BUY LOW, SELL HIGH: The 2020 Carbitrage Bull and Bear List

Bear Bull Market List Header

We love cars here at Carbitrage and, like for most young people today, it’s hard for us to maintain a hobby if you don’t monetize it in some way, or at least monetize it in your head. With that being said, a lot of us have taken to buying and selling cars that we love in hopes that we’re able to catch them before their value explodes. While a lot of us have missed the boat on some of our favorite cars such as the E30 3-series, Mk IV Supra and Integra Type-R, there are still plenty of great cars to get into before their value reaches for the moon.

We have compiled a list of what we will wager will have a bull market and what will have a bear market in 2020. For those of you who are not up to date on your investment lingo, a bull market is a market that is appreciating in value, or rather making money. A bear market is a market that isn’t making money, it is either breaking even or losing money. A bear market is not inherently a bad thing, in fact, a savvy investor can get a great deal in buying during a bear market.

While some outlets do their valuations based entirely off of analytics of market trends for the most accurate look at where the market is headed, they get it right about 80% of the time, which is extremely accurate for predicting trends. We are not doubting that mathematical analysis of the market is the correct way to predict market forecasts. What we are trying to do is attempt to mix in a metric that money cannot account for, our own personal taste.

Our logic being that, between 3 millennial car enthusiasts with completely different backgrounds, we will be able to find a selection of cars that will trend with what the market is actually doing. So we are throwing caution into the wind and there is a very high probability that we will make ourselves look like fools but, this is our Bull and Bear List of 2020.


Description of the mathematics used in pricing:

We are taking the average price of the cars sold on Bring-a-Trailer.com over the course of the last year from November 2018 to November 2019 in hopes that any other posts about Bear Market lists won’t affect our sales data. Only factory appearing cars will be counted for this metric.

Our second metric to compare average prices of non-collector models is an average price of vehicles being sold on the Los Angeles craigslist at the time this article is written. We chose Los Angeles due to the mild climate so we can account for rust free cars being sold for a premium in northern states and for population density so we can account for faster changes in market prices. The search parameters for our craigslist search was limited to non-modified operational cars being sold by owner for over $600 with under 200,000 miles on the odometer. This was an attempt to weed out as many fake ads and non-operational cars as possible. We will denote any statistic abnormalities we find.


The Carbitrage Bull Market List for 2020

Ryan’s Picks:

bmw_328i_sedan_3

1.) 2000-2006 BMW 3-series (non-M3)

2019 BaT Average Price: $10,612.00*

2019 Craigslist Average Price: $3,109.25**

The E46 generation BMW 3-series is my personal first pick for the 2020 Carbitrage Bull Market List, I should specify that I am listing the entire E46 generation. The reason being that this was the last era of the 3-series golden age before the E90 complicated everything. It is similar to the E30 and E36 but has such a massive improvement in interior quality over the E36 that it almost feels like a different car.

The E46 3-series moved the car upmarket in such a way that the higher trim levels felt like the car was designed with them in mind, what this did to the lower trim levels was profound though, suddenly a base model E46 made you feel like you had purchased something significantly more expensive. Often when a car does this, the maintenance costs and reliability take a hit, but not with the E46, it still had the stellar reliability the previous cars were known for but with just a little bit more padding.

In a world where cars such as the Infiniti G35 are replacing the spot that Honda Civics once held for the young car enthusiast, that extra luxury touch without any of the extra maintenance baggage of a modern BMW should prove to become a major boon to the popularity of the vehicle. Let’s not forget that the predecessor to the E46, the E36, has proven itself a very competent and popular platform for a project car. As a quality E36 is becoming increasingly difficult to find, I would wager that 2020 will see the E46 3-Series see a major increase in average pricing. If you’re in the market for an E46 project car, this is a great time to get in when prices are still cheap.

*Price includes ZHP models which sell for a premium compared to standard trim

**No ZHP models for sale at this point in time in marketplace

Red FD RX7

2.) 1992-2002 Mazda RX-7

2019 BaT Average Price: $28,725.97**

2019 Craigslist Average Price: $21,975.00*

My number two pick coming is the final generation of RX7, the FD chassis. This is the most exquisite road car to have ever been produced from Mazda. The car has simple elegant lines that looked great from it’s release in 1992 to it’s final production year in the Japanese market in 2002 and even today, in 2020, it continues to be a looker. The car is more than a pretty face though, unlike previous generation RX7s where you could make the mistake of specifying lower powered engines, the FD only came in one flavor, turbocharged.

Luckily for Mazda, that turbocharged engine was a hit, it’s specific output beat everything produced in the era. If factory power wasn’t enough, then the power you could coax out of these cars was unreal with cars making over 400 HP with close to factory reliability. Of course, being a rotary engine, it was a bit avant garde and reliability could be questionable if not properly maintained, so for many just putting in a V8 engine made more sense for a project car.

Today, the RX7 is already seeing a lot of interest from the collector community. North American models were available new from 1993 to 1995, and Japanese imported models don’t have a significant variance in pricing, which is good for availability. That being said, the cars that will be leading the trend will be the best examples complete with their factory equipped dorito mill. A numbers matching car will generally be worth significantly more than a V8 swapped car with a salvage title. It isn’t likely that the JDM models will be particularly more expensive due to the most sought after trim levels, the Bathurst R and Spirit R models, not being import legal yet but cars from reputable vendors like Top Rank will likely be on the high end of the valuation scale.

** Includes imported RHD models, although at this time there is very little change in value between RHD and LHD

* Two cars currently in market, not enough for accurate sample size

mitsubishi_gto_3000gt

3.) 1990-2004 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR-4

2019 BaT Average Price: $16,754.95

2019 Craigslist Average Price: $16,630.00

I will likely be wrong this year, like I have been every year with this car, but I’m willing to take that chance because the 3000GT VR-4 will eventually have it’s day. This car ticked every box that a 90’s era Japanese muscle car could hope to tick. It was laden bumper to bumper with computers, had active aerodynamics, functional vents and seemed to have two of everything. I’m being quite literal when I say it two of everything, it had twin turbos, DOHC heads, a dual-exit active exhaust, front and rear active spoilers, and it even had four wheel steering.

