To understand what makes a modern car a classic, a brief history lesson of the type enjoyed by car aficionados is called for:
Back around 2005, we began to appreciate that some of the cars we were offering from stock would someday be worth a lot more.
Around 2004 Newera Imports offered from stock, a rust-free E30 M3 for just £11,000. A beautiful rust -free car which had sat unwanted for several months. The first serious person who viewed it promptly bought and experienced an unforgettable drive home to Portugal, where he still owns the car today.
We already had a hunch back then that the E30 M3 would become a future classic (& acting on our instincts, squirrelled one away for ourselves which we've never sold); indeed, like many others, I'm sure – I recall looking at these longingly when I was a university student, wishing I could afford one back then – but there was no way a student of the 80's I could ever afford such a new car in those days. Just dreams….
In 2004 when we bought our's, they were all but forgotten. Many were neglected, some stripped out & turned into race cars and as their values reached rock bottom, maintenance would often be neglected, further reducing the value of these cars. I bought my own for less than the cost of a 2-year-old Smart car today. Now, of course, the best rust-free examples like mine can be worth over £100,000!
For those with memory of what some of today's modern classics used to cost in the mid 2000s, the prices of '90s and noughties icons have since risen two, to three times and for some of the very rarest and most desirable collectors icons (Such as NSX-R's, 22B Imprezas, or Nismo Z Tune 34's) – by even greater factors.
Now modern classics of this era are higher, although in our view – compared to some cars in Europe, such as say 205 GTi 1.9's, the best of the JDM classics (Tommi Makinen and other CP9A Evo models) are still somewhat under-priced for what they are, in our eyes…
What makes a car become a classic is nostalgia.
The sort of cars that motoring magazines always waxed lyrical about, which offered something, not on the menu in modern cars of today. Feelsome steering, an engine that raises hairs on the back of the neck and no modern nannying electronics, with a lightweight rawness and connectedness that drivers of new cars often yearn for...
Are you old enough to remember the original Integra Type R being consistently referred to as one of the best handling FWD chassis ever made and how special its B18C engine was?
- compared to say, a Peugeot 205 GTi 1.9?
We haven't forgotten – and had always known the DC2 was destined for iconic status. It was just a matter of time.
Prices have more than doubled for the best rust-free low mileage ones between 2014-2019, but they're still a lot less than what a comparable mileage rust-free 205 GTi 1.9 is worth. See what we mean by underpriced..?
You only need to keep a close ear to the ground to find out what some of these icons fetch in the U.S. today, to know prices will continue to increase for the JDM icons of the 90's and noughties. Supras fetching well over $100,000, low mileage original early U.S. model RX-7's fetching $70,000? – Yes, it's already happening there.
But the bigger question here is; what cars are there in Japan that haven't yet begun to rise and are therefore excellent long term investments?
The S2000 is a model we know is destined for stardom. Better in every aspect than Mazda's various convertibles, these are truly special driver's cars. Don't be fooled by there not having ever been a Type R model. 240 bhp from 2L with a 9,000 rpm rev limit and a sublime 6-speed close-ratio gearbox coupled with 50/50 weight distribution is a hint of what these cars are capable of. Performance is on par with a 3.0 NSX NA1.
They're almost criminally cheap in the U.K. but beware of nasty corrosion (See our other recent blog post on the subject of rust and how to spot a bad example).
So too are the other modern JDM Hondas with K20 engines not to be forgotten. DC5 Integra, Civic FD2's and (to a lesser extent in our opinion) the U.K. -built comparative models are also candidates.
There are various modern Imprezas that are off the radar for many, yet offer serious performance driving potential, equipped with JDM EJ20 engines, such as Spec C, Type-tS and Nurburgring spec and other rarer limited-edition models for the Japanese market now hovering around 10 years old, at time of writing.
There are also modern European cars supplied new in Japan, that will be classics someday too – to become more attractive in future because of the rust-free nature of cars that have been used in Japan. Porsche models and other exotica are a given, but some of the more exclusive BMW minis officially supplied in Japan with RHD are very likely to rise in desirability over time. Golf R32's, Renault Megane Sport models too.
Don't forget the original Audi TT coupes too. They're cheap now in Japan, as they are in the U.K. but a truly rust free low mileage example from here is far more likely to be a wise investment than a tired car that's been on U.K. roads all of its life.
Where LHD isn't a problem for the real enthusiasts who are appreciative of the benefits of truly uncorroded cars from Japan, there are other occasional possible gems such as Alfa Romeo 156 GTA's, 147 GTA or other Alfa models equipped with the venerable Busso engine.
Finally, there are lots of AMG model Benz, which can offer insane levels of performance, provided you're willing to stump up the running and maintenance costs that come as part and parcel of the ownership experience. We can definitely see some of these on our stock list when they bottom out and begin attaining classic status, whilst rising in value. For our customers, they'll become good investments then.