We love our Supras and RX-7s and 300ZXs. We talk a lot about the golden age of JDM. And so do you. Don’t even try to lie; we know that you can’t go 30 seconds without talking about a Supra, WRX, or RX-7. They’re fantastic cars. And, as it turns out, they may also be a really good investment.
That’s right; today, I have 8 great JDM masterpieces that you can buy today that might make you money (if you don’t crash them, that is). Let’s be honest, cars are not investments 99% of the time. Most cars will lose money.
But, we have this thing called the Ideal Car Strategies that’s all about maximizing your return while leveling up to a supercar. Or, even better than a supercar, you could a Skyline GT-R or something.
Mazda FD RX-7 – The Golden Nacho
See, some cars become more desirable with age, mostly because they start to get rare as people abuse and crash them, or because some movie comes along and propels them to fame. Or, in the case of this first car, it’s simply because it may be one of the most beautiful cars ever designed. And they definitely don’t make them like they used to.
I mean, what is there to say about the FD RX-7 that hasn’t already been said. Yes, they’re weird. I still don’t exactly understand how they work and they’re not the most reliable. But tame the wild Dorito and you’ll be rewarded with one of the best songs ever sung. Yes, the 13B is one angry beaver of an engine, screaming up to a wild 8,000-RPM redline, sucking up air through two turbos, and pushing out plenty of torque and horses to move this lightweight sports car through your favorite local canyon.
What makes the FD generation of the RX-7 truly special, though, is how it looks. Look, ’90s JDM cars are great. The R32, 300ZX, NSX, Supra, and even the 3000GT are all amazing cars. But none of them have aged quite like the RX-7. This car looks as stunning today as it did 30 years ago.
What makes them especially valuable now, though, is that they’re kind of rare. The FD had a pretty short run here in the States and only about 13,000 of them ever graced our streets, meaning that finding a clean, unmodified FD today is like finding the Holy Grail. You can import them now from Japan where they had a longer production run, but that’s a whole thing and likely won’t save you much money.
If your treasure map does lead to a clean FD RX-7, expect to fork over $40,000 for the pleasure. Sure, that’s a lot of money, but just look at the price trends for these in the last few years. They’re going up and up. At least you know that if you keep it clean, keep it stock, and keep the miles down, in a few years, that sucker’s going to make you some money. Or, at the very least, you’ll break even.
Speaking of disappearing, have you noticed that after years and years of Youtubers telling people to buy a Miata, there just aren’t any left? So, if you can find a clean NA, you should jump on it.
Mazda Miata – Blah Blah Answer
Let’s be honest, they don’t build them like they used to. Ever since its inception in 1989, the Miata has been punching above its weight class. It’s not fast. To be polite, we call it “momentum car.” But everyone who has ever owned one can’t stop talking about how fun they are to drive. And it makes sense. They’re super lightweight, compact, and, most importantly, rear-wheel drive.
They’re just an adorable little car that’s just as excited to be thrown around on the road as you are to throw it around. The secret’s been out for a long time, though. And while it used to be that a cheap NA Miata was around $1,000, now there are just too many Youtubers and JDM fanboys snatching them all up.
The good news is that more than 400,000 NA Miatas were produced, so they’re still out there, and you don’t have to feel bad about buying them to thrash. The bad news is that clean NAs are going for as much as $8,000 to $10,000 now. They’ve even surpassed the price of the later, faster NB Miatas. And there isn’t any sign that the price is going to go down ever again.
Miatas are kind of an acquired taste, though, and I never really acquired it. What I did love was the fighter-jet-inspired 300ZX, which is another fantastic investment right now.
Nissan 300ZX Z32 – The Files Are Inside the Computer
Nissan was killing it in the ’70s and ’80s. You can see my love letter here. And they wanted to keep killing it in the ’90s, so they went radical with their new Z32 300ZX. It was one of the first cars to ever be designed on a computer, it’s nicknamed the “Corvette Killer,” and it adorned the Car and Driver “10Best Cars Ever” list for 7 years in a row, which is just a roundabout way of saying that they were fast as hell, especially for the price. And I may be biased, but I think they’re one of the better-looking cars of the era too. Maybe there’s something to this whole computer-aided design. Who knows?
Now, traditionally, the Nissan Z was the cheap option if you wanted a piece of JDM history. They weren’t very desirable in the 2000s. I mean, I think I paid like $3,000 for mine, but times have changed. And, like all of the golden age cars, the 300ZX is getting hard to find. I’m talking around $20,000 for a cleanish example with a manual.
