QotW: What are the biggest changes to the Japanese classic scene in the last decade?

As we wind down the decade, it’s a good time to reflect on how drastically the Japanese classic scene has changed in the past 10 years. The 2010s saw increased acceptance of Japanese cars as rapidly appreciating collectors’ items, modification trends that lean towards keeping a car more stock or period correct, and a boom in collectors of Japanese classic diecasts. In the world of the carmakers themselves, we saw massive changes in the landscape, with Nissan and Toyota consolidating Japan’s car companies into two huge entities, Nissan’s management completely upended, and Mazda come out of nowhere to take the mantle of the go-to brand for driving enthusiasts. A decade is along period of time to reflect on.

What are the biggest changes to the Japanese classic scene in the last decade?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “If you could own a Japanese race car from any era, what would it be?

There are so many legendary Japanese race cars that it’s hard to choose just one. We had answers ranging from RainMeister‘s Honda F1 car to Banpei‘s humble little Toyota Sports 800. Rally cars were a popular option, like j_tso‘s Impreza WRC or エーイダン‘s Safari Lancer 1600GSR. Purpose-built cars like Some Guy‘s Prince R380 or speedie‘s Mazda 787B are also top tier choices. However, the story we found most heartwarming was young Master Troy‘s, about his love for the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IV:

I’m a pretty young person, so I haven’t seen many Japanese race cars in the flesh, and I really haven’t seen any of them driven at the limit, so one could say that I don’t have a deep backstory to any particular race car. I can pull out one card that influenced me so deeply that even an entire decade later I still consider the street version to be my ultimate affordable dream car.

Back around 12 years ago, I was first introduced to the world of motorsport through my dad and his PS2. He had all the greatest car games, Midnight Club 3, WRC, FlatOut 2, and the old Burnout games as well. One game stood out as the greatest of all though, Gran Turismo 4. With such a legendary status, it overwhelmed me, and to this day I’m still very proud of my 95.7% complete save file.

One car though, became my utmost favorite to drive though. It wasn’t the Calsonic R32 or those shadow Group C racers that appear rarely. I loved the Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IV WRC car. It might seem a bit bland, but this car, through my childhood, has become something that’s more than just a car to me. Since then I’ve been a diehard Evo fan, particular to the IV-VI models, and one day, I’ll finally get my keys to a Steel Silver Evo IV GSR, a dream I’ve had all those years.

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9 Responses to QotW: What are the biggest changes to the Japanese classic scene in the last decade?

  1. Long Beach Mike says:

    At 70, the past decade seems like just a snippet of time to me. In my lifetime I’ve gone from a phone with no dial where you had to ask the operator to connect you to a number, to a smart phone I can use anywhere and happens to have more computing power than my old Comadore 64 home computer. But in the last decade we have only gone from the iPhone 4 to today’s iPhone X. So in general, changes in the last decade don’t seem that dramatic to me.

    But I have seen some pretty big changes in the import enthusiast community. And the biggest of all is the emergence–or at least the spread–of the “classic” Japanese car culture. In 2010 an older Japanese car or truck was just a used car or truck to me and to pretty much everyone I knew. Only in the last decade did I develop a serious lust for really old J-tin that I could refresh, slap an antique tag on, and enjoy. Now I keep my 1979 Accord in the garage while the daily driver sits outside. So I would say for me, at least, the biggest change in the Japanese classic scene has been the scene’s spread from hotbeds in California to the rest of the country. Even Mississippi. (That’s right. Long Beach Mike lives in Long Beach, Mississippi, not Long Beach, California.)

    • MWC says:

      that’s great perspective Mike – even for the 40-somethings like myself that have been witness to the rise and fall of a few sectors of 60’s, 70’s and 80’s cars. Now i suggest the 90’s cars are going to be the most affordable and that market will ultimately present itself – an easy prediction would be the Iron Mask skyline with an FJ20 turbo. The strength of the current market is summed up with your lovely yet understated comment “the 79 Accord is in the garage now” – if that doesn’t speak volumes then we should all read it again.
      it wasn’t long ago where my brother and i used to check the snowbanks behind car dealers for the unwanted trade-ins they didn’t know what to do with. My brother got a 77 Corolla GT – called the ‘mini mustang’ because its rear view was so similar to a 69 Mach 1 Mustang, i got a 71 Opel GT – called the ‘baby Corvette” for similar reasons – $500 seemed like highway robbery in 86, but we couldn’t afford the real thing – now those cars are the Real Thing!

  2. Angelo says:

    For me, the biggest change would be JNCs being rocketed to the high end of the food chain.

    They used to be so attainable, but now you have to have seriously deep pockets if you want a piece of the pie. This goes to those who gets them from auctions just to park them for long periods of time, as “investments”

    I wouldn’t mind having them expensive as long as you drive them though.

  3. MikeRL411 says:

    Attendees from Japan at US domestic [e.g. JCCS] car shows with a pocket full of cash and looking for the “first car they bought” after getting their driver’s license.

  4. Ant says:

    The most profound difference is probably how easy it has become to connect with like-minded enthusiasts.

    The internet was already in full swing a decade ago of course, but the pace at which knowledge can now be shared, and the accumulated extra decade of information on all kinds of different subjects, means it’s probably never been easier or more fun to own a JNC, nor to share that experience with others.

    Social media alone has been absolutely massive. Take Instagram: It debuted in 2010. Before that point you might have interacted with people speaking the same language on a forum somewhere.

    Today, through services like Instagram, you can talk directly to people who own cars all over the world, and thanks to translation services, genuinely connect with them. I dunno about anyone else, but for me that’s pretty incredible, and has transformed the way our hobby works, JNCs or otherwise.

    • lon says:

      Really good point, Ant. Owning any old car is made so much easier these days thanks to the Internet. When it comes to finding parts or procedures or fixes, the web is an invaluable tool. I don’t know how collectors got along without it.

  5. Danny Caldera says:

    I would have to say popularity. I remember back then scrolling through the classifieds seeing s30’s around the $1,000 mark. Same with s13’s, and they weren’t as molested. Now those numbers are a dream and I think that’s the biggest impact on me, is that these cars were a way for a J-tin enthusiast to easily get into, build and enjoy for many years. People cant keep a car nowadays for more than a season. But anyway, its a lot more money for the car and parts today (ex. AE86) Taking the fun/ thrill factor of going for an adrenaline night run in fear of losing such a big investment. I miss the laid back days of enjoying the cars and meeting their enthusiasts. It seems like a lot more people are in it for the money/ “cool points” of having a cool racer instead of genuine enthusiasm for the culture.

  6. dankan says:

    Like others, I think it’s the main-streaming of classic Japanese cars. Not all of them are household names now, but the crowd of people interested has increased by an order of magnitude, with the money doing the same.

    While it is nice to see the cars which we all thought were great getting the respect we felt they were due, it has also meant that the attainability of many of these cars is now gone. Which is also evident elsewhere in the auto-industry as well. I think the bigger question of where things go from here is unanswerable, but the idea of nostalgic cars being investment items rather than functional time machines that take you on adventures is a change I am not a fan of.

  7. REL240ZFG says:

    Miatas are now classic cars. Wut??

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