the Z probably became, but I'd imagine that all of them would still have some niche market.

    I always liked the little Japanese hardtop coupes that seemed to proliferate around the 1979-83 timeframe. Stuff like the Corolla, which offered a hardtop notchback coupe and a sort of a 3-door wagon/hatch, the 200SX notchback, Plymouth Saporro/Dodge Challenger, and the Mazda 626 from that timeframe. I know any of them would be pretty worthless, and by this time, probably hard to find parts for. I guess I just appreciate the fact that the Japanese were still offering hardtops after the domestics abandoned them.
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAPosts: 15,306
    ...that may generate collector interest:

    Datsun Z
    Mazda RX-7
    Toyota Supra
    Isuzu Impulse
    To a lesser extent - the Toyota Celica

    for quirkiness:

    Honda 600
    Early Honda Civic CVCC
    Subaru BRAT
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAPosts: 15,306
    ...that the Datsun Z became somewhat tackier as it progressed from the 240 to the 260 to the 280? I've seen some 280Zs with tacky graphics that scream DISCO!!!

    I'd say the early 240Z was the purest version of the car.
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    Try and get specific, and, other than the ones you mentioned, can anyone think of a single '80s Japanese car of interest?

    You mean besides the AE86 Corolla? There are some candidates like the gen3 Prelude and the gen2 CRX, but the Japanese cars that made it over here didn't really start getting good until the tail end of the '80s.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    The Datsun 510, from the late '60s - ~'72, has a following, but I wouldn't really call it a collectible. I think the appeal is that it's a low cost way to get a light, compact RWD car. Of the few that remain, a high percentage are modified. As one who owned one, I always felt the 510 was overrated. Sure, it was better than a Pinto, Vega, Gremlin, or Beetle, overall, but that's faint praise. From my experience, it was better on paper, in terms of specs, than in actuality.
  • lemmerlemmer Posts: 2,699
    The 510 has a novelty following because it was a cheap alternative to a 2002 and decent to race.. I think that novelty has seriously dwindled as they get older and parts are harder to find. The AE86 is sort of a replacement that will probably share the same fate eventually.

    I'd stick with good looking cars with decent performance for future collectibility. The early (pre-huge bumpers and pre-messed up carbs) Z-cars are one of the few that meet that criteria.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Even the interesting Japanese cars like the 240Z or the 510 coupe aren't really "hot". The prices have been rather stagnant and well below the cost of a totally clapped-out Chevelle.

    It's almost impossible for any older Japanese car in the world to break $30,000, which is chump change in the collector car market. A Ford Bucket T sells for more than an NSX!!
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAPosts: 15,306
    ..has an article on the 1993-98 Toyota Supra. It states that a 1998 Supra w/5 speed manual in pristine condition can fetch over $37K, close to it's original $40K MSRP! Do Supras really hold their value that well?
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 24,389
    I didn't catch that, but the same issue also said that a primo Mustang II should fetch something ridiculous like $15000-20000?! Somebody PLEASE tell me that the market for bad 70's cars hasn't gotten to that level!
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAPosts: 15,306
    Uh, did they forget the decimal when they quoted those Mustang II values? Anyway, interesting articles on the 1970s cars. It sounds like it was a terrible time to be a car designer after the glory years of the 1950s and 1960s.

    Love the article on the 1965-66 Cadillacs. Remember the 1966 Fleetwood Brougham we saw at Carlisle? I kept thinking about that car when I read the article. Too bad it wouldn't fit in my garage. It would've been a heck of a lot cheaper than the new DTS Performance I just bought. I'm just recovering from the horrible buyer's remorse I always get and accepting the fact.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 24,389
    It would've been a heck of a lot cheaper than the new DTS Performance I just bought. I'm just recovering from the horrible buyer's remorse I always get and accepting the fact.

