HomeCar CultureRising Sun, indeed: Japanese cars being sought by collectors, concours and museums

Rising Sun, indeed: Japanese cars being sought by collectors, concours and museums


1190 Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo joins Simeone museum collection | Simeone museum photo
1990 Nissan 300ZX joins Simeone museum collection | Simeone museum photo

Recently, the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum announced the first Japanese sports car to join its permanent collection. No the car is not a BRE 240Z or a Bob Sharp Racing 280ZX raced by Paul Newman. Instead, it is a 1990 Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo.

The car was a gift to the museum from John J. Casey from Pearl River, New York. With only 34,900 miles on the odometer, it is an all-original example in near showroom condition. Examples of the 300ZX in this condition are few and far between and it is a significant car but an interesting choice.

According to the museum, “The car feels right at home in our Sporty Cars exhibit, taking its rightful place among the world’s greatest sports cars. It is a worthy representation of the 1990s decade, as well as the rise of the Japanese as producers of world-class high performance sports cars capable of competing against the Europeans and Americans.”

While the Nissan 300ZX would not be the first car we would think of as a classic Japanese sports car, or even the first classic Nissan that comes to mind for such an exhibit, we commend the Simeon for taking this big step in the classic sports car hobby and think this will work to further add legitimacy to Japanese cars as true classics.

There has been quite a bit of interest in classic Japanese cars in the last few years. Last year, the AACA had a exhibit of classic Japanese cars and big time concours events including the Quail Motorsports Gathering have accepted Japanese cars on their show fields.

Rotary-powered Mazda won at Le Mans in 1991
Rotary-powered Mazda won at Le Mans in 1991

If you think this is just a passing fad and not a long-term trend in the hobby then the news that the Goodwood Festival Of Speed is celebrating Mazda this year should have you changing your thoughts.

Mazda at Goodwood? If you think this is crazy then you don’t know your racing history. Mazda was the first Japanese marque to win Le Mans. If that were not enough then consider that the RX7 finished first and second in its class at the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona in the model’s first race. The RX7 then went on to become the most winning car in IMSA history.

“Goodwood is a celebration of what makes Mazda Mazda and this is what separates us from all our other Japanese competitors” said Jeremy Barnes, director of public relations & brand experience at Mazda North American Operations.

In the classic car market, Japanese cars have been rising in value for the last two or three years, with the fabled Toyota 2000GT changing hands on a regular basis for around a million dollars. These same cars four years ago could be bought for between $200,000 and $300,000.

The lower end of the market has not been exempt from this trend. The iconic Datsun 240Z has been on the rise with the best examples selling for as much as $45,000. This is no surprise to us. The 240Z is the sports car that singlehandedly changed everything in the affordable sports car market in 1970 and has been due to get the recondition it has long deserved.

Could this Z bring $200,000 at Amelia auction? | RM Sotheby's photo
Could this Z bring $200,000 at Amelia auction? | RM Sotheby’s photo

The recent passing of the Z’s father, Yutaka Katayama, fondly known as Mr. K, could have a further effect on this market as well. When Enzo Ferrari left us in 1988 the Ferrari market went crazy and we saw the first rapid rise in Ferrari values with cars doubling and tripling in price almost overnight. While we don’t anticipate this happening to this degree in the Z market, we do expect to see a rise in classic 240Z values.

What’s next in this interest in Japanese car market? Well RM Sotheby’s has a classic Nissan at its Amelia Island auction. The car is the true original Z car, the Nissan Fairlady Z432, the most rare production Z car model in the world. Their pre-action estimate for the car is between $150,000 and $200,000. The final sale result of the 432 may be a bit of an indicator of what is yet to come in the Japanese classic car market.

So if you already have that Z car in your garage, consider yourself ahead of the curve and if you do not yet have a classic Japanese car in your collection, you might want to check out some of the cars we have for sale on the site. Here are a few that may pique your interest (one piqued Bob Golfen to the point that he’s selected it as his Pick of the Week):

A 1980 Mazda RX-7

A 1973 Toyota FJ40

A 1972 Datsun 240Z


Andy Reid
Andy Reid
Andy Reid's first car, purchased at age 15, was a 1968 Fiat 124 coupe. His second, obtained by spending his college savings fund, was a 1966 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2. Since then, he has owned more than 150 cars—none of them normal or reasonable—as well as numerous classic motorcycles and scooters. A veteran of film, television, advertising and helping to launch a few Internet-based companies, Reid was a columnist for Classic Motorsports magazine for 12 years and has written for several other publications. He is considered an expert in European sports and luxury cars and is a respected concours judge. He lives in Canton, Connecticut.
  1. This is a testament to the fact that Japan automobile industry has come a long way. Nissan and Toyota manufacture some of the most reliable motor vehicles in the world.

  2. No such thing as a “Classic Japanese Car”?! How about a Honda N600? I saw one in Palm Springs Classic Car Auction last week that had a high bid of $18,250.00 and it did not SELL Don’t know what the reserve was but my guess is @$20,000.00. If that isn’t a classic I don’t know what is.

  3. I have an absolutely pristine 1989 Toyota MR2 SC Mk1 (supercharged) in Ice Blue exterior with darker, color-matched blue interior and 69,500 original miles. No rust. Having driven a previous 1989 Toyota MR2 SC for fourteen years, I found these cars to be extremely enjoyable, with great near “bullet-proof” powertrains. I believe the 1988-89 supercharged Toyota MR2 SCs will attain classic car status in due course. They can still be found in exceptional condition for under $10,000 but are becoming increasingly rare since most MR2s have been “tracked” to death overt the years, have well over 200,000 miles, or are severely rusted. However, even today, a low mileage, unmolested, pristine 1988-89 Toyota MR2 SC can be found with extreme patience!!!

  4. Any thoughts on a 1967.5 Datsun SRL311 2000 with the Solex performance 150 hp package factory racekit # 650 of 1000 with 40,000 miles 3rd owner

  5. I have a 1991 300ZX triple black twin turbo 5 speed new tires of course with 7700 original miles. The car is a 9.9. Any one interested. Stored in my heated garage.

    • Where is it stored? How much? Got any pics.? I would need to seeas many as possible, top, bottom, inside and engine.

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