QotW: Drive, Sell or Garage? 80s Drift Machine Edition

Welcome to another edition of Drive, Sell or Garage, JNC‘s version of Bang Marry, or Kill. This time, your choices are three entry-level drift machines that have grown to legend status. Each has its own mechanical advantages and weaknesses, and its own storied heritage. You probably can’t go wrong with any of them, but we want to hear your choices and your reasoning.

Drive, Sell, or Garage: Toyota AE86, Nissan S13, or Mazda NA Miata.

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “Should carmakers use classic nameplates for new models?

It’s odd, but most of the answers to this week’s QotW argued both sides of the debate. It’s a tough question, to be sure, and in the end it seemed that performance was what mattered most. Ant‘s answer was the most thought-provoking, even though we don’t necessarily agree with his first paragraph (after all, nostalgia is our middle name):

People put far too much stock in a name, when it’s the end product that matters most. If the new Supra was called something else I suspect it’d have caused nothing like the agitation it has, which suggests that nostalgia for five letters rather than anything technical are the problem.

The Urban EV is an interesting one. It’s obviously a new nameplate – but how would you view it differently if it were called a City? Or a Jazz/Fit? Or if Honda named if after the car its styling draws most inspiration from – Civic?

Ultimately, it’s up to the manufacturer’s discretion as to what they name a car. All I really care about is whether the car is any good or not.

Omedetou! Your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop.

JNC Decal smash


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15 Responses to QotW: Drive, Sell or Garage? 80s Drift Machine Edition

  1. Banpei says:

    I’d drive the NA, sell the AE86 and garage the S13.

    Why? Well, IMO the AE86 near the ceiling of what it could be worth: many (good) examples are already being garaged and stored for our offspring. The S13 is just a bit younger than the AE86 and most of them are currently being used as drift cars, so it’s only a matter of time before people realize a good clean one has become extinct. And the NA? Just drive it: there are plenty of those and a thousand mods you can do (paid for with the AE86 money) to make them even more fun than they were when they left the factory.

  2. Ultraman says:

    Drive the AE86 because I’m just a guy like that, garage the S13 due to their rarity in clean shape and I’m pretty bored of driving them really; I’ve experienced most S13 builds be it with the stock motor tuned up,swapped etc. Finally I’d sell the NA because I just can’t fit in one comfortably.

  3. Dankan says:

    The AE86, beyond being really fun, is a Corolla, so I probably would want to drive it the most day-to-day for its practicality (it’s the perfect ‘only’ car), even if I should probably garage it for financial reasons. I guess I’ll garage the Nissan instead, so that I can sell it for a premium when every other one has been ruined as a drift missile. I’d sell the NA Miata, not because I don’t want it, but I really need the practicality of back seats.

  4. Yuri says:

    I have lived this QOTW, and here’s what I did. I sold the Miata. After owning 3 of them ((including a ’94 Laguna Blue) ), and finally getting a really cool version (’97 Miata M-edition with matching hardtop) I’ve found that the NA Miata is a truly fantastic car. They are ridiculously fun to drive, and cheap and reliable to keep going. I even had one as my only car for a few months. However, even in a rare and special variant (although a run of 3500 cars isn’t all that limited for a special edition), the Miata just didn’t have the “it factor” that the AE86 and S13 have. Maybe it’s reading too many Drift Tengoku magazines or seeing NA’s all over SoCal, but the Miata has a feeling of “If I ever need another one, I can just buy one.”
    So I sold it.

    Most of what I liked about the Miata I could find in the AE86, plus a fixed roof, usable back seat (I once rode in the back of one comfortably from LA to San Francisco) and decent-sized trunk. The AE86 is also a car that people outside of the JNC scene know and respect. I’ve driven my 86 into areas populated by high-end cars, and only gotten nods of approval and thumbs up in return. It’s the only car I’ve owned that has gotten a thumbs up from both a 918 Spyder and a Ferrari 430, and I had a guy with a McLaren 720S come up to me and tell me that his kids thought my car was cooler than his. For all of its appreciating value, driving the 86 brings joy to others and myself the most, and it would be criminal to lock it up in a garage, away from others it could bring a brief moment of joy to by a chance spotting on the freeway.

