QotW: Will the coming influx of JDM imports make US-spec cars less desirable?

Take a car like the Honda Civic. For decades, the ultimate version to own has been the 125-horsepower 1993-95 Civic Si hatchback, or maybe the 1999-2000 Si coupe, preferably in an exclusive and rare color like Electron Blue Pearl. Finding a clean and unmolested one is like discovering Bill Gates is a distant uncle and has written you into his will. However, now that it’s 2017, the Japanese-spec 1992 Civic SiR is legal for import to the US, along with its way better 168-horsepower engine. And if you can wait a few more years, we’ll have access to the incredible Civic Type R.

Will the coming influx of JDM imports make US-spec cars less desirable?

This same question can be asked for a number of cars. Will an FD RX-7 R1 be as coveted when a Type R II Bathurst or Spirit R becomes importable? Will the Subaru Impreza 2.5 RS be kicked to the curb when you can legally bring in an GC WRX type R STi or 22B?

The most entertaining comment by next Monday will receive a prize. Scroll down to see the winner of last week’s QotW, “What repair/mod/upgrade do you do on all your JNCs?” 

The winner this week was ish, who chimed in first and had nearly unanimous support from the rest of the commenters as the week rolled by. It makes total sense, too, so who are we to disagree?

Fluids, all the fluids. A) it gives you the good vibes on using it in the future knowing everything doesn’t have 200k fluids in it. B) gives you a good history on the car, if the fluids looks sorta new you know it was looked after, if the diff fluid is clumpy or the oil is dead and black maybe look into some other known problem areas. That is always step 1 of new-to-you car life.

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

JNC Decal smash

Shota Mori is a photographer living in Japan; His work can be found at @pgm_works and @pgmworks_official.

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17 Responses to QotW: Will the coming influx of JDM imports make US-spec cars less desirable?

  1. Tim says:

    The 22Bs are going for six figures, and will always be desirable. It is my opinion that the difficulties associated with driving a RHD vehicle in a LHD country will reduce the desirability of imported cars. If I were to import, for example, an S13 chassis, I would do so to replace my existing 240SX with a non-rusted chassis. I’d be swapping my entire interior over to convert it back to left hand drive, and merely keeping the drivetrain as though I had completed a swap from a front clip – something that could be done prior to the 25-year mark.

    The exception I could see would be if the foreign vehicle is cheaper than the domestic part. Say, for instance, if NSXs were plentiful and cheap overseas, while they are rapidly appreciating here. It would be a far wiser purchase for a driven vehicle to import one in that instance.

    Personally, I look forward to finally having the option of driving vehicles which were never available in any form here in the USA. The Skylines are a good example, but I’m also interested in the S15 Silvia and a few Holdens.

    • Gary says:

      Depending on the Holden you have interest in, a conversion to LHD is an easy option.

      Holden exported to the USA on and off for the last 25 years – not just the GTO.

      Sorry – realise that’s not a JNC matter but worth noting.

  2. BlitzPig says:

    Anyone that has driven right hand drive cars here in the US knows that the easy part is the transition to shifting with your other hand. Passing is the real issue, especially in small, low cars.

    Taller cars are far easier, but there is nothing in the JDM lineup to match, say, an early 50’s Bentley, which is the easiest RHD car to run on our roads that I have ever driven. Though I have to say the a Honda Beat might not be too bad either, if my experience in a RHD Lotus 7
    means anything, and let’s face it open cars are the best.

  3. Banpei says:

    Importing a more desired car is never going to be cheap. At least, that’s what i found out when buying an AE86. Even the Honda’s you are referring to are the desirable models, so they won’t come cheap. Also we haven’t seen a drop in the undesirability of the top spec usdm and eudm cars for cars that are currently importable.

    Not everyone is able to pay the premium for these cars, while owing a usdm or eudm spec car is within reach for most buyers. Converting that to JDM spec had been happening for the past decades, so nothing new here.

    Yes i know you can buy bargains at Japanese auction sites, but the cars are either undesirable because of the model or undesirable because they have worn out in the past 25 years.

  4. Jayrdee says:

    In my opinion, I honestly don’t think the market will change at all for US-Spec markets. And here is my reasoning, keep in mind the following response is referring to clean, unmolested, non-junky cars:

    The influx of JDM vehicles will continue to grow over time since more cars will become legal, but with the amount of people getting into the whole importing business, its just going to saturate the market with RHD cars to the point where they will be just as common as buying a US-spec car. Any car, whether it be RHD or LHD, if its rare and desirable someone will want it. Only difference is later on there will be more options to choose from.

    Take the s-chassis market for example. I’m using that market because, talking numbers, they’re definitely on the cheaper side compared to idk, the supra/skyline market so there’s more activity. Finding a clean, rust-free and unmolested 240sx is almost like finding a needle in a haystack. They’re out there, but they aren’t cheap like they used to be. Your average solid 240sx can be found anywhere between 3-7k. You can argue drift-tax all you want, but thats just how things are now. On the flip side, the hype of owning a RHD s13 has died down too so you can easily find a RHD silvia (already imported) for anywhere between 5-8k. The cleaner SR20 Silvia Ks will be the most expensive around the 9-12k range, but then again so will any other clean turbo/motor swapped s-chassis.

    Now that the RHD hype has died down with the s13, its just as easy finding a RHD s13 as it is finding a clean US-spec 240sx and they’re all roughly in the same price range.

