Life has been anything but normal lately, but there are few greater mysteries than the rising price of classic Japanese cars.
Yesterday, a 1998 Subaru Impreza 22B STi sold for $312,555 on auction platform Bring A Trailer. A car which wasn’t production number one or even 400, and a car which didn’t have delivery miles either (rather a not-high-but-not-low 40,000km).
It’s a special car, there’s no denying that. The 22B gained a 2.2-litre flat four, BBS wheels, those iconic wide arches, and it existed to celebrate Subaru’s 40th anniversary. It was also relatively well priced at its launch. $41,600 in the US (£39,995 in the UK) was expensive for a Japanese car, but a fraction of its European counterparts.
Dare I say, when you think of a ‘classic’ Impreza, the 22B is what comes to mind, even though it served little to Subaru’s motorsport program.
Collectible car prices going sky-high is not news though. Look at Renault 5 GT Turbos, once £500 snotters now changing hands for £15,000, and that’s before you get to a spicy model. How about the MkIV Toyota Supra? Actually, scrap that… How about the R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R? You’ll struggle to find one of those for under £100,000 now and that’s before you throw a V-Spec or Nür badge on the back.
It seems that ever since the impending threat of an EV future has been realised, the desire for ICE-powered classics has fast-tracked into stratospheric levels. At this rate, we’ll have no choice but to buy EV cars in 2030 because anything even remotely interesting with an engine will be worth too much. And I can’t work out if that’s a good or bad thing.
On one side, it’s incredible to see these cars which we grew up idolising being properly recognised for what they are, rather than being shunned for being cheap, Japanese tat. In fact, if you’re fortunate enough to own any form of mildly interesting Japanese car from the 1990s you’ll be feeling quite good about the potential to make some money when you sell it.
But on the other side it defies the point of what made these cars so good the first time around. They were affordable, accessible performance. They were often classed as underdogs, and in a world of exotics and German super saloons, models like the Impreza WRX STi and Lancer Evolution were disruptors. Faster, more agile and cheaper than anything else, albeit without the prestigious badge on the front.
Then, you give one to a madman with a laptop and watch the real tuning magic happen.
These cars were two fingers up to the established sports car industry, just like the R35 GT-R was in 2007 when it went around the Nürburgring faster than a Porsche 911 Turbo for less than half the price. Now? You can spec a Nismo GT-R to cost even more than a Porsche Turbo S.
22Bs have been listed for hundreds of thousands of dollars for a while now, but I always assumed they were just optimistic dealers hoping someone would find their listing reassuringly expensive. Yesterday’s auction gave us a realistic indication of just how much people are willing to pay currently, and I can’t help but feel it’s utter madness.
So then, Speedhunters audience, what’s your opinion on the state of Japanese collector cars? Is this really what the future looks like, or have we all been locked down a tad too long? Let us know in the comments section below…
Photos by Bring A Trailer
Additional Photos by Mark Riccioni
Hyundai VelosteR BTS EDITION
The extreme rise in prices scares me to death. In a time where everything is getting expensive, its almost impossible to keep up with the car market.
Cars that were toys just a few years ago become collector items. (S chassis, FC RX7s etc) It has layed the bar to get into cars ridiculously high.
I honestly hope that these "collectors" will realize that what they have are just old, fun cars and that they will become more obtainable again for people that dont have supercar money.
Do you see what boomers will pay for a 100 year old ford?
It's not because 100 year old fords were fast. It's not because they didn't make millions of them. It's because their dad had one when they were a kid. The 22b is a video game car we all grew up with. Some zoomer (we've come full circle) made it big in bitcoin and decided he needed subaru's ultimate unicorn.
At this point if you have a property to keep it on and have the cash to do so, if it has a manual transmission and would be considered "neat" by most car people, buy it and store it. Emissions and this EV crap is only going to get more common, not vice versa.
