Over the last four decades, the Japanese auto industry has enjoyed a fantastic boom. Gearheads from all corners of the globe have continuously demanded the practicality, reliability, simplicity, and even more importantly, the affordability that JDM cars offer. Companies like Toyota, Mitsubishi, Mazda, and Nissan developed some of the best cars throughout the ’90s and marked them with lower price tags compared to their European rivals.
With that said, the recent market dynamics have led to an increase in the price of some classic Japanese classic cars. The most popular collector targets have skyrocketed in prices. Now, they are worth many times more than their original prices when they first rolled out of the factory. The Nissan Skyline and Toyota Supra are some of these cars that gained a cult-like following, leading to the price hikes. A car buff looking for something from the ’90s Japanese market might have to do some heavy, extensive searching, as cars in good condition are far apart, and sometimes unreasonably pricey. As a result, this article will explore nine of the most reliable Japanese sports cars that haven’t skyrocketed in price yet.
9 Nissan Silvia S13 ($9,000)
If you are looking for a good platform for a drift car, the s13 is one of the coolest places you can start to look. Its RWD platform with near-perfect 50-50 weight distribution is perfect for drifting around the corners. Although the stock 155 hp motor won’t break any necks, the engine provides a solid base for forced induction and enormous tuning potential. This only means that you can easily squeeze out upwards of 400 hp pretty reliably. Weighing in at just 2,500 pounds, that’s a lot of power.
Although the s14 came later and had a better interior and a rounder silhouette, its price is still higher than that of an S13. Since some can go for as low as $7,000, an S13 gives you a fun, affordable, and reliable sports car experience alongside great tuning potential to turn it into a killer sleeper.
8 Toyota MR2($20,000)
It’s not hard to see why the Toyota MR2 was nicknamed ‘the poor man’s Ferrari.’ Fanatics could list a myriad of reasons why the MR2 should make a comeback. This car delivered serious performance from the onset. Its production ran from 1984 to 2005, in three generations, the W10, W20, and W30.
The MR2 is a lightweight, coming in at just under 2,200 lbs, giving it an excellent power to weight ratio. It’s over-engineered, meaning it can handle big power without many hiccups. Some builders have been able to get so much power out these tiny monsters that they laugh at 10-second time slips. Prices for an MR2 in excellent condition will range anywhere from $15,000 to $25,000.
7 Nissan 300ZX ($6,500)
The 300ZX was a real icon of 90s performance vehicles and offered plenty of options to choose from. The turbocharged version could pump out 300bhp at 283lb-ft of torque, giving it a 0-60 mph time of just 5 seconds. It had a very nice interior and the car won multiple awards from recognized auto journalists. On top of that, the 300ZX dominated in various racing divisions in its class.
Besides its sporty looks, it had advanced technology and provided top-of-the-range performance for its time. The V6 engine gives it immense power, but there is no limit to the tuning mods available. Since Nissan made numerous of these, you can still find some of these twin turbo 300ZX for dirt cheap. Just keep in mind that its crammed engine bay can make it pretty difficult to work on. Most likely, you’ll have to go for the naturally-aspirated models at this price point, at least if you’re not interested in a serious project.
6 Mitsubishi 3000GT ($10,000)
The Mitsubishi 3000GT was simply ahead of its time. This car was a mark of Mitsubishi’s long and focused attempts to find the perfect car. The 3000GT is particularly rare, and it’s harder to find one in good condition. Hard top convertibles during this era were uncommon, as manufacturers were not ready to enter the competition.
Back in the ’90s a new 3000GT VR4 cost about $64,000, which is well over six figures when adjusted for inflation. It featured Electronically Controlled Suspension (ECS), hydraulic all-wheel steering, and a twin turbo V6. These features, as well as a 6-speed manual transmission, made it stand out against the other cars available at the time. Prices have been on the rise in recent years for this collectible, and will soon surpass the current range of $7000-$9000.
5 Honda Prelude Si (6,000)
The Honda Prelude was an underrated everyday sports coupe that featured space age technology. It offered multiple exciting features and redefined the joy of driving in a defined way. The Prelude had cool styling and a trademark moon roof that appealed to the young (in the ’90s) who sought a well-built car that had a sporty, fun personality. Preludes had the option of a V6 engine, but the standard in line four was well capable.
A Honda Prelude featured independent front suspension for enhanced ride comfort and steering, four-wheel steering, and power steering. Inside, it had refined luxury features, a minimalist layout, and high build quality. A limited-slip diff mitigates wheel spin and allows you to have better traction on slippery surfaces. Its precise 5-speed manual transmission gives you an engaging and enjoyable driving experience. The great thing about it is that a Honda Prelude in the current market is quite inexpensive, with prices averaging at just above $6,000.
4 Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX ($8,500)
It’s worth noting that a Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX is one of the hard-to-find ’90s Japanese sports cars today. Weirdly, these rare cars seem to have an undeserved bad reputation. The Eclipse is powered by a four-cylinder turbo engine on a four-wheel drive system that is pretty good. It is a lightweight car with a good weight balance, giving it great handling.
Thanks to the Fast and Furious films, a lot of people got these cars and modified them. The Eclipse was only too happy to receive these mods, as it was built to be an excellent canvas for tuners to go bonkers on. From body kits to aftermarket performance, a Mitsubishi Eclipse is a perfect sports car for both beginner and experienced owners. A 1998 Mitsubishi can cost anything near $8,000, depending on its current condition.
3 Lexus SC300 ($9,000)
The Mk4 Supra has got to be Japan’s proudest car creation from the 90s era. It sported the legendary twin-turbocharged 2JZ engine that is renowned for being bulletproof, and can take extreme mods to push to over 1000HP! Many car enthusiasts have always wanted to own one, but the prices are very steep as they are valued at almost 6 figures now.
The good news is, that the Supra had a little brother, the Lexus SC300. This car is essentially a Supra with a Lexus badge. So it got a more luxurious ride, with a softer suspension, higher quality interior, and better technology, while sharing the same 3-liter 2JZ engine as the Supra. Sadly though, it ditched the twin turbos, so stock it makes 225 hp, but you can still go bonkers with the modifications available for the 2JZ. For such a great car, a price tag ranging from around $9,000 to $17,000, depending on the odometer reading, is a fantastic deal.
2 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport ($8,000)
Speaking of the most reliable cars from the 90s, this comes as close to the best as possible. You can put thousands upon thousands of miles on these things, and they still run as good as new (of course with proper care). It holds up nicely to modifications as well. Depending on the setup, one can make decent power out of it. There are tons of aftermarket upgrades and kits available for performance and looks.
As far as sports cars go, most of them have a hard time even getting on a raised pavement, but not for this legend. You can take it to virtually any snowstorm and even do some moderate off-roading. It gives you excellent fuel consumption, while not compromising on performance, making it the most practical daily car on this list.
1 Mazda FC RX-7 ($15,000)
This hatchback RX-7 looked cool and sporty and was the second of three generations. It went into production in the ’80s and lasted to 1991, after which it was replaced by the legendary FD RX-7. However, the FC RX-7 still holds a lot of respect and value, making it one of the most expensive models on this list. This coupe had a rear-wheel drive system and was powered by a lightweight rotary engine. Its angular, boxy styling will stand out from what is commonplace in the market today.
They drive great, are neat and vintage, and more and more people are starting to buy them up. Nowadays, these are worth $14,000-15,000, but prices could go higher as they are not very easy to find.
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