Understanding our Japanese classic buyer guides 2019

By: Unique Cars magazine

Presented by

toyota mr2 toyota mr2

So, what does all this Condition 1, 2 & 3 mean? And how do we come up with the prices?

Not very many years ago in a country very like this one, you could turn up to a multi-make car show driving a Japanese-branded model and be treated like you had just offered everyone on the grounds a dose of the plague.

Unless your arrival was in convoy with a club the gate-person often had no idea where to send you. Frequently your vehicle ended up parked way off in the distance and as you headed in the direction of the pointed finger there might even be a muttered ‘Jap crap’ to send you on your way.

The world has of course changed and Japanese models have taken their rightful places among admired brands from other countries. Now owners who stuck by their Japanese ‘classics’, sometimes for several decades, are very much enjoying the last laugh.

The early months of 2019 have seen records tumble with high-profile Japanese models from both Nissan and Toyota selling for $250,000 and more. Even cars that would hardly count themselves as ‘exotic’ are turning in strong performances at auctions and via dealer sales.

The muscular-looking Mazda RX-3 that topped $50,000 at a recent Shannons sale did pretty much as was expected, but the surprise packet from that night was a Toyota MR2 that made more than $30,000.

Newcomers to the classic movement will find cars that have played ‘second banana’ to very successful designs from the same manufacturer remain affordable. In this category we include the Datsun 260Z and especially the practical 2+2 version. These cost half the price of a market-darling 240Z yet offer similar dynamics and looks.

Japan from the 1960s-90s designed hundreds of models aimed at family buyers and most now are impossible to find. Cars like the early Datsun Bluebird SS or SSS, running and rust-free, would command huge money in the Japanese market and wouldn’t be cheap here either. The same, except for the money part, could be said for a Stanza SSS, another that has apparently sunk without trace.

Elsewhere in this issue I mention the Subaru RX Turbo. No, not the WRX although early versions of those have suddenly become scarce as well. The RX is typical of the cars that made motorsport history in this country yet have been absolutely ignored and driven to virtual extinction by apathy.

Despite struggling to muster 130kW, a 4WD RX delivered back-to-back Australian rally titles to Adelaide-based motor engineer Barry Lowe. If you find a really good one it might make $15,000. Similarly insulting money is available for Mazda Familias like Murray Coote’s 1988 ARC winner or the VR4 Galant that brought Ed Ordynski his first title in 1990.

Models that were consistent winners on bitumen have suffered similar degrees of ambivalence and $20,000 will still buy decent-excellent examples of the Honda CRX, single-turbo Toyota Supra or Nissan 280ZX. Time is marching on and a lot of these cars will not survive another decade without the attention of committed owners.


Market Review Assessments focus on market movements for various vehicles during the past 12 months and provide, where possible, guidance on realistic pricing for the different models available.

The average values shown at the end of each vehicle review are based on surveys of cars offered for sale privately and through licensed dealers in metropolitan markets throughout Australia and on the internet.

Note that the number in brackets following each average price represents the number of vehicles surveyed. Any average based on fewer than 20 vehicles is not necessarily representative of the market position of that particular model at the time.

Where I/D (Insufficient Data) or N/S (None Surveyed) is shown against a model designation, it indicates that no vehicles fitting the description were found during the survey period for this 2019 Buyers Guide.

How to read the Price Charts

The values shown in the charts are based on advertised asking prices and reported sales from all parts of Australia, using data supplied by dealers, private purchasers and auction houses. Usually, the values quoted reflect prices being achieved by vehicles sold by private vendors.

Where a model is rarely offered on the Australian market, estimates are based on overseas value guides and auction results.

Careful reading of the Condition Category descriptions below is vital to effective use of the Price Charts.

Note: Price tracker boxes indicate price movements of that model since 1998.

What Condition 1, 2, 3 & Concours mean



Should be free of dents, rust or obvious repairs. Minor stone chips are permissible, major blemishes or mis-matched paint work are not. Brightwork must be complete and show no evidence of damage.


Seats should be covered in original pattern material free of rips or other damage, floor covering should be complete, clean and of correct material, headlining clean. Dashes – especially timber or veneer – should be free of cracks or discolouration.


Clean with no water, oil, fuel or battery leaks. Hoses and belts need to be in sound condition. The correct engine, or one which was optional to the model, should
be fitted. Authentic components are a must if the car is to be upgraded to concours standard.


No dents or damage to underseal, exhaust system complete and undamaged, no oil leaks from the differential, transmission
or shock absorbers. All suspension components should be in good working order.


Original wheels with correct hubcaps or aftermarket wheels in keeping with vehicle style and age should be fitted. Tyres need to be correct size and speed rating, with at least 50 per cent original tread.




No serious rust or large areas of body filler evident. Minor bubbling in non-structural areas permissible. Paint should be good quality but may show evidence of repairs, chips and scratches. Brightwork should be good generally, but areas of dulled or scratched chrome
are likely.


Seats may have been re-covered but should be in good general condition. If the trim is original, areas of wear and broken stitching are likely. Floor coverings should be complete, carpets and hoodlining preferably to original pattern. Cleaning may be required.


Engine should be of original type although original engine is unlikely. No major fluid leaks or discolouration. Cleaning will be required.


No serious damage, however scrapes and chipping likely. Minor oil leaks are common, exhaust should be complete and free from holes or burning around joints. Suspension components such as kingpins, ball joints and shock absorbers need to be roadworthy.


Wheels should be the original rims or legal-sized aftermarket units. Tyres should have at least legal tread depth left.




Moderate rust is inevitable, although chassis, firewall and other structural areas should be sound. Minor body damage is common. Paint likely to be faded, with uneven colour. Body filler usually found in panels but unacceptable in structural areas. Brightwork should be basically complete and major components like the grille must be fitted. Re-chroming or polishing of most parts will be required.


Seats need to be structurally sound but will normally need re-covering. Floor coverings likely to be damaged or missing. Door trims should be fitted but may need replacement.

Vinyl dashboard tops usually cracked or warped.


The engine should run but work will be needed, with the engine bay likely to be dirty and oil stained. Hoses and fuel lines may need replacement for the vehicle to
be reliable.


Will show signs of neglect and damage (dents, stone damage, etc) but should be free of major rust. Chassis and structural members need to be straight. Suspension components and exhaust systems will usually need replacement.


Wheels should be free of major damage, but tyres will normally need replacement.


Vehicles in genuine concours condition will be completely original or rebuilt to the highest standards. Generally they are better than when new. Some cleaning or replacement of minor components may be required but anything more than minor blemishes will significantly reduce the car’s chances of success.

Cars with the potential to achieve Gold standard (90 per cent or better) in open judging can cost 50 per cent or more over Condition One values.


The author and publisher have made every effort to ensure the accuracy of the 2019 Unique Cars Market Guide, but we do not accept responsibility for any loss or inconvenience caused by errors or omissions.

Values are subject to change due to social, political or economic circumstances within Australia or elsewhere.

This magazine provides useful guides on trends, but they are always subject to change. We suggest any purchase like this should be done with your eyes wide open and treated as a personal reward rather than part of a retirement plan.

To determine the value of a specific vehicle, inspection by an appropriately qualified specialist is strongly recommended.



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