The term “genuine classic” is one you most often hear uttered at the sight of an old school American muscle car or a vintage Ferrari. As of late, however, it is also commonly used to refer to JDMs. There was a time when the Japanese Domestic Market offered a wide range of underappreciated automotive gems, but that little piece of paradise has almost faded away – the sheer amount of JDMs available for purchase is more and more scarce, and the prices of the cars themselves appear to be on a perpetual upward trajectory. Let's dive deeper into this particular part of the cherry blossom automotive market and discover the reasons behind the sudden popularity of these vehicles.
Tenth generation Skyline tail lightsThe pros of the Japanese Domestic Market
These vehicles make both excellent racers and excellent drifters. The fact of the matter is, the best JDM cars can still outrun most modern-age, performance-oriented cars out there. Today, the notion of a 2-litre petrol powertrain clocking 200 BHP without a supercharger seems surreal. But even over 30 years ago, that wasn’t a problem for the Japanese, and those performance models are among the most sought-after by car enthusiasts.
Another paramount factor behind the success of JDM cars is that they were built to last, and without sparing any expenses on the features, too. JDMs were often loaded with technology you'd expect to see in a German premium-class vehicle. On top of that, planned obsolescence in the automotive industry was virtually unheard of back in the 1990s. Whereas if you bought a brand-new sports SUV today, in 20 years, you would most likely end up pushing it the last mile. Meanwhile, the classic Hondas and Toyotas will continue to dominate the quarter-mile runs, albeit to the horror of the ecologists.
The driving factor behind the recent surge of JDM purchases is perhaps their unmistakable appearance. After all, they were the true stars of the Fast and Furious motion picture that started it all, overtaking the likes of Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel to the throne. Indeed, 90s Japanese sports cars have that “all eyes on me” effect, which is perfect if you like the attention – just expect to be occasionally pulled over by the law for no good reason.
These Japanese import cars a (near) perfect investment
When it comes to Japanese sports cars, what everyone tends to talk about lately are their prices. And there’s a good reason for it. Worth more by the year, JDMs are perceived as a once-in-a-lifetime investment opportunity not just for car enthusiasts, but also for those looking to turn a lucrative profit in the future. An owner of a classic JDM who adheres to the highway code (or at least tries) and doesn’t mistake their daily commute for a special stage, will make good money once they decide to part ways with their vehicle. Especially if they happen to own one of these…
1999 Nissan Skyline R34
Nissan Skyline R34You may not intend to jump a lifting bridge (if you know, you know), but the Nissan Skyline R34 is still a fantastic car to own. This star from the late 1990s is renowned for its 280-horsepower engine and iconic tunability. Nowadays, an R34 can cost anywhere between £25,000 to over £150,000, depending on the condition. The fleet of roadworthy Skylines is slowly shrinking, but the demand remains, meaning that prices will inevitably be going up.
1992 Mazda RX-7
Third generation Mazda RX-7The Mazda RX-7, famously driven by Dominic Toretto in The Fast and The Furious, contributes to the list of JDM classics with its tremendous ROI potential. This stunning vehicle is horrendously hard to come by in good condition, making the prices quite steep. 1990s models are the most expensive, starting at around £30,000 (at the minimum), but you can still get yourself a second generation RX-7 from the 1980s for a reasonable price.
1999 Honda S2000
1999 Honda S2000
Yet another Fast and Furious icon and an example of a frequently overlooked JDM car – the Honda S2000. This vehicle is every tuner's dream come true. After all, when you have an engine that can be pushed from the original 237 to an astonishing 1,000 horsepower, you know you’re holding on to something special. Even if you are hardly a racer, buying a Honda S2000 is a solid investment. A model with over 100,000 miles on the clock can be yours for under £10,000. And if you know how to look after a classic, it will be like wine, getting better (and pricier) with age.
1993 Toyota Supra
Fourth generation Toyota SupraBoasting inarguably the most renowned and sought-after engine in the tuner community, a mere mention of Toyota Supra’s legendary 2JZ engine is enough to make any respected car enthusiast lose their mind (and spend large sums of money). And it just so happens that perhaps the most famous iteration of this historic car will be auctioned soon – Paul Walker's Toyota Supra is in Las Vegas and about to change ownership. But don't get too excited, because the last time the orange Supra was on auction, it sold for an astonishing $185,000.
1990 Honda NSX
1990 Honda NSXTo close off our list is the Honda NSX. Often called an everyday supercar, Honda NSX features a sports chassis co-designed by the famous and dearly missed Ayrton Senna. Expect a hefty price tag for the 1990s classic, though. If you're lucky, you can get one for just under £50,000, and over £70,000 for well-kept examples. The only problem is that owners tend to keep their NSXs as a strategic long-term investment, so very few are available on the market.
An unmissable opportunity for a Japanese sports car enthusiast
Naturally, it is impossible to predict the future and determine the exact amount a specific model will be worth in five or ten years. History, however, is indicative of the present, and when we look at the history of American muscle cars, it makes sense that 90s Japanese sports cars will too reach a new level of investment potential. There will likely be some ups and downs, which is an expected effect of varying supply and demand on the market. In the long run, however, they will undoubtedly provide significant income when changing hands.
And let us not forget about the predominant factor behind their worldwide success: Japanese Domestic Market cars look good, offer a unique driving experience, and when compared to American or European performance cars, are still exceptionally affordable in the grand scheme of things. The real question is: why wouldn’t you get one?