Until recently, purchasing a JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) vehicle in the U.S. was a real hassle. Our strict import laws only allow vehicles to be imported into the country after they have reached 25 years of age. The floodgates opened when the R32 Nissan Skyline reached its 25th birthday and dealerships popped up all over the country specializing in Japanese direct imports. With these vehicles now arriving in the U.S. by the boatload (literally), the time has never been better to pick one up for yourself. Much like the meteoric rise of the BMW E30 M3, older Japanese vehicles are skyrocketing in resale value. So whether you are an automotive collector, a gearhead who wants to tinker, or you just want something different to commute in, these are the top five classic JDM cars you should buy.
Nissan Skyline | Chassis Codes: C10, C110, C210, R30, R31, R32, R33, R34 | Years: 1972-2002
This one should come as no surprise. The Nissan Skyline GT-R is an automotive icon, with the car being featured in numerous video games and movies. The Nissan Skyline was a mysterious beast to enthusiasts in the U.S. for many years, but no longer. The Skyline GT-R (R32) achieved near-mythical status in racing, as it was dubbed “Godzilla” by the Australians when it dominated the Australian Touring Car Championship in 1990. Currently, all generations of the Skyline, from the C10 through the R34 are rapidly climbing in value, especially in the GT-R trim level. The GT-R is the most desirable due to low production numbers and racing heritage. Clean R32 GT-Rs are currently selling for $30,000-$40,000. The coveted R34 will finally be legal to import in 2024.
Toyota MR2 | Chassis Code: SW20 | Years: 1989-1999
The hidden gem of this list that has only recently received the praise it deserves is the SW20 Toyota MR2. Inspired by Italian supercars of its day, the mid-engine layout offers enthusiasts an exhilarating driving experience paired with Toyota reliability. Prices on these cars will likely rise since they were produced in low quantities and continue to increase in popularity. The GT and GT-S models are the most desirable due to the fact that these trim levels rolled out of the factory with a turbocharged engine, the 3S-GTE. You can currently pick these cars up for $10,000-$20,000.
Mazda RX-7 | Chassis Code: FD3S | Years: 1992-2002
The true definition of a sports car, the Mazda RX-7 is another car on our list that shouldn’t surprise anyone. Similar to the Skyline, the RX-7 exploded in popularity due in part to its numerous appearances in films and video games. Unlike the Skyline, the RX-7 was sold in the U.S., but finding a clean, low-mileage example today can be difficult. The FD is widely regarded as one of the best-looking cars to ever come out of Japan. A multitude of examples being imported into the ‘States are low-mileage and have trim levels that were not offered domestically. Better yet, some have been built by premier tuning shops that we did not previously have access to. With no pistons, no valves, and a screaming redline, the rotary engine offers a unique driving experience. A prime example will sell in the $25,000-$35,000 range.
Toyota Land Cruiser | Chassis Code: FJ80 | 1990-1997
The Toyota Land Cruiser is a supremely capable off-road vehicle that has amassed a major following in the four-wheeling community. The JDM model offers a gasoline engine and a turbo-diesel option that was not offered in the American market. The gas-powered domestic models of Toyota’s pinnacle off-road machine are already highly sought after, and with their values increasing worldwide, now is the time to buy. You can find these coveted off-roaders for $15,000-$25,000 depending on condition and mileage.
Nissan Cima/Gloria/Cedric | Chassis Code: Y32 | 1991-1995
The Nissan Cima, Gloria, and Cedric are incredibly popular with the VIP enthusiast community. VIP culture emphasizes luxury and style above all else and the Y32 offers both in spades. With styling inspired by British luxury sedans, the Cima, Gloria, and Cedric capture this image perfectly. The Y32’s appeal also results from the chassis never being sold in the United States. What has made it even more desirable to enthusiasts is the sheer diversity of the options you can have with a Y32. Offered in either rear- or all-wheel drive and with engine combinations ranging from a 4.1-liter V-8 to a turbocharged 3.0-liter V-6, Y32s in good condition can be found in the range of $10,000-$20,000.
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