5 Japanese classics spicing up 2023’s Monterey auctions

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The Monterey auctions never fail to conjure visions of seven- and eight-figure Ferraris, exclusive Porsches, and a litany of race cars with incredible provenance. However, exceptional Japanese cars have started to gain a strong foothold at the Monterey auctions of late, with an increase of significant, valuable models available.

This year continues that trend—auction houses have carefully curated their Japanese collector-car options with some top-flight examples. Whether you’re a Japanese car enthusiast or just a casual observer, it’s worth keeping an eye on the five heavy hitters below—as segment leaders, the sale of these cars may serve as indicators of the trajectory of this increasingly popular corner of the market.


1997 Subaru Impreza 22B-STI Prototype

1997 Subaru Impreza 22B-STI Prototype front three quarter

Bonhams, Lot 90

The 22B-STI is the undisputed king of the Subarus. The scrappy company known for all-wheel drive put a huge mark on the World Rally Championship with the 22B-STI in the mid-’90s, and in so doing won the hearts of enthusiasts the world over. Built to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Subaru as well as its third World Rally Championship (WRC) win in a row, production of the 22B was limited to 400 units. What Subaru delivered to buyers was about as close to a road-going WRC car as you could get. Subaru’s tuning division, Subaru Tecnica International, installed a comprehensive aero kit, upgraded suspension, big brakes, a potent 2.2-liter flat-four engine putting out a conservative 276 horsepower, and the cherry on top— gold BBS wheels, which would come to be iconic on all special Subarus.

Any 22B coming up for sale is worthy of celebration, but this one offered by Bonhams takes the hype up a couple notches. You see, this is the first prototype 22B, number 000/400, and it shows only 49 miles on the clock.

When Subaru released the 22B, it offered up the first five to its team and drivers. The honors of owning the first ever 22B? Well, that went to none other than David Lapworth of Prodrive, the man who put Subaru atop the WRC summit. Adding to that, this is the only 22B produced in 1997—all the others were made in 1998. The enormity of this opportunity for Subaru WRC fans cannot be understated. This car, estimated to sell between $450,000–$550,000, could very well set a new high-water mark for 22B prices.

1967 Toyota 2000GT

1967 Toyota 200 GT yellow front three quarter
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Broad Arrow, Lot 151

Toyota’s 2000GT deserves a lot of credit for the recognition of the rise of the Japanese collector-car market. It was the first Japanese car to strike it big and garner an immense amount of attention from enthusiasts who previously never thought that a Japanese car could be that collectible. It is also the first Japanese car to crack the $2 million mark at auction, with the sale of a Shelby-backed example at Amelia in 2022. Though Broad Arrow’s 2000GT is not likely to break that record (its sale estimate is $850,000–$1.1M), it will garner attention for being a left-hand-drive example.

Today’s segment trendsetter was yesterday’s halo car that put Toyota on the map. Developed with help from Yamaha, Toyota set out to create a world-class GT car. Though it never sold in significant numbers, it racked up racing wins in Japan as well as in SCCA and was even featured in a Bond film.

Toyota 2000GTs are an uncommon sight in the auction world—to only see one a year is not unheard of. Most of them are right-hand-drive, and while American buyers don’t seem to be too turned off by that fact, left-hand-drive examples like this one are greatly preferred. This undoubtedly comes from the ease of driving (anyone who has driven a RHD car in the U.S. knows the difficulty) as well as the fact that only 62 examples were delivered in LHD configuration out of 351 produced, making this example exceedingly rare.

1995 Honda NSX Type R

1995 Honda NSX type R white front three quarter
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Broad Arrow, Lot 110

Honda’s NSX (branded as an Acura for the US market) is always in the conversation when it comes to the most balanced sports cars of the ’90s. Borrowing from lessons learned in Formula 1, Honda’s engineers poured themselves into a car that could take on and beat Ferrari on the street just as they did on the circuit. Adding to the car’s development was input from none other than F1 legend, Ayrton Senna, which resulted in a razor sharp sports car. After its introduction, Honda decided to take the NSX a step further. This resulted in the NSX Type R, which launched the Type R name that has remained in Honda lexicon for three decades. Everything about the Type R is just more hardcore: weight was obsessively removed to the tune of 120 kilograms (265 pounds), the engine blueprinted and tuned for optimal performance, transmission gearing revised, and a sharper-handling suspension installed.

Only 483 examples of the NA1-series NSX Type Rs were produced from 1992-1995, and scant few of them have come to market publicly. In fact, only one has been offered at auction in the U.S. prior to this example. The one here is presented with exceptionally low kilometers, showing merely 7000 (4300 miles) on the clock, and sports options such as a radio and air conditioning (remember, this is a track weapon, not a street cruiser). While the sole previous U.S. sale came in at $305,993, this one has seen less use and the opportunity to buy an NSX Type R is exceedingly rare. Those factors suggest the $550,000–$650,000 estimate makes sense. If this car blows the roof off of the Jet Center sale, expect to see more of these come out of hiding.

1970 Nissan Fairlady Z 432


Mecum, Lot S82

Without a doubt, this is among the most desired of all Nissan Z-cars. And, with only 420 produced, it’s not often you see a Fairlady Z 432 come to public sale.

You’d be forgiven if you are not familiar with the Z 432. Imagine the 240Z we got in the U.S., but with the wick turned up. With the domestic success of the “Hakosuka” Skyline GT-R (1969–72), Nissan decided to drop the GT-R’s S20 dual-overhead cam engine into the Fairlady Z. The S20 engine was legendary in Japanese racing series at the time, powering the Prince R380 race car and mopping up the competition in the Japanese touring circuit in the GT-R. Nissan called its hot-rodded Z-car the Z 432 for its four valves per cylinder, three carburetors, and two camshafts.

Not since 2019 has a Z 432 come up publicly in North America, so this thoroughly restored example will undoubtedly attract a number of Japanese car collectors looking for a car worthy of centerpiece status in their collection. The estimate from $350,000–$450,000 blows any previous sales of a Z 432 out of the water (and tops the Hagerty Price Guide’s Condition #1 value), but the expanded market and increased demand for Japanese cars make this estimate seem less far-fetched than it might look at first glance. Besides, there’s no guarantee we’ll see another one come up for sale any time soon.

2012 Lexus LFA

2012 Lexus LFA white front three quarter
RM Sotheby's/Robin Adams

RM Sotheby’s, Lot 365

What happens when you so obsessively engineer a car that you make the decision to redesign the entire body mid-way through the development process? You get a Lexus LFA.

For Toyota, who had never built a supercar, the LFA represented a feat of engineering prowess that needed to represent the company’s identity while still delivering a world-class supercar experience. As a result, the LFA may not look as unhinged as a Lamborghini or have the same prestige as Ferrari, but it absolutely deserves to stand in their ranks. Every detail of this car is meant to make it faster, from a body that channels air exactly where it is required to a V-10 engine that revs from idle to 9000 rpm in 0.6 seconds and sounds straight out of a ’90s Formula 1 car.

While the LFA wasn’t a sales success, with many sitting in dealerships for months to reportedly years in some cases, it is now a highly coveted collector item. From early 2021 to 2022, these cars doubled in value, topping out at nearly $1 million for a standard model, and handily cracking the seven-figure mark for the Nürburgring edition. This 47-mile example offered by RM Sotheby’s is about as close to brand-new as you can get, so it should tell us a lot about the top end of the LFA market.




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