From the last Modern Classic article, I’ve been getting comments and insights on the agreement that cars can be tools of investments today. For what was initially destined for failure, the economics of buying these so-called depreciating assets is now turning into a big business model. It may not strike you as a phenomenon, but there was a time in history when cars were just seen as a mode of transport and now there are people known to jump into this as an income generator.
Generally, we dream to buy these special cars because we love them. We want the experience of ownership, the adoration of waking up in the morning and staring at it in the garage, and when the time is right and roads are clear, take it out for a bit of spirited driving. Yet not until about a decade ago did we realise that cars can be so much more than just what we normally use these 4-wheels for. It’s difficult to be impartial when we are strenuously tied to the financial world and our personal capability of treating the next car as an investment.
Over the last 40 or so days, just like you, other than spending time on online car configurators, I’ve also been on every major used car listing site and Facebook marketplace to keep an eye on cars for sale. Particularly, deals that might just appear out of the blue during this troubled times. Call it window shopping but this sparked an idea that we in Malaysia do have some pretty rare and interesting cars, which based on the global market trend, is rather undervalued. So, here are some cars below RM100k that I think will make a sound investment and an interesting ownership experience, should you plan to buy a future modern classic!
Subaru Impreza WRX STI S204
I’m going to kick off with my favourite from the list – the GD generation Impreza in S204 form. Only 600 were ever made and was individually numbered, particularly destined for JDM market only. Of course, thanks to our grey import culture we’ve pretty much inducted quite a significant number of these things on our shores that every Ver.9 people see is usually called out as an S204.
The S204 is a full blown Subaru Technica International (STI) tuned machine based on the lighter Type RA Chassis that comes with an uprated EJ20 boxer, churning out 320bhp. It features the evergreen BBS wheels matched to a signature Silver exterior more commonly (also available in blue or black in lesser numbers). The interior is where the money is at, particularly the carbon-fibre Recaro bucket seats which goes for quite some value on the used market. It’s probably one of the best handling cars you can buy for the money, and will serve any enthusiasts with a proper driving experience. Although more commonly, people are highly concerned with the boxer engine, which is probably the biggest factor affecting the value of this car, but the EJ20 is known to be the stronger and more reliable block. Fun Fact : every STI engines are hand made and blue printed, specific to the S and RA-R series only which is weighted and balanced from factory!
What strikes me the most is the fact that a special series limited production high-performance JDM like this is hovering about the Sub-100k mark, albeit some are going for slightly above the guided price, depending on mileage and condition. Newly imported, it held a price tag of about RM300k over a decade ago. There aren’t that many listings, but when it pops up, it will sit on the marketplace for quite an interesting price. If you don’t like the S204 shape, there is also an S203 for sale on the market right now too for about the same price!
Nissan Silvia S15
The driver’s choice will always lust for an RWD machine, and what’s better than an S-Chassis to be put on that porch for your perfect sports car selection. Generally, this car is kind of spoilt in terms of being a drift machine when the S15 platform can be destined for even greater possibilities. Many didn’t realise but the S15 never made it to the USDM realm and if we’re going to follow the trend, then the S15 will probably be the next JDM that the US market will lust after as it nears the classic import age.
There are a few variations of S15s, and generally the one you want would be the Spec-R with the SR20 DET engine which is good for around 250bhp stock. Many hovering in the market will probably come with at least some mild mods, and you may even encounter ones with an in-line six RB swapped heart too. It would be a challenge to find a pure virgin, as this car has clearly been bought by startup drift enthusiasts but if you do get lucky to a nice condition one, then you have to get one in a heart beat. You could also go for the Autech version with a 200bhp SR20 NA engine, although the S-Chassis guys shared that there aren’t that many around and it would be priced similarly to it’s turbocharged sibling.
