Car collectors fuel rapidly rising value of Japanese classics – Los Angeles Times

Posted: Sunday, May 25, 2014

Eight years ago, Terry Yamaguchi paid $5,000 for a bright orange 1973 Datsun 240Z. A couple of years later, she sold the car for a little more than she paid for it.

If only she had kept it.

“Now, that car is worth $20,000,” the vintage car collector said.

It’s not just the 240Zs. The value of Japanese classic cars has skyrocketed in recent years. A pristine Toyota Celica from the early 1970s can cost up to $20,000. A well-maintained Datsun 510 might go for as much as $25,000.

And a Toyota 2000GT? Don’t ask.

A pristine 1967 version of the sports car sold at auction for almost $1.2 million in May 2013 — a record for a Japanese classic. A 1968 model sold this month at an auction in Monaco for just over $1 million.

The shapely coupe was Japan’s first supercar, targeting America’s Chevrolet Corvette and Britain’s Jaguar XKE. Only 350 were made — in part because, at $7,000, they cost thousands more than the competition. Only 54 of the cars were imported to the U.S. with left-hand drive, meaning the steering wheel is on the left.

The $1.2-million sale is hardly top dollar at a classic car auction. Ferrari Testarossas have sold for more than $16 million. Last summer, a 1967 Ferrari 275 N.A.R.T. Spider fetched $27 million.

But the market for Japanese classics has only recently started to catch fire, as a new generation of car collectors — growing up surrounded by Japanese imports — has come of age and started spending.

“Collecting cars is a relatively modern phenomenon,” said Don Rose, who handled the 2000GT Monaco sale for RM Auctions and has a 2000GT in his private collection. “For the early collectors, ‘Made in Japan’ didn’t really resonate.”

Younger collectors are attracted to Japanese cars in part because they’re cheaper.

“It’s a way to enter the collector hobby for relatively little money,” said Mike Malamut, a retired car dealer who’s been collecting for 35 years and has an impressive private collection of American, European and Japanese classics.

But it’s not as easy, or as cheap, as it used to be. And that’s hard on the collector who’s just starting out.

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