Understanding our Japanese classic buyer guides 2020

By: Cliff Chambers

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japanese buyers guide japanese buyers guide

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

It is 25 years since the first Unique Cars Value Guide was published and more than 35 years since I began following movements in the market for interesting motor vehicles.

That time-frame has encompassed some monumental events including the 1987 ‘Black Monday’ stock market crash, the 1990s recession that dragged on for years and the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. All of those events came with unpredicted and unpredictable consequences yet none brought the confusion and contradictory signals that have accompanied the onset of ‘Coronavirus’.

You will notice while leafing through this Guide some inconsistencies between segments of commentary and the Value Charts. The Market Review section, written during the early weeks of 2020, reflects the 2019 market for Japanese models and bases any conclusions on an expectation that those conditions would persist.

As circumstances began to rapidly change it became necessary to look again at sales and availability of indicative models. This occurred during early April and resulted in charts that are as relevant as they possibly can be to current and projected market movements.

From the outset it was obvious that new car sales would be the worst affected and where recovery could take years. With factories closed indefinitely and parts unavailable, some vulnerable brands may not return at all.

As occurred following the 1987 ‘crash’, new and late-model prestige models will suffer a significant hit before demand rebounds. If the 1987-89 trends are repeated for high-value collectable models, this segment will enjoy heightened demand as scarce vehicles reach the market. However the current situation is so unpredictable that nothing is certain.

Looking specifically at the Japanese segment, March 2020 brought an influx of low-cost, often unrestored cars or abandoned ‘projects’  to the market. Sales were strong as well, with vendors generally realistic on price and accepting sensible offers where on-line auction platforms were used.

Some possibly viewed the old car in the shed as a source of immediate cash in tough times. Also, some sales may have occurred as a result of reality checks and the admission that your etch-primed money pit was never getting back on the road unless it was sold.

Fortunately, not everyone who is active in the collector car market will suffer hardship during these tough times. For those still working and feeling financially confident the temptation to secure a bargain will remain strong.

In the longer term, change will be unavoidable and sustained. However the current circumstances may not bring news that is all bad for specialist vehicles and the people who admire them The crisis and strategies to prevent its recurrence will likely create a more cautious and insular society. Rather than moving towards a world where there is less dependence on personal transport we are likely to see greater demand for private vehicles. These will allow owners the freedom to travel alone or at least be accompanied only by people whose state of health should not be a threat to their own.

Cliff Chambers
April 2020


Market Review Assessments focus on market movements for various vehicles during the past 12 months and they 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 2020 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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