Looking to Invest In a Classic Car? These ‘90s-Era Japanese Imports Could Be the Smart Move
Lust for old-school sport compact performance is on the riseby Jonathan Lopez, on
Nostalgia can be a very powerful thing, especially when it comes to cars. Just look at the recent surge in high-spec muscle machines, which was driven primarily by demand from the baby boomer generation. Now, as millennials get older and start to accrue a little extra disposable income, the classic car market is starting to shift, from big blocks and American iron to turbochargers and JDM canyon killers. This is the generation that grew up on The Fast and the Furious, Initial D, and drifting, and their four-wheeled predilections follow suit. As such, we put together this list of 10 ‘90s-era Japanese sports car that could become very valuable over the next few decades.
Acura Integra Type R
First introduced in 1995, the Acura Integra Type R didn’t arrive stateside until 1997. However, by then enthusiasts were already falling over themselves to grab one. As the only USDM product to wear the vaunted Type R badge before the arrival of the FK8-era Civic Type R in 2017, this ‘Teggy was the must-have model for those devoted to the Honda brand.
The reason was simple - it came equipped with all the bells and whistles you’d expect from an R, including a lightened curb weight, a high-strung four-cylinder engine package, and a corner-carving chassis and suspension spec, not to mention a reputation built on slicing up the mountain passes of Japan.
These days, a well-kept, unmodified example can sell for upwards of $45,000, but you can rest assured that price is sure to rise in the years to come.
|Horsepower||195 hp @ 8,000 rpm|
|Torque||130 lb-ft @ 5,700 rpm|
|0-60 mph||7 seconds|
|Top Speed||145 mph|
Read more about the 1986 - 2001 Acura Integra.
FD3S Mazda RX-7
The third-generation Mazda RX-7, also known as the FD3S, sold on the U.S. market for just three years, but it left one helluva impression. The most striking thing about the RX-7 is the way it looks, with graceful, feminine curves that coalesce into one of the most gorgeous automotive designs to ever come from the Land of the Rising Sun. The RX-7 is also noteworthy for its novel 13B-REW engine, a twin-turbo 1.3-liter twin-rotor mounted in the front-/mid-ship position. While infamously inefficient and unreliable, the 13B was also lightweight and compact, which helped to underline the RX-7’s reputation as one of the best-handling sports cars in the world.
Although it produced just 255 horsepower, the RX-7 bested its contemporary rivals by offering a simpler, purer sports car experience, with rear-wheel drive and a curb weight rated at just 2,800 pounds.
The most desirable of the FD-era RX-7’s is the range-topping R2 model, which came with an upgraded suspension setup, new upholstery for the cabin, a secondary oil cooler, stickier tires, revised aero, and a Torsen limited-slip differential. These days, well-kept examples can cost upwards of $50,000, but the FD-era RX-7 is almost sure to skyrocket in price in the next few decades.
|Horsepower||255 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Torque||217 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm|
|0-60 mph||5.1 seconds|
|Top Speed||160 mph|
Read our full review on the FD3S Mazda RX-7.
Fourth-Generation (A80) Toyota Supra
While many of the entries on this list are slowly (but surely) creeping upwards in terms of value, the fourth-generation Toyota Supra feels like it’s strapped to a Saturn V rocket.
Chalk it up to the release of the latest fifth-generation A90 Supra early in 2019, or the fourth-gen’s starring role as the hero car in the original The Fast and the Furious, or the legendary 2JZ turbo inline six-cylinder under the hood - it doesn’t really matter, because the A80 Supra is absurdly expensive these days.
One example from 1994 with 7,000 miles on the odometer was auctioned off for an astounding $121,000 in January of 2019.
The buyer, a Toyota dealership in Chicago, then turned around and listed it on its website for a jaw-dropping $500,000. We’re not totally convinced the A80 Supra is worth half a mil, but give it a few years, and it could be.
|Horsepower||320 hp @ 5,600 rpm|
|Torque||315 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm|
|0-60 mph||4.6 seconds|
|Top Speed||155 mph|
Read our full review on the 1993 - 1998 Toyota Supra.