I won’t lie and say the 3000GT VR-4 is a perfect car because it’s not; it’s a bear to work on, OEM parts availability is non-existent and finding one that has been properly cared for takes some searching. That being said, if you do manage get a good one, it’s performance is absolutely stellar. For less than half the price you get Supra performance, 0-60 in 4.9 seconds and a 13.5 second 1/4 mile time as tested by Road and Track. I would gladly deal with some annoying maintenance procedures if it means I can get that performance for less than the cost of a fully loaded 2020 Mitsubishi Mirage.

The standard 3000GT is not much of an investment as it’s just a very heavy FWD 90’s GT car, however the VR-4 is such a different beast that it almost deserves a completely different nameplate. Once you get into the Spyder models you get an even more unique vehicle. As Supra, NSX, RX-7 and GT-R prices rocket away from Earth and into the stratosphere, I think people will begin to look at the 3000GT VR-4 as it has always meant to be seen as, an actual investment worth a hell of a lot more than $16,500.

Erik’s Picks:

bmw_m3_coupe_542

1.) 2000-2006 BMW M3 Coupe (Phoenix Yellow, Laguna Seca Blue, Imola Red)

2019 BaT Average Price: $27,378.24

2019 Craigslist Average Price: $27,500.00 **

Interestingly both Erik and I agreed that the E46 market is a powder keg ready to blow at this point. However, while I think that the lower end of the E46 market will be the spark that blows everything up, Erik says his sights are all over the M3 market. While E46 M3s are still exceedingly abundant in the standard-fare greyscales of most teutonic automobiles, Erik says those will likely be the last to appreciate. Erik puts his money on the more vibrant colors of Phoenix Yellow, Laguna Seca Blue and Imola Red to be the choices to lead the E46 wave.

Adding to Erik’s specificity is the prediction that the coupe, in particular, will be the chassis to acquire since it’s sportier form factor will likely play a role in the overall desirability of the car. This makes sense as historically the E30 M3 and E36 M3 coupes lead the market for their respective chassis while the rest of their variants were brought along for the ride. While the E46 coupes did suffer from water intrusion problems that the sedan never had due to their pillarless windows, the more highly sought after cars will have had any leaks cared for well before they became an issue.

We would also be remiss to note that the E46 was also the last chassis of the M3 to be powered by an NA inline-6 instead of a V8 or twin turbo engine. To a sizable portion of BMW enthusiasts the driving experience of the S54 cars outweighs the extra power of the newer M3s. This is increasingly important with the trend of collector cars skewing towards an exciting driving experience over a fancy piece of technology or massive power numbers.

**Only one car for sale in market price

850 rear

2.) 1990-1999 BMW 850i 6-Speed (non-CSI)

2019 BaT Average Price: $24,050.00

2019 Craigslist Average Price: N/A*

Erik’s first choice is the non-CSI E31 chassis BMW 8-series with a manual transmission. We have to be very specific here because while all of the automatic 8-series cars might as well just be an Oldsmobile and all of the 8-cylinder cars have cylinder delamination issues, the 850 with a manual isn’t much of a stretch from an 850CSi.

The 8-series was BMW’s 1990’s halo car, it was a massive Grand Tourer loaded with every piece of tech that BMW had in it’s arsenal. The car was the result of $900 million dollars and a decade of BMW’s R&D time. The modern 8-series really doesn’t do the name justice as it isn’t enough of a departure from the standard BMWs we see today, the E31 was a truly spectacular car.

While the 850CSi is a great car and we are not doubting it, we are certainly doubting if it is really twice the car of an 850i given that they sell for twice the price. That’s no exaggeration, in fact the $50,000 mark is the entry level price for an 850CSi and a well sorted car can easily eclipse $70,000. For what’s effectively a bumper, intake manifold and fancy suspension, that’s quite a premium.

*Only two results found both were automatic cars being sold at an average price of $19,250.00

 

gmc_typhoon_1

3.) 1991-1993 GMC Typhoon/Syclone

2019 BaT Average Price: $15,497.00*

2019 Craigslist Average Price: N/A**

As the Rad era of collector cars gains steam, Erik puts his third bet on a small GMC with an automatic transmission, AWD and a turbocharger. No, it is not a GMC Terrain but rather the much radder GMC Typhoon. The Typhoon, and it’s Syclone pickup truck sibling, came completely out of left field and created the vehicle that nobody asked for but everyone wanted. Taking the 190 HP Vortec V6, that was standard in the GMC Jimmy, and adding 14 PSI of boost from a Borg Warner turbocharger, GMC was able to coax 90 extra horsepower out of the mom-mobile. This allowed the Typhoon to reach 60 MPH in 5.3 seconds and run a 14.1 second quarter mile time.

While, these numbers sound tame to the uninformed, it was all about how the power was delivered. The typical rattliness of a GM interior of the era with all the turbolag of early 90’s turbocharging made it quite an event to get one of these up to speed. Today, those who grew up in the era of minitrucking and muscle cars have fond memories of the Typhoon and the Syclone while the younger generation love the looks and story of these ridiculous little trucks.

Between these two trucks, there is more interest in them than in a subprime auto loan, and the total number of people interested in them vastly outweighs the total production numbers. That market scarcity will likely drive the value of the truck up, much like the Porsche market had a few years ago and if you are looking to get onboard before the Typhoon ship leaves port, 2020 might be the last year that they’re affordable.

*Pricing is average of Typhoon as not enough Syclones were sold in the last year to create average.
**Only one vehicle for sale in marketplace at this time at $12,500, not enough vehicles for average price.

Jana’s Picks:

mercedes-benz_g_500_us-spec_1

1.) Mercedes Gelandewagen

2019 BaT Average Price: $35,242.00

2019 Craigslist Average Price: $35,400.00

There are few people living a more tragic life right now than the offroad enthusiast. While sedans and wagons are being axed in favor of various trucks, it’s not XJ Cherokees and Mercedes G-Wagens leading the wave rather its Ford Escapes and Hyundai Santa Fes, its a wave of crossovers with open differentials, extra tall springs and compact car suspension. While this is a nuisance, it is also watering down the crop real-deal off-roaders. Luckily, until 2019, the Mercedes Gelandewagen was a rare holdout.

