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The JDM Movement Nobody Expected

Ken's R32 GTR

It's 2010 and an R32 GTS-T is found clean, in 2 door coupe, turbo goodness for about $5,000 CAD.

Parts are plentiful and cheap, and still it feels like a GTR, at $10,000 CAD is unattainable. Little did we know.... The coming 13 years would see an absolutely astronomical increase in price. These cars, the GTS-T mentioned above in certain trims can be over $30K USD now, and modifying them well, that's a whole other ball game. The GTR is a halo car, sought after by many, afforded by few, but why? No, this is not a homage to the GTR, this is about the whole JDM market.

Rob and Ken circa 2010 with their GTS-T's ( both spec M)

The R32 may not have been the problem, but it sure was part of the cause. See, in 2010 Canada enjoyed the 15 year rule, allowing us in the Pacific North West above the border with the US to get cheap cars from Japan. Cars 15 years or older can almost unconditionally be imported into Canada, then just need a few things (sometimes none) to pass an inspection, customs clearance and then, registered on the road. BTW when I say "cheap", I mean CHEAP. At one point I remember searching and finding a Twin Turbo (Auto) JZA80 Supra for 2K CAD. GTS-T's at that time we seldom over $5,000 in Japan, and local ones worth less. It was thought at the time that a car in Japan was worth more, as it was in it's finest condition at that time (more on that later). In the US however, they have a 25 year rule meaning cars must be 10 years older to import there, and each state has different requirements for inspection. I will however note, that some states are basically a given when it comes to a pass. So during the boom of JDM culture, Canada had the upper hand. We just didn't know it.

R32 GTR by the seaside in Vancouver, BC, Canada

The GTS-T was, at the time not much cooler than a 240SX (S13 chassis). The local market had no dreams of holding these cars for a day when the prices would shoot up, nobody thought of them as investments. We even mocked people with a GTS-T, being sub par to a GTR. We mocked even more when it was Naturally Aspirated (NA), or worse, AUTO NA..... We traded and sold these cars for what they were at the time, much as we may with any USDM car (United States Domestic Market, or, Dodge Caliber LOL). Then 2014 hit us, and the madness started. At that time the 1989 manufactured skylines, the first of the R32 became US legal, and that was something Japan knew about. So they raised their prices, in turn, the world followed suit.

Rob and Ken's dual GTS-T's

Remember back in the article when I said a car in Japan was thought to be worth more? Well, back to that. See, as JDM enthusiasts the mecca of that is the J, Japan. In Japan, cars are routinely inspected and held to a high standard when it comes to roadworthiness. There is little to no rusted cars in Japan (relatively speaking, they don't really have snow and don't salt like we do) and all those big name tuners and celebrities who made these cars known, like JUN, ENDLESS, Smokey Nagata, all are in the motherland. Cars in Japan are the best and most pristine they can be to us foreign buyers, and I would largely support that statement, having seen hundreds of imported vehicles myself. In the cities of japan like Yokohama and Tokyo, the pricing stayed low for some time, cars still being traded at lower prices for years to come, however in 2014 the ports were awakened by the sound of cash-rich Americans clambering at the auction-house doors.

Cars&Coffee Vancouver - Random (but nice) R32 Shiro

This 25 year rule brought with it all the American money, and nobody was paying attention. Caught sleeping, Canadians and others alike, started to realize they were sitting on a pot of gold. Canadians being just north of the United States of Money meant we could sell of our cars to those not willing to go to Japan or buy sight-unseen from auction. When we did that, we fueled the fire in Japan, those auction houses soon heated up and by 2015, 2016 a GTS-T like those pictured above, was now worth 100%-200% more. Supply & Demand 101. This picked up and continued over the following years with all cars of any interest to outside countries, but now Japan knows how hungry the American market is, ALL prices are high on anything worth having, 15 or 25 years. The Skyline was the catalyst, and there is no end in sight. Needing to fuel the market, people have immigrated to Japan specifically to source local cars to bring to auction houses. This has furthered pricing increases as the reach of the "buyers" expands into the cities and rural areas. Simple, as there is more competition to find cars, they search new regions and places. Buyers in Japan are often a group of men driving round with cash, and a flat-deck truck looking to offer a low price for a car an owner might be willing to part with, in order to make a profit. There is nothing wrong with it, but this is pushing pricing further and further up, and a key reason to why your next JDM will, without question, cost more than the last.

Buyers in Japan leaving fliers on cars offering cash for cars, we got this on one of ours cars on private property, way at the back of a peach field. They stop at nothing to try to buy inventory there!
Ports in Japan teeming with cars ready for export, this is a daily occurrence.
Our Mark ii Grande, 2010 this would be a 2K car. It cost over $15K in 2020

So. It is important to note, it is not the skyline, America or buyers in Japan to blame for all this. There is no blame, the fact is this; there is a market which demands supply and there will forever be growth of that market, and supply will continue to diminish.

As these cars get older and some 19 year old wraps more of them round polls at cars&coffee meets (please lord, take the Mustangs!) we are going to see prices rise. Get yours while you can. Or, watch us and ours at Let us know in the comments section below what your experience is with JDM/importing and ownership. Can't wait to hear from you!

SushiCars Team

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