QotW: What JNC should Ryan buy for $8,000?

Honda CRX DX Side Team_Nostalgic Chicago

This week’s QotW is a bit of a personal one, but I, the Midwest Correspondent for JNC, really do need the collective advice of the readership on what I should buy as my next car. With the pending sale of my 300,000-mile CRX Si summer driver, I have a budget of $8,000 with which to buy a vehicle that is Japanese, was launched at least 25 years ago, and that will be a fairly good investment (or at a minimum not depreciate like a haunted murder house).

Naturally, my Synthwave-addled brain has target-locked onto a zenki Z31 300ZX Turbo or a MA61 Celica Supra. My recent obsession with the Coalition of OG Minitruckin’ group on Facebook has me wondering if a Mazda B2200 or Chevy LUV could end up being an oddball collector car, or at least one that can take me to purify myself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka. The question has me performing countless thought experiments, but I just can’t decide.

What JNC should Ryan buy for $8,000?

What say you, dear reader? As always, the most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What’s the rarest JNC?” 


Although it was close the winner this week Tom Westmacott‘s suggestion of a Toyota AA, which is usually seen in Japanese wood carvings being driven by Tokugawa Ieyasu, was narrowly beaten by 02Anders‘ nominaition of the Isuzu Bellett Fastback:

I’ll just have to mention the sleek Isuzu Bellett Fastback.
Now any Bellett is a rare bird nowadays, but the Fastback takes it to another level!
Production numbers are difficult to come by though. Some claim as little as 60 examples before it was discontinued. Others recon it got into the 400’s. Who knows…??
Bizarrely they were all delivered from factory in plain white.
Such a cool and stylish little coupe with a design which was totally it’s own.
Wish I could find and – not least – afford one!

Omedetou, your comment has earned you a set of decals from the JNC Shop!

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38 Responses to QotW: What JNC should Ryan buy for $8,000?

  1. Stuart Kayrooz says:

    It’s hard to know what $8k buys around the world, but considering the station wagon is more or less dead in the 21st century thanks to the advent of the “Soft roader” SUV, something low to the ground with 4 doors and a long arse would be hard to go wrong with.

    Older Accord wagons particularly seem to fit the bill of a spacious cruiser that would draw attention in the future as wagons become thinner on the ground, whilst still having the grunt of a 3.5L V6 to pull you around, and a decent set of 80’s/90’s electronic options to wow kids of the future who don’t know what buttons are.

    It may be somewhat less sporty than other options, but considering the clientelle of the Accord Wagon when new, they probably haven’t been thrashed to within an inch of their lives (may need a new set of brake pads though…). A one owner example is also probably within reach.

    Besides, if the Accord doesn’t float your boat, there’s plenty more in the JNC wagon back-catalogue – when it comes to wagons, the further back you go, the more fun you have… 🙂

    • Yoda says:

      It’s newer than you’re looking for but I’d go for a 2003-07 Legacy wagon. It’s the last of the low Subie wagons, the last with frameless door glass, looks tastefully modded when stone stock next to the twenty-times-more-common Outback, and eight grand should get you a really nice GT with manual and pano sunroof.

  2. 02Anders says:

    Wuhuuuu….!! 😀
    I actually won last weeks competition! That’s a first for me – what an honour. Thx guys!
    I promise – this particular JNC inkan will be saved away, so I can apply it to my Bellett Fastback. Uhmmm… if I ever manage to afford and import one… 😉
    The Made in the 80’s sticker could easily come in handy earlier, if I actually manage to find a suitable AW11 to use as a daily…

    Which leads us to this weeks competition…
    Ryan, how about a first gen. MR-2 ??
    I realize it’s down on power compared to the Z31 or MA61, but on the flipside it’s up on driving purity and thus smiles per mile. 🙂
    I’m honestly not all tuned in to the US market, but I’m guessing 8grand should buy you one of the very best, and perhaps still leave a bit of spare cash some mild suspension upgrades and a nice set of Advan A3A or SSR Reverse…
    From a potential investment perspective, that’s always difficult to guess, but I recon this little pocket-rocket has some degree of collector potential, seeing as it totally redefined the mini-sportscar market, and brought pure unadulterated driving pleasure to the people…

  3. Chris Tonn says:

    I like the zenki Z31 suggestion, though the kouki is not without it’s charms. There’s a Shiro on eBay right now–price is higher than your budget, though:


    That said, if I didn’t have a spousal prohibition against rotaries (long story) I’d be all over an FC GTUs.