The G-Wagen represented Mercedes at it’s best, it was bulletproof reliable, comfortable, could be driven literally anywhere and, most importantly, relied on perfecting technology instead of packing the vehicle full of widgets. The truck was originally the replacement of the Volkswagen Iltis for the German military but has extended far beyond that role proving itself as much of a capable off-roader as it is a civilized daily driver.  The truck began it’s cult following during the 1980’s and 1990’s in America as a grey market import before Mercedes had even begun to import them directly in 1997.

The G-wagen lies in that sweet spot between the CJ Jeep and the Range Rover, both luxurious and reliable but still capable of winning the Paris-Dakar rally. In an era where families default to crossovers as their family cars, actual solid axle off-roaders are quickly becoming the collector car of choice for many people as they begin to wonder what they’re missing. While the vast quantities of existing G-Wagens does hurt it’s collectability, the trucks that are at the top of the auction totem pole right now are the cabriolet models and AMG models, however the grey market 3-door models are proving to be very desirable as well. If you want to get in on the Gelandwagen before the weenies do, the time is nigh!

 

mercedes-benz_200_d_1

2.) Mercedes W110/W111 Fintails

2019 BaT Average Price: $14,891.67

2019 Craigslist Average Price: $5,950**

The big body W111 Fintails are already gaining a lot of attention within the Mercedes collector community. While they’re a shoe in for collectability and are rather undervalued currently, we think that the often forgotten W110 little fintail will see its day as well. We aren’t just taking a shot in the dark by including the little fintail models, we’re including it because with millennial interest in everything vintage and European 60s era cars being the bedrock of the collector world right now, the odds are in the W110’s favor.

The W110 was the entry level of Mercedes in the mid-1960s and were all examples bulletproof Mercedes engineering from their peak of reliability. Utilizing the best technology in the world at the time to create a car that drove every bit as well as it looked. The W111 however, was something to behold, timeless 1960’s styling coupled with the drivability of Mercedes at their peak made for something truly special. Add the 3.5L V8 option in the 280SE Coupe and you have a sleeper of a bavarian autobahn missle.

One of the biggest items of note in the fintail market is the price disparity between the Fintail sedans and the W111 coupe. While the sedans all sell for around the same prices under $20,000, a decent example of a W111 coupe starts in the $50,000 range with prices ranging well over $100,000 for a V8 car. That being said, the fintail is one of the few cars that appeals to both millennials who can barely afford to eat and the pebble beach-type baby boomers.

** Not enough vehicles in marketplace for accurate average price

Citroen+2CV+Front1

3.) Citroen 2CV

2019 BaT Average Price: $13,380.50

2019 Craigslist Average Price: $15,750.00*

What isn’t to love about the 2CV, it is a bizarre little French peoples car with Bauhaus styling, an aircooled 2 cylinder engine and suspension that moves front to back in lieu of up to down. This car has won the hearts of everyone from The Greatest Generation to Generation Z in a typical avant garde French fashion and it even became a Bond car. Why do we think it will appreciate in value though?

The 2CV lies in a sweet spot for millennial buyers, it is cheap, quirky and retro. Millennials are collectively reaching a point of financial stability where they can make small luxury purchases and at $13-15k average price, the 2CV has a price point that is just within reach of the average 30 year old car enthusiast. While other cars exist in that price range, the 2CV is able to attract more attention per dollar than anything else in its price range. It is more unique than an aircooled Beetle, more usable than a Fiat 500 and most importantly, with the 1920’s officially 100 years behind us, the Bauhaus styling of the 2CV allows the pre-war look but without the pre-war price point.

While there are literally millions of 2CVs in the world, there are also no shortage of special editions. The Cocorico, Perrier, SPOT, OO7 Edition, Bamboo and Charleston are just a handful of the special edition options. These special editions will likely lead the pack, as those with more money can likely spend a bit more to get a more unique 2CV. So far the trend is holding true with the top 3 prices on Bring-a-Trailer being held by a Bamboo edition and two Charlestons respectively. We may be wrong on the 2CV for 2020 but it will certainly see its day soon, so why not get it while it’s hot?

*Only 2 cars for sale in marketplace, not enough for average price

Carbitrage Choice:

Tonys EF

1.) 1988-2000 Honda Civic and variants

2019 BaT Average Price: $10,813.52

2019 Craigslist Average Price: $2,383.90

This is it, the one car that every one of us here at Carbitrage concurred about, this is the car that we will bet the farm on, the Golden Age Honda Civic.

The 1988 through 2000 Honda Civic and its variants are actually 3 different bodystyles known as the EF, EG and EK chassis as denoted by the VIN designation of the top trim levels. Together they account for what is often referred to as Honda’s golden age, where instead of producing automatic CUVs with questionable styling, Honda was busy making some of the best FWD cars in history.

These cars crept their way into the car enthusiast lexicon in the late 1990s where street racers began to take notice of their enormous potential as a racer. The lightweight chassis combined with indisputably the best 4 cylinder engine in the world at that time gave the car an enormous leg up in motorsport. The Civics of this era were the most successful FWD cars in quite some time and properly captured the ethos of both the hot hatch craze and, later, the sport compact movement.

The trouble in finding a golden age Civic is not in finding one but in finding one that hasn’t been robbed a dozen times, engine swapped with a hammer and slathered in bondo. The highest priced USDM models are easily the EM1 Si and CRX Si with prices well into the $30k range, however across the board they are all getting hot. A smart buy might be to get an ’88-’91 Civic Si hatchback or EX sedan, ’88-’91 RT4WD Wagovan, a ’92-’95 EH3 Civic Si hatchback or a Midori Green EJ6 Civic hatchback, as those particular cars all have their own cult followings. Average price for a collector model will be much higher than that of the average Craigslist find but that is due to the poor quality examples bringing down the average price.


