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First generation Mazda Miata - Click above to see entire list of future Japanese Collector Cars

"Everybody wants to go to the dance, no one wants to stay and clean up." So says Robert De Niro's Sam in John Frankenheimer's spy thriller/car porno Ronin. We mention the line, because it's not only well written, but nicely sums up most people's attitudes towards classic, collector cars. Yes, we'd all love a Boss 302 Mustang or a Maserati Bora, but no one wants to pay the tens of thousands of dollars it takes to procure and maintain them. But what if in the future collector cars weren't limited to American muscle or exotic Europeans? What if relatively cheap and reliable Japanese cars came to be collectors items?

Regardless of the answer, that's the exact future that Tim Suddard, publisher of both Grassroots Motorsports and Classic Motorsports, is predicting. In fact, here's what he has to say about it:
Right now Japanese cars are generally overlooked by the collector car world, but we expect that to change. A generation that grew up on Hondas, Datsuns and Mazdas is coming of age where they're after the icons of their youth. Where previous enthusiasts paid big money for the Mopars, Chevelles and GTOs that they couldn't afford when teens, we expect the same happen soon with milestone Japanese cars.
Which, if what Suddard is saying is true, means that both demand and price should increase. Which is probably... bad. Click here to see the ten cars (with captions) that Suddard claims are going to be future classics, plus our own two cents on each selection. And of course, what do you think? Also – like what you see? If you're in the Southern California area, don't miss the 2009 Japanese Classics car show this weekend


1997-2001 Acura Integra Type R
  • 1997-2001 Acura Integra Type R
  • Tim Suddard says: This car was sold through Acura dealerships and had one mission in life: to win races. It features a lightened, reinforced body, reworked suspension, bigger brakes and hand-assembled engine. U.S. production was limited to about 3850 examples.

    Autoblog says: Hand assembled engines? No argument here.
  • 1990-2005 Acura NSX
  • Tim Suddard says: The NSX proves that Honda can build a supercar. And in typical Honda fashion, the NSX didn't ask its owners to make too many excuses. The car is comfortable, fast and stylish. Plus it always starts on the first try.

    Autoblog says: Duh. Weren't these collectible five minutes after they rolled off the assembly line?
  • 1970-1973 Datsun 240Z
  • Tim Suddard says: Some say that this car single-handedly destroyed the British sports car industry. The 240Z was fast, practical and beautiful. Its inline six engine emitted a new kind of smooth. It was a Jaguar XKE for the rest of us.

    Autoblog says: Another choice that's nearly impossible to argue against. Though, were it our money, we'd go for the more potent 280Z.
  • 1967-1973 Datsun 510
  • Tim Suddard says: This box rocks. While it wasn't super fast in stock trim, the 510 proved to be a great blank canvas. Peter Brock's BRE race team made the car a winner in professional sedan competition, while countless enthusiasts made the 510 work well in so many different venues, from autocross and club racing to rally and even Baja.

    Autoblog says: Mr. K's first Datsun has been collectible to those in the know for years. The one big problem is finding a 510 without a turbo'd SR20, Sylvia gearbox, R32 suspension and Skyline brakes. Maybe that's not such a big problem.
  • 1985-1991 Honda CRX Si
  • Tim Suddard says: Good things come in small sizes. The Honda CRX went through two design generations, both marrying a flyweight chassis with a willing engine. The Si version added the good bits: better brakes, more power and a bit nicer interior. The CRX Si is like driving the automotive equivalent of an air-powered impact gun.

    Autoblog says: Finally, a car we can argue against. Now, don't get us wrong -- we love the CRX Si. We just don't ever see them becoming collectible. But hey, look at Isettas.
  • 1964-1966 Honda S600
  • Tim Suddard says: Honda's first cars were anything but crude. The S600 featured a small inline-four engine fed by four individual carburetors--a nod to the company's motorcycle roots. Another carryover from their bike history: The S600 features an unconventional chain drive.