    I think this behavior will be a common occurrence for each market as time passes by. Thinking long-term, after all the famous 90s/early 2000s Japanese sports cars that young dudes like me grew up racing on Gran Turismo are legal, the hype will die down leading to a healthy equilibrium similar to the s-chassis market.

    And of course, there’s the wonderful power of the internet and using those Auction websites too. Those are perfect for dudes like me who don’t have all the fancy connections and resources overseas like all the big guys. I’ve imported/sold an S13 Silvia Qs, and an FC RX7 through an auction website. Its a HUGGEEE risk buying an auctioned car sight unseen, but then again the process is very straight forward and do-able if you have the funds. I’m actually about to pick up an AE86 from the port in Baltimore next week! That was purchased from a dealership in Japan though.

    A little off-topic, but initially I just wanted to do some hustling in order to be able to afford to import a RHD AE86. Then considered doing the whole importing thing on a more professional level after I found out how straight forward it is, but with me being in school I just don’t have the resources to do so. and with how many people are importing cars now, I feel like bus is already long gone if you want to make any decent profit. I just tell people to wait until the hype dies down. Eventually everything will equal itself out.

  5. エーイダン says:

    I live in Canada, so JDM cars like V-spec R34s and S15 Silvias are already coming in, but the effect is not so great here as it would be in the US because we have less people here. Less people means less JNCers and people who would be importing JDM cars into the country. I have had the pleasure of seeing a 4-door R34 Skyline and a few ED6 Civics. Across the border the value of the imports and of the local models has remained steady to my knowledge, so I wouldn’t worry about a flood of JNC JDM cars flooding in and plunging values too much on my side of the line, but in the US I am not so sure. I am certain that there is to seriously worry about. The biggest worry would be being scammed by JDM knockoffs made by snide and shrewd mechanics who drop JDM engines into cars after swapping them to RHD configs. (If such were the case, if there is doubt, then look for a VIN plate. The VIN plate only appears on North America-spec models, so a JDM would not have one).

  6. Randy says:

    I’ll say it’ll have a minimal overall impact on prices.

    There just won’t be THAT many brought over. If anything, THEY may go for significantly more, but the overall effect on U.S.-spec prices will be minimal.

    The initial craze will push the import prices up, but then they’ll settle down; maybe not down to USDM prices, just due to their uniqueness, but once the show-quality ones are sold, and the suckers have spent far more than they should on iffy-and-worse versions, just for their novelty, they’ll become a normal part of the market.

    The JDM versions may stay better-preserved because of the higher prices; the FnF-wannabees won’t be as likely to get their grubby mitts on them to chop them up.

    • Jayrdee says:

      Very similar argument to the one I made. I agree 100%

      “but once the show-quality ones are sold, and the suckers have spent far more than they should on iffy-and-worse versions, just for their novelty, they’ll become a normal part of the market.”

      This is very evident in the s13 crowd.

  7. Yuri says:

    I’d say we can’t count out the fact of how much of the classic Japanese market exists in California, and that the vast majority of JDM cars are still illegal in the state due to emissions, despite being legal for federal import.

    You may see USDM cars more highly valued than their JDM cousins on the West coast, simply because having an FD or AE86 you don’t have to worry about getting impounded is more desirable than the alternative. (If not for this, I’d have purchased an R32 GTS4 sedan by now.)

    • Jayrdee says:

      I’ve always found that super weird and interesting; how California is so strict on everything. I have a bunch of family in the bay area and they would tell us horror stories of cool cars just rotting because they can’t get smogged.

      I live in KY and they literally don’t care about anything. No safety inspections, no smog checks, nothing.

      • Tama5 says:

        Smog isn’t as big a deal as people tend to make it.

        Come to LA and you’ll see an army of 1980s (and older) Japanese pickup trucks still hard at work every day.

  8. Gary says:

    We’re happy to help anybody in the USA (or Canada) that wants to source and import a car from Australia.

    Just drop us a line to get the ball rolling.

  9. Ant says:

    I think they’ll only make USDM cars if they have a direct USDM equivalent. An EK9 Type R won’t make an Si less desirable because it’s on another plane of ability, and Miatas won’t be in any less demand if people start importing RS-Limiteds or M2 1028s.

    A far more pressing (and entirely selfish) problem is that as more great Japanese cars cross the 25-year mark the price of the JDM cars themselves will rise, lifting them ever further out of reach to those of us already able to import them…

  10. Mike says:

    Canadians enjoyed the early rush for JDM cars when they were extremely cheap. Dirt cheap. The US buyer is going to enjoy the cars non the less but you guys sure missed the boat on the value buy. (I see tons of mediocre JDM cars going for multiple times their value when compared to those days in Canada.)

  11. Chris says:

    I have noticed a dramatic uptick in late 80’s early 90’s Toyotas on ebay lately. But surprisingly a lot of them are the cars I like but wouldn’t expect most people to be as interested in, like 130 series Crowns and VG40/45 Centurys. I would expect to see way more Supras, MR2s, etc than I have been. I just hope that by the time 2024 rolls around, I will be in the position to get a 170 Crown and maybe even a GZG50 Century.

  12. Shifting with my left hand is a no go. I think most people here would need automatic. I’m sure with enough practice I could learn, but it’s so unnatural. My brother’s first car was a Celica. He is a left-handed person, and somehow he figured it out quickly. I want my dream JDM but worry about my left hand operating the manual transmission.

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