The Carbitrage Bear Market List for 2020

porsche_911_carrera_4_coupe_us-spec_9

Ryan: 1997-2006 Porsche 911 996 (non-GT3)

Ryan: Porsche 996 non-gt3

BaT Average Price: $24,896.90

Craigslist Average Price: $20,015.78

If you want to get into a Porsche 911 for as little as possible, you’re in luck because the standard 996 Porsche 911 shows no sign of going anywhere at all. This is not a bad thing by any means because the 996 is a very good car but it gets a bad wrap as it was the first generation of watercooled Porsches. It’s price point and performance are exactly why this is the default entry-level track car for many and why most cars and coffee European sections are seas of endless 996s.

bmw_m3_coupe_us-spec_42

Erik: 1992-1999 BMW M3 E36 (USDM-spec only)

BaT Average Price: $14,322.00

Craigslist Average Price: $11,616.67

Much like the 996, the American market E36 M3 is a perfectly fine car that is bookended by two significantly better variants. On one end the E30 M3 is beloved by all and affordable to few, on the other end the E46 M3 exists and by existing it suppresses the value of its older sibling to a price point permanently within it’s shadows. As the E46 wave starts in 2020, we bet that there will be plenty of examples for sale making you ask if an E36 is really worth $20,000 when you can just get into an E46 for the same price.

honda_accord_4

Jana: 1986-1989 Honda Accord CA Chassis

BaT Average Price: $1,900*

Craigslist Average Price:$2,450

These cars are the secret of the Honda community, it is a bargain cheap version of the golden age Hondas that doesn’t get stolen as much. That being said, it seems that even to Honda people, the CA chassis Accord is a sleeper. These are quite fun cars with just a little more space than a Civic without significantly higher curb weight. That being said, parts availability is atrocious, the aftermarket is almost entirely hand-me-downs adapted from other chassis and may god help you if you are unfortunate enough to have one of the PGM-carb models. Our advice, buy the CA Accord to love it but not to make money off it.

*only one car sold in 2018, outside of date ranges, 7/2018 sales price was $5,800.

z8 alpina

Carbitrage Pick: 2000-2003 BMW Z8

BaT Average Price: $161,678.57

Craigslist Average Price: N/A

The BMW Z8 is another car that we all love but is still being placed on the bear market list. With the exception of a couple of very expensive sales in the last year, the Z8 has been very stagnant in recent years when viewed on Bring-a-Trailer. While this would normally pique our interests, it’s six figure price range is holding the car back with economic uncertainty becoming a factor at such lofty prices. In the long run we do expect to see the Z8 grow in price so it might not be a bad buy as a long term investment if you suddenly found yourself with $150,000 burning a hole in your pocket.

What cars do you think would be on the Bear or Bull list for 2020? Let us know and tell us why and we may talk about your answers on the Carbitrage podcast.

EVENT: Japanese Classic Car Show 2019 Part 1

Mugen CRX Front 2.jpg

This was the fifteenth year of the Japanese Classic Car Show in 2019, fifteen years is an extremely long time for a car show series to be held for consistently. If we think about it, 15 years ago NOPI was still happening, Wek’Fest still had a few years before it even came into existence and Hot Import Nights was where the cool kids were being seen at. Needless to say, the timeframe that Japanese Classic Car Show has been happening for usually encompasses the entire lifespan of most shows, Japanese Classic Car Show (hereby abbreviated as JCCS) has a handful of traits to make it enduring but the two that make it special are it’s quality and its position as the cornerstone of the Japanese classic car community.

Toyota Sports 800s.jpg

Throughout it’s existence, JCCS has been at the forefront of the Japanese classic car community. While the collector community is more than fans of just one show, this show represents the heart and soul of the culture. While JCCS is at the forefront, it’s still relatively small. Comparing to another show that is a major part of it’s respective culture, traversing this show is not the massive multiple day odyssey that you get with Back to the 50’s. You don’t feel compelled to buy a Japanese Nostalgic Car so you can actually make through the entire show, you feel compelled because you genuinely want one. Where some shows like BTT50’s are big for the sake of being big, JCCS is surprisingly small but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in quality.

Teal Datsun 411.jpg

Japanese Classic Car Show’s true beauty resides in where it falls on the scale of exclusivity. No, it’s not BTT50’s where literally anything produced prior to 1964.5 is let in but it also lacks the excessive exclusivity found at Concours D’Elegance where tickets are $300 and cars get denied because the stitching on the seats is incorrect. Cars like this survivor Datsun 411 are given the respect they deserve after being kept original for 50 years but a lowered AE86 isn’t chastised for being modified.

Black EG Coupe.jpg

The closest that JCCS gets to Concours particular is the eligibility of the cars. Historically, JCCS has had a rolling 25 year rule matching the United States car importation law. When JCCS started, 15 years ago, plastic bumper imports were barely on the cusp of being allowed into the show but as time has moved on, the cars have gotten newer and newer. The inclusion of newer cars has taken some time to get used to but fears of the chrome bumpers being pushed out were unfounded. What was once a show of early Japanese oddities now has made space for the golden age of Japanese cars without losing its soul.

Racing Beat RX7 Convertible.jpg

Originally, JCCS had a separate show called JCCS Neo-Classics, but with the closure of the Toyota Headquarters in Torrance, CA, they had to find a way to merge the two shows. The merger meant that, eventually, JCCS had to leave its long time home of Queen Mary Beach for it’s current location across the bay. While it was briefly lived, the Neo-Classics show was a great way to ease plastic bumper cars into the larger JCCS community and also allowed the series to test the waters of more modern vehicles like this Racing Beat RX7 convertible.

Acura Honda Legend Sedan.jpg

These newer vehicles also represent the time where Japan went from being seen as just an entire country of austerity purchases, and wrongfully thought as keeping up with the world, to a time where they objectively dominated the world. In decades prior the Japanese models had to be sold to us but, by the 1980’s, the world had to be counter offered away from Japanese cars. The 1980’s saw the Japanese brands not only dominate the middle class’s driveways but by the end of the decade, they were coming for the European luxury brands.

Red FD RX7.jpg

The inclusion of plastic bumper cars has also been important for the community as a lot of those cars are some of the fastest appreciating collector cars in the world right now. With that sudden appreciation, a lot of attention is being paid to the trends at JCCS so the larger car community can see what people are doing with these early and golden age Japanese collectors.

Mazda 626 Coupe

As people are coming through for the RX7s and 240Zs, some are discovering the other gems that people don’t talk about. For every two well known cars, something like this Mazda 626 Coupe was at the show. It is never a bad thing when cars that were once looked over as just another semi-sporty RWD Coupe get their moment in the spot light for what they are.

ms factory datsun lineup.jpg

If you’re like most people in the world and you’re coming to see the more well known JNCs like Datsuns, AE86s and Celicas, then you had nothing to fear. Datsun Z cars easily outnumbered any other single make, not model but literally entire make. There was easily a Z car for every Honda, Toyota or other Datsun, Mitsubishi was outnumbered five to one and, for the Subaru to Z-car ratio, it was easily a dozen to one.