  4. Nigel says:

    Mini trucks…a 720 or 620. Hilux maybe. I was born in South Africa so mini trucks is my answer.

  5. Falco says:

    The diminutive and exceedingly rare Chevrolet Sprint Turbo aka Suzuki Swift/Cultus/Forsa. One liter. 3 Cylinders. Turbo.

    Good luck in whatever you choose! The midwest is a rusty graveyard for older J-tin.

  6. Scotty G says:

    I know where there’s a mint-condition E20 Corolla Deluxe two-door coupe, factory-original with original wheel covers and vinyl top, even! But, it has an automatic..If you could get it for $6,000 maybe you could stick within your budget and add a manual. But, it ain’t no MA61 Celica Supra..
    Of course, being a Subaru guy, I’d rather see you put your $100 bills in that direction.

  7. Han solo says:

    Save a little more and get a r30. Just do it

  8. Andrew says:

    Ooh– What Car Would You Buy, JNC Edition! I like it.

    You enjoyed your CRX Si well enough to get up over 300k and you dig synthwave, from which we can deduce that you enjoy 1) a pure, responsive driving experience and 2) angles and digidashes. Based on these facts I’ll admit a Z31 fits the bill, but my ultimate recommendation for you would be an S12 Silvia.


    1. The S12 has the most ’80s digidash ever, with little arcade-style lights running all the way through the passenger side. Look at this: i.imgur.com/bxnG4Xq.jpg

    2. It easily fits your $8k budget.

    3. You can stick with the hatch layout if you want or move to a coupe.

    4. Pop-ups.

    5. Power options. These cars came with anything from CA fours to VG sixes, turboed or otherwise. That makes them fantastic platforms for any Nissan swap you want.

    6. They’re moderately rare. You can still find them on craigslist, but not everyone at every show will have one. Also they have a decent chance to go up in value as clean examples become scarcer.

    An S12 can be anything from a stock cruiser to a shakotan sled to a subtle sleeper to a RallyX beast to a grocery-getter, which is why IMO you’d be hard pressed to do better with ¥853,560 and a penchant for ’80s styling. Keep us posted!

  9. Mazluce says:

    Picture this, it’s another cold winter day. Your baby is locked in the garage again, but the nearby lake is frozen. Your feeling the itch to do something fun to get you out of those winter blues. Luckily you remember your the proud owner of a Mazda 323 GTX. Lightweight and all wheel drive it’s time to terrorize the lake. If you check your eBay listing now a non rusted example is seating in California calling your name. Operators standing by and good luck.

  10. ish says:

    AE86 GTS before the prices get too silly. 8 grand is enough for a good condition one with some money left over to make it perfect. Its only going to gain value over the years. Plus its fun, its got a hatch for stuff, it gets good mileage and plenty of aftermarket to keep it going.

  11. Tom Westmacott says:

    Ryan, you should buy a 1st-gen RX-7, ideally a GSL-SE with the 13B. Rotaries are known for two things, being ruinously expensive to run, and being beguiling enough to keep their owners opening their wallets and coming back for more. Isn’t that what a real relationship with a car is all about?

    The front-mid-engined layout and low centre of gravity make the RX-7 stand out from its 80s peers; the fundamental weight distribution is something that underlies everything a car does, and the RX-7 hits the nail on the head. It’s almost certainly the purest sports car of your choices, with a smooth, free-revving engine.

    It also has a pure, elegant, slimline profile that looks timelessly attractive, and a rich racing heritage – I think it’s definitely a good candidate to hold its value well.

    And hell, if it all goes wrong at least you’ll have experienced rotary sports car ownership for yourself, and you’ll have a few cool photos and memories to look back on when you’re old.

