One of the most unexpected things to emerge from an unusual 2020 was just how hot the Japanese tuner car collector market is. If you own a well-kept, low-miles, pre-2000 model year, all original sports car or sport compact from one of Japan's OEMs, there's a good chance you might be sitting on a gold mine (possibly an even more lucrative gold mine if that car happens to be imported from the Japanese domestic market). We've seen it repeatedly, and it continues to astound, not just because the sale prices are so astronomical but also because people are still finding barely driven imports from the '90s - like Greg Tariff's 1995 Toyota Supra Turbo.
If his JZA80 looks bone stock, that's because it is, and it's likely gonna stay that way, at least as long as Greg owns it. At this point, you might be asking why Super Street and its fans should care about a car with no mods; to that, we answer our curiosity is in Greg's experience tracking down his dream car, and specifically what the collector market looks like right now if you're hoping to make your '90s Japanese dream car ambitions come true. Greg was kind enough to share his story with us, and in some ways it's nothing like any car-buying encounter we've ever had.
Target: Mk4 Supra
Like most car shoppers, Greg had a list of wants for his A80 Supra purchase - it had to be the turbo model, had to have the 6-speed manual transmission option - but he took it one big step further. "I wanted a car that looked like it was brand new off the showroom floor," he says. "I wanted to feel what it was like to buy this car new in the mid '90s."
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Considering this generation of the Supra last rolled off the assembly line nearly 20 years ago (not to mention what he ended up with was from the '95 model year lineup), it seemed like a pretty tall order. Mk4 Supra don't just grow on trees, and the vast majority we've seen have been driven, a lot, sometimes pretty hard. But after some time, he found one that was darn close to what he was looking for at Ryan Friedman Motor Cars, an exotics dealer based in upstate New York.
It's a Turbo, and 6 speed, with black interior and all original. It's 1 of 59 painted in Alpine Silver for the US market in '95 and came with all of its original paperwork and documentation. It also has just one previous owner who drove it and shows a meager 29,000 miles on its odometer. And, importantly, it is immaculate. This isn't simply a complete 25-year-old Japanese sportscar; it's one that's been cared for meticulously. Greg adds, "It's like sitting in a time capsule."
RFMC was asking $115,000 for the iconic Toyota, but Greg was able to negotiate something a little less than that; out of respect for all parties involved, we won't disclose the final transaction price here, but we will say it was still north of six figures. For context, you can find decent Mk4 Supra in the $40k to $80k range depending on mileage, engine and transmission type, and possible modifications, but you won't get anything nearly as mint as what Greg got. "I still can't believe I spent that much on a Toyota," he admits. "I still think it's crazy, but it brings a smile to my face every time I see the car, let alone drive it, and that's worth it to me."
For What It's Worth
Which begs the question about "worth" and what the classic Japanese collector car market can bear, especially when it comes to something like a Mk4 Supra. While Greg very clearly loves this car, and unquestionably has an affinity for '90s tuner cars in general, there was actually a little investment strategy involved in this particular purchase. Like a lot of people, he was somewhat surprised by the surge in '90s sportscar resale values and, in particular, the increased interest in Japanese cars from that era, but it didn't take long before he recognized opportunity. "It's getting to the point where people are treating these cars like they're multimillion-dollar Ferraris - but to them, it is their Ferrari."
In other words, demand is high, especially for something like a clean, low miles A80 Supra. If you're a collector of J cars or classic Toyota, you almost have to have one in your collection. And as he dove deeper into researching his dream car, it really opened his eyes. "It's a fascinating space how particular these '90s sportscar collectors are. They get down into the fine details, [like] whether it was a manual or not, turbo or non-turbo, what the paint option was and how many were painted / produced for that year, interior colors, original paperwork, records of work performed, is it truly stock with original parts or is there evidence it changed hands multiple times with evidence of being previously modified, etc."
So, while he picked up a Toyota he could only dream about as a young man, he also in the process scored something in good shape he could flip later on. Because he's keeping the Supra long-term and barely driving it, he surmises it'll be worth even more when he ultimately unloads it, and he knows there will always be a buyer for a Supra. If this is his "midlife crisis" car (which, incidentally, is a little too soon for Greg, who's only in his early 30s), he surmises, "I'm ok with having an early midlife crisis as I get to enjoy one of my childhood dream cars and break even, or better yet generate profit when I decide to sell it 10 or so years from now."
Hunting for this Supra has been an education for Greg, to say the least. For instance, while Alpine Silver A80 seem quite rare in the USA for their model year, they're not as uncommon as the Quicksilver versions that were offered in '97 and '98, which he says, "go for crazy money... I've seen some Quicksilver's listed with a price tag of $150K+" Additionally, he learned '95 was the last year for non-Targa hardtop Mk4's (his has the Targa roof) and if you can find one, it's like a needle in the haystack, having only 18 been produced for America in '95. One famous JDM importer Greg spoke with while searching for the right Supra commented that in Japan, when the Mk4 Supra was new, they wanted performance and a majority sold as hardtops, but in the US customers wanted the Targa Sport Roof version so the wind could blow through their hair.