Price wise, you’re looking at a guided ballpark of around RM65k-RM90k, depending on the condition, mods, and owner’s willingness to part ways with this lovely machine. It may not be the rarest, but we think the S15 is a lot of fun to own. As it came from the naughties generation, there are a lot of tuning parts and aftermarket bodykit which you can go bezzerk on. For the price, it is a much better base than a GT86/BRZ to enjoy and if the speculation states, then this could be a very good investment for you to enjoy!
Suzuki Swift Sport ZC31S
Who doesn’t love a hot hatch? You think you might be spoilt for choice but because the demand is so high, most hot hatch choices are still holding it’s value rather well, which means for the package, it’s quite expensive. But we found it rather surprising that you could get a ZC31S generation Swift Sport for around RM30k!
This car came in to Malaysia circa 2007 and being a pure CBU import, I remember it being a rather expensive RM100k hatchback. But the simple recipe was perfect that it rivalled well against it’s competitors and in Japan, it quickly became a tuning sensation thanks to it’s rather light weight and balanced handling delivery. Under the hood is a tweaked M16A engine, producing around 130ps and mated to a 5-speed manual gearbox. Yes, there is an auto gearbox option but that’s obviously not the one to have. You can go crazy with tuning and performance parts, including a readily available bolt-on turbo kit made by major tuning brands like HKS and GReddy. Monster Sport is also famous with the Swift platform, and knowing that many of our local race teams are still competing with this platform in races like S1K and lapping a sub 2:50 time around Sepang, this car definitely has more than just fun in it’s pocket!
For the price, it is probably the most interesting choice so far although there aren’t that many manuals sitting on the market. The newer ZC32S generation is also an option, but the price is still catching for around RM70k and to be honest, the 31S delivers just as much fun. Buy this, use it for a couple of years and sell it back for at least the price you bought. Ideal choice!
Nissan Fairlady 300ZX
A car that’s purely overshadowed by the 90s JDM legend squad; the 300ZX is clearly a car that no one truly lusts after. I think that the next car that might bump up on demand is the 300ZX from the 90s generation and perhaps right now is the perfect time to jump into the boat before the price hikes up on the Japan Auction floors and overseas.
The Fairlady 300ZX (codenamed Z32) was first launched in 1990, following a long line of the Fairlady generation that roots itself back to the 240Z (S30) released in 1969. Under the hood is home to a VG30DET V6 engine rated at 280ps and 388nm to the rear wheels, and the success of the Z31 generation in the US enabled Nissan to throw technological advancement into the Z32 generation. Tech like 4-wheel steering and two-mode adjustable suspension made this car purely ahead of its time against it’s competitors. But of course, the reason why the prices aren’t skyrocketing is because this model was made available globally, and over 160,000 units were built throughout its life between 1990-2000.
Thing is, right now you can buy one here for around RM50-RM70k price range, making it quite an interesting proposition. Of course, finding a restored example is probably quite difficult, and honestly we don’t see that many of these Z32s around our streets. Some may also have had a heart transplant into an RB or 2JZ power unit. If a 90s JDM is what you are after, then this certainly has the potential to be a great project car that might hold its value in the future.
Honda Accord Euro-R CL7
We definitely can’t do this list without a Honda inside. And out of all the Type-Rs around, I think this is probably the most underrated one that’s gone a little under the radar. Back in the mid naughties, Honda released a series of Type-R powered cars using the Euro-R moniker. It was still sold in both Japan and Europe, but it certainly wasn’t as celebrated like the rest of it’s Type-R siblings in Civic and Integra form.
Powered by the much loved K20A and a 6-speed manual gearbox, wrapped around the Accord CL generation chassis, it has all the right recipe to a fast Honda. Yes, it’s on the heavier side but with the right mods and under the right hands, it will do a competent enough time of Sub 2:40s around Sepang. It’s a comfortable cruiser with a split personality wearing that badge. Parts are relatively easy to find, and because it’s a Honda, it’ll be a reliable cruiser that can serve both your daily commute and weekend spirited festivities.
The suggested price for a CL7 Euro R hovers around RM55k-RM70k, depending on the condition and mods. Considering that an FD2R would go for almost double that value, I reckon it’s a decent buy. Rather than getting a standard Civic and have it K-swapped, why not get one that came straight from the factory!
