Life Motor Talk

Wednesday 17 January 2018

Classic cars of the Rising Sun


Paul Healy

Classic car prices are on the rise. You only have to look at the results of Barrett-Jackson or Bonhams auctions to see this, with pristine (and sometimes not so pristine) cars fetching serious money. The boom in prices is being fuelled by investors and speculators no longer believing that property values are as safe as house.

However the rise in prices does mean that those who are not CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are being priced out of the market. Forget the headline grabbing Ferrari 250 GTOs and Jaguar D Types, have you looked at the prices of MkII Ford Escorts, E30 BMW M3s or even Mercedes-Cosworth 190e recently?

So where does the classic car collector look to?

Soviet bloc cars are interesting but are something of a niche market with limited appeal. Instead you have to look further East, to the Land of the Rising Son for what many analysts believe will be the next boom in the classic car market.

There is already evidence of this with the Toyota 2000GT – Japan’s first supercar – also becoming Japan’s first million dollar car while models such as the Mazda Cosmo 110s (Mazda’s first rotary engine car) and first and second generation Nissan Skyline GT-Rs regularly fetching in excess of €100,000 at auction.  To get in at rock bottom prices you have to think more mainstream, more mass produced, more along the lines of the Datsun 510 or KE27 series Toyota Corolla.

The products of late sixties/early seventies both of these cars arrived at a time when buyers this side of the world prayed that their Morris Marinas, Austin Allegros and Hallman Avengers started in the morning. Reliable, robust and plentiful the 510 and KE27 are ideal entry ways into classic Japanese ownership.

Of course humble hatchbacks do not get the blood coursing for all; some simple want a sports car and those people need look no further than the original Toyota Celica or second and third members of Mazda’s RX line – the RX3 and RX5. With looks inspired by American muscle cars this trio are mechanically simple with less to go wrong; until you get to the engines of the Mazda’s that is. Both the RX3 and RX5 are primarily known for their rotary engines though regular piston engines were offered (in the related Mazda Grand Familia for the RX3). These unique engines will hold special appeal to some buyers while also scare some off completely.

Of course for a true Japanese sports car icon you cannot look past the Datsun 240Z. The first of Datsun’s Z cars it was considered a rival for the Porsche 924 at the time of its launch in 1970. Unfortunately prices for early 240’s has begun to rise helped, in no small part, by Nissan purchasing, restoring and reselling 240Zs during the late nineties.

If you are going to consider a classic from the late nineties there really only is car worth it – the Honda NSX. The Toyota Supra and later generations of Nissan Skylines may attract more attention but neither of them can claim Formula One inspired technology and a close association with one Ayrton Senna. Designed to go head to head with the Ferrari 348, NSX prices have never tanked out like those of the Skyline and Supra and are slowly beginning to rise again as those raised on Gran Turismo begin to get into the market. If you want you you’d better move quickly.   

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