HomeCar CultureCollectors sought Japanese cars during 2018

Collectors sought Japanese cars during 2018


Editor’s note: As each year draws to a close, the Journal polls its editors and correspondents to determine what we consider to be the top-10 stories from the collector car world during the past 12 months. Check out the other top stories here.

Bob Golfen, he who is so affectionate toward vintage British and German sports cars, may have been the first to take notice of what should have been recognized as a seismic event of massive proportions that took place in mid-April in West Palm Beach, Florida.

He was reading Barrett-Jackson’s news release after its 16th annual collector car auction in south Florida and immediately realized the lede had been buried. The news release focused on sale of John Staluppi’s “Cars of Dreams” collection and the presence at the auction of such celebrities as Burt Reynolds.

 But what caught Golfen’s attention was the fact that the top-selling vehicle, going to its new owner at a cost of $770,000, was a Nürburgring Edition 2012 Lexus LFA. 

Golfen suspected this was the first time a Japanese car had been the top-seller at any major collector car auction. He did some checking and — no surprise — he was right. 

One-owner, 1,191-mile 1997 Acura Integra Type R sold for a record $63,800 at Barrett-jackson’s Las Vegas auction | Larry Edsall photo

Add in some stunning prices for a couple of seemingly ordinary if wonderfully preserved Japanese cars and pickups at Barrett-Jackson’s Las Vegas auction in the fall, and the first display of Japanese classics at Pebble Beach and the case can be made that 2018 will be remembered as the year that cars from the Asian island nation truly emerged as sought-after collectibles.

Yes, vehicle such as the Toyota 2000 GT and Mazda Cosmo and early Datsun 240Zs and Toyota FJ Land Cruisers have been desired by collectors for a couple of decades, but it’s only been since the emergence of the Fast and Furious generation that collectors’ interest in Japanese cars has broadened and become an increasingly significant segment of the collector car marketplace.

And it’s not just in the marketplace that Japanese cars have become popular. The Japanese Classic Car Show, held near the Queen Mary in Long Beach, California, has in its 14-year existence become a staple on the annual U.S. car show calendar. There are Japanese-only car rallies, such as the Touge California. More than 1,000 such imports turn out each year for the Simply Japanese show at Britain’s Beaulieu museum.

But none of that quite compares to what took place in August at Pebble Beach. OK, so it was up on Peter Hay Hill, not on the 18th fairway, but the inaugural Japanese Automotive Invitational provided a spectacular showcase of vintage Japanese vehicles, and attracted a steady flow of visitors throughout the Pebble Beach weekend.

And don’t be surprised if the Japanese Automotive Invitational doesn’t grow into a major stand-alone Monterey Car Week event, just as the Italian (Concorso Italiano) and German (Legends of the Autobahn and then the Porsche Werks Reunion) shows have done.

Larry Edsall
Larry Edsall
A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.


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