    Lemko!! When did this happen?! This is the first I heard about it. Anyway, congrats on the new ride! I'm sure that buyer's remorse will go away really fast.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    This reminds me of the time, years ago, when I was shopping for a business suit, and saw one that I thought looked really great, and, with very minor alterations, fit perfectly. The problem was that it cost almost twice what I'd ever paid for a suit. While my voice of reason struggled with the "oh, what the hell, go for it!" argument, the clerk that was assisting me told me, in a low key, reassuring way, that once I bought the suit, and perhaps received a compliment or two about how it looked on me, I'd forget about how much I paid. I took his advice, bought the suit, and never regretted it. The moral: I agree with andre, lemko; you'll soon stop thinking about what your DTS cost, and you'll enjoy its attributes for several years and many miles. When you look back, you'll feel you made the right decision to buy it.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    That article is being somewhat misleading. The LAST Supra turbos might be worth that because they are still relatively new cars. But when you look at the price guides or auctions, you'll see that the older a Supra turbo you look at, the LESS it costs---so in fact the Supra Turbo is acting like a depreciating new car acts (newer=more valuable) not like a collector car acts (older = more valuable).

    Fords aren't Japanese of course (not yet anyway) so we should stay on topic here. ;)
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAPosts: 15,306
    I got it last Friday. It's a 2007 Cadillac DTS Performance in Black Raven and Tehama Ebony interior with just about everything in it. In fact, I'm finding more and more features every day. I didn't know it had massage seats. I was showing the car to a co-worker, look down at the side of the seat and there's a little button on the side with an "M" and some squiggly lines. What clinched it was the 0% financing. I got the gap protection and it has a five-year/50K-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty and a 5-year/100K-mile powertrain warranty.

    How did it happen? I took my Seville STS in because the belt was squealing and driving me nuts. I know it was the idler pulley as I could hear the bearing going bad. Anyway, I'm waiting for the car and I walk around the showroom and the lot. The salesman who sold me the Seville starts BS'ing with me and tells me he has a loaded leftover 2007 DTS Performance with the 0% financing. My car had 68K miles on it and I figured, I'd try to get something for it while I still could as it was going to be a 6 year-old car and Caddies, unfortunately, depreciate faster than a brick thrown off the Empire State Building.

    I'm not really serious, but I take the new DTS out as a lark and it's amazing! I love the XM Satellite radio! Our local stations play too much crap and commercials and my arm is ready to fall off from hitting the "SEEK" button so often. Next thing you know, I'm in love with the car and one thing leads to another and I have a new car.
    I really didn't want to get a car until after the winter, or at least not until after the holidays. I usually buy my Cadillacs at the end of January. I guess I lost my head.

    The next morning was tough. It was kind of like being out on the town in Vegas the previous night. You were wasted, you were having a great time, but then you wake up the next morning hung over with a fresh tattoo and married to a showgirl. I'm wondering, "Oh man! What did I do?" I was hating myself for the next couple of days.

    The Seville did make the transition easier for me. As I moved my old car next to the new one to transfer all of my junk from one car to the other, the ABS and Traction Control lights came on with a resounding "BONG!" I guess I made the move just in time. Nothing is a bigger white elephant than a luxury car out of warranty. Who knows what was going to be next?

    I haven't seen you or grbeck on the forums much lately. I was wondering about you guys.
  • bumpybumpy Posts: 4,435
    Do Supras really hold their value that well?

    The Mark IV twin-turbo Supras do, since they reside at the pinnacle of the Japanese sports car pantheon along with the Nissan Skyline GT-Rs. The 1993 Supra TTs were about $40k but the appreciating yen pushed them up toward $55k for 1996, so Toyota cut the price for 1997 and sold them at a loss, then stopped bringing them over here after 1998 (they lived on at home until 2002). The MkIV was one of the massively overengineered cars that came out of the Japanese boom of the late '80s; the 2JZ-GTE inline six is already legendary.

    The earlier Supras are just old cars and the value declines on them in the usual fashion. The normally-aspirated MkIVs float between the halo effect of the TT and the banality of their powerplant (the same one in the Lexus SC300).
  • Those Mark IV supras are insane. Our receptionist has a one that makes over 650 hp to the wheels and she uses it as her daily driver as long as it isn't snowing. Her car is considered tame by modified supra standards.
  • jrosasmcjrosasmc Posts: 1,711
    Tell the receptionist that I'd like to challenge her Supra sometime with my Volvo XC70 Cross Country. :P
  • You are right there. Primo early Z cars only bring 10-15k tops, and daily drivers in the 3-7k area. I have a 73, and parts are still not that hard to find, since they made so many of them and many parts are interchangeable with later Z's. The reason I have one is that they are soooo fun to drive, and easy to work on. Lots of room in the engine compartment, dependable, smooth straight 6, etc.. and people still turn their heads when they see one. If it weren't for that rust, things would be peachy. You'd think the steel from an island nation, with all that salty air, would be better than that. At least they got it right in time for my i30.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    Besides the fact that until the '90s the corrosion resistance of Japanese cars was generally poor, the rusting process began immediately upon being placed on freighters for the long voyage across the Pacific. It was a long voyage, with a lot of exposure to salt water and, usually, warm temperatures, which is ideal for rust formation, so you could say that Japanese cars began with a disadvantage compared with cars sourced in North America.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    Since there seems to be an increasing collector interest, albeit still small, in '70s and '80s Japanese cars, are prices reflecting this?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    You know, I haven't really seen much of a change...if anything, the 240Z seems to have dropped in value. Maybe the Supra Turbos, but RX-7s and MR2s and such? Not much going on.

