While film-famous muscle cars stole car auction headlines the world over last week, a few sales in Japan this week had us doing double takes. At Best Heritage (BH) Japan’s Tokyo Terrada auction, a 1973 Nissan Skyline 2000 GT-R and a 1970 Nissan Fairlady Z432R sold for ¥47,300,000 ($430,483) and ¥88,550,000 ($805,700), respectively. The sales set new records for Skylines and Z cars alike, and in doing so blew their #1 (Concours) values in our Hagerty Price Guide out of the water.
The second-generation 1973 Skyline GT-R—chassis code KPGC110—is widely believed to exist exclusively to use up the remaining 2.0-liter S20 inline-six engines from the first generation “Hakosuka” (1968–72/chassis family C10) Skyline GT-R (chassis code KPGC10). The C110-family Skylines were colloquially known as “Kenmeri” Skylines, thanks to a collection of TV ads that depicted a young couple (Ken and Mary) enjoying the car in the Japanese countryside. Just 197 examples of the KPGC110 GT-R were sold, placing this white-on-black example in an exclusive crowd.
As rare as the ’73 Skyline GT-R was, the 1970 Nissan Fairlady Z432R was even harder to come by.
The Z432R is a homologation-special variant of the already-hopped-up Fairlady Z432. The Z432 cribbed the same S20 inline-six from the “Hakosuka” GT-R and was intended as a high-performance variant of the base-model Fairlady Z. The 432 badging refers to the four valves, three carburetors, and two camshafts in the S20 engine. Around 420 examples of the Z432 were built, all of which were sold in Japan and a few of which have since come to U.S. shores.
Stick with me here. Nissan then took somewhere between 30 and 50 Z432s and modified them further, using them as starting points for rally cars. The Z432R dropped more weight, thanks to a radio and heater delete, lightweight acrylic windows, and body panels that were 0.2mm thinner. The resulting car was nearly 100 kilograms lighter than a base Fairlady Z—and a member of an even more elite production run than its cousin, the ’73 Skyline GT-R.
Before we dig into the sales results, a few caveats: Given the scarcity of both of these vehicles, the Hagerty Price Guide does not have a sufficient data set for the 1973 Skyline GT-R or the 1970 Fairlady Z432R. We’ll use the Hagerty valuation data for the 1972 Skyline GT-R and the less-rare 1970 Fairlady Z432 to provide some context.
Prior to this $430,483 result for the 1973 GT-R in Tokyo, the previous record for a Nissan Skyline belonged to a 1972 H/T 2000 GT-R “Hakosuka” that RM Sotheby’s sold in 2014 for $242,000. BH’s ‘73 sold for nearly twice the prior record. That final price in Japan is also nearly double Hagerty’s $220,000 value for a #1 (Concours-condition) 1972 Skyline GT-R, the closest relevant model that we track. For background, the final sale price of RM’s most recent 1973 model-year sale, in 2015, was $176,000.
The Fairlady Z432R’s final price of $805,700 is even more impressive. The previous record for a Fairlady belonged to another 1970 example, a Fairlady Z432 that crossed the block at $253,000 at RM’s 2015 Amelia Island sale. Best Heritage’s Z432R more than triples the previous Fairlady record.
The Z432R sale also more than triples Hagerty’s #1-condition rating for a 1970 Fairlady Z432. Recall that this comparison is not exactly apples-to-apples; our rating is for a Z432, whose production run totaled 420 or so cars. This bonkers Z432R, however, is one of only 30–50 cars. That being said, our data for these non-R-spec cars still provides a helpful backdrop for just how much people value the R model’s rarity.
While these two sales register high in shock value, that doesn’t mean the prices are inexplicable. “I wouldn’t say ‘flash in the pan,’” says Hagerty auction editor Andrew Newton. “These cars are indeed very rare and very special, [fairly] new to market, and selling in their home market.” Hagerty valuation expert Adam Wilcox concurs. “[These sales] are a sign that Japanese classics are continuing to appreciate,” says Hagerty valuation expert Adam Wilcox. “I’m sure that it helped that these legendary cars were auctioned off in their home country, where the fanbase was larger.”
We’ve seen a growing appreciation for Japanese cars in recent years as younger collectors bring their tastes to bear on the larger collector car market. It’s why Hagerty’s 2020 Bull Market list contained not one but two Japanese cars from the ‘90s and 2000’s—cars that, in all but their highest variants, were dime-a-dozen cars not that long ago. But, as is the case with both the Integra Type R and a clean version of the Honda CRX Si, rarity is a collector car’s best friend.
Which brings us back to the Fairlady and the Skyline at hand—why did these cars notch such eye-watering prices?
Both cars represent the pinnacle of their respective nameplates, in period. That they share the same engine is icing on the cake. Now—at least for these two—they can also share in the satisfaction that they’re both the most expensive versions of each nameplate to ever sell at auction.