The sad thing to me is that the market on "non-collector car" siblings of these prestige models also suffers really hard from this trend. Since the halo car versions like GT-Rs etc. get so out of reach, the standard models also rise quite a lot in price as people start to turn to them as an "affordable" alternative. That also has effect on the parts market obviously, which can lead to spare parts becoming so expensive that it's not even possible for the average Joe to keep such a car on the road. Hope this trend will see a turnaround some day
this is ridiculous, imho these cars are being overvalued and eventually something will give and we will see a price drop.
dream on. won't happen. it's called supply and demand.
The B22 is iconic no doubt. Here in my country, even die-cast 22B prices are marked-up at crazy price due to its popularity and "rarity". At some car meet, I have heard that some Scooby emblems had been ripped-out by overly enthusiastic Subaru fans.
Funny enough while reading through this article, I totally forgot that I have a Hot Wheels 22B sitting on my desk
Really nice casting and a neat little car which I'll keep for a long time also RIP Ryu Asada
The rising prices have nothing to do with EV.
It's just a side effect of cental banks printing money like crazy to avert economic catastrophe, and money has to go somewhere. It's been happening for 10+ years.
When the crash comes cars like this and Porsches for example will lose some of their value as some "collectors" will try to liquidate. Most will probably just hang on to them waiting for them to go back up in price. Shame.
This is the same thing that happened to 350-powered Chevelles and 383 Roadrunners onces the SS and Hemi cars became unobtainium.
This is why I'll never sell any of my bikes or my 850 Turbo. There's the regret, but also the knowledge that I'd never be able to replace them.
It's a demographics issue that drives the special interest car market/demand/value phenomina. Around 20 years after the cars were new, the young enthusiasts who lusted after them have grown up and now have the disposable income to buy them.
The same thing happened to when baby boomers created a huge demand for 1960's American muscle cars in the late '80's and 1990's.
For what it's worth, you could buy and older car relatively cheaply right now- the demand for American pre-WWII cars is dying (literally).
That's true. But that's like saying that you can't have your high school crush when you're both in high school - you can have her 30 years later, after she's had three kids and an ugly divorce.
It was always going to happen. We have to remember that the kids who grew up with these cars now have kids of their own that are leaving home. They have also most likelly paid off their mortgages so have more disposable income than they did previously, so they are buying the cars they wanted as teens. Its the same thing that happened with steel 32 fords, 57 chevys and it will probably happen with the popular cars for as long as theres cars. I think in some ways its a good thing as the best cars will be preserved for future generations but the downside is it prices the cars out of less well off enthusiasts reach. On the plus side it may mean parts get remanufactured due to the cars being restored because the value has gone up. Look at the split screen buses, people are restoring ones that a few years ago were thought too far gone (basicly their buying a registration book and building whole new buses) to be worth it
I have recently purchased two FD RX-7s after wanting to own a piece of Mazda rotary history for nearly 20 years.
I drive one of the cars fairly regularly and am in the process of restoring the second one. While the trend SUGGESTS (key word) that I could sell them for a profit, I am saddened by the current state of affairs.
You cannot argue with supply and demand, but I also mourn for the days when you could buy one of these cars for relatively cheap and flog them at your local autocross or racetrack without much of a care in the world (well, aside from worrying about the rotary)!
I am grateful to see the rotary community maintain its DIY/humble aura despite rising prices, but I can’t help but worry that those days will change if RX-7 prices approach those of Supra and R34 prices.
I am sure folks felt the same way about muscle cars in the 90s when those prices were skyrocketing. These cycles happen, but the best we can do is continue to enjoy these cars for as long as we can!
I am also slightly concerned about the JDM scene as a whole when I see rising prices shifting the perception from good, cheap fun to clout and rare/expensive parts simply for the sake of their value as opposed to how they may (or may not) enhance the vehicle.
I’ll get off of my soap box. You can’t fight with supply and demand, but I hope to keep the classic JDM spirit alive. It is what attracted me to the scene when I was a young teen. Keep driving these cars!
