Restoring the Sport Compact Generation

by Per Schroeder

I am wearing a Casio G-Shock watch that dates back to the late 1980s—it was one of the first models with a full stainless steel case under the thick plastic bezel. I recently purchased it online in a fit of nostalgia—it is a twin to the one that I had back in college. It’s a cheap way to relive my youth, but what’s really cool is that the watch has an aftermarket reproduction bezel. The originals are no longer available from Casio and some enterprising folks made new ones.

Yep, you read that right—people are restoring Casio digital watches. They’ve become hard to find in good condition because of what they are: a watch you can beat the snot out of that will keep on chugging along.


Don't start with the Members Only jacket jokes, but this restored vintage Casio G-Shock is bitchin'. 

So, now I watch with some fascination as 1980s cars are selling for real money—a first generation BMW M3 recently sold for $58,000. Other icons of the 1980s, like Honda CRXs and early Volkswagen GTIs are starting to move upwards in value as well. I wouldn’t be surprised if other inexpensive enthusiast cars, like the Nissan SE-R and Toyota MR-2 followed suit shortly.

Thanks to their appeal to drifters, the AE86 Corolla and Nissan 240SX have become harder to find at a reasonable pricepoint—but we expect that these will also become great cars to have in stock, unmodified form as well.


As popular as it's become, Drifting has certainly took its toll on the available pool of stock AE86s. How many will be left in 20 years? 

That last part is the key. Finding a stock and otherwise unmolested original sport compact car from the 1980s through the 1990s is going to be well on impossible—even dealerships were slapping some pretty craptastic aftermarket wings and big wheels on Civics back then.

Just like that G-Shock watch, CRX and GTI owners modified, raced and otherwise beat the crap out of these cars from the get-go. They were cheap, they were fun and Lord, did we destroy a lot of them.

The Miata might soon be the poster child for this restoration movement, as the first ones are now a quarter of a century old. According to Keith Tanner of Flyin’ Miata,  “The NA Miata is at an interesting point in its life. It’s starting to show signs of being a classic car as parts that are becoming No Longer Available (NLA), but it still has a very active community of owners, so it’s not turned into a collector car that’s kept tucked away in the garage.”


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Dusty Duster
Dusty Dusterlink
Friday, September 05, 2014 5:27 AM
I really want to restore a 2nd-generation DSM. What's wrong with me?
Per Schroeder
Per Schroederlink
Friday, September 05, 2014 5:36 AM
Good luck! A buddy of mine had one of the last of those..cool car, impossible to find these days in unmolested form.
Friday, September 05, 2014 7:08 AM
Chances the classic sport compact market explodes within the next 10-20 years a-la muscle cars in the late 90s/early 2000s? pretty good I'd say.
Nick B
Nick Blink
Friday, September 05, 2014 8:32 AM
'87-'93 Fox Body Mustangs!
Dusty Duster
Dusty Dusterlink
Friday, September 05, 2014 9:10 AM
The advantage of Mustangs is the sheer amount of aftermarket support for them!
Friday, September 05, 2014 9:42 AM
My wife just looks at me funny when I talk about collecting early 90's and late 80's cars.
Friday, September 05, 2014 10:20 AM
The muscle car market is a good and bad thing to go on. They had the same problems with attrition through being beaten on, which has driven a lot of the value in the past. That said, the muscle cars hit their age of collectibility at a time of unprecedented and likely unrepeatable wealth in America. There just isn't as much disposable income in Gen X/Gen Y as the boomers had 25 years ago.

There's also a wild card in the mix - many of the most desirable foreign cars were only sold overseas, and as they hit 25 years old they become legal to import. Right now it's essentially a seller's market for, say, an August 1989-built R32 Skyline GT-R. Importers like Japanese Classics LLC are pulling five-figure prices for more mass-produced Silvias and Skylines.
Friday, September 05, 2014 10:38 AM
Take that Scirocco off any sweet jumps? Holy baja! :)
Per Schroeder
Per Schroederlink
Friday, September 05, 2014 10:55 AM
Stock ride height for one of those.. "Plus 1" wheel and tire combo. He's got the original Teardrops in his garage. Sweet car—no jumps :-)
Saturday, September 06, 2014 4:39 AM
"Of course, there’s a fine line between visionary and that weird guy with a field full of Isuzu Impulses."

So where is the guy with the impulses??? Sounds like an interesting guy.
Per Schroeder
Per Schroederlink
Saturday, September 06, 2014 5:02 AM
They're out there...

Monday, September 08, 2014 7:12 AM
I'm just getting ready to restore my '86 Integra and these are the EXACT problems I'm facing. Luckily for me, the interior is complete so I figure I'll be able to take that to an upholstery shop and have it repaired. The body is the nightmare though. 20 years on salt roads with 1980s corrosion protection (or lack thereof) means every single panel is covered in rust.

Sport compacts will definitely rise in value as all cars have, the question is will the market explode or will they just slowly rise in price? If the values explode there will be a market for resto parts. If the prices rise slowly, then it'll be hard to justify those production costs. You need to wait for the kids who loved those cars to get old enough to have tons of disposable income. Time to mothball your pristine S13 until 2040!
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