    Autoblog says: We'd rather have a Datsun 1600. Moreover, if you're going to go for obscure Hondas with motorbike-like engines, why not go for the air-cooled inline Hemi four-banger 1300 Coupe 9?
  • 1990-1997 Mazda Miata
  • Tim Suddard says: Here's the car that helped re-ignite America's love affair with the classic sports car. The original Miata wasn't the fastest thing out there, but it had the right balance and poise to make it a great driver. Plus the top goes down. Mazda has made a ton of them, but it's now getting harder to find a clean original model.

    Autoblog says: Like the Corvette, every Miata made is a collectors item. Plus there's no lame late 70s, early 80s models to foul our theory.
  • 1971-1978 Mazda RX-3
  • Tim Suddard says: The Mazda RX-3 seems to have a special cult following that's hard to describe. The cars have become rare and prices continue to climb. The RX-3 had also enjoyed a rather successful competition record in both professional and amateur competition.

    Autoblog says: We're not feeling this one. No doubt a very cool car, but perhaps a little too cool, if you know what we mean.
  • 1979-1985 Mazda RX-7
  • Tim Suddard says: After a less than stellar U.S. launch, the original RX-7 really helped put Mazda on the map. It married a smooth rotary engine with some sexy sheet metal. The underpinnings were a bit pedestrian, but it was the right car for the times. It has also enjoyed a stellar stack record.

    Autoblog says: We think Tim may have missed the mark on this one, as the 2nd (FC) and especially 3rd (FD) generation RX-7s are the ones we'd want.
  • 1983-1987 Toyota Corolla GT-S
  • Tim Suddard says: Make a car the star of an animated series, and odds are strong that it will garner a cult following. The Japanese manga "Initial D" follows the adventures of Takumi Fujiwara and his Toyota Sprinter Trueno GT-APEX. Thanks to his midnight mountain runs, this tofu delivery boy has become one of Japan's best drivers--well, at least in the "Initial D" comics and animated programs. The Corolla GT-S is the U.S. version of his chosen mount.

    Autoblog says: The AE86 has an uphill battle, as most of them are already beat to death drift cars and the rest have slushboxes. Still, sporty Corollas are pretty nifty.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 94 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      '90-'91 Galant VR-4?

      '90-'99 Eclipse GSX?

      '03-'06 Evolution VIII-IX?

      '99 3000GT VR-4?
      • 5 Years Ago
      I think one of the saddest things is that Honda (Acura) seems to have completely lost its roots of building fun and usually attractive cars. All Honda gives us now are big bloated and overstyled vehicles: Accord, TL, Crosstour, Pilot, etc.

      The last truly fun car, the S2000, has rode into the sunset with no replacement in sight. And the current Civic needs more HP to match the chassis.

      Toyota too - where did the Supra, MR2, and other fun econo boxes go?

      At least Nissan and Mazda still make fun cars.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I agree with you, Honda and Toyota are not interested in making sports cars anymore. As I said before, their recent offerings are really ugly. Toyota's cars are the same thing as well. Also, Nissan and Mazda are the only ones making fun cars. Too bad that Nissan hasn't made a replacement for the Nissan Silvia yet.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm not a Japanese fanboy either, but I can recognize milestone cars like the 510, the first RX-7, the original Miata, etc. I actually looked at the first RX-7 back in 1978, but wound up buying an Audi Fox (which I soon came to regret). A friend of mine in high school occasionally drove a 5-speed RX-4 sedan (his mom's), but I haven't seen one of those in years. It was fast, but only got 14mpg around town.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I am going to disagree with you on a few points... The 70-72 240z was the fastest Z car untill the last twin turbo (73's had smog gear,) The 280's may have a bigger engine but smog gear and weight slowed these cars down quite allot. The perfect hybrid is a 240 with a 2.8 liter engine and drive train from an early 280 with smog gear removed, this gives you over 200hp and the 5 speed tranny that was not available in the US on the 240. It just so happens I am selling one of these...