Green 240Z 2+2 Front

While Z cars were a dime a dozen at the show, one would assume the best Z-car in the show would be the rarest and most desirable. However, easily the best Z in the whole show was also the “least desirable” for collectability, being not only the emissions strangled 260Z but a 2+2 at that.  Luis Rivera went out of his way to hunt down a 2+2 for the project. His build with it’s molded metal fender flares, a 240Z two-seater front end and a profound split pea soup green combined into what might be my favorite Z-car build in recent years. The car easily stole the show for the Z-car class.

280Z 2+2 big mike

Two of the most authoritative connoisseurs of green cars, Jana and Big Mike from the Think Bigger Project both agree that this car is unbelievable. According to Mike, Luis wanted to build a S30 that would stand out from the crowd and we can rest assured that he has done so. Builds like this are something that can make you think differently about a platform as a whole.

Datsun S30 2+2 Light Reading.jpg

With the prices of S30s going through the roof, the often unloved long boy 2+2 is suddenly becoming all the more desirable. The 2+2s are a bit of a commitment though, every panel of the vehicle is different from the two seaters and they are often in far worse condition due to the relative undesirability as a collector so the chances of being underwater with a restoration is nearly guaranteed. That being said, can you really put a price on the extra cargo space for when you want to bring along some light reading?

Calsonic R31

Another chassis that was often considered undesirable was the R31 Skyline GTS-R. It is true that it did pale in comparison to the R32 GT-R but we have to remember, back in it’s day, the R31 was neigh untouchable and many consider it entirely worthy of the GT-R badging that Nissan was coy to apply without absolute confidence. It also was the first Skyline to sport the iconic blue Calsonic livery that we see replicated on this R31 coupe. Today R31s demand equal to and in some cases more money than it’s younger R32 brethren.

Toyota Mark II Corona Coupe

If you’re completely at odds as to what this is, you aren’t alone. It is actually a RT114 Toyota Corona Coupe, namely a RHD model. The Corona was Toyota’s first compact car sold in America and it eventually moved up market when the Corolla arrived before eventually being replaced in our market with the Camry in 1983. While the Celica was the Toyota sports car of the 1970s, the Corona Coupe occupied an awkward space as their GT model replacing the yet even more rare Carina. It was powered by the venerable Toyota R20, known best as a truck engine reliable beyond reproach and all Coronas that were sold in America were exclusively RWD. Unfortunately like the Mazda 626 and 260Z 2+2, the RT114 Coronas were rare and never got their proper respect stateside. Frankly every generation of Corona gets about as much respect as Rodney Dangerfield and should be worth a hell of a lot more than they currently are.

Moon Hiace.jpg

Speaking of not getting any respect stateside, there were several Japanese imported Toyota Hiaces. These have always been the ultimate in Japanese vanning, I absolutely believe that if these were imported to America in the 70’s and 80’s, they would have eaten Volkswagen’s lunch.

Moon Hiace Interior.jpg

Just look how plush that interior is! If you compared this to a Volkswagen Vanagon from the late 80s, this would obliterate in in any comparison test. The van pictured is very clearly a high spec with the rear sunroofs and doilies on the seats. A keen eye will also see how pristine this is in that it even has the Pre-Delivery plastic on the pillars still.

umm what

One might ask why Japan never brought these to America and it is a valid question. However when you look at the marketing of the special editions, it begins to make sense. In Japan it was common to put a small paragraph on the side of cars in awkwardly translated English, needless to say this slogan kept me from sleeping the following night.

Starlet Lineup.jpg

There is so much to say about JCCS, honestly it is a prime example of why everyone loves the SoCal car community. It isn’t that their cars are objectively better but their great cars are in such abundance that their shows are world class. A lot of shows can take a tip from JCCS because of how well it balances exclusivity, styles and ages. I can’t possibly cover every car in the show that was worthy of looking at in a single post, honestly, I would have to start an Instagram page of just JCCS cars to do that. What I can do is give you a second post with more of the cars, until then welcome back to The Carbitrage.

EVENT: Modest – Premium Automotive Showcase

Drive Cartel hosted their second Modest Premium Automotive Showcase at the end of June in St. Paul. Honestly this is one of my favorite import car shows because of the quality of cars in show. It allows me to reaffirm my belief that car culture is still alive and definitely not dying. For a grassroots show that doesn’t have national recognition, it’s quality is quite a feat.

Modest Lineup.jpg

Drive Cartel hosted their second Modest Premium Automotive Showcase at the end of June in St. Paul. Honestly this is one of my favorite import car shows because of the quality of cars in show. It allows me to reaffirm my belief that car culture is still alive and definitely not dying. For a grassroots show that doesn’t have national recognition, it’s quality is quite a feat.

Lineup with GTR

This might have been the physically hottest show I’ve been to in a while, it was over 90 degrees with a dew point of over 70. That doesn’t sound that bad if you don’t know what a dew point is but take my word for it, it was steamy. If the dew point is in the 70’s, that’s more humid than it is in the Lacondon Jungle in Central America this time of year. Like Ricardo Tubbs from Miami Vice said “I can dig tropical, but this is out of bounds.”

BRZ Front

Regardless of how hot it was, Drive Cartel was able to keep things comfortable. The show was in the same location but moved to underneath the Highway 52 bridge and they bumped the show time back a few hours, so it started once the heat began to die down and we could avoid the worst of it. Another thoughtful gesture was that they had free Monster energy drinks and water available. I truly appreciated the pre-planning on behalf of Drive Cartel, they had planned the details of the show months before it was held. A lot of other shows overlook thinking of those details, or try to monetize keeping people comfortable, Drive Cartel though, they just want you to enjoy their efforts.

E30 Coupe

This year I was invited back as a judge for the show, which I was proud to do, and I have seen improvements in most of the builds. Unfortunately, judging took up all of my time at the show so we have a guest photographer, Tyson Noel. If you’re a regular to Carbitrage, you likely recognize his name because we always are talking about his Subaru. We will begin to host more guest photographers as we grow because I am limited by my corporeal shell to only exist in one place at one time and, more importantly, I want to show off the talents of other photographers in the state.

