Ok here we go! My picks for the best Classic Cars to buy in Japan currently..
First thing to note that this is my selection lol. At no point have I solicited the advice of experts. This is purely my uneducated opinion as a automotive car exporter based in Japan.
Being the idiot that I am, my thoughts on these cars have come about from watching the buying trends of my customer base and governing prices of cars sold at auctions over the last 2 years or so. You will not see anything about Lancia Delta Integrales Evolutione Ior II here or the ever popular and outrageously expensive BMW E30 M3.
Instead you are going to read about the $10,000 to $20,000 every mans classic car thats available in Japan. The classic car for the masses. Its may not even be German! That may scare the shit out of some people reading my garbage 🙂
Ok so one must ask! “Why does he write this if he thinks its nonsense or garbage” The answer is simple. “I have time to” and if you are here you have time also to read it. So lets begin with my little selection of Classic cars to buy in Japan for 2019 and 2020
Mercedes Benz WDB124 E320T Estate Wagon
This is an estate or station wagon as we say in New Zealand. You can put things in it! Its bigger than a sedan and you can carry more but with the same amount of people. If you sit forward of the luggage area you can pretend that you are in a sedan. Its no problem!
Once many a long year ago in my old country I bought my first Mercedes. The car in question was none other than a 300E with previous 11 owners. It had done 230,000 Klm by the time I had bought it. The darn thing was still driving superbly but, there was one thing that started to attract my attention.
No it wasn’t the little wet oil leak oozing around the engine that was not actually leaking on the ground. It was the amount of oil it consumed on a monthly basis. I would go to the gas stand and jokingly say ” Fill up the oil and check the petrol please”
I was a little concerned about the oil consumption compared to the Japanese cars I had owned previously like my Mazda Astina and Toyotas through the years. With this concern I headed of to see a Mercedes specialist I knew who could help me out with it. I think most of you reading this already know the answer to my story by now. The specialist look at me and says that yes they burn oil and that I should get used to it or buy a Jap car! He explained the pros and cons of owning a German manufactured car vs that of a Japanese made car and I left happily educated.
My E300 stayed with me for two years and I loved it. It never put a foot wrong and drove wonderfully. These Mercedes Benz T wagons can be picked up at auction here in Japan for as little as 300,000 JPY for an average car and up to 1.0 million for a real nice example.
Value for money and some fun town driving to be had.
2. BMW E36 M3
So I am biased because I have one of the nicest examples of this model M3 sitting in my garage. At one point or another over the last 15 years or so I actually had half a dozen or so E30`s but ended up selling them quickly as I normally needed the capital to buy cars for my customers ( huge regret ) Yes there were 1 or 2 I should have held on to and doubled or come close to tripling my investment.
I watched the price of the E30 creep up at auction over the years to what has become an almost un-buyable proposition to the normal Joe wanting one. I was paying 1.5 to 2.5 million 5 years ago. This is now 3.5 to 6 million JPY. All I hear now from customers is that they are too expensive. Its true.
At some point or another about 3 years ago I would be asked about the E36 and I couldn’t work out what the attraction was with a car that simply wanted to drip its upholstery all over you as you drove down the road.
As I would sometimes walk around the auctions and listen to the regular Japanese auction agents revving the shit out of cold engines you would sometimes hear a really sweat high pitched revving engine and it would be that beautiful inline BMW 6 cylinder engine blasting away.
I had ver mixed feelings towards these E36`s as they are not the most attractive car in the world and the 90`s styling never really endeared itself to me.
This was not until I bought my own BMW M3 E36 and drove it home from USS Tokyo nearly 1 year ago at the point of writing this post.
My initial reaction was wow this car is not fast! And by todays standards its not. But the way it sat on the road and the feel from the steering wheel was fantastic. Throw it into 3rd and 4th while revving out to 7,000 plus RPM was simply magical! and it sat so tight. No roof lining falling on me either.
Its takes very little to dress one of these E36 M3`s up and they dress up well. Yes they will require attention to trim and detailing from time to time. However the drive will well out-way that small issue and you will get years of fun from your E36
These are available from auctions in Japan from 1.0 million for an average one to 3 million plus for a mint low klm example. By the way I do know where there is a great example 🙂
3. Alfa Romeo Spider 1990/91 ~ 1993
Yes it had to be here. It deserves to be here on the list. I simply couldn’t decide if it was in position 3 or 4. Its on the page and thats whats important.
This car has been used in countless movies over the years and not just because it was cheap to drive down steps and destroy. It was used because Pinifarina designed a beautiful car from front to rear and girls look great sitting in it next to any guy no matter how ugly he is.
A car that can look good sitting stationary in your driveway and who cares if its manual or auto. You will look good and for under $15,000
There was a time until not so long ago I would grade a car by its snob value or the name on the bonnet. Driving down the road in a Ferrari or Lamborghini counting the heads that turn or pay attention to your dazzling over priced Italian sport car. It was a challenge but people didn’t stare for long except a 6 year old.