Nissan Skyline R34 GT-R
Prior to the launch of the Nissan GT-R in 2008, stateside JDM-lovers considered the Skyline R34 GT-R to be the ultimate answer in Japanese performance. Also known as “Godzilla,” the Skyline GT-R was equipped with a high-tech all-wheel-drive system and potent turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine, which combined to create a deep sense of “grass-is-greener” among fans here in the U.S.
Unfortunately, the fifth-generation R34 model is currently illegal to import to the U.S. for personal use, as it doesn’t comply with federal safety and emissions standards.
However, that’ll change in 2025 when it becomes exempt from these rules under the Imported Vehicle Safety Compliance Act. If you can’t wait that long, the older Skyline R32 model is available for import now, as it is 25 years old. Prices range between $25,000 and $35,000 for low-mileage examples in good condition.
Alternatively, you can try importing an R34 for “track use,” but that would entail converting it to full race-spec and removing the equipment needed for the road, which would definitely hurt the ROI in the long run. Either way, try to grab a go-faster V-Spec model, or if you’re feeling really saucy, the hugely expensive Nismo Z-Tune.
|Horsepower||276 hp @ 7,000 rpm|
|Torque||289 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm|
|0-60 mph||4.8 seconds|
|Top Speed||165 mph|
Read our full review on the 1957 - 2006 Nissan Skyline.
Acura NSX (First-Generation)
The first-generation Acura NSX (alternately known as the Honda NSX) was a true game-changer. First appearing in 1989 at the Chicago Auto Show and produced until 2005, the NSX promised exotic flavor on par with contemporary Lambo’s and Ferrari’s, but stuffed into a much more accessible (not to mention reliable) package. What’s more, the NSX was packed to the gills with go-faster materials tech - not only was it the first mass-produced car with an all-aluminum body, but it was also built on an aluminum monocoque platform and came with aluminum suspension bits in the corners.
All that alloy meant the NSX was light, which paid dividends when paired with the high-revving mid-mounted aluminum 3.0-liter V-6, a lump plugged with additional high-tech components like forged pistons and titanium connecting rods.
Furthermore, Honda turned to none other than Ayrton Senna, one of the greatest racing drivers of all time, to ensure the NSX handled like a proper exotic.
According to a recent report from Bloomberg, the first-generation NSX is already gaining some serious traction among collectors, with the average value more than doubling since 2013. Now, well-kept examples are approaching (and sometimes eclipsing) six-figures at auction.
|Horsepower||270 hp @ 7,100 rpm|
|Torque||210 lb-ft @ 5,300 rpm|
|0-60 mph||5 seconds|
|Top Speed||165 mph|
Read our full review on the 1991 - 2005 Acura NSX.
Subaru WRX STI 22B
When the Subaru WRX arrived stateside in the early 2000’s, the U.S. sports car market was more or less changed overnight. Suddenly, entry-level performance was no longer the exclusive domain of V-8-powered muscle cars - now enthusiasts could get their speed fix in a slide-tastic, turbocharged, all-wheel-drive sedan. The WRX was so successful, Subaru brought over the go-faster STI variant just two years later.
Of course, all the hype around the first-ever U.S.-bound WRX was built over the course of a decade watching overseas markets revel in the glory that is Subaru’s rally champion.
The baddest of ‘em all was the vaunted 22B, a limited-edition run created in 1998 to celebrate Subaru’s 40th anniversary in the World Rally Championship. Rocking hugely flared fenders, a big rear wing, more power, and upgraded suspension and brakes, the 22B had all the trappings of a barely street-legal racer. These days, the 22B is considered the performance Scooby among fans, and it comes with a price tag to match, with some examples reaching upwards of $100,000 at auction.
|Horsepower||276 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Torque||268 lb-ft @ 3,200 rpm|
|0-60 mph||5 seconds|
|Top Speed||154 mph|
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
Following Subaru’s success with the WRX, Mitsubishi decided it was time to bring over its own WRC superstar. Much of the formula is the same - turbocharged powerplant, all-wheel-drive grip, four-door body. However, while the WRX STI was known for its brutal power delivery and audacious speed, the Mitsubishi Evo was sharper and more poised at the limit - exactly what you’d want from a track tool.