  12. Kevin says:

    You said synthwave? Then it’s either a z31, a Celica or Supra, or an aw11. If any cars represent the 80s futurism of my old synthesizers, then it’s those cars. Personal preference would be the mr2. 8k can buy you such a good example of any though. 80s cars are really the only bargains left, and I can’t imagine it will last long.

  13. SHC says:

    Why not take your pick of these, surely there is one that fits the bill.


  14. Max Edelweiss says:

    A clean and stock 1st gen 4×4 Toyota Pick-Up. Surprisingly fun, very practical, even reasonable economy. No creature comforts, though.

  15. Chris figueroa says:

    I would personaly get a 89 90 toyota soarer with a 7mgte manual. Its a rare car, a sleeper and with a cult following. Also plenty of support for the motor for upgrades. The value on these will only go up since there are very few that are in good shape. And at $8000 you might even be able to score a aero cabin, to bad they are all auto. Oh and color either all black or all white.

  16. Kyle says:

    Subaru XT Turbo.

    The digital dash looks like a Synthwave music video, the body looks like an aerodynamic Atari 2600, and is available with part-time all wheel drive.

    The Subaru XT Turbo is the quintessential 80’s car, with many rare features for the time period and spunk to spare.

    • Ryan Senensky says:

      This has passed my mind as I already own an EA82 GL-10 wagon. The XT6 would really add to my 80s Subaru lineup, sadly no digidash on that model. After my GL-10, I wont recommend regular use of an EA82T engine to anyone who isn’t a masochist.

  17. Byron Chiu says:


    As a Z31 owner, I personally recommend the zenki 200ZR (especially with slick-top roof) as you get the tech-packed, slender wedge-shaped 1984-1985 aesthetics with a factory RB20DET–obviously, it is very fitting for a classic Z. It’s a sensible, subtle way to be different from the plenty of Z31’s that float and emerge in the US market.

    Technically similar to the Z31, I also recommend the F31 Leopard as they had the mainstream VG30E’s, were priced low-key, and come in very classy two-tone colorways. If you are lucky, you might find one with the optional center console TV and transparent automatic cassette changer!

    What about the Y32 Leopard J. Ferie with the factory V8? J30 were available in the US with V6’s only, so so body, interior, and suspension parts should be easy to source. And the JDM factory-equipped VH45DE is still a VH45DE.

    And what about an R32 or R33 sedan? A modest NA RB engine with plenty of room for 4 adults and trunk cargo. Prices are also not ridiculous. Since we are on Skyline variants, I would have suggested one of the old “woody” Skyline wagon’s but those are way too obscure lol.

  18. Byron Chiu says:

    Edit: VH41DE, which is in the 97-02 Q45’s

  19. Randy says:

    Well, ain’t no way I’m gonna tell you what to buy, but I’ll ask the questions:

    First off: Why are you selling the CRX? Two seats no longer work for you? If so, I’d say that blows all the 2-seaters out.

    How would you be using it? Going up to the lake (as you mentioned) on a regular basis? Maybe a 4×4… Isuzu Trooper? Early Pathfinder? Old-enough Land Cruiser? Samurai? Toyota 4×4 pickup? Subaru BRAT?

    Just a cruiser that’ll be on-road only? That’s a wide-open field… ’65 Toyota 2-door sedan, through first-gen Lexus LS400… Pulsar (esp. with the wagon-back)?

    Sporty? 240SX? Any Starions/Conquests around? Maybe even a ZX 2+2 Turbo with T-tops… (I had to look up which was the Z31, and whadda ya know? It’s the one I was thinking of!) Subaru XT?

    Funky little vehicles? Nissan NX? Mazda MX-3? Suzuki X-90? (X-90s were ’80s, right?)

    Here’s another WHOLE area for ya: Is originality important? A ’74 Celica with a newer engine and trans could be doable…

    Then, of course, there’s condition… If you’re willing/able to do the work, there’s probably a REALLY good deal to be found – somewhere. Certain parts will be a pain to find, as with any old vehicle.

