Vehicles from the 1980s and 1990s are starting to become popular projects, especially those older JDM or Euro cars and trucks that are now available for import to the U.S. under the 25 year rule. But those looking to buy something from the malaise or Radwood era should remember: these are not new cars, and they’ll need more upkeep, maintenance, and overall mechanical love than your five-year old Hyundai.
I see it regularly on the Facebook groups. People complaining about having to replace gaskets, door handles, interior bits, and other nickle-and-dime items. Other members are quick to reply, reminding the poster that this is a 27 year old vehicle and they require more care than a newer, more modern automobile.
Next comes the reply from the original poster stating that they can’t believe a [INSERT PART NAME HERE] is some sort of crazy expensive price. Sure, the shocks on Honda are $50 a set. But if you really want to replace those electric dampers on your Montero or Pajero, be ready to shell out nearly $600 for a set … of two.
You can probably break it down into stages.
- Initial Excitement: WE GOT A 1992 JDM AUTOMOBILE!
- Discovering Broken Things: I think the clutch is slipping …
- Asking Where To Get Parts (likely without searching anywhere first): Where can I get parts for this thing?
- Sticker Shock: The only clutch kit I can find is located in a warehouse in Latvia, and it’s $1,000 plus shipping! And, they want a blood sample!
- A Way Out: Is there any cheap way to fix this? Will a Honda Civic clutch work? I heard a Honda Civic clutch will work …
- Acceptance or Bail: Ugh. Parts are 3x the price they should be and I have to wait six decades to get it. OR … This thing is a money pit. Anyone looking for a 1992 JDM thing?
Actually, this isn’t the worst case scenario. Personally, I find the most unfortunate thing is when a person who isn’t used to fixing their rig or turning wrenches buys something that requires mechanical know-how. When someone says, “My mechanic said I needed new torsion bars for my van. What are torsion bars? Will it be expensive to fix? Can I use torsion bars from a Honda Civic? My friend thinks you can.”
So not only does the person not know what a torsion bar is, but they don’t know how to replace it, and it’s likely they’ll balk at the price of having a mechanic tear apart the suspension system on a 1989 JDM van—likely a costly affair. I’ve seen this stuff happen. It’s kind of like the person who buys a pet, but then doesn’t want to take care of it because it’s too much work. Buyer and owner beware.
Older vehicles are not for everyone. Remember that.
Old vehicles need more attention in nearly every instance. Parts are probably pricier. Stuff breaks more often. These are not new vehicles. Try to know what you’re going to get into if you’re buying a 32 year old Mazda, a 25 year old Toyota, or even a 15 year old Jeep as a project car, or worse, a daily driver. We literally just replaced a timing belt, water pump, thermostat, clutch plate, clutch housing, pilot bearing, transmission fluid, and a rear brake caliper. It wasn’t cheap. It also wasn’t surprising.