Another week and another 100,000 cars passing through the various auction houses of Japan. As what I’m hoping will be a weekly tradition (until I get lazy), I’ve perused the various auction listings to come up with 10 unique, neat or otherwise highlight-worthy vehicles that are all legal for US import and not Skyline GTRs. For last week’s edition, see:
Why am I doing this? I love weird, unappreciated cars and Japan has a crazy number of them. I’m already bored with the hype surrounding R32 Skylines (there’s 4 within 25mi of me - yawn, how plebeian) and quite frankly, for “import a Skyline” kind of money, there’s so many more cool and unusual cars that could be brought over that I think getting an r32 is kind of a waste. In 5 years, they’re not going to be that big a deal to see at a car show. I guarantee that won’t be the case with any of the cars on my weekly lists. So, onto this week’s Top 10.
Because sometimes you want a little class with your hardcore off-roader, there’s this Land Cruiser with a Rolls Royce front end. The front end looks surprisingly well-done and the matching front and rear fenders are a very nice touch. Besides the ridiculous front end it also has air horns, massive new BFG meats and more toggle switches inside than you’ll find at a Radio Shack. I don’t know what any of them do and I don’t know what 2/3 of the electrical devices in the cab do and I don’t care. Buy it and it’ll be a fun surprise!
Japan knows that everything’s better with turbos, so why not slap 2 on an otherwise boxy family sedan? Powered by the predecessor to the Supra’s 1JZ, the 1G-GTEU 6-cylinder, this 4dr automatic is a total sleeper until you stomp on it and smoke the rear tires. This is the type of car for the person who has kids and needs a car that is at least slightly practical but still likes to go fast and have something unique. You won’t see another one of these in the parking lot, but you also won’t attract a huge crowd every time you stop for fuel.
As someone who has owned a handful of these cars, I’m a big fan of them and have watched as prices continue to climb. Mk1 Sciroccos are hard to find at all, let alone in good condition. A 1st year Scirocco with a decent interior, near perfect exterior and only 129,000 miles? Forget about it! The rarity and cult following for this car has pushed prices for examples this nice up near the $6000 mark, if not more, but I would be shocked if the car came anywhere near that price at the auction. Realistically you could spend years looking for an unrestored 1st year Scirocco with a body in this good a condition. This is an example of a car that was sold in the US, but worth buying and importing because you’ll probably pay less and get a better car than what you could find here.
I own a pug, so I have a soft spot for things so ugly that you can’t help but love them and this car fits that description. Plus it’s very rare and the 1.5L 8v turbocharged engine makes 115hp which isn’t terrible given the size of the car. Speed would be comparable to a VW Cabriolet of the same year, with the difference being you could confidently tell people you have the only one in the US. Mechanically (aside from the engine), it shares a lot of parts with the 323 so it’s possible that you could keep it on the road without having to constantly “overnight parts from Japan.” Who knows, you might be able to add an intercooler, crank up the boost from the factory 7psi and then describe the car as “zippy!” Either way, a fun little ride that wouldn’t break the bank.
The famous, much revered AE86. This is not a hatchback and not black/white paint scheme, so it may be more reasonably priced but still has the potential to be the 2nd most expensive car on this list. Even more popular in Japan than in the US, the AE86 is a fun little car and very hard to find in decent shape. They’ve usually been caged, stripped and abused by amateur drifters. This one, while slightly modded, has a full interior and appears to be very nice, though it does have the “R” exterior rating indicating it likely has been in an accident at some point. You’d definitely want someone to take a close look at it before purchasing but thanks to it not having the Initial D look it could be overlooked by the fanboys.
Many Jalops pine for the days of small, light pickups and the Sunny is definitely one of those. It also is easy to modify into a great handling, fast sports car in disguise. They can be tough to find at a reasonable price as they seem to either be beat up work trucks or swapped & dropped speed machines but this one looks like it might be a winner. A fresh paint job, nice seats, aftermarket wheels and an upgraded exhaust, plus the “modified” auction designation seem to indicate that this truck has had some work done but the exterior is so clean and the mods are so subtle that you can’t go wrong.
I’m not technically breaking my “no Skylines” rule because that is in reference specifically to R32s and this Skyline makes the list because the early ‘80s models tend to get overlooked. They don’t have GTR in the name, they don’t have the turbo motors and yet they don’t have the prestige of the ‘70s models. According to the auction sheet, most of the front end has been replaced and the rare has some corrosion, though it’s tough to tell from the pictures and sometimes inspectors can be overly picky. On the other hand, sometimes pictures hide a lot and I can’t read Japanese so there’s distinct possibility it has engine issues. Either way, this is a fantastic looking car that is under appreciated and could be cheap enough to make swapping in an LS a very realistic and fun option plus the interior is very nice and very ‘80s.
This thing is an off-road beast! The 4.2L diesel inline-6 is described by Wikipedia as “legendary” when it comes to reliability and the body of this truck is nearly perfect. It even has the factory optional PTO-driven front winch! These are serious, hardcore trucks found in deserts, jungles, the Australian Outback, the most remote reaches of Finland and everywhere in between. This example is far too nice to beat up on the trails, but you could drive it secure in the knowledge that you could embarrass just about anything off-road if you wanted to.
Toyota’s first production sports car, this is not likely to be going under the radar of anyone but is still an incredible car to see up for sale. Only 3100 cars were ever made during its 4 years of production and less than 10% are thought to survive. It has an aluminum targa roof, aluminum seat frames, various aluminum body panels and a 800cc air-cooled 2-cylinder boxer engine good for 100mph on the track. Thin unibody steel helped keep the weight down but also made for a very fragile car. This seems like the type of car that could see 2000GT levels of appreciation in value and yet only has a starting bid of $16000. Don’t be surprised if it appears at Amelia Island or as a featured car of an RM Auction in the next few years.
This car is likely to be a 1 of 150 WRC Group B rally car but it is a little tough to tell. On the one hand, the livery is accurate, the auction sheet states that it is a WRC Group B car with a limited production of 200 (150 being LHD, which this one is) and it only has 590km on it. On the other hand, the interior is not very “rally-esque”, these cars were only made between 1983-1985 (not 1987 as the auction lists, though that could easily be a mistake) and the starting price is $47,000, not much considering Bring A Trailer recently featured one selling for $135,000 and considered that “cheap”.
My guess is that it is a genuine 240RS but, given the perfect interior and exterior, was a display or demo car and never actually raced. This page has very little info on chassis number 000159, which may support the theory that it never raced, but does have it listed so that’s a plus. Either way, how often do you see museum-quality Group B rally cars up for auction?!
DanPadge is a enthusiast of weird, unique and often overlooked cars - a description that covers much of the JDM market. Join the Facebook group East Coast JDM Imports to see more examples of these and other cars coming up for sale.