Understanding our Japanese classic buyer guides 2021

By: Clif

mitsubishi lancer mitsubishi lancer

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


While the world went into pandemic freefall, Japanese classic prices remained solid. Here's our buyer's guide of the good, bad and ugly from the Land of the Rising Sun

If right now you are in front of a screen or peering at your phone while people with a lot more money than you try to spend it on extraordinary cars, don’t despair.

Drifting past your window is a large multi coloured iceberg, comprised of all the interesting and still affordable cars that remain in the market.

Yes, the prices of these cars are increasing as well, but only in keeping with a market where the cost of other assets is climbing as well and money that people have parked in a bank is earning the better part of nothing.

Some of you may have witnessed a recent auction where six-figure sums were bid for a couple of high-profile Holdens but where a selection of well-kept and interesting Japanese models were also sold at prices well within the bounds of affordability.

There are aberrations of course and some weeks earlier, a pristine Honda Accord did confound observers when bids soared to $36,000. There was also a Subaru Brumby utility that went within a whisker of $20,000 but vehicles of this stature rarely reach the open market.

Even among upper echelon Japanese performance models where prices have climbed significantly, very few have reached levels that you know can’t be sustained when economic conditions change.

R32 Nissan Skyline GTRs have been under-appreciated and generally undervalued for many years but now have begun to assert themselves in the global market. Watch especially the values of locally delivered R32s which are already double the price of recent imports.

Honda remains a brand with collector potential and a lot of undervalued models. S2000 Roadsters have doubled since 2016 but still offer value, as do Integra Type R coupes.

Higher up the ladder we see the quasi-exotic NSX, which when new was regarded as a supercar ‘dud’ but is now bringing exceptional money at Japanese auctions. Those cars then appear here at prices that haven’t been seen since the NSX was new in the 1990s.

The appearance of a new Supra has sparked interest in earlier versions and consequent climbing prices. As a result, twin-turbo cars built late in the 1990s have been offered at considerably more money than the brand-new ones.

If you don’t have $200,000 for an NSX or $90,000 for a Supra there remain plentiful opportunities to buy interesting Japanese models at considerably lower prices. An attractive and scarce Datsun 180B SSS coupe was knocked down during 2020 for a super-attractive $22,000, however if that is still too much, well- preserved 180B and 200B sedans are available at half the SSS price.

Some cars that 20 years ago were derided as ‘grey’ imports have found their way into the collector mainstream and bringing significant money. Among them is the R31 Skyline Turbo coupe which Nissan was happy to pitch into battle with BMW’s M3 (which you also couldn’t buy here) for the 1987 Touring Car title but not import for local sale.

Cars that we saw back in the 1990s and recent arrivals have been doing way better than the deriders might have expected; one making $80,000 and typical pricing now in the $50-60,000 range.

Seems that holding onto that unfashionable car and letting the market come to you is a good strategy after all.

Cliff Chambers
June 2021



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 2021 Buyers Guide.


Model Average price of vehicles surveyed Number surveyed
EVO I-V $35,800 [5]



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.




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.

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

UNDERBODY 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 & TYRES 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 2021 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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