And, like everything else on this list, the price is only going up. So, if you keep it in good condition, you can have an absolute blast and come out ahead. It’s not just ’90s cars on this list either because, in the early 2000s, Honda built one of the best sports cars ever made and called in the S2000.
Honda S2000 – 100K Seems Low
It’s rear-wheel drive, has a legendary K20 engine, and is incredibly reliable. What more could you want? Maybe a roof? Nah. Honda says you don’t need it. They set out to design what they called the “ultimate, race-bred vehicle that’s guaranteed to stir the emotions of performance motoring enthusiasts everywhere.” That’s just such a Honda thing to say. It’s not, “You’ll have fun.” It’s “Your emotions will be stirred.”
However you describe it, the S2000 is a perfectly balanced surgical scalpel able to cut into the apex with unreal precision in order to deliver ultimate joy. Damn, now I’m doing it too. Anyway, back in 2017 or so when people started calling it the best value for an enthusiast car ever, they were regularly $10,000. You could find them on our own lists of the best cars for under $10,000.
Now? A mostly stock one is $20,000, maybe more. You can get one that’s modded for $16,000. But, if you really want to make money, get the one that’s as close to stock as possible, enjoy it, and sell it for a Lamborghini or something (I don’t know).
Speaking of Honda, if you can find one and you’re super into legendary cars, get an Integra Type R.
Acura Integra Type R – God Tier
The Integra Type R is the best-handling front-wheel drive car ever built. And, in Japan, it’s an absolutely unrivaled legend. What you do is take an already really great car like the DC2 Integra and you tune the engine so it makes the highest horsepower-per-liter ever put into production. You shave away all the excess weight and then you work for years on making the best suspension ever fit into a front-wheel drive vehicle. You keep the reliability and practicality, sprinkle in some motorsports championships, and you have what is, simply, one of the best cars ever built.
Here in the USA, we only got the Type R for a few years: 1997, 1998, 2000, and 2001. You better believe that the price is out of control. For instance, 5 years ago you could get an Integra Type R for $15,000. Now, if one goes on sale, you’re looking at $30,000 or more easily. And it seems like every time I look, the price is higher. So, get in while the iron is hot.
Alright, no more Hondas. I promise. Instead, let’s talk about one of my favorite cars ever: Godzilla.
Nissan R32 GT-R – Your Tanks Are Useless
It’s the R32 Nissan GT-R for those of you playing the home game, a car so good we put it on a t-shirt. So, get one and show your support for a car that was completely unstoppable on the track, which is where the nickname comes from. Just like Godzilla, the R32 smashed everything else in its class. And, when Wheels magazine coined the term 1989, they also called it a supercar. You all can fight about whether it is or not in the comments.
What I can say is that they’re now old enough to be imported easily into the States and they pop up pretty regularly on Craigslist. However, I remember when it was about $25,000 for a sorted R32 GT-R and a GTS-T was even cheaper. They were an absolute bargain. I honestly really wanted one, but I had a 240 and I was kind of over Nissan for a while.
Now I wish I had grabbed one because GTS-Ts are $25,000 and GT-Rs are like $50,000 or more. That’s a 100% return on a 5-year investment. And that’s not even the best Skyline investment you can make.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo – Sir Lancelot
Yes, the Lancer, a car that might be even more mythological than the Supra because everyone thinks they can just buy an Evo 9, bolt on an intercooler, and you have 1,000 horsepower. Now, that’s not true, but they are really incredible cars. Top Gear regularly used them to prove that supercars weren’t all that super.
And there’s always some truth to mythology. In this instance, it’s all about the engine that the Evo is built around: the 4G63, which is used in just about every generation except for the 10th. It’s an engine that belongs up there when talking about the best of all time. 2JZ. LS. RB26DETT. Mivec Turbo 4G63. And when you use that 4G63 to power all four wheels, you end up with a car that is incredibly easy to drive.
The power comes on predictably, the tires never seem to lose grip, and the transmission feels really good. Just be aware that the Lancer is not as indestructible as a Honda or a Toyota, they need more love and attention. That’s attention that Mitsubishi apparently wasn’t willing to give since they axed the Evo after its 10th generation.
With nothing to replace the 10, prices on all Evos went up and are continuing to climb. Really clean examples are going for $40,000, but you can still find 8s and 9s for $20,000 if you really look. I don’t think that will last. The 10 didn’t have that all-important 4G63. So, as the older ones get rarer, they’re going to get even more desirable.
But $20,000 for a car that represents the best budget supercar-slayer ever built? In my opinion, that’s still a really, really good deal. The fact that it will probably be worth three times that in 8 years, well, that’s just icing on the cake.