    I’m not sure into which group this would fall, but there was a Celica Targa/”convertible” thing in the late ’70s/early-’80s… Could be a fun little summer ride, with decent parts availability…

    First-gen Chevy Sprint – esp. Turbo, or it’s Swift equivalent? Too bad the Metro convertible would be too new – though you DID say vehicles that LAUNCHED 25+ years ago, so the argument could be made for it.

    Here’s a thought: If you find a real steal, maybe get TWO vehicles! Add the Sprint/Metro to the other vehicle, and it’ll actually SAVE you some money!

    Simple, huh? 🙂

    • Randy says:

      Oh – I hope I’m not the ONLY person to say this, but: DON’T BE IN A RAGING HURRY TO SPEND YOUR MONEY!

      Find what works for you, is in a good-enough condition – for the money – and that you like.

      $8,000 may not be “house-money” in your area, but it IS a chunk o’ change.

      • Ryan Senensky says:

        Well more than 2 seats would be nice, hence why a MA61 Supra is included with a Z31 because honestly a MA61 Supra is a much better looking 2+2.

        However this did just add 8 more cars to my list of cars that are good options haha.

      • Randy says:

        How about the A70(?) ’86-’93; the “big” touring one… Would be great for those LOOOONNNNG drives.

        Never got into the last-gen ones… Maybe because of the F&F movies… You couldn’t drive ANYWHERE without some stickered up tuner wanting to challenge you…

        • Byron Chiu says:

          Idk…a 2+2 Z31 only needs so many things until it’s weirdness becomes a unique beauty…I’ll admit a 2+2 with t-tops off doesn’t look sexy…but it does look interesting!

          • Randy says:

            *I* always thought they were pretty cool…

            All my exes had female friends, and this probably would have helped me get a better quality of ex! 🙂

            Useful if you have a kid, too, and would rather die than drive the minivan.

    • amar says:

      oh my old baby was a purple Isuzu Trooper, I remember just coming out of highschool driving that car around, never had any issues with it. I should have kept it because i got into snowboarding shortly after selling it. Sold it dirt cheap back in 2010 when gas was $4+ a gallon in California, when i moved into a 06 Corolla 5spd, but hey that commute was 60+ miles a day.

  20. JovaTecH says:

    Buy a 1980-82 Corolla STOCK!!! for a right price and the remaining money put all the accesories you want make it to your own taste lol

  21. Randy says:

    Hey Ryan,

    Here’s a Cartalk article I tripped over – it’s the “keep your head” type, written by someone who says he has over 30 cars (sadly, apparently no J-tin; more for us!).


  22. MGamez says:

    A machine I haven’t seen in YEARS and probably will never see again a Mazda 323 GTX. If you have a soul and want to stand out….acquire the beast.

  23. Will B. says:

    Im gonna tell you right now, you wanna avoid the Ma6x supra unless you intend to go full out and do a motor swap;the availability of parts for that engine, which is a rather rare beast here stateside, is absolutely nil. if you’re gonna swap the motor, than go right ahead, but if you’re gonna stay with the original motor, i would suggest instead its little brother, the third gen Celica. The 5M motor is rather rare, but thanks to the proliferation of hilux, 4runners, and tacoma trucks, the 22re is a much more common engine to find parts for, and offer a multitude of wonderful sources for aftermarket parts. and with the smaller frame and lighter engine, the loss of power really isn’t that noticeable, in fact its probably a better platform due to its lighter curb weight. Depending on what you want to do with your car, theres the ST model (22r carb’d and 4link), GT model (22re and 4link), or GTS (22re and a shared IRS with the supra), all of which come in both hatchback, or Coupe form. plus, these cars are rediculously cheap, with the highest quality ones (in fully stock form) bringing only $4-5K, which gives a good chunk extra for tasteful modifications. plus, the pre-83 popup headlights are awesome, and may well be the only headlights that push up from their slanted state rather than flipping up from under! (you gotta google it to understand what im talking about).

  24. MainstreaM says:

    I would suggest a first gen Celica. Especially a 72 or earlier. Values for clean unmolested examples are rising steadily so from a fun factor and investment standpoint, it makes sense.

  25. Ryan Senensky says:

    Update: I bought a MX83 Cressida with 99k miles on the clock.

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