B Series EG

When I was judging last year I spent a lot more time docking points for people who had fairly major issues such as poor quality vinyl wraps, exposed zipties and generally a lot of corner cutting. This year, I saw far less of that, instead the most common thing I docked points for was poor quality preparation. If I’m nitpicking down to that level, it’s a pretty good thing. Some cars, like this white EG Civic, were prepped perfectly w

Mazdaspeed 3.jpg

If you’re not familiar with the show, Modest is limited to about 100 spots and is billed as the 100 best import cars in the state of Minnesota. While it might not be the absolute 100 best cars because I can rattle off a handful that should have been in the show but weren’t able to come for one reason or another, it was still a very good cross section of the best that Minnesota has to offer.

AE110 Corolla

While some cars are clad with huge widebody kits, other cars, like Toumoua’s AE110 Corolla are so creative that they’re in a class of their own. We’ve talked about this car before but this is likely one of the coolest builds of this chassis in the country. It blends several different styles with a few little JDM twists to make something that flows together on a car that just doesn’t show up at shows like this. Fun fact, that JDM license plate is actually accurate for the vehicle tax bracket this Corolla would qualify for in Japan.

Jetta Brown

Other cars like this Jetta didn’t try to blend styles on an obscure chassis, instead they tried to accent the factory bodywork for a clean OEM+ look. I really like the color matched tint on the tail lights. It’s not pictured but the air tank setup used a distressed wood floor that matched the wheels and really tied the whole look together, there were a half dozen other cars with distressed wood floors in the rear that didn’t pull it off nearly as well. I can appreciate how the VAG community seems to be able to make anything that Volkswagen throws onto a showfloor into something unique.

Hieps S13

Hiep’s S13 Silvia ate a wall at a track day last year, which was a major bummer and yanked the entire front end off of the car. Instead of sulking and letting the car fall into ruin, Hiep took his lemons and made a very good batch of lemonade. The front end getting knocked off allowed him to go a little crazy with a massive light bar and a body kit. Having just finished wet sanding the body of the car literally an hour before the show, Hiep tossed the bodykit on and drove it there. You can’t see it very well in the photo but Hiep’s carbon fiber hood has a thin layer of candy red paint on it, color matching it to the rest of the car.

Lexus Widebody

This Lexus IS took home trophies at both Modest and MNCEC’s Minneapolis Mile. I think that the hydrodip under the hood is a bit much but overall, it is a really great build. If you get a chance to see it, it’s very well put together. All of the bodywork flows together with even panel gaps and the paint matching is second to none.

Rocket Bunny S13

The low quality duplicate bodykits and ridiculous no name oversized kits that you could get for a fraction of the price of the real thing was what killed the big bodykit trend. Hopefully our widebody craze doesn’t have to worry about that since the vast majority of us are more interested in build quality over build quantity than we were 20 years ago. Having the most ridiculous car isn’t a necessary win these days and that’s a good thing.

Supra

The key to trends not getting stale is not over-saturating the world with it. One trend that won’t ever go out of style is speed because unlike the look of a car, you can always find a new way to go fast or just make a bigger number. This Mk.4 Supra is a great example of a car where power comes first. It is sporting a single large turbo, front mount intercooler, a bevy of supporting modifications and a very clean execution. Its nice to see that, while these cars creep up to $200,000, that people are still tinkering with them.

Tonys EF

Also creeping up in price, but not nearly on the level of the blue chip Japanese muscle cars of the 90s, are the 1988-2000 Honda Civics. Tony’s EF sedan is likely the best example of its chassis in the state of Minnesota. These Civics hold a soft spot in my heart, especially the EF generation, and its really awesome to see them built on such a high level.

R35 Carbon Fiber

Also on the topic of high end builds, I have never seen this much carbon fiber on a car, nearly this whole R35 GTR is covered in Carbon Fiber. I love it’s afterburner style exhaust tips. This isn’t a wrap either, it is all actual carbon fiber. While Carbon Fiber everything isn’t really my thing, I can still appreciate the effort that it took to do this conversion.

G37S Front.jpg

Overall it’s really nice to see how much Minnesota is improving. 4 years ago, if you had told me that the car culture would be as great as it is here, I would have thought you were crazy because we were doing good but it was all rather stagnant. We have advanced so much in even that short of a period of time.

Audi and wheels

I keep hearing all of these rumors that car culture is waning around the country but I don’t see that happening, not here, not in Chicago or even in California. Yes it has its ebbs and flows, a decade ago the recession was crippling, but I don’t think that car enthusiasts are going anywhere. Things just change, new generations bring new ideas and you just have to be open to it. Pre-war preservationists thought the world was ending when kustoms and hot rods came around in the 50s, then the muscle car purists thought that in the 70s when Toyota dominated everything and it still happens today.

kids cars

People are still making great cars, hosting great shows and advancing the culture. The kids are still excited by cool cars and I think that we’re in a great spot as a community. To the people who think that car culture is dying, that’s just not true. In 50 years, there will still be cool stuff being built, you just have to keep an open mind. Here’s to a great Modest 2019 and to the future of not only Drive Cartel but the Minnesota car community as a whole.

 

EVENT: Cars and Crafts June 2019

Cars and Crafts has been one of our favorite shows since they started the monthly summer series. Their June 2019 show was no different, the quality of cars, the quality of the crowd and the location, were all batting 100. It seems all too often that an excellent show series exists for maybe a season or two then disappears, either they grow too big or the crew dissolves. It’s clear to see that Drive Cartel has no plans to go anywhere but up and their crew has the talent to take their shows as far as a show can go.

R32 Front Night1.jpg

Cars and Crafts has been one of our favorite shows since they started the monthly summer series. Their June 2019 show was no different, the quality of cars, the quality of the crowd and the location, were all batting 100. It seems all too often that an excellent show series exists for maybe a season or two then disappears, either they grow too big or the crew dissolves. It’s clear to see that Drive Cartel has no plans to go anywhere but up and their crew has the talent to take their shows as far as a show can go.

