A few weeks back, we showed you a Japanese automotive ‘graveyard’ home to hundreds of incredible machines.
In between the replies about theft, forced restoration and a tiny bit of genocide, there was one recurring thought shared by many: Are any of them actually for sale?
The short answer was no, because it wasn’t a graveyard at all. But for those hell-bent on buying one of the rare cars pictured, we’ve got a much simpler solution: Go shopping at any of Japan’s used car dealerships.
See the tenuous link we’ve made there?
One of the most dangerous games you can play is the fictitious lottery. It’s free to enter; we’ve all had a dabble at some point. But the time you lose playing it is very real. Or rather, the time after you’ve won your fake millions and start searching for actual cars.
What makes this game especially dangerous is the lower-tier cars you typically forget about. Halo stuff like a Ferrari F40 or McLaren F1 are easy buys. Although ironically, even a real lottery win would struggle to bag one these days.
The proper danger comes when you move that budget slider south of £30,000. And it only gets worse the closer to zero your budget becomes, because every thousand quid less is a thousand quid closer to a car you can actually afford.
‘Wow, I had no idea E55 AMGs were under £5,000 now. I wonder if I offer £2,000 they’ll say yes? Got to be worth a go, they’re clearly skint having owned that kind of car.’
Thankfully, this deadly game is brought crashing back to reality the moment you’re forced to spend actual money. Usually on something irritating (but fairly important) like food or rent. Close browser, fire up Instagram, resume normal service of liking cars instead of buying ‘em.
In Japan it’s a slightly different story, especially around the Tokyo and Yokohama districts. Because this game – usually reserved for Craigslist and Pistonheads – is happening all around you. There just seems to be an endless supply of ridiculously cool car dealerships.
And it’s not just high-end stuff either. Need an AMG G-Wagon? Pay a little visit to specialists ‘Onyx’. How about an entire forecourt full of classic Alpinas? Take a deep breath and head to ‘Pole Position’. My personal weakness? ‘J-Auto’, otherwise known as the undisputed kings of immaculate 500 E/E 500 Mercs.
Every visit to Japan seems to yield a greater number of these shops. Admittedly, I’ve usually lingered around Meguro Dori which Dino has brilliantly covered in the past, but it does seem to be much more prolific here than any other country I’ve been to.
This could be for the very simple reason that I’m approximately 97% more excited in Japan than anywhere else. There’s also a lot less space compared to say America, so that alone makes everything feel more crammed together. On the off chance there was another explanation, and to check I wasn’t going completely mad, I threw the question over to Miguel at Newera Imports. After all, when selling cars is your business, you’ll be familiar with its quirks.
“I guess the simple explanation is demand!” Miguel says. “There are more customers with enthusiasm and money (that they’re happy to part with) here than anywhere else. For instance, in the UK there isn’t that fanatical ‘otaku’ mentality shared by so many here. It’s easy to attribute otaku with obscure sub-cultures often looked upon as being a bit strange, but in reality, it’s just a mindset that can be applied to anything.”
Let it not be said the Japanese don’t approach things with 100% commitment, even when they’re taking on other automotive cultures like lowriding. But what about the sheer quantity of cars being offered, what’s the deal here?
“Just because the cars are rare or unusual doesn’t mean they’re any less difficult to find over here,” adds Miguel. “That’s what makes them desirable; it’s why you’re drawn to ‘em. Generally speaking, if a dealer has the knowledge and expertise to source these types of cars, you’ll assume they’re a safe pair of hands. The more you stock, the greater the appeal.”
“Personally, I love finding super-rare cars for people. It’s what we [Newera Imports] are known for and are very good at. I sold a very special CR-X yesterday. Who’d have thought a CR-X would be so in demand a few years back? The cars in question aren’t all low volume, but condition and spec are absolutely key. That’s something the Japanese really appreciate, and it shows.”
“I can only give you my account on it, but the market has shifted a lot recently. These cars were popular first time around because they were cheap and fun. Now they’re collectible and fun. What you’re actually witnessing is certain cars and eras becoming more popular and sought-after. Most of the dealerships have existed for a long time. But what might have passed you when you were younger – such as an Alpina or AMG – is now very desirable. There will always be a demand for the best cars that aren’t available elsewhere, but what exact cars they are will change almost every year.”
Miguel makes a very good point there. If you’d asked me even 10 years ago what car I’d dream of, it’d have likely been Italian and wedge-shaped. The fact new cars do less and less for me – and having grown up in the ’90s and ’00s – is only going to highlight this era as being infinitely cooler. I’m sure a lot of younger readers will resonate with the more high-end supercars currently, but give it another decade and see how your tastes have changed. Imagine if EP3 Civic Type Rs are looked upon in the same way as EK9s…
Back to the dealerships pictured here. You’ll notice the majority tend to offer servicing as well as sales. That’s just good practice, especially when dealing with obscure models. And while there’s nothing unique about that, I’d argue the sheer frequency of ‘em – combined with a total lack of social media footprint in most cases – is what makes each shop feel like a little treasure trove. That and the simple fact I want to buy everything.
If, after reading that, you still think I’ve completely lost it, give the fictitious lottery a quick bash and let me know which ones you’re buying first below. Dibs on the Alpina B10 though.