The Values of Japanese Classics Have Soared Over the Past 5 Years
Everybody wants something for (next to) nothing. The principle applies to cars as much as to everything else, and over the years Japanese manufacturers have proven skilled in offering incredible performance with an economy price tag. The value of the country’s classics, however, is starting to rise.
Recent years have seen the value of Japanese classics soar, with 70s Toyota Celicas now commanding around $20,000, and well-maintained Datsun 510s commanding in excess of $25,000.
These growing prices can, rather ironically, be attributed to the fact that Japanese collector classics are so much cheaper than their American and European counterparts. Mike Malamut, a retired car dealer who has collected Japanese classics for thirty-five years, describes them as a “way to enter the collector hobby for relatively little money.” Now, their role looks set to change.
Japanese cars have long been excluded from the valuation discussion, largely because of their sheer numbers. The only real darling – and true blue chip – among them is the 1967-70 Toyota 2000GT, of which just 337 were ever built. Their value has soared in the last four years, with average prices having risen from around $350,000 for a good one to around $1,000,000.
In May 2013, a pristine 1967 version commanded almost $1,200,000 at auction, setting a new record for a Japanese classic. In Monaco this month, a 1968 model sold at auction for a little over $1,000,000.
We must bear in mind, however, that the $1,200,000 sale price is hardly one of the highest ever commanded at a classic car auction. Ferrari Testarossas have sold for over $16,000,000, and a 1967 Ferrari 275 N.A.R.T Spider fetched $27,000,000 last summer. How long this discrepancy will last, though, is impossible to predict.
The market for Japanese classics has caught fire, as a new generation of car collectors – men and women who have grown up surrounded by the power and performance of Japanese imports – are coming of age and beginning to spend.
For the earlier collectors, ‘Made in Japan’ didn’t resonate. It implied cars of a poorer quality and a more modern design. Younger collectors, however, are attracted to the price tags of Japanese classics, which are much more accessible for those looking to break into the hobby. Unfortunately, it is no longer as easy or as cheap as it used to be, and that’s proving hard on collectors who are just starting out. According to chiropractor and car collector George Shapiro, who owns a rare early 1960s Nissan Patrol: “These vehicles have become very expensive, which is kind of a bummer. It blows the average grease-monkey hot-rodder out of the market.”
Another factor driving the popularity of Japanese classics is that many newer collectors began their driving careers in them. Unlike older collectors, these are the cars of their youth, the ones laced with memories of old girlfriends and half-remembered teenage years. For this new breed, the Datsun 210 they see gleaming on our website might have been the first car they ever owned. This creates a great sentimental drive to own one of these models. They might not be supercars, but people love them. For these younger collectors, they are like the Mustangs or Camaros of the generation that went before.
High-profile celebrity interest in Japanese classics might also have its role to play, helping to fuel demand. Most notably, American celebrity Jay Leno has been vocal about his love of classics. He owns one of the world’s largest private collections of classic cars, which includes a 1966 Mazda Cosmo 110S. He showed this off in his November 2012 episode of his ‘Jay Leno’s Garage’ online video series. Examples of the Cosmo in good condition retail for between $50,000 and $80,000. A marked price hike was seen after the Leno Cosmo story aired, showing the power and influence of celebrity enthusiasts to drive trends.
We predict that 2014 will be the year of the Japanese vintage, of the Honda NSX and the 2000GT, marking the quarter century of a number of truly ground-breaking cars from the Far East. The only real question, now, is what impact the generation that follows them will have.
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