10 Cheap JDM Classics You Can Modify Into Complete Monsters

It’s no secret that the car market is crazy right now, with prices going up in almost every segment. One part of the market that was particularly affected is the classic JDM Cars, many of which have doubled their value just a few years ago. This makes it more difficult than ever for first-time project car owners to be able to buy what they’re looking for, but although the market is generally on the rise, there are a few classic cars that have remained relatively cheap.
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Sometimes this is because there is a huge supply of examples used, exceeding demand and keeping prices low. Sometimes it’s simply that enthusiasts haven’t yet registered how cool these cars are as modified projects. Eventually, they are sure of it, and as supply dries up, prices will start to rise. Therefore, it’s best to get one of these cheap classics sooner rather than later, allowing you the maximum time and money to modify it into a custom-built monster.

10 Mazda Miata NA

It’s hard to go wrong with a classic Miata, and while it’s not the most authentic option, it’s the perfect starting point for someone new to showcasing vehicle ownership. Almiatas are inexpensive, easy to operate, and characterized by a huge market for after-sales services.

The aftermarket is large enough that owners have the choice of building their mild or wild cars, and Mazda is suitable for either. Some prefer adding a coilover kit and some aftermarket wheels, while some go so far as to put Hellcat engines in their Miatas. This is about as wild as it gets.

9 Lexus LS 400

The 4.0-liter V8 under the hood of the Lexus LS400 is one of the best V8s available in the period. It’s also ideal for adding extra strength, thanks to its sturdy build quality.

In stock form, it produces about 250 horsepower, but adds enough aftermarket performance parts, and power can be increased to more than four times that number. Or just stand on it and cruise at 30 mph, depending on your choice.

8 Honda Accord CB7

This might not be the most obvious choice, but the classic Honda Accord makes a surprisingly good sleeping build. All it took was a few tweaks to make the car look meaner than the stock, and who were the new headlights that looked so good in a family sedan?

So many Hondas have been sold that finding a cheap used car should be a piece of cake. Even high mileage examples shouldn’t be a problem, as conventions of this era are known for their ability to run hundreds of thousands of miles without much fanfare.

7 Mitsubishi Delica

A great JDM truck captured all over the world, Delica is still cheap in many import markets, but only for now. One can still be picked up for the equivalent of under $10,000, but these inexpensive examples are getting tougher.

They make great wild builds, and they’re different enough to stand out just about anywhere they go. It doesn’t have anywhere near the performance capabilities of the Lexus LS400 or even the Miata, but it will handle roads and dirt trails as well as anything else in the price bracket.

6 Honda del Sol

Del Sol-based Honda Civic has plenty of fans and plenty of detractors, but as far as dirt-cheap JDM projects go, it’s hard to knock. Buyers have the option to go for a Japanese anime-inspired design like the car pictured here, or keep things simple and simple with some stylish wheels and a body kit.
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The car pictured uses Volk TE37 wheels, which seem to make any car look good, so it’s always a solid choice for anyone stuck in choosing a steering wheel. Del Sol as a whole is a solid option too, although don’t expect it to perform faster than the Civic, at least not in stock form.

5 Lexus LX 470

The Land Cruiser is the best Japanese off-road vehicle, but the classic Land Cruisers are also very expensive. The next best thing is the LX470, which debuted in 1998 and is in the process of switching from a ‘modern classic’ to just a ‘classic’.

It’s not the cheapest car here, but it’s rarely a classic SUV. Examples can still be very expensive and laborious, and they are as hard as nails, so reliability shouldn’t be an issue. In addition, it looks as good in a wild above ground form as the Land Cruiser.

4 Toyota Celica

The latest iteration of the Celica long-range sports car is also one of the cheapest versions currently in use to buy. There is a huge range of mod options available to Celica owners, which we’ve already covered here at Hot Cars.

Like most Toyota sports cars, Celicas can be modified to run much higher horsepower than stock, and in many cases, cheaper examples of the vehicle may have already seen some modification at the hands of a previous owner.

3 Honda Accord Aerodic

Cheap, cheerful, and cheerfully retro, there’s not much to hate about the Honda Aerodeck. They sport the classic boxy style so adored by many enthusiasts, but haven’t been subject to the same price hikes that have been hit by the retro-looking JDM classics yet.
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There are many options available when modifying an Aerodeck, but by far the most common is to rely on an old school look and select some classic wheels and the right accessories. Or build it on a race-ready street, it’s up to you.

2 Toyota Hilux

The humble Toyota Hilux pickup truck is a favorite among dealers, farmers … and professional drivers. This is definitely no ordinary work truck, that’s for sure.

A stalled drift machine, a tire shredder, uses a tubular frame structure and then the hilux body slots on the top. It looks incredibly fun to drive and is a stylish reinvention of a cheap classic car that isn’t as appreciated as it should be.

1 Nissan 300ZX

Yes, this is a classic Nissan Z and yes, it is still relatively cheap. But maybe not for long! Considered one of the best Nissan sports cars ever, it has been improved upon with a few carefully selected modifications.

Adding a body kit would make the car’s iconic design stand out even more, and why not add some larger turbines to increase the potential of the V6? It’s not the easiest car to work on, but it’s fun enough to drive that most enthusiasts don’t even bother.


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