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