    A good 2-door early 510 coupe is still desirable, as are the Japanese micros---the rest seem stagnant.
  • andre1969andre1969 Posts: 24,389
    I've always had a fascination with the little hardtop coupes that the Japanese were still building in the late 70's and early 80's. Stuff like the Toyota Corolla, which offered a hardtop coupe and even what could be called a hardtop wagon, although they probably called it a "sportback" or whatever. The Datsun 200SX was kinda neat, too. Then there was the Plymouth Saporro and Dodge Challenger, courtesy of Mitsubishi. I wonder if Mitsubishi sold that one in the home market, or if it was intended solely for the US? Madza had a hardtop coupe version of the 626 around that timeframe, as well.

    The Japanese offered larger hardtop coupes as well. At least, I remember there being an 810 hardtop, Toyota Cressida, etc, but they were older styles that were pretty lumpy. Once the crisper, boxier styles were introduced, I think they went 4-door only.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Well they're all pretty dirt cheap if you want one. Problem is even finding one in acceptable condition. Mostly what you'll see are clean survivors. If they get 'restored', they are tricked out, and often not that tastefully.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 52,693
    Mitsubishi sold that hardtop elsewhere, it was the period Galant, sold under a few other names too.

    Some old Japanese cars interest me mildly too, mainly for their wacky style or very period looks.
  • lemkolemko Philadelphia, PAPosts: 15,306
    image
  • texasestexases Posts: 9,445
    Yes, those didn't age well. A few years later, though, and I still like it:
    image
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Why did they put a home air-conditioner in the front bumper? :P
  • fintailfintail Posts: 52,693
    I remember the first time I saw one of those, when I was about 11...I thought it was some weird JDM model that someone shipped over, it seemed really alien to me.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 52,693
    The AWD/VR4 model is relatively cool
  • burdawgburdawg Posts: 1,524
    Datsun 1600 & 2000 Roadsters are pretty collectible aren't they?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Ah yeah, kinda sorta maybe....they trade hands in a small market and the prices stay the same, maybe bumping up with inflation. It's a struggle for any Japanese car to break the $10,000 mark except for the legendary 2000GT and the occasional superb 240Z. They would be a nice alternative to the MGB or TR4 if you were looking for something different, but they do not enjoy the popularity or aftermarket support of the latter two, by a long shot.
  • burdawgburdawg Posts: 1,524
    True, plus the last ones were 1970 model so they don't fit this topic well.
  • martianmartian Posts: 220
    I agree with your analysis-here in New England, it is very rare to see a '70's Japanese car-rust has consumed them. You don't see them in junkyards either-for the same reason.
    I hought a new Mitsubishi in 1985-in three years I had perforation-in five years, most of the hood was rusted.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    True, but there must be a decent number of '70s and '80s Japanese cars left in areas where rust isn't a significant problem. They were imported in large numbers and many were well made.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    I rarely see them even in California, where I'm sure a lot of them ended up and where cars do not deteriorate quickly. I will see a few 80s beater Toyota pickups in San Francisco, and the occasional restored Z car or Fair Lady, and maybe once a month an old RX-7, but that's about it....a handful per month (and i drive around a lot). I haven't seen a 510, RX3 or Subaru FF1 in ages.