S13 Parking.jpg

The only issue is that as the show went on, people began to taper off and Drive Cartel had to scramble to fill holes in the lot. Of course this wasn’t something that Drive Cartel could have planned for and they handled it really well. If this show was held at a massive location, like Canterbury, it wouldn’t be as much of an issue because 5-10 cars leaving out of 200 cars really isn’t a big deal, at a show of 40 cars or so, then it is suddenly 25% of the show that has left. Drive Cartel does a wonderful job of replenishing cars but they can only plan for so much. There ends up being half a dozen spots open in the show while cars like this S13 are still rolling into spectator parking.

AE110 Corolla Side1.jpg

There were tons of cars that could have used those spots and many of them did. In a brief stroll to get my tripod, I spotted a really well built TRD kitted T230 Celica, Wa Lee’s unbelievable CE1 Accord, just about every Evo 8-9 in the state and probably the coolest E110 Corolla I’ve ever seen in my life. Most of these cars weren’t perfect but some were totally worthy of sitting in the main show and, although Drive Cartel was able to track down a few of the owners, most of these just sat in spectator parking until the end of the show.

Genesis Orange.jpg

With the exception of people leaving so early, the show was excellent. Somehow Drive Cartel is able to get unique cars to come out of the woodwork, the regulars were there but there were also some builds I had never even seen. Those regulars to the Cars and Craft series had some pretty noticeable improvements as well. That’s the unique thing about the midwest versus places like the west coast, we get these massive changes to cars where as in California, you might see a different lip, then a different set of wheels and it just seems like watching paint dry.

Tony Yang EF1

A perfect example of this is Tony Yang, one of the admins over at the MNEF club, who has one of my favorite cars in Minnesota. His EF sedan build has been a slow build over the last few seasons, but I honestly prefer that over these cars that are assembled over a winter, come out and kill it for one or maybe two seasons before disappearing off the face of the Earth. For 2019 Tony has added clear tails, a paint matched center garnish and some really mean Work Meister S1 2-piece wheels that really set his car over the top. Maybe a 5 speed swap with a B17, or something goofy like that, will be next.

R32 Front1.jpg

Brian Jannusch of Top Rank, another Drive Cartel regular, brought out his latest R32 GT-R for sale. A rare halogen headlamp equipped model with an R34 engine swap. The R34 RB26DETT may put out the same amount of power as the R32’s original RB26DETT did, but it does so in a much more reliable and consistent manner. More importantly, it was equipped with a set of hyper rare TE37 wheels with a rose gold finish, naturally Jana lost her mind when she saw this. With what seems like half of the R32 GTRs ever made already in the United States, unique variants like this are what is needed to set the cars apart.

White EG Front.jpg

This EG Civic was one of my favorite builds on this chassis in Minnesota in a while. It’s a simple build as it takes the standard Honda formula with a gutted interior, JDM bits and an engine swap but it puts them together into an excellent package. EGs used to be swarm meets like mosquitoes in Minnesota but after 30 years of rust and theft, what were once thought disposable are now fetching nearly the price they were sold for when new. It is good to see them at shows though, there hasn’t been a subcompact that nailed it this well since the 96-00 generation Civic was discontinued.

Leyland Clubman.jpg

Speaking of cool subcompacts, this Leyland Mini Clubman was a great example of one of the rarest Mini variants. Complete with Lucas electronics and the 1969 facelifted front end, I couldn’t help but fall in love with the little car. These cars are a rabbit hole of interesting variants, maybe we will talk about them in a future article.

Lil Red Express1.jpg

There were a lot more American cars in show this time than usual, a couple of donk Camaros and Mustangs were in the show for its entirety. The coolest American car, and likely coolest car outright, wasn’t even a car, rather it was this Dodge Lil’ Red Express truck. Fun fact, this was actually the fastest American vehicle from 0-100 MPH when it was for sale in 1978. Dodge took the muscle car formula and put it into a truck since there was an emissions loophole that didn’t force catalytic converters and EGR systems onto trucks back then.

Grand National Front.jpg

Keeping on the topic of fast American cars, this Grand National was at the show. It looks like just about every Grand National ever made but this one used to be one of the quicker street cars back in the day, I’m glad to see that it’s still around. Of course here at Carbitrage we would never condone street racing, but if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

S30 V81

Last year I spotted this S30 at Cars and Crafts but I wasn’t able to get any reasonable pictures of it due to a consistent 14 person mob around it. I usually hate V8 swapped S30s but the Mad Max bug catcher, twin carb setup and HUGE old school roots supercharger make this look like something that could have been in that first Mad Max movie, which is shorthand for absolutely positively rad. It also has that 70s muscle car rake to it with raised letter tires on some steel oval track wheels which really drive the whole look of the build home.

Blakes NA Miata BRG2

Blake Hummelgard’s Miata came out with a few small improvements this year, it didn’t really need anything except he finally got a color matched hardtop. This car is a great example of how to build a Miata. It’s purposeful but with enough flare that it doesn’t blend in with the other 1,000,000 Miatas on the road.

BMW2002

This SR20 swapped BMW 2002 has been around for a few years now, it’s cool to see it shows catering more to the import community. It seems like for the first few years, the only place that I would see it was at muscle car shows like Street Nationals at the State Fair Grounds. The 2002 is up there for one of my favorite European chassis of all time.

NA Rocket Bunny1.jpg

John Krueger and his husband Patrick now have twin Miatas, while Patrick has a Rocket Bunny widebody on his, John is rocking a seriously cool old school Bomex kit. John and Patrick have always built some really cool cars and I’m excited to see this Miata as John builds it. Part of me wishes we could fast forward like 5 years until early 2000s bodykits make a full comeback but I also want to start perusing Craigslist to find still intact kits and start hording them for when they go up in value.

VIP GS400.jpg

This VIP Lexus GS400 doesn’t have the best picture ever taken, I have to apologize for that, but when I first saw it during the daytime I didn’t think it had anything fresh done to it. Then at night, I took a closer look and noticed that I was sorely mistaken.

GS400 Headliner.jpg

Look at that headliner! LED lights embedded in the headliner to look like a night sky. Usually I think VIP cars are a bit much and yet all too cookie cutter at the same time, then I see something like this and have to throw my hands in the air and say that I was wrong. I wonder if this is based off any actual night sky star map, where is Neil DeGrasse Tyson when I need him?