If you think about it, a budget of RM100k means you are quite spoilt for choice but we think that the above are the TOP 5 purchase right now. The right purchase is when you come up at the end of ownership, knowing you’ve adored it for a couple of years, explored its true potential, and not lose any money on its value at purchase. Buying and owning these cars are not just about the current value, but also bound by the subject of fun by the dollar at the end of ownership.
But surely, you readers and enthusiasts would be wondering why some other good cars are left out of the TOP CHOICE LIST. Well – I think they’re a bit of a wildcard because whilst they are definitely future modern classics, their value right now is still on the fence. And because there are so many around, I believe that the current price may fall even lower in the next 2 to 3 years or may not go up in the next 5 years…
Honda Civic Type-R FD2
What’s Good? – The FD2R platform delivers just about the best combination between performance and handling. The reliable K20A2 VTEC engine is an absolute charm and you have all the modding possibilities under the sky in Malaysia to make one do a time of sub-230s. It’s a good base to kick-start your track driving experience too, and because it’s a 4 door, it’s practical for daily commutes if you need it to be! Gladly, Malaysia is the only country outside Japan to ever receive the FD2R officially, so you’d be spoilt for choice out there yet prices are still holding out and will go for as cheap as RM80k these days.
What’s Bad? – There’s a tradeoff for it being a great driver’s car, and that’s the chassis itself. It’s rigid and so stiff from factory, you don’t really want to drive this car on long distances. But if you’re the kind of guy that doesn’t mind it, then it’s rather perfect. Secondly, most of these cars are purely trashed or ex track day machines. So you will need to get a proper health check on the car before buying, otherwise you’ll be looking at a hefty bill to overhaul that K20A.
Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ
What’s Good? – Lightweight and well-balanced RWD chassis makes the GT86/BRZ platform one of the best cars to buy and drive out there right now. A personal favourite trait on this car is the almost perfect driving position that sits low and flat, giving the driver a good feeling at the wheel on the drive. As a driver, you can learn a lot about driving and car control on this platform, and for the price, it will deliver one of the best driving enjoyment per ringgit experience. Boxer engine sounds great too! Mods? Well, again, spoilt for choice but you’ll definitely be looking at a first batch used unit from 2012/2013 for under RM100k. Unregistered ones are still going for much more than that.
What’s Bad? – Underpowered. People complain a lot about this, but my first hand experience is that you will struggle to keep up on the straights with most 2.0-litre performance cars. The FA20 boxer only delivers something like 160+whp on the dyno stock, and unlocking power out of it may not be as straightforward as a K20 VTEC. Bolt-on forced induction kits are still quite pricey, but probably worth it if you’re looking at owning this car for a while. Prices are still dropping for the 86/BRZ, and it might hit the RM50k mark eventually.
Audi S4 B8
What’s Good? – If power is what you’re looking for, then the 3.0-litre Supercharged V6 engine on the S4 B8 will at least get you 333bhp from factory. The engine has won many awards of the years as one of the best ever made, and with a few mods, you’ll easily find 400whp to be delivered by the Quattro AWD system. From personal experience, it’s a very good daily and can be a bit of a highway cruise missile in absolute comfort and German luxury styling. What was once a RM450k worth of car brand new is now just between RM68k – RM90k on listing for a 2009-2011 car.
What’s Bad? – The biggest concern would be maintenance. Audi parts don’t come cheap, and if the gearbox mechatronic goes, you’re looking at nearly RM10k for a replacement. Nowadays, there are a lot of specialists which should probably help the prices to be more competitive though. Sadly, this car also weighs 1.8 tonnes and is quite a barge for the track and b-road twisties. Can be fixed though with a few handling upgrades. The 4 door sedan may not be as Sporty to look at, but the better looking S5 Coupé and Sportback is still above RM100k.
Should we do a list of the best cars under RM50k next? Let us know!
Written By | Qhalis Najmi