The first U.S.-spec Evo arrived in the early 2000s, but by 2005, Mitsubishi offered the boosted four-door in no less than four trim levels.
Production ended in 2016, with the final example ever built selling for $76,400. Used prices vary greatly, and finding a low-mileage, unmodified example can be tricky, but they do exist. What’s more, if you’re willing to delve into the world of JDM imports (check out the blurb on the Nissan Skyline for more info on that), you could find yourself sitting on a gold mine when prices go up in the next few years.
|Horsepower||270 hp @ 6,250 rpm|
|Torque||228 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm|
|0-60 mph||4.9 seconds|
|Top Speed||150 mph|
Read our full review on the 1992 - 2006 Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.
Back in 1999, Honda created the S2000 for one very clear purpose - maximum driver enjoyment. As such, this two-door rocks a front-mid-engine, rear-wheel drive layout, plus a curb weight well under 3,000 pounds, telepathic handling, snappy gear shifts, and all the fun you could imagine from a drop-top body style. Driving this thing is a real treat, especially when revving the naturally aspirated four-cylinder all the way to its mind-boggling 9,000-rpm redline.
It should come as no surprise then that the S2000 enjoys a massive fanbase, and because it’s a Honda, it’s bulletproof as well.
As such, the S2000 holds its value quite well, and low-mileage examples can be quite pricey. For example, one particular bright-red example with just over 1,000 miles on the odometer sold for $48,000 on Bring A Trailer. The buyer - IndyCar racer and diehard Honda fan Graham Rahal.
|Horsepower||240 hp @ 8,300 rpm|
|Torque||153 lb-ft @ 7,500 rpm|
|0-60 mph||5.7 seconds|
|Top Speed||150 mph|
Read our full review on the Honda S2000.
The NSX isn’t the only mid-engine platform on this list, with Toyota getting in on the action thanks to the MR2. Offered in three generations between 1984 and 2007, the MR2 handled like a little slot car, eagerly diving into corners and rotating with very little provocation from the driver. To help refine its handling prowess, Toyota sourced input from a number of top racing drivers, including the late, great Dan Gurney.
As a result, this plucky little compact had the goods to take on such heavy-hitters as the Porsche Boxster. The term “giant killer” comes to mind.
What’s more, it’s entirely possible Toyota has a new generation in the works. If that’s the case, older MR2’s could suddenly become much more desirable in the near future. Pricing is hugely varied, but decent examples can be had between $5,000 and $10,000. Go for the Turbo model, if you can.
|Horsepower||200 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Torque||200 lb-ft @ 3,200 rpm|
|0-60 mph||6.3 seconds|
|Top Speed||142 mph|
Read our full review on the 1991 - 1995 Toyota MR2.
Mitsubishi Eclipse (DSM)
Before it was bastardized as a crossover, the Eclipse nameplate was attached to something much cooler, namely a sleek two-door with turbocharged power under the hood and all-wheel-drive grip in the corners. Created by Diamond Star Motors (DSM), a joint venture between Mitsubishi and Chrysler, the first- and second-generation Eclipse was a tuner’s dream, with tons of speed potential if you were bold enough to dive into the aftermarket.
No surprise then that the Eclipse played a starring role in the original The Fast and the Furious, which means finding one on the used market in unmolested and good condition is not easy.
However, they’re out there if you dig, and if you come across one, expect to pay upwards of $8,000 to $10,000.
|Horsepower||210 hp @ 6,000 rpm|
|Torque||214 lb-ft @ 3,000 rpm|
|0-60 mph||6.5 seconds|
|Top Speed||140 mph|