The iconic Nissan Skyline r34 GTR

Time to recognise new classics

by Andy Bryenton

The release of the new Toyota Supra has had people musing on which is better — the 21st-century model or the ‘original’ — by which they usually mean the mark four. Then there are those who will cheerfully remind you that the old twin-turbo Nissan Fairlady is faster and better looking than the new one or that the old Civic Type-R is cooler than its high tech grandson.

It’s a phenomenon we’ve seen once before — in the 1980s. Back then, kids born in the 1950s had grown up enough to remember the cars of their youth with nostalgia and pride. Some of these were the mighty hot rods, which were a symbol of newly rebellious teenage freedom in the rock ‘n’ roll era. Piloted by the likes of a young Marlon Brando and James Dean in movies, they were factory coupes and convertibles, tuned up in suburban garages and let out to shock the sensibilities of their time. Kids of that era — now grown-ups — lovingly restored those classics and we still enjoy seeing them today.

Now flash forward, because this might shock the hardcore of hot rod purists. For the 1980s and 1990s kids, there are Japanese classics, which fit the same role. Their James Dean is Paul Walker. Their Bel Air is a Supra, and their Model A Ford is a Skyline. So perhaps it’s time for big car shows to include a section for JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) classics.

New Zealand is the perfect nation in which to collect these cars, as our auto importing laws mean we have the whole deck of cards right here.

If you’re from a certain era, you will know the names — CRX, Silvia, 3000 GT, MR2, Celica GT4, AE86, 200 SX and more. They were the hot hatches and sports coupes of a generation’s youth who tuned them in suburban garages and went out to shock the sensibilities of their time. Now those kids have disposable income, wives, families — and spare space in the double garage. The modern euro-box or crossover SUV doesn’t thrill them and the cars of their wilder days are right there on Trade Me.

There’s one more thing which defines a classic — and those who say that a Japanese car can’t be one will probably chuckle. Moreover, if you can remember when, say, a second hand Nissan Skyline cost enough for a kid to afford, check the prices now.

Massive inflation. Just like a 1950s American V8. That’s the stamp of legitimacy!