    What I do see a lot of is 70s/80a domestic pickups and vans and for some reason, a lot of beater Cadillacs.
  • texasestexases Posts: 9,445
    Same in Dallas, it's extremely uncommon to see one of these, while I'll see Detroit iron about one a week of this age.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 52,693
    edited January 2012
    Here in the PNW where cars are kept forever, it's the same. I see a lot of 80s Japanese metal, but 70s stuff is long gone. I think Japan had a real quality jump starting in the early 80s. Trucks are the same - 80s models aren't extremely rare, but 70s ones are pretty much gone.

    I do see a 78-81 Celica in the area now and then, and a Datsun 810 wagon, but none others come to mind. Oh, there's an early Civic parked on the street near where the fintail is stored.

    Old Euro and American cars are still very common here.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    80s Euro cars are a dime a dozen where I live...mostly I see Benzes, 7 series BMWs (back when the 735 was around---a *great* car) , some 325s, (mostly convertibles) a smattering of 320i and 2002s. Most 80s VWs and Audis have now littered the landscape. Here and there an old VW bug (saw one today in fact) and yes, the diehard VW van or pickup resting in someone's driveway.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 52,693
    I see 123s and 124s and 126s pretty much daily. Lots of BMW E30 still around, too. A few old Beetles still hanging around, but few other VWs before the 90s. Pre late 90s Audis are very rare, only driven by enthusiasts who can keep them running.

    For the Japanese, quite a few first gen Camry and pop up headlight Accords in the area.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    edited February 2012
    ...under "Automobiles" (in bottom left of front page) entitled "Collecting: Revenge of the Econobox: Early Japanese Imports Find Admirers"

    Interesting read, with photos. Collecting Japanese cars is gaining traction, as was bound to happen. With very rare exceptions, it's a cheap way to get in the game.

    My '88 300 ZX 2+2 manual with T-top is my alternate daily driver. I'm the second owner, and, with 193,000 miles, it's been very low maintenance. Hardly a month goes by that someone doesn't approach me to buy it. I'll keep it as long as it's fun to own, and remains relatively low maintenance. I have no illusions that it'll ever be worth anything, but it should hold what little market value it has; maybe $1,800-$2,800 [on a good day] in a sale by owner. I maintain it, but it's probably a 3.

    If I had had the space I would have kept the '87 3-Series that I sold in Spring 2010 to make room for my wife's '07 A4 Quattro 2.0T. The A4 drives and handles really well, but I'm wandering far from the topic of collectible Japanese cars.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Thanks for that post.

    here's the link to the NY times article:

    REVENGE OF THE ECONOBOX

    Still, if the prices don't start going up along with the "collector" enthusiasm, then the survivors won't survive too much longer.

    Consider how many vintage American makes that once thrived are now down to a handful of survivors, for this very reason. Their value did not justify their restoration.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 52,693
    edited February 2012
    I see the curiosity value in the cars, some of them are cool or kitschy, but the big collectible boom hasn't hit yet - cars like 2000GT and similar are freaky outliers compared to a 1977 Corolla or 1975 610. There's a butt for every seat - Yugos have fanatics even, so some will seek these cars, but I don't know if it will be as wild as others. Like you say, the survivors should hope they have caring owners - might be a couple decades off yet before there is a big preservation movement.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    edited February 2012
    I don't think it's going to happen, except for the preservation of a few original survivors. Collectors who go for oddball stuff don't pony up the $$$ to see the projects through, in most cases. It's more like the car follows them home and they let it sleep in the garage.
  • hpmctorquehpmctorque Posts: 4,600
    I agree with your comments. They sum up the situation so succinctly, that I have little to add. One thing that stood out, though , is that of the little interest that exists in Japanese collectibles, theres virtually no interest in any model outside of the Japanese big three.

    Over time, the number of posts on this discussion may be a good indicator of whether interest in old Japanese cars grows or stagnates.
  • fintailfintail Posts: 52,693
    And maybe even more limited , to being a regional ideal - the cars pretty much only survive out west and maybe in some parts of the south.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaPosts: 64,482
    Well some of these japanese cars are now over 40 years old and still pretty low-priced...so when does "collectible" happen here? 50 years? 60?

    I guess in a way ANY 60 year old car is a "collectible", if for no other reason than it having lasted that long.

    Some people do collect and restore Datsun Fairlady roadsters, and Datsun 510s (they even still race them in SCCA) and of course, we're STILL waiting for the Datsun 240Z to break $20,000 bucks.
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