No, don't get off that soap box
I completely agree with literally everything you said mate and I don't think you need to be apologetic in the slightes for it
The 22B is arguably the pinnacle Subaru. If this was a similarly rare or special Ferrari/Lamborghini, nobody would surprised. In fact, it would probably be considered ridiculously affordable as it would more than likely have an extra digit
I am so exasperated by all this. Yet we'll just keep being told to get used to it, get ever more desensitised to how ridiculous and farcical this all is and so the bar will continue to get raised/lowered (depending on your view) yet further as we watch on and see everything we wanted soar uncontrollably out of reach for nothing.
This is not something that's really new in the world of cars once they reach 20+ years, eventhough I agree it seems to escalate faster and faster. Take a look at what happened with the Golf Mk1 GTI or the Peugeot 205 GTI during the last 15 years, once the tuning scene started to die and collectors (more often they are more investors than collectors) started to find interest in these cars. They aren't particularly rare, in Europe into every single car meet you'll find handfuls of these GTIs, there's plenty of them up for sale at any time. They aren't particularly beautiful or elegant or well executed either, a Peugeot 205 GTI will stay a simple 205 no matter what. In spite of this they've reached ridiculously high prices. Even Golf Mk2 GTIs are reaching high prices for a car that all in all, stays pretty basic.
The same thing happened before that with the Renault 5 Turbo (the mid-engined one) and now with the 5 GT Turbo as you've mentionned. Before that it was the Alpine A110 and Renault 8 Gordini. Before that a Porsche 356 was the holy grail now it's the 911.
We won't see the end of it, and electric vehicules or not this will go on forever. When people start paying the price of a decent house for an used car I believe it goes even further than people reaching a certain age, not having kids at home anymore, having paid their mortages and wanting to buy the car they were dreaming of when they were teens... It's an investment like any other investement and sadly most of the times these cars won't be driven anymore or see the sun light until they are sold to someone else and so on, and so on.
Whether we like it or not and no matter how it happened, that's another topic, during the last couple of decades the number of people with extremely deep pockets (and I'm talking about fortunes here) went up more than ever. That's just another example of how it transpires everywhere. Who else can buy Richard Mille watches for almost a million of dollars, or $300.000 for a Subaru. That's out of touch with reality but some people have the means to live in a different reality..
As far as you can love watches or Subarus, it totally doesn't make any sense, but I guess we're just peasants with peasants wonders
Honestly this is just getting way out of hand especially if this was a performance car made for the general public who can afford it
I hope that this trend turns around so that I can afford it again
The 22B was not a regular Impreza.
Honestly now that I'm looking at this again I can see why the 22B is going for so much
It's a rare homologated model and this is definitely one of the most special Subarus out there
I have an R32 GTS-T. As much as I would consider getting a GT-R instead, I couldn't afford one at the time. Now they are moving closer to unobtanium. I don't plan on selling my R32. She's a fine car and I enjoy working on her too! Bring on the road trips and such! Maybe I will make enough money some day to have a GT-R too?
All it takes is someone bidding to jack up the prices on these types of auctions... add that to the rarity of the car to the mix and you have seller making huge profits. This type of trend is unsustainable and it will crash without a doubt...
BaT is ruining the car market for enthusiasts. Thanks to them we are seeing the cost of MK4 Supras and ITR's going for ridiculous and frankly unwarranted prices. When this happens, every owner who has one sees it and suddenly thinks their's should also go for that much. You can say that the market will self-correct, however, a lot of these cars will now be locked away due to their newfound "value" and kept out of the hands of the drivers who would otherwise drive and enjoy them.
BaT like all auctions are a double edge sword... Helps you see some good cars but these new gimic fractional car ownerships and clueless kids flush with internet money that want to post their latest acquisition on their instagram or youtube channel look at BaT and bid it up to unrealistic prices... I've even come across a few buyers that dont even know how to drive a manual and buying these cars... lol
Its nice to see that the 1980 RX7 I've had for the past 38 years will be going up in value. I still drive it like I stole it but at least I can justify the cost of a respray and body work to the misses now.
A couple of years ago i was sure the car bubble would explode ... well it clearly hasn’t.
