Global trends do not only exist in the world of gaming, fashion, and animation. Japanese car collectors seem to have the inside scoop when it comes to the global car collector market. In the collector’s inventory lies the innovated limited production vehicles from the 1960s such as the Toyota 2000GT and Mazda Cosmo that are now priced at six and seven figure numbers. Even the humble vehicles like the Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40 of the 1960s have become $100,000 cars.
“We’ve seen a huge spike in certain great, collectible Japanese cars,” says David Gooding, the CEO of the Los Angeles-based Gooding & Co. auction house. The information does back his statement. Study results from classic vehicle valuation experts Hagerty shows a 57% hike in the prices paid for Japanese collectibles during the last three years alone.
With increases like this, many Japanese collectors have been priced out of their own iconic history. Since Japanese trends have been foretelling of global styles like the infamous Fast & Furious “tuner” craze from the early 2000s, where cars were customized with wildly colorful cosmetic and mechanical accessories—the Japanese collectible market has become a good source for analyzing emerging trends.
The top collectible cars in Japan may line up with those that are popular globally, but there’s a significant difference. Japanese car collectors seem to be drawn to cars from the 1990s era and later while Ferraris from the 60s and 70s are a hot ticket item in America and Europe. European and American collectors currently fetishize purist 60s to 80s Porsche 911s that look like they just rolled off the assembly line; the Japanese clearly like their 911s customized. (Although the auctions in Japan can be a great place to find clean, low KM Porsches as well).
“The Japanese have never been shy about modifying cars,” says Ben Hsu, founder, and editor-in-chief of Japanese Nostalgic Car, the most notable English-language publication about vintage Japanese cars. “Interest in Porsches in Japan has just skyrocketed in recent years, largely due to a tuner named Nakai, who grafts on flared fenders and giant rear spoilers—inspired by modifications done by the Japanese Bosozoku, which were the old local bike and car gangs. He runs a shop called Rauh Welt, which is German for rough world.”
This love for modification is, among many Japanese collectors, ingrained in a particular aspect of their culture “There is this Japanese word, otaku, which means hardcore—obsessively enthusiastic about something,” says Hsu. According to Hsu’s, otaku is also the motivation behind local collectors’ love of oddball and underappreciated cars.
What do you predict will be the next classic? The Nissan Figaro? Honda Beat? Whatever classic Japanese cars you are after, we can help.