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Ridiculous as they may sound - and may be - the sky-high asking prices for JDM classics reflect just how much faith some have in their value appreciating.

14 Feb 2022

Another day in the life of a Singaporean petrolhead, another day of looking at the incredulous asking prices of our cars and shaking our heads in tired, numb resignation?

Not quite. 

While most of us may indeed have accepted that cars here will be priced in an inordinately exorbitant manner, something comes along every now and then to blow our expectations out of the water. Case in point: This listing of a 1984 AE86 Sprinter Trueno.

S$488,888 can get you many, many other things (like the car here) - automotive or otherwise - in Singapore 
With a six-figure price tag containing more eights than the average person will see in their lifetime of angbaos, the 38-year old car's asking price comes dangerously close to breaching the half million mark. 

As a Reddit user on r/singapore puts it, how is a 38-year old Toyota AE86 selling for $488,888? That's nearing the price territory of a brand new 503bhp BMW M4 Coupe. It's the price of a Mercedes-AMG E53 Saloon. Heck, it's the price of a good number of those BTO apartments that HDB just launched in its latest exercise. 

Let's try to break down some of the disbelief that has arisen from listing. There is, of course, the very baseline that cars are extremely taxing (financially and otherwise) assets to take charge of in Singapore.

Half a million for a house and half a million for a car feel like very different dinner-table discussions with your other half. Half a million for a 38-year old Toyota? You might as well cut the chase and just exile yourself from the house.

It's apparently not uncommon for a well-kept Mk4 Toyota Supra, featured in The Fast and Furious franchise, to sell for a hundred grand in the U.S. 
But then this isn't just any 38-year old Toyota. JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) classics, JDM legends, or simply JDM cars - call them however you want, but there is little contesting which names fall into this group of automotive stars that came out of Japan in the nineties. The AE86 is certainly as classic or legendary as they get. 

We'll note first that seeing nineties JDM cars go into six-figure territory - and we're talking peak-of-Mt-Akina heights - isn't as uncommon as you might expect. Back in November last year, we spotted an FD Mazda RX-7 on our Used Car listings with a pretty price tag of $358,000 (it's unclear when exactly the listing began, but the car has yet to be sold). 

And it's not just on our shores too that this surge of demand has been observed. In the U.S.A., where prices for a brand-new Porsche Taycan start at slightly over USD$82,000, the Mk4 Toyota Supra has routinely neared the golden USD$100,000 mark (one even sold for USD$199,800). Similar upward trends exist for other poster stars of the era, like the first-gen Subaru WRX STi. 

Although classic cars have emerged as appreciating assets, experts warn against expecting quick returns, and advise that they should still be driven regularly 
Here, we return to the point that we initially raised. "Cars are depreciating assets" only holds true in as much as we're talking about cars that don't lay claim to any history whatsoever.

Classic cars are apparently starting to establish themselves as legitimate investments, with multiple indices showing that certain well-selected models are actually capable of holding their value well (although much hinges on restoration, and the condition of the car). While conceptions of 'classic' used to skew European, the Japanese are also surely coming into their own

JDM cars may surely not be - or never be - at the point where they're being auctioned off for USD$48 million

But a perfect storm of advantageous factors, including painstaking maintenance over the decades, the fact that they're no longer in production, and above all, nostalgia and fandom - blazing fandom, which arguably outstrips that of any other fandom in the motoring world - is driving their prices up.

Toyota demonstrated its keen awareness of the hype around the AE86 when it unveiled this Toyota 86
As the group that was in its adolescence as these cars poured onto the scene, it is also millenials - now earning their own keep - that comprises most of the people shelling out solid amounts of cash to buy them.

The AE86 Sprinter Trueno embodies this last point on fandom most strongly, thanks in no small part to its place in motorsports culture.

As a nineties drifting star, further elevated to cult status by the manga-turned-anime (turned-film), Initial D, the twin-cam powered sports hatch stands tall, if not tallest, among the most elite of JDM classics with its pop-up headlights. You'll be hard pressed to find a unit now without the signature black and white look, or the Japanese words 'Fujiwara Tofu Store', stenciled onto the sides. 

All of this, of course, still doesn't answer the question of how exactly it sells at S$488,888. As of 2021, the record for an AE86 Sprinter Trueno had apparently been £46,250 (or S$86,500 using exchange rates at that point), for a 1987 production model with almost 150,000km travelled in the U.K. - a more than four-fold increase over its original price. That's still a far cry off what we have when we factor all the requisite Singaporean taxes in. 

OEMs themselves have started to recognise the value of classic cars - Toyota announced last year that it would supply parts for the AE86 for a limited time under Gazoo Racing Heritage Parts
It's quite clear to most of us observers that the half-a-million price tag stands more as a litmus test, rather than a precise valuation, of the car's price. (For an even more ridiculous example of testing the waters, look to this S$888,888 listing of another FD Mazda RX-7; the description makes no attempt to mask its unserious nature with a simple 'Let's go.')

Yet how much the AE86 will - or should - ultimately sell for is a question that genuinely has no fixed answer. Value, after all, is undeniably in the eye of the beholder, and legacy is an incredibly intangible quality - impossible to put an objective price on.

As enthusiasts all over the world will tell you, however, be careful how much you pay. We don't want to change the very core of what these legends mean to us.

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ae86  jdm  initial d  supra  r34  gtr  gt-r  rx-7  rx7