The reason being mentioned above in the comments, special cars have simply become investments. When was the last time you saw a 205 GTI out in the wild ? I own a 2010 Clio 3 RS and prices of these aren’t coming down anymore, they’re actually starting to rise.
On all levels, from a simple 80ies French Hatchback to a lightweight Porsche, these cars cost stupid money.
Time to search for a better driving Impreza P1 than this 22B ... only 1000 produced, already a lot have crashed .... but what a bonkers car.
The hobby is changing, has changed since I bought my first car. People who have money to spend on cars like this have changed the hobby. Cars I wouldn't have paid $1000 for are now up around the $15,000 price tag. Several changes seem to fuel this, emission laws, the move towards electric vehicles and hybrids and cars getting restored to near perfect condition. Who wants to spend $300,000 to restore a car to meticulous standards then drive it? Probably a few, but these people have money and see it as an investment.
Reading through all the comments, theories behind the ridiculous rise in car prices from all of you I think back to all the cars I sold since getting into this hobby, the ones now I wish I'd kept, not for the high dollar value, but for the mere fact that I miss driving them. I miss spending time working on them as well, it meant more than the money I did or didn't get when I sold them. Hopefully all of you, us, will think longer before we make the deal to part with them. I know I will.
312,555 dollars? That's an odd number. Was that translated from metric?
Go back and read all of the posts on the BAT auction therad. In an early post, I challenged the winning bidder to make sure that their winning bid ended in 555 just for the sake of homage. To my surprise, many of the bidders played along, including the eventual winning bidder.
Can't speak to the 312 but 555 was THE iconic WRC Subaru sponsor back in it's heyday. Coincidence? Maybe, maybe not...
American capitalism gone wild!! They find a way of ruining everything, including japanese car culture..... well done
yep pretty much america ruins everything .
yeah cool i hope my yaris sells for that much someday...
At least these cars look so much more interesting than Bitcoin. Since the US start printing money price rise happen to everything, Rolex, Japanese whiskey, graffiti art work, college fee.
Can happily say i've driven with one of these following me in anger on a private cruise, so cool.
I think that every single aspect about this market is wrong, except for the fact that these cars really are harder to find in good condition
1. Perception of these cars changing out of nowhere, from journalists to the wider community. Who tf is changing their opinions? What are they? Weak minded? Or is just that the demographic who grew up with these cars finally has a say, in which case NOTHING has changed except geeky kids have grown up and become journalists. By right, every motoring journalist who ever criticised these cars when they were new, including Jeremy Clarkson whom I love, should bow down and apologise for such slandering statements and lack of hindsight. Thats what you call a change
2. The fact that these cars are changing from being perceived as what they really are (sports cars) to clout mobiles and "classics" (which is such a stupid word and only uttered by wooden duck boomers). These cars are appreciated for all the wrong reasons. A cult following is no reason to suddenly respect a car
3. The fact that the people who deserve these cars the most have to work harder and pay more for them. The youngest generation with an appreciation for these cars will have grown up with these cars for the longest time, relatively speaking, will want them the most and are also the rarest generation to appreciate these cars. Yet, it is those kids who will end up getting the shortest end of the stick
Am i hallucinating, or was there another GC limited version that had around 400hp, straight from subaru? Can't find any info on it though.
Honestly looking back at this post I can see why this 22B sold for so much
Because this is a homologation special that is made in very few numbers and this is bound to be a collector's item
Who knows when it'll reach the 7 figure mark...
If prices keep rising it will get to the point where it is cheaper to build your own car, just like it happens with some kit cars.. This is a nice car but what can you do or build with this amount of money? I could probably build my own spaceframe chassi and mount the bodywork on it for that kind of cash..
Who cares, aftermarket sequential transmission, and a maxed out engine build are way more cost effective. These trends rely on you being a fanatic or being overly brand loyal.
This is definitely driving up what used to be cheap cars. I see it as an opportunity to get awesome value in the German sports car market. A decent base Cayman or Boxster can be had for very good value while everyone is looking the other way.
What about BTS veloster?