    My S13 is garaged. It has been since 2008, back when I was an active and sponsored drifter. It survived many drift events, and achieved some podium finishes with myself behind the wheel, up until the point the recession hit, and I decided to give up drifting and go back to school for a second degree. At the time, the Honda kids were discovering S-chassis, and they were being stolen left and right. Mine is a factory green over grey two-tone XE coupe, with working HUD, and uncracked dash. It is also a product of its time, when mint S-chassis were a good place to start a build, rather than something to be preserved, so it has an automatic to manual swap, SR20DET, widebody fenders, an S14 kouki face conversion (one of the first in the world.) 5-lug, coilovers, and a dark grey leather interior using S14 front seats with an S13 LE rear seat, all while retaining it’s original color scheme. (I started the Two-Tone Preservation Society back in the day to keep people from painting original two-tones a different color when they modded them.) To keep my car safe from theft, and since I wasn’t using it for drifting, I sent it off to live with my parents out of state. It’s been there ever since, with a few of my other JNCs, as I just don’t have room for them in SoCal, living in an apartment, and California isn’t a friendly place for a modified car nowadays. Plus it’s nice knowing that a car that meant so much to my own personal history is ready and waiting for the day I build a garage for it and revive it from it’s slumber.

    So, TLDR: Sell Miata, Drive AE86, Garage S13.

  5. エーイダン says:

    Sell: Mazda Miata
    Reason: Simple, it’s a convertible. Due to living in Canada, it’s just not practical to have a soft-top car. Can’t garage it because there are simply too many that will be doing the same with NA Miatas for the value to really go up.
    Garage: S13 Silvia. Drifters have pretty much decimated the stock of decent examples and thus keeping this for at least a few years should help it accumulate some value for the future. If the car is JDM, then lets just say it would be maintained to showroom standards so that the car at least is in mint-or near-mint shape when I eventually get snuffed out.

    Drive: The Toyota AE86.
    Reason: It’s a simple, dependable hatchback. Naturally to Canadianise it, it would see some modifications, such as extra undercoating, block heater, possibly convert it over to AWD using parts from an AE95 or similar model. (I’d be driving it so this would be a necessary step for the winter). The fact that the AE86 is small like the Miata but is crucially a hatchback and a hardtop which makes it more ideal. Also, It would be a Levin model, with the fixed headlamps. (pop-ups may need to be serviced if the hydraulic gets busted or frozen). Also, to increase the usability of the AE86 but retain some value, seat covers, made from surplus Army tent material. This will save the upholstery from messes, including mucky snow and road sand from boots and ski pants. The AE86 would also need a turbo, to give it extra horsepower in case of deep snow. (Plus the custom-added AWD would give it some extra grip). Lastly, the AE86 would need airbags, for added safety. It’s 30 years old and if I get into a crash, I’d at least like a fighting chance against the ‘mothertrucker’ in the ’09 Dodge Ram.

  6. Tom Westmacott says:

    Firstly, the hachiroku would be going up for sale. Yes, I know it’s special, but it’s the car with the highest value and most limited abilities of this trio, so it’s an obvious chip to cash in. In particular, the increasingly bumpy and rutted roads of the UK put a premium on ability to absorb bumps, so IRS is helpful to enjoy the thrill of driving on imperfect roads.

    I’m not quite sure of the rules here, but if the car I ‘Drive’ becomes my only car, then I’d garage the NA Miata and drive the S13. The NA Miata still isn’t worth much, but those that don’t rust away *will* eventually become classics, so it’s a great choice to preserve in good condition in a heated, humidity-controlled garage.

    Meanwhile the S13 is the perfect do-it-all JNC. It’s quick (and can be made very quick), it’s comfortable, it’s economical on long drives, the 180SX fastback can swallow an MTB whole, while the narrow tax-bracket body and drifty-tight steering lock make it an easy car to wield in town or on tiny touge. Plus, it’s cool, and has JDM rarity value over the MX-5.

    If, however, I’m choosing an addition to the FD3S that’s already in my garage, then the maths is different. The RX-7 eclipses the S13 in most areas if I’m honest (albeit for a mere three times the annual running costs), whereas the MX-5 offers a different, complementary sort of wind-in-the-hair fun. So, fanboy as it makes me, if these were the rules then I’d add a second Mazda to my fleet, and put the S13 away.

  7. ahja says:

    Sell Miata because they don’t register to me the same way 86s or 240SXs do. I love 86s the best, but mine just stays in the garage for months on end. Because the roads around here are just deplorable. I occasionally consider switching my LS400 DD (which itself gets tossed and battered by the janged up roads) for a 240SX…but there’s no sense of urgency since I quite like the Lexus as well. So drive 240, garage hachi, sell mx5.

  8. Ryan says:

    Sell: NA Miata. Cheap and plentiful. I’ve been in a rollover, so I like having a fixed roof over my head.

    Drive: My mostly stock S13 SE hatch. More organic design, Japanese reliability, and easy to work on should something break. Still has lots of factory and aftermarket parts available. Mine comes with the original Monroney sticker ($14,258.00), sold new by Universal City Nissan in Los Angeles. I have most of the parts to put it back to stock.

