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90s JDM Retro Cool Is Now Worth A Pretty Penny

The JDM bubble doesn’t look like it is going to pop anytime soon. 

A Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R V-Spec has just broken an auction record. Selling for 15,105,000 yen (RM602,000), this 20 year old Japanese sports car is now the world’s most expensive V-Spec GT-R to be sold at auction. 


Despite having stratospheric milage at 65,000 km compared to other auction records, this particular R34 managed this record setting price mainly because of its colour. Painted in Midnight Purple III, only 132 from a total of 4139 V-Spec GT-Rs rolled off the production line in this fan favourite colour. The V-Spec trim level was only sold for one year in 1999 alongside the base trim GT-R, making this particular example a rare car indeed. 


That by the way, is not even remotely the most expensive R34 GT-R to be sold at auction. The record for the most expensive R34 to be sold was a 10 mile white R34 V-Spec Nür example that fetched 32,000,000 yen (RM 1.3 million) at the Tokyo Auto Salon BH Auction in 2018. 

And it’s not just the GT-Rs that are fetching crazy money these days, other retro Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) cars are fetching sky high prices too. Another example of how crazy the retro JDM market has become is to look at the selling prices of manual A80 Toyota Supras. 

Clean examples of the A80 Supra are changing hands on the market for close to $80,000 (RM 340,000), with some extremely clean ones selling for nearly $130,000 (RM 555,000). This is not even mentioning the auction record for one of these 2JZ monsters of $176,000 (RM 751,000) for a 70k mile, black-on-black 1997 15th Anniversary targa top manual example. 

Toyota Supra

Remembering that the latest 2020 A90 Toyota Supra is selling only for nearly RM 600k and comes with all the modern technology, a full warranty and most significantly is not a 20 something year old car. Why do these JDM machines from days past make crazy money today?

The main reason why these cars from the land of the rising sun are selling for stratospheric prices is simple — nostalgia. 

Japan in the 90s was the place to be for a sports car. Every Japanese manufacturer worth their salt was coming out with supercar rivalling Japanese Domestic Market (JDM) sports car. 

Honda had launched the Ferrari-rivalling NSX; Toyota had the 2-JZ legend that is the A80 Supra in its arsenal; Mazda was still innovating its braaap braaap in the rotary FD RX-7; Mitsubishi came to the party with the heavyweight 3000GT VR4; Subaru lost the plot with the SVX; and Nissan of course had Godzilla, the Skyline GT-R. 

These cars were considered the king of the road for the PlayStation generation. Many of us (the writer included) born just before the new millennium grew up on a steady diet of Gran Turismo and Need for Speed, and to us these cars were like the Lamborghini Countach and Ferrari Testarossas of generations past. And if the games didn’t hook you on the JDM train, the TV shows and the movies would have had you. 

Anime like Wangan Midnight and Initial D, along with the early Fast and Furious movies before they turned into glorified heist movies with cars, were the perfect tools to indoctrinate the next generation of petrolheads into the JDM world. Paul Walker’s orange Supra and blue R34 GT-R in the first and second F&F movie respectively could be partly to blame for the sky high prices of these 90s sports car worldwide. 

While some were indeed lucky enough to own them brand new, to most of the PlayStation generation, owning one of these JDM legends was but a dream. Owing to the fact that the majority had no money, but more to the fact that most didn’t even have a license or indeed be able see over the steering wheel back then. 

That being said however, the dream of owning one of the cars you drove around on the CRT TV in the living room was a realistic dream for any kid. Because unlike a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, these Japanese sports cars were marketed to be within reach for the average Joe. So for the kids hooked on the sweet nectar of cars with squiggly writing in the handbook, it was not too big of a stretch to imagine that in the future, if they worked really hard they could afford one of these cars on the screen in front of them. 

So fast forwarding 20 years to today, these kids who have now become grown men are looking to recapture some of their youth back. And they want the cars they toyed around with on the PlayStation to be sitting in their driveways, budget be damned. 

Once this is established, along with the fact that most these cars are 20 years old, it is just the simple economics of supply and demand to get the full picture of why a 1994 FD RX-7 can sell for $70,000 (RM300,000).

This is nothing new in the collector car world of course. Just look at the prices of air-cooled Porsches back in the 2010s. The astronomical prices of anything with a Porsche badge and without a radiator were due to boomers and yuppies who had one or lusted after one in the 70s and 80s wanting to relive a simpler time, thus in the process gouging the prices of these air-cooled 911s well out of the reach of anyone without some seriously deep pockets. 

The same is happening to these JDM sports cars today, but unlike the air-cooled 911 price mania that only affected one make and model, the JDM price rise is affecting the entire genre of cars. 

Even non-halo JDM models are seeing an explosive rise in value. Anything with a Type R boot badge is now worth some serious cash. 

90s Nissan Silvias and Honda Civics have also gone up tremendously in value. Once the domain of cheap, reliable, fun motoring, these baby JDM machines cost nearly as much as they did brand new. No one in the past would possibly have imagined that a 2000 Civic Si coupe could have sold for $50,000 (RM 213,000) in 2019.

Photo: Bring A Trailer

The tail-end of the JDM scene has also experienced a boom in value. If you owned an S2000 new in the turn of the millennium, there is a fairly good chance you could sell it today for nearly as much as you paid for it all those years ago if it was in a reasonable condition. 

The advent of the internet and the proliferation of internet auction sites like only helped fan the flames of the rise in JDM values. Bidding is now a much easier process and more eyeballs are on each car that comes under the virtual hammer, thus inevitably driving prices up. 

Demand now for JDM metal is so high that there are some firms in Japan have even stopped selling to foreign customers to keep some of these rarer JDM cars from ever boarding a boat out of Tokyo bay. And unlike Japan’s bubble economy that burst shortly after the PS2 came out in the start of the new millennium, the JDM bubble meanwhile is looking like it is a different story entirely. 

So to anyone thinking of owning a piece of retro JDM history, get them while the prices are still comparatively low. 


Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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