INCREDIBLE AS it may seem, five years have flown by since last we looked at the market for Japanese specialist cars. And have things changed since then.
Back in 2013, with the automotive market still influenced by the Global Financial Crisis, Japanese models were stuck in a rut and many desirable models were looking under-appreciated and under-priced. In fact we were concerned that on-going ambivalence towards Japanese cars was affecting their long-term desirability. Recent movement has shown those concerns to be obsolete.
Datsun 240 and 260Zs gave notice some years back of an impending price explosion. So did a few of the early Mazda rotaries but nobody predicted the pace of change that would affect things like the RX2, RX3, Z-Cars and 1970s Nissan Skylines. Values doubling and trebling in the space of three years is full-on muscle car stuff and subject to the same risk of a very hard landing. No one can say when, so be cautious.
Lower down the scale there are still plenty of fun cars at affordable prices and with some growth to come. The Datsun 180B SSS coupe, Mazda RX4, Series 4/5 RX7s and early Celicas provide distinctive looks with decent performance and won’t bury you in a $50K hole should the market suddenly turn sour.
Japan during the past 40 years really took over from Britain as the world’s primary source of affordable sports cars. For less than $20,000 you can today own a Honda S2000 or early RX7, MR2, Honda Type R and of course the list must include the Mazda MX5.
Those who remember when these brilliant little cars first appeared struggle to believe that early MX5s can now in many places be registered and regarded as ‘vintage’ cars.
Looking to the future the most obvious change will be the 2019 introduction of a 25-year ‘rolling age’ rule for imported enthusiast vehicles. No longer will exemptions under the Special Enthusiast Vehicles Scheme (SEVS) only apply to vehicles made before 1990.
More recent models continue of course to arrive in abundance but the nature of those models is changing as well. Among the most popular of late have been V35 Nissans, all-wheel drive Toyota Caldina wagons, Mitsubishi EVOs and the myriad of people mover vans.
Japanese auction sites continue to uncover older and very desirable models that someone has been hiding away in anticipation of a massive payday. That time arrived a while back and enthusiasts in export markets (principally the USA) are paying prodigious amounts for 1970s Nissan Skylines, Toyota Sprinter and Levin coupes, numerous rotary Mazdas and the occasional Toyota Crown or Corona hardtop. Australians can now pitch in as well so if you are a lover of unusual Japanese motor vehicles, get ready for life to soon become less boring.
Assessments focus on market movements for various vehicles during the past 12 months and provide, where possible, guidance on realistic pricing for the different models available.
The average values shown at the end of each vehicle review are based on surveys of cars offered for sale privately and through licenced dealers in metropolitan markets throughout Australia and on the internet.
Note that the number in brackets following each average price represents the number of vehicles surveyed.
Any average based on fewer than 20 vehicles is not necessarily representative of the market position of that particular model at the time.
Where I/D (Insufficient Data) or N/S (None Surveyed) is shown against a model designation, it indicates that no vehicles fitting the description were found during the survey period for this 2018 Buyers Guide.
The values shown in the charts are based on advertised asking prices and reported sales from all parts of Australia, using data supplied by dealers, private purchasers and auction houses. Usually, the values quoted reflect prices being achieved by vehicles sold by private vendors.
Where a model is rarely offered on the Australian market, estimates are based on overseas value guides and auction results.
Careful reading of the Condition Category descriptions below is vital to effective use of the Price Charts.
NOTE: Price tracker boxes indicate price movements of that model since 1998.
HONDA NSX Model
$125,145 Average price of vehicles surveyed
 Number surveyed
BODY Should be free of dents, rust or obvious repairs. Minor stone chips are permissible, major blemishes or mismatched paint work are not. Brightwork must be complete and show no evidence of damage.
INTERIOR Seats should be covered in original pattern material free of rips or other damage, floor covering should be complete, clean and of correct material, headlining clean. Dashes – especially timber or veneer – should be free of cracks or discolouration.
ENGINE BAY Clean with no water, oil, fuel or battery leaks. Hoses and belts need to be in sound condition. The correct engine, or one which was optional to the model, should be fitted. Authentic components are a must if the car is to be upgraded to concours standard.
UNDERBODY No dents or damage to underseal, exhaust system complete and undamaged, no oil leaks from the differential, transmission or shock absorbers. All suspension components should be in good working order.
WHEELS & TYRES Original wheels with correct hubcaps or aftermarket wheels in keeping with vehicle style and age should be fitted. Tyres need to be correct size and speed rating, with at least 50 per cent original tread.
BODY No serious rust or large areas of body filler evident. Minor bubbling in nonstructural areas permissible. Paint should be good quality but may show evidence of repairs, chips and scratches. Brightwork should be good generally, but areas of dulled or scratched chrome are likely.
INTERIOR Seats may have been re-covered but should be in good general condition. If the trim is original, areas of wear and broken stitching is likely. Floor coverings should be complete, carpets and hoodlining preferably to original pattern. Cleaning may be required.
ENGINE BAY Engine should be of original type although original engine is unlikely.
No major fluid leaks or discolouration. Cleaning will be required.
UNDERBODY No serious damage, however scrapes and chipping likely. Minor oil leaks are common, exhaust should be complete and free from holes or burning around joints. Suspension components such as kingpins, ball joints and shock absorbers need to be roadworthy.
WHEELS & TYRES Wheels should be the original rims or legal-sized aftermarket units. Tyres should have at least legal tread depth left.
BODY Moderate rust is inevitable, although chassis, firewall and other structural areas should be sound. Minor body damage is common. Paint likely to be faded, with uneven colour. Body filler usually found in panels but unacceptable in structural areas. Brightwork should be basically complete and major components like the grille must be fitted. Rechroming or polishing of most parts will be required.
INTERIOR Seats need to be structurally sound but will normally need re-covering.
Floor coverings likely to be damaged or missing. Door trims should be fitted but may need replacement.
Vinyl dashboard tops usually cracked or warped.
ENGINE BAY The engine should run but work will be needed, with the engine bay likely to be dirty and oil stained. Hoses and fuel lines may need replacement for the vehicle to be reliable.
UNDERBODY Will show signs of neglect and damage (dents, stone damage, etc) but should be free of major rust. Chassis and structural members need to be straight. Suspension components and exhaust systems will usually need replacement.
WHEELS & TYRES Wheels should be free of major damage, but tyres will normally need replacement.
VEHICLES in genuine concours condition will be completely original or rebuilt to the highest standards. Generally they are better than when new. Some cleaning or replacement of minor components may be required but anything more than minor blemishes will significantly reduce the car’s chances of success.
Cars with the potential to achieve Gold standard (90 per cent or better) in open judging can cost 50 per cent or more over Condition One values.
The author and publisher have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of the 2018 Unique Cars Market Guide, but we do not accept responsibility for any loss or inconvenience caused by errors or omissions.
Values are subject to change due to social, political or economic circumstances within Australia or elsewhere.
This magazine provides useful guides on trends, but they are always subject to change. We suggest any purchase like this should be done with your eyes wide open and treated as a personal reward rather than a retirement plan.
To determine the value of a specific vehicle, inspection by an appropriately qualified specialist is strongly recommended.