Last week I asked you value-seeking lot to find the best cars made in Japan, on eBay, for less than $15,000. Why Japan? Because its pervasive car culture destroys the conventional thinking that you can't get a car that's fast, cheap, and reliable. Ladies and gentlemen, get ready to kill the rest of your afternoon.
In the mid-naughties, Mazda decided to create an all-wheel-drive, direct-injected, turbocharged saloon that had no real direct competition in the market, It wasn't sporty enough to compete with the Lancer Evo or STi, and it wasn't luxurious enough to be a threat to Infiniti or Lexus. It largely stood on its own, and that's why this amazing example is such a great buy, especially for a price so far under budget. It's surprising in the very least.
(Suggested by uscg_pa)
The answer isn't always Miata, until it is. This Mazda Miata Grand Touring is the latest iteration of the iconic sports car before it became a Fun-Size Jaguar F-Type. Its flared wheel arches give it a perky stance, and its doe eyes and non-threatening, rounded features make it something that any car lover would appreciate. Seriously, who can not like this plucky performer?
(Suggested by BigNSlow)
The Lexus Is300 blends well with the regular mundane parking lot traffic, all the while retaining underpinnings loosely based on the supercar-destroying Toyota Supra. This means that this silver saloon can be modified to the point where it can outpace Ferraris at a fraction of the prancing horse's MSRP. As an added bonus, this wonderful IS300 has a rare manual transmission, with enough room left over in the budget for any large turbo or drivetrain upgrade you could throw at it.
Now if you're thinking "What the hell is a Saab doing on this list of Japanese cars?!", then you can resume drinking your Diet Mountain Dew, as this wasn't a mistake. Saab and Subaru had a partnership to make the 9-2X alongside the WRX, with identical drivetrains and interiors, with only slight tweaks to the exteriors. They were all built in Japan, and thus didn't encounter any of the issues or quirks that Saabs of the past dealt with. This honest Saab is one of the most fun to drive wagons available, and for a price this low, I'd suggest adding a USDM STi engine swap to the list of things to make this an unrelenting sleeper.
(Suggested by Arben72)
This amazing Toyota Landcruiser is what a Land Rover wished it was - a no-nonsense all-terrain destroyer that will quit long after its owner has. I'll let doug.shaw explain:
FZJ80 with factory lockers and various high dollar add-ons. With that low 8k price, you can ditch the junk BFG K/O tires and get some Good/Year Wrangler w/Kevlar tires, along with piles of other parts. And no, don't be afraid of the miles, they go forever.
(Suggested by doug.shaw)
The JDM craze may as well have been started by this absolutely mesmerizing car. Not only was its RB26DETT inline 6-cylinder engine underrated, it was over-engineered and shares the same lofty mantle of exotic-crushing power potential as Toyota's ubiquitous 2JZ-GTE. This '89 example does need a bit of work, but as of this year, it's completely 50-state legal to own and register. That's a big deal for someone wanting to live the JDM lifestyle on a USDM budget. With a little work, it could be a freakishly fast car.
(Suggested by Vic-in-Norway)
My favorite cars are the rare factory freaks, the sleepers amongst the mundane. This Celica All-Trac housed a 3S-GTE 2.0 Liter four cylinder engine that spun all four wheels through a manual transmission. It was a Subaru fighter in every possible meaning, with no one on the road being keen to the rev-happy torque monster that lay underneath the hood scoop.
(Suggested by CyclistCarCoexist)
The Mazda RX-7 is one of the most beautiful cars ever made. Although it was manufactured more than two decades ago, it looks like a concept car from next year's New York International Auto Show. This Chaste White example is among the finest on eBay today, with relatively low miles and some choice modifications to the already interesting turbocharged rotary drivetrain. Get it before the price skyrockets.
(Suggested by BigNSlow)
Used luxury is the best luxury, because you know someone else overpaid so you don't have to. It's having your cake and eating it too, taken to the umpteenth degree. This magnificent Lexus LS430 is Japan's version of how a luxury car should be made. I'll let BenLikesCars explain:
You can get cheaper LS430 cars, but this one is newer and has the 2003 model-year updates, including a six-speed transmission, more airbags, and other stuff. The car is a bank vault. It's a W140 s-class for people who don't want to place the equivalent of the car's selling price in escrow for repairs. It's fast, it's capable, it's indestructible. I would get my wife this car if she would let me.
The 240Z is Japan's equivalent to the E-type Jaguar. It was a quick and nimble inline-six sports car that looks just as good today as it did 4 decades ago. This beautiful red example comes in far under budget, which means that you can restore/modify it to your heart's content. It will appreciate in the coming years, and nearly everything that you can do to these cars will make them better and more desirable. It's the best deal for a classic car today, so snatch it up before they become unobtainium.
(Suggested by TFritch)
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Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. He owns the world's cheapest Mercedes S-Class, a graffiti-bombed Lexus, and he's the only Jalopnik author that has never driven a Miata. He also has a real name that he didn't feel was journalist-y enough so he used a pen name and this was the best he could do.