Like many enthusiasts and users of this fine website, I appreciate collectible and rare cars. I also seek out the high profile sales of some of these collectible and rare cars. It helps me form a better opinion of where the market is heading, so that I can offer that advice to you fine folks (and anyone else in the office who will listen to my soapbox rants). If you can't find me browsing the forums here, I'm probably browsing Bring a Trailer, eBay Motors, or newcomer Cars and Bids. And in doing so, I'm noticing a scary trend: undesirable outliers setting the price to unobtainable for exceptional examples. Case in point, this 1990 240SX (S13)
This is an undesirable S13. Why, you ask? This is a USDM model with a single cam KA24E truck motor. It's a "zenki" (or "pignose"), pre-facelift model, which is widely considered the ugliest variety, although some people (mainly zenki owners) do seem to appreciate the kitsch of it.
Short of being an automatic (this 240 does thankfully have the five speed manual), this is pretty much the least desirable iteration of the 240SX. While that's not so bad for Facebook, this wasn't listed on Facebook. This is Bring a Trailer. The name and reputation of the website itself implies that this vehicle is so rare, unique, and special that you need to Bring. A. Trailer. This car is none of those things, especially when you can import an example powered by the legendary SR20DET or with Type X parts equipped. This example is an average 240SX, which somehow evaded a drift kid strapping an eBay turbo on and cutting the fenders off.
This car sold for a whopping $32,750, and no, I did not make the number up. If you look at the data Bring a Trailer provides on specific models, you will see that this vehicle is an outlier. Prior to the sale of this example on August 24, 2020, the highest-selling 240SX went for $20,000, and that puts the average price of a unique and collectible S13 (at least according to the folks at Bring a Trailer) at approximately $8,800.
As I said in the beginning, I believe sites like Bring a Trailer, eBay Motors, and Cars and Bids are useful tools to help predict and set the market, especially as enthusiasts and collectors flock away from auction events like Barrett Jackson and Mecum, where they don't often showcase cars that our generation wants. This is also equally important to note, because as import regulations become lifted for 25-year-old cars that were never sold in North America, we're going to have to look somewhere else to get some guidance on pricing.
Why this S13 matters
So, you might be asking yourself: why does this particular 240SX, which sold in August of 2020, matter? Well, when I originally began to cogitate on this whole idea, I knew something like this was going to happen: here we have another S13 that just closed its an auction on Bring a Trailer. The high bid of $18,001 did not meet reserve. Upon learning this, I broke several pieces of furniture in the Feed's office (sorry guys, I'll get another coffee pot soon). Why does this make me irrationally angry? Because aside from the Juniper Green Metallic, the car in question was just as undesirable as the listing in August! [Editor's note: I want both of them, but at 2005 prices pls] The seller even had the nerve to list the car with a reserve that was entirely too expensive! At the end of the day, these auctions set price trends in the secondary market. For evidence, check out the S13 listings page here on Collector Car Feed. Wow, that's a lot of $1234 listings, isn't it?
Observe the above BaT reject, recently found for sale using Collector Car Feed. An 80,000 mile example, its paint is far from perfect (note the peeling roof), it's a single-cam KA, and it's automatic. Three strikes and you're out. But, because of that single moon shot S13, the price of a Nissan 240SX has risen so drastically that this formerly $4,000 car is now asking $9,000, which, coincidentally, is the average asking price on Bring a Trailer. [Editor's note: I bet we see this constantly once I add finished auction analytics.]
I don't think this is the first example of this issue in the market; in fact, I'm sure this has happened before, twenty or thirty years ago when companies like Barrett Jackson first began to auction cars. Except then it wasn't S13s, it was Camaros and Mustangs. The only respite we're going to get is when a real JDM legend hits the market, it should finally make the value of true collectibles reflect the opinion of their owners thirty years later.