Help SCM Buy a Japanese Car

1985 mazda rx-7 at silver portland

It’s time for SCM to consider adding a Next Gen Japanese car to its collection.

Japanese cars from the ’80s and ’90s have been popping up on my collector-car radar screen for the past couple of years. When I go to an auction and post pictures of the cars on offer to Facebook, the ones that get the most comments are invariably late-model Japanese.

This was the case in late March at Auctions America Fort Lauderdale, where a slightly ratty 1971 Datsun 240Z that I drove for “What’s My Car Worth?” brought $25,300. Although I posted pictures of more than 200 cars, pics of the Z-car generated 63 likes and 13 comments on Facebook – more than any other car.

This past Saturday, April 25, I was out at the Silver auction here in Portland. The cars I posted pictures of included a 2006 Porsche Cayman S with just 9,000 miles on it, but the car with the most comments was a 1985 Mazda RX-7.

Here is what I think is going on: As car enthusiasts hit their 30s and 40s, they are drawn to the cars that were popular when they were young. Unlike my generation’s sports cars, which proved their mettle in SCCA racing, the Japanese cars of the ’80s and ’90s were all about style and good-enough performance. They also offered reliability — something we weren’t accustomed to with MGAs and TR3s.

I’ve owned Datsun 1600s and 2000s from the late 1960s. They are interesting, but are little more than “Super TR4s.”

Even 240Zs are a little old for Next Gen collectors. In some ways, they just seem like the world’s best MGC GTs.

When I discuss future classics with the Gen-Xers and Millennials on staff, they talk about Miatas, RX-7s, MR2, Honda S2000s and Celica Supras.

Maybe a Mazda

An early Miata is worth considering. There’s a low-mileage example on Bring A Trailer right now that doesn’t look like it will be very expensive.

I’ve owned a couple of Miatas and have always considered them to be the best Lotus Elans ever built. They were bare-boned but competent for their era. However, they offer only modest performance, and so many were built that you will never have a claim to exclusivity. Also, compared to the visceral feeling you get from most early sports cars, driving a Miata is like swimming in a bowl of well-behaved pabulum.

At a Miata national convention, I’d expect to have to choose between seminars on “Getting the Best Mileage Out of Your MX-5” and “How to Keep the Plastic In Your Convertible Top Rear Window From Turning Yellow.” But they are reliable, and comfortable. They introduced a whole generation of enthusiasts to two-seat sports cars, when nearly every other manufacturer had withdrawn from the market segment. They are the Bugeye Sprite of their era. So why not thave one in the SCM collection?

Better yet, why not shoot for the ultimate MX-5, the turbocharged 2004-5 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata. It’s in a completely different league. Would it be a mini-Viper, sitting next to its big American brother in the  garage?

Go Rotary

The Mazda RX-7 is interesting. It was a breakthrough car when introduced in 1978, with its provocative styling and rotary engine. I like the first-gen, pre-1985 cars for their crisp lines, although they had barely adqueate performance.

Things really got hot with the 1993-96 twin-turbo RX-7, which Road & Track and Car and Driver lauded as one of the best cars in the world.

I believe the non-sunroof twin-turbo cars even had a slight Zagato-like double-bubble roofline. If that is true, my first choice would be a non-sunroof car with leather interior, low miles and no stories. And I prefer the upgraded suspension over the supersized stereo option. Do you agree?

Twin-Turbo Toyota

Then there is the 1992-98 Toyota Supra with its 320-hp twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine. The styling leaves me a little cold, but I do like the mini-Superbird wing on the rear — and with the limiter removed, they can reach 177 mph. Six-speed Getrag manual shift on this one, please.

Let me know your thoughts here, or — even better — tell me if you have a Miata, RX-7 or Supra for us to consider.

Like Columbus, SCM is setting off across uncharted waters. There are a lot of first-rate experiences waiting for us in this world of Japanese sports cars. We look forward to sharing them with you, and hearing your thoughts and getting your guidance along the way.



Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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