    Garage: My virgin AE88 hatch that I got from the original female owner. Parts are getting hard to find, and Toyota won’t support classic/collectible cars like Mazda (1st gen MX5 program) or Nissan (32, 33, 34 Skylines – hoping it filters down to the S13s). Sadly, no Monroney sticker.

    • Ben Hsu says:

      That’s amazing! I have the Monroney for my AE86 hatch, but not my coupe. On my coupe, I have something a bit weirder… a build sheet in Japanese, printed on that old fashioned dot-matrix paper with the holes along the sides. It’s got several red inkan stamps, indicating which options were installed.

    • Wiley Sloman says:

      Can I simply just say what a relief to find a person that really knows what they are talking about over the internet. You certainly understand how to bring a problem to light and make it important. More and more people must look at this and understand this side of the story. I was surprised that you’re not more popular because you definitely have the gift.

  9. Gideon says:

    Drive the AE86 because honestly I think there are lots of them already in pristine factory condition.

    Sell the Miata because I simply don’t think I fit in it.

    Garage the S13 because soon enough, all of the Silvias are gonna be crumpled metal.

  10. Ant says:

    Oh crikey, another CotW win in quick succession! Thanks guys (and you know I love older cars still – I’m just not that bothered about what they’re called…)

    This week’s is a toughie. Not a lot of love for the MX-5 already, I see, so I’ll jump in and defend it with mine…

    Drive – MX-5

    Now the irony here is that I’ve literally just sold my NA Roadster, albeit through circumstances largely beyond my control. But if we can just pretend I don’t live in the cold, damp, rust-encouraging and doesn’t-really-get-a-summer UK, I’d have to drive the car that really started my real-world interest in Japanese cars (i.e. beyond videogames). It’d certainly depend on having the right car – an M2 1001/1028 or an RS-Ltd, please – but among the hundreds of cars I’ve ever driven I still don’t quite get a buzz like driving down a great road, in the sunshine, with the roof down, in a first-gen MX-5.

    Sell – S13

    I’ve nothing against the S13, and like I said, it’s a toughie. But I also have no affinity for the car – it’s something I’ve always thought was neat, but never felt compelled enough to buy. Throw in the fact that good, clean S13s are going up in value, and this seems like a sensible car to sell. Though maybe once the price has gone up just a little more…

    Garage – AE86

    The other car of these three I’ve personally driven, and with that in mind it’d be painful to just stash this one away in the garage rather than driving it. But as the most valuable of the three it, unfortunately, also seems like the logical one to pamper and avoid messing around with.

  11. Jayrdee says:

    This is a tough one.

    I think I would use the Miata as a daily commuter, garage the AE86 (using the “garage” term lightly, I drive the hell out of mine), and sell the S13.

    In a perfect world, my AE86 Levin would be my only car. Its reliable, good gas mileage, fun to drive, maintenance is straight forward, etc. But getting your hands on one now is expensive, and getting into a fender bender on your way to work would be an absolute nightmare. I’m always worried about other drivers whenever I take mine out around town.

    That is why I would use the Miata for daily commutes. It shares the same characteristics as the AE86; lightweight, rwd, reliable, and even better, they’re super cheap (compared to the AE86), which is a must for a daily commuter. Plus, the Miata has never really been a target for the drift scene as much as the s-chassis. They’ve always been weekend cruisers, and now turning into classics, so they’ve always been taken care of and aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. If you do a quick search on Craigslist you’ll find TONS of miatas for sale, where as if you look for an S13, its the exact opposite. One last thing, they look soooooooo sexy with a hardtop, and lowered on some fat Enkei RPF1s, or TE37Vs. A perfect setup to make your commute to work a little more fun.

    And then selling the S13. Quantity is limited, demand is high, and drift tax is outrageous. You’d be in a similar spot as the AE86 if you ever get into a fender bender on your way to work. Selling one would be a quick sale, and I can think of lots of goodies to throw at my AE86 with that cash. I suppose you could garage it … but then again its not an AE86 😉

  12. Mr. Bill says:

    I’ll start by assuming that all three are in roughly the same state of mild tune to USDM drivetrain and derive my judgement from there.

    I would drive the S13 Nissan, sell the NA Miata, and garage the Toyota AE86 for the following reasons…

    I’m too tall (and growing too wide) to enjoy the Maita, even if only for weekend romps. I also have children and a life, so a back seat and decent trunk/hatch space are a must. Adios NA.

    Between the S13 and AE86, the 86 is far more valued and sought after…even now…and the rarity would mandate only flashes of weekend freedoms and Tofu deliveries.

    This leaves the S13 as the driver. It has space, comfort, and balance on its side. One can find parts for days online or at the corner auto-part mercantile. You’ll get a nod from people in-the-know, but everyone else will wonder why you drive a teen’s beater…and this slots me nicely into the self-deprecation state in which I comfortably thrive.

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