There were larger lessons, too, about navigating the collector space. Greg got some sage advice from his dad, who is also an enthusiast and told him if you are ever going to buy a collector car, you should get one that you can sell on a week's notice if you are in a pinch and make your money back. Greg also learned on his own that highly modified cars are typically a bad financial decision, no matter how you look at it.
Who Buys a 25-Year-Old, Six-Figure Supra
Greg has personal experience in trying to offload a heavily massaged project car. We met him in the mid-2000s when we worked at UrbanRacer.com (pour one out) and featured his custom widebody '02 Celica GTS. Back then he was fresh out of college and scheming his next moves, but today he works at a tech company while advising some amazing startups on the side, such as our friends over at throtl. And he's also got a car-guy pedigree that's as diverse as any we've seen.
His dad was a classic car fan, at one point owning a '68 Mustang that left a positive impression on Greg, and the Celica was actually the first car that Greg ever owned, saving up since he was 12 to buy the FWD coupe. The widebody aero was something Greg designed in college and was able to line up sponsorship to make the kit a reality. The Celica ended up becoming part of the show scene in the Georgia/Florida regions, competing at Hot Import Nights and the like; the platform was also what cemented his love for Toyota, as he got knee-deep into the community through forums and meets.
Greg briefly owned a Datsun 240Z that his parents made him sell (they wanted their garage back and he vows to get one again someday), an AWD '07 BMW 335i xDrive that he bought after he sold his Celica, and an '11 335i M Sport Coupe that he picked up when he moved to California. More recently he purchased a C7 Corvette that he added custom long tube headers, exhaust and a performance tune, but he's already parted ways with the Chevy, as well as a Frozen Blue F80 M3 CS. He bought the M3 CS to commute to work in early '19, but because of the pandemic he's no longer commuting (i.e., he's working from home now), so he sold it because he did not want to have a depreciating asset sit in his garage that went unused. With a new Ford Bronco on order with delivery of summer '21 that he plans to outfit for overlanding, Greg has set his sights on an EV once he is commuting back to the office.
His love for the Mk4 Supra, however, can be traced back to his Celica days. As he became steeped in Toyota fever back then, an A80 was for sale in his area, and while he was in no position to buy it, he still posed as a prospective buyer to get a closer look at the sportscar. It was black and converted to a single turbo setup (a popular mod among Supra owners), and when he went for a ride, he says it was the first time he'd ever been thrown back in the seat of a car, adding, "I was just enamored from then on." When the A90 came out in '19, Greg almost pulled the trigger, but then he thought, why am I going to buy a GR Supra when I can buy the legendary MK4 Supra I always wanted?
In fact, Greg had gone two years without having a vehicle for himself after unloading the C7. Living in the San Jose area, he relied on public transportation to get to around, and for a short time he was ok without a ride he could call his own. But like any car guy worth his salt, that familiar itch flared up, and thus he began narrowing down what it was he wanted exactly, with an emphasis on treating the car as an investment. And now that he has his Supra, it's sort of like his own leased exotic with mileage limits; "It's my fun toy that I can take out for the occasional weekend joy ride."
The Mk4 could also be seen as the beginning of Greg's proper "collection," although what that will look like eventually is still up for debate. He wants it to have a Toyota theme and include an FJ40 Land Cruiser, but then he's also interested in iconic J hero cars like the Acura NSX and R34 Nissan Skyline GT-R "I was supposed to go to Japan last year but due to the pandemic it was cancelled. Once it's ok to travel again I think I may begin my hunt for the perfect R34 to go next to my Supra."
He can see '90s sportscars in the anthology like an E30 M3 and has always wanted to pick up a '68 fastback Mustang because of his dad, but those cars now are starting to slightly go down in monetary worth. "[Collector car] value comes in waves," says Greg, "and a car usually hits peak value around 35 years. From then on it's just riding inflation."
By that logic, Greg's Supra and other equally pampered tuner cars of the same vintage are not too far off from "peak value," but while the A80 does have a clearly defined role, the owner admits he has kicked himself for buying essentially a new car. He does badly want to modify it and has allowed that he might, at some point, pick up some period correct TRD parts for an OEM+ presence, if only temporarily. He even floated the idea of one day getting a high-mileage, beater Supra to soup up. "We are currently expanding our home, and with it a larger garage space to enable my passion in building an eclectic collection of vehicles."
For the most part, though, Greg's intention is to keep her minty ("The car is just too pristine, in such an unmolested state for me to modify," he claims, "I feel like it's my job to preserve it. ") - maybe even clean enough to one day end up in one of the events during the prestigious Monterey Car Week, like the Japanese Automotive Invitational. "Japanese cars are now respected, recognized by this car collecting community [at Monterey Car Week]," Greg concludes, adding, "I want to build on that, own some pristine examples I can share with automotive enthusiasts and push forward the idea that these cars are amazing and fantastic." Which is, frankly, something Super Street has known for a long time.