      The RX-3 is already a collectors item and are hugely expensive in socal. These are better then RX-7's in many ways.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Wasn't most the weight on the 280z from the bumpers? You could just take a 280z, remove the bumpers and smog gear, and have pretty much the same thing, without having to swap the engine and transmission out of a 240 body.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I would have included the Supra over the Corolla. Seems a far more likley choice as a collector car in my mind.
      • 5 Years Ago
      "The one big problem is finding a 510 without a turbo'd SR20, Sylvia gearbox, R32 suspension and Skyline brakes. "

      Really? Can someone please find me a 510 WITH R32 suspension and Skyline brakes? There may be one or two around, but I have never heard of one. SoCal is the hotbed for $$$ 510s, so maybe down there. Definately not common, though.

      • 5 Years Ago
      I'd probably agree with all of these picks.
      And for whoever suggested the 2000GT, it IS already a collector car.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Exactly. The list is titled "future Japanese collector cars". The 2000GT has been a valueable classic for quite a while. I think the Mitsu Starion/Conquest should be on the list.
      • 5 Years Ago
      What about the 1987-1989 Mitsubishi Starion/Chrysler Conquest? I'd put good money that in just a few years, an unmolested copy with be worth some decent coin.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Why isn't the '93+ RX-7 on this list? That was an awesome car.

      • 5 Years Ago
      F**K YOU AUTOBLOG! How can you say that about the 1st gen RX-7?!?1 If it weren't for that car the 2nd gen nor the 3rd gen would be around. Yes it is no where near as advance as the other ones but that car was a milestone in itself. I own a 1982 Mazda RX-7 and that car is a sexy raw sports car. No fancy BS on it and its so much fun to drive. That car is a every bit a drivers car....bare bones and to the point.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I still have the 4sp '79 I bought new in the spring of '78. First RX-7 I ever saw, and one of the first in the eastern US.

        There's never been a better car for just laying your foot down and letting the tail hang out. Near perfect 50-50 balance, that happy revving rotary -- just keep giving it power unless you like looking up from the ditch. Give me a twisty SCCA track or better yet a Sunday afternoon of autocross, and watch me burn up a set of old Phoenix Staflex 3011s. That's a good, good day.

        That first generation RX-7, is what the Miata would become -- Mazda's light, tossable, inexpensive car for people who are more concerned about a fun drive than white knuckle speed. The later RX-7s may be more serious driving machines, but that doesn't lessen the joy to be had in the first gen vehicle.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Um, how the heck do you miss the Toyota 2000GT and pick the Honda 600 over the Datsun 1600/2000 ??

      2000GT: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/9/97/TOYOTA_2000GT.jpg/800px-TOYOTA_2000GT.jpg

      1600/2000: http://inbox.apana.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/datsun2000.jpg
      • 5 Years Ago
      "every Miata made is a collectors item"

      Umm, no, not really.

      And I don't think it's really valid to compare some of these Japanese cars that were produced in the hundreds of thousands to true classic collectible muscle cars that were EXTREMELY limited in production. The 60s classics were about much more than just the cars themselves. They raced in NASCAR and were stars of the drag strip at a time when people had never seen the kind of power these cars made or the style they displayed. Even much of today's American racing is based on technology developed during the time of the muscle car.

      Will a Miata or CRX or 510 be an interesting old car in 50 years? You bet, much as a '49 Dodge is an interesting old car today. Will it be a true collectible that appreciates in price relative to inflation? Don't bet on it.
        • 5 Years Ago
        There is some debate on what true collector car status means.

        243,085 camaros were built in 69.
        is a 69 camaro a collectible? a 69 camaro z28? a yenko?

        215,364 NA miatas were made from 90 to 97.

        Considering what time does to the number of cars on the road, and the ease of maintaining and restoring a body on frame vs unibody its not unreasonable to believe that in 30 years there will be more 60's camaros around than 90s miatas.
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