Nissan Laurel.jpg

Drive Cartel continues to have the best shows in the state of Minnesota, everything they manage to produce is world class quality and could compete with anything you find in California, Chicago or down south. If you haven’t had a chance to go to Cars and Crafts, you’re missing out, check out the next show July 6th at Saint Paul Brewing.

 

 

EVENT: InterMarque 2019 Part 1

Sometimes I really dread going to a car show. I find myself having dubstep blasted in my earhole and having my olfactory system assaulted by Haggis and Watermelon vape smoke. Meanwhile I’m trying find some way out of that asphalt hell before I develop melanoma.

InterMarque Vintage Foreign Car Show is not one of those shows.

Morgan Morgan Land Rover.jpg

Sometimes I really dread going to a car show. All too often I find myself standing in a boiling hot parking lot while some mouthbreather babbles on about some grievance they have with the show. Meanwhile I’m having dubstep blasted in my earhole and having my olfactory system assaulted by Haggis and Watermelon vape smoke. Honestly, some shows could be nothing but vintage Japanese cars and Group B rally cars, yet I still find myself trying find some way out of that asphalt hell before I develop melanoma. InterMarque Vintage Foreign Car Show is not one of those shows.

Citroen DS and Traction Avant

In fact, I have to say that my first visit to an InterMarque show was the farthest thing from the scenario I mentioned above. It was a perfect combination of factors that all came together in just the right way. A car show like a real estate investment, while the house itself is important, you can always improve that, you can also improve the yard but the hardest part to improve is the location. If you nail all of those aspects, it is a perfect house, and InterMarque certainly nailed it. It really wouldn’t be out of place at Monterey Car Week, not only are the cars on caliber of some of the crop that you see at Car Week, but the character of the show and it’s location would fit in just as well.

Beat Street1.jpg

Every spring, InterMarque car club and the City of Osseo shut down 4 blocks of the quaint downtown area of the city for an annual spring car show. The cars range from RHD Honda BEATs to European rarities like a Borgward Isabella. The true beauty of the show however is the location. You have the cars lining down 4 blocks of the city, allowing for easy foot traffic and lots of space to take pictures and gawk. There is a plaza in the middle of the show where small businesses sell their wares and, more importantly, there is plenty of shade and places to sit. You really feel comfortable at this show and that’s something that a lot of shows miss the boat on.

Isetta Gyros.jpg

It’s the small businesses along the street make the show feel like something magical. If you tire of constantly walking and baking in the sun, you can just pop into an antique shop or stop for a gyro. It makes you feel like you’re actually benefiting the community rather than being a nuisance, the constant anxiety of having to cut the show short because someone decided to flex their rev limiter skills is non-existent. When you leave the show, you feel happy, rather than drained. On the way home we were actually remarking about how much we loved the show, rather than complain about who did what.

Volvo 145

There is a sense of camaraderie amongst fans of the show. These are the people who represent what Carbitrage is all about, it’s for people who love the automobile in all of it’s forms. It’s a place where you find a Triumph 2000 owner talking to the owner of an S2000 and instead of belittling each other or talking at each other, they are just enjoying each others company. I even had deeply enlightening conversations about the various coachbuilt variants of the Citroen DS and about the Bosch Jetronic fuel injection system.

Triumph TR3As

It isn’t just the Carbitrage staff and a group of our fans that love the meet. You’re just as likely to see a 17 year old kid losing their mind over a Honda BEAT as you are to find a white haired man with a beard doing the same thing over these Triumph TR3s. It reminds me of when I was a kid going to Hot Import Nights for the first time and getting jacked up on all of the free cups of NOS energy drink. Every car is something special, you feel like you need to look at every single thing.

Type 3 Front.jpg

That is another piece of the of the mosaic that makes this show so good, everything pays off to look at. Some cars that are obviously cool, like this Volkswagen Type 3. They immediately draw your attention and reward you when you get to the details. You go in expecting something excellent and you aren’t disappointed.

Humbler Super Snipe.jpg

Other cars in the show pay off once you get up close to them. To be entirely honest, I was even thrown off by this car and I pride myself on knowledge of the most obscure cars I can fathom. Richard Halkyard spotted it from half a block away, it is a Humbler Super Snipe. While it looks like an upscale Checker Marathon from the outside, under the hood it gets really interesting.

Humbler Engine

It sports an overhead valve inline six, which on it’s own doesn’t sound like much to write home about, but if you consider that it has hemispherical combustion chambers and a crossflow head design, it suddenly becomes very interesting. Now add that this was designed in the UK in 1958 and was put into a slightly upscale but still largely affordable car, it becomes even more noteworthy.

Super Snipe Badge

In 1958, outside of Chrysler’s Firepower V8 engine, a hemispherical OHV cylinder head could only really be found in upscale marques such as Jaguar, Porsche or the incredibly rare MG MGA Twin Cam. The crossflow design, where the intake is opposite of the exhaust on the head, is something we take for granted today but it wasn’t a common design on six cylinder engines until the 1980s, and it was still usually only seen on high performance vehicles for another decade.

Celica Supra Front.jpg

As great as cars like the Humbler Super Snipe were, going through a completely esoteric show full of things most car enthusiasts have never heard of can feel like it isn’t relatable sometimes. InterMarque wasn’t just completely bizarre European classics, cars like this Mk2 Celica Supra and NA Miata were in show as well. The Japanese representation is still small at InterMarque but it has been growing year over year. What is lost in quantity is made up for with quality though because not only were the cars like these two cars mere examples of great Japanese cars, but they were among two of the best examples I’ve seen yet in Minnesota. This Supra on it’s own could contend at Japanese Classic Car Show out in California and the Miata was no slouch either. Lining the block you could still find the occasional Datsun or Mazda tucked away in other spots as well and they were welcome just as much as the British roadsters were, it honestly felt really good seeing a show that didn’t discriminate one brand over another.

2CV Spitfire Rear

There was so much to see at this show, it could have not been any better, we will be updating with a second part that is more focused on the cars in show. It was just pertinent that we talk about what really made InterMarque great. The location, the attitude, the community, it isn’t just one aspect that makes a show great but everything put together. Like our real estate reference in the beginning said, the house, the yard and the location all make for perfection.  If you’ve never been to InterMarque, you’re missing out on one of the best shows of the year and you owe it to yourself to check it out next year.