A few years ago I had a red 1992 Alfa Romeo spider manual gearbox and on the first sunny day decided to take it out for a spin dreading that little 4 cylinder engine would bore me to tears.
Quick it certainly is not as it leans and rolls into corners as your shifting through the long gears. Then you start to imagine that your driving through Tuscany and everything becomes very cool.
Oddly enough as your looking so cool in your $15,000 Italian designed car you realise that people are staring at the car. Yes they are and for quite a long time. Their not scared to look because its at their level of income but they never dreamed about buying one.
Its long, slow, sexy and affordable, plus the top comes down to create added value to your investment. Coupled with the reliability of the engine with its Bosch electronic ignition and the simpleness of the mechanics we have a great car.
The conclusion is this. What a cool car. No you dont need to be uber rich and yes you can have a red one. The other good point is that Alfa Romeo made quite a few of them. Lets hope that the movie folk dont drive to many more nice ones down the steps in the future. Buy your wife or girlfriend a scarf and let her drive. Splash out on the scarf because you saved money on the car. It will be appreciated.
4. Mercedes Benz E55 AMG T wagon WDB210 1998 ~ 2003
Ok so its another Mercedes Benz! This particular Mercedes Benz E55 AMG WDB210 is a little special. Yes its got funny frog eye headlights and its very German! That means its fast and reliable. Talk to any German mechanic and he will sing its praises.
Mercedes even made an E60 AMG variant if the E55 AMG was not fast enough for you. And yes they made the E50 AMG also. Now thats quite a line up for that time.
Again its one of those cars that I had the pleasure to personally own at some point of time in my motoring career. Admittedly at times I hated my car at times but when it was right it was sublimely right.
I had never driven an AMG before and the only Mercedes I had owned was the 300E that had been half way to the moon in mileage.
The opportunity came along for me to take one for a drive which like any young moderately well paid executive I jumped at. The drive time loomed forwards as the sales person walked around the car talking shit that I already knew. ( he was young so I tolerated his enthusiasm )
We start then car and that big V8 burbles into life. At the same time its sound is almost silky smooth with a deep rumble. We edge out of the car park and head off for the 5 minute drive.
Yes it was only 5 minutes. By the time we were 4 minutes in I had already buried the gas pedal to the floor and was convinced that this German beast was for me. The only car I had driven in recent times at that point with a similar ferociousness was a M5. (didn’t like manuals) This thing flew.
Sadly for me my cars was plagued with air sensor issues that Mercedes Benz New Zealand couldn’t seem to iron it out. The car was up for exchange within 3 months and there was an M3 in the driveway to replace it. The Benz was fast and fun but mine was a time bomb. Moving forward to 2018 these cars are going to auction here in Japan at stupidly low prices.
This car is what I would call a “Sleeper” Not something that you would look at twice until it rockets past you. We are picking up these WDB210`s for 450,000 to 800,000 depending on condition and quality. They are big bang for the buck and you wont be disappointed buying one. My time with this car was a bad example but! Over the years I have driven many more and delivered many to satisfied customers. Some of these cars I helped buy and sell are still in their driveways after 15 plus years.
5. Jaguar XJS V12 convertible
Ok its not so popular and yes it will cost the the reserve bank in maintenance fees once it has a Marelli melt down. Isn’t all of that part of its English charm. The fact that the engineers could actually design parts of this car so badly and still sleep at night is staggering.
Is it a car to love? Well that depends on the size of your pockets and how long you want to remain with your family. Its going to hurt in some areas and bumping into any wild Jaguar is normally painful.
In reality I am exaggerating. I am sure that you would look at this car for its heritage, prestige and craftsmanship. Not to mention the way they slapped two 6 cylinder engines together making it surprisingly difficult to work on.
As you will walk up to this purring beast wondering how long it will keep purring for and then open the door your back in time. Back to when Jaguars were great and smelled English.
As you accelerate away there is only the faintest noise from the engine as the big V12 lumbers and wallows away down the road. There are funny little buttons and stalks all over the dashboard area to confuse you as you attempt to navigate the car through traffic.
During this time you have forgotten everything as this car embraces you in silky smoothness and comfort, not to mention silence.
My bias for this car comes fro many years ago when my buddies mom had one. I was somewhat dating his sister who had convinced the mom that we could use the car one night. It was a great night and the car was the winner. I was in love with this car! I am sure his sister was lovely also but I didn’t really notice. It was this car.
During the years I have always wanted one of my own. I have now owned a few and exported them. Now there is one left in garage. I am still reliving that night even without the young lady beside me. Nothing much has changed there lol.
Ok the conclusion. Yeah its going to breakdown and hurt you. But at the same time no matter where it does this you will still look good. When its cruising down the freeway at 100 or whatever you can talk to your friend and listen to music. Get a convertible and smell the fresh air. Its a winner and you can pick one up with moderate klm for under 500,000 JPY.
Whatever You Buy
Anyway the concept is buy what you want and have fun. These are my picks. They may not be every exporter in Japans choices as some would have you driving a Toyota Prius because they are cheap. Anyone can have a Prius. Only crazy fun people will buy one of these cars listed above. 🙂