While I can’t remember the exact year, I can still remember the excitement of waking up on Christmas morning – maybe 1998 or 1999 – and unwrapping a Playstation console.
Dad had won the console in some end of year competition at his work (much to the envy of his younger colleagues who wanted it for themselves) and the box also came bundled with two games; Spyro The Dragon, and Gran Turismo.
Nearly 25 years later, the “PS1” is still my favourite console. I spend more time watching ‘Let’s Play’ videos of old PS1 games I wanted but never had, than I do playing any modern games.
I’ve had various Playstations, Xbox generations, Nintendo consoles and more, but time and time again I come back to the PS1. Although this website doesn’t discuss the “philosophy” of gaming, for what it’s worth my view is that consoles like the PS1 (which had limited graphical capability) effectively forced developers to be more creative with game development.
These days, the immense power of consoles and PCs means that you can mask poor gameplay and derivative experiences behind visually impressive graphics.
But I digress.
You see Gran Turismo – one of those games I got with the Playstation – is still one of my favourite games and series ever.
I loved the first game and sunk countless hours into it as a kid. Being the total tragic that I have always been, one of my favourite bits of the game was reading the detailed descriptions of each car. I credit Gran Turismo (and its successor, Gran Turismo 2 – which I played even more) with being the genesis of my love for cars.
In particular, Gran Turismo started a lifelong love of “JDM” cars.
From more humble cars like the Honda CR-X, to the legendary Skyline GT-R aka ‘Godzilla’, there were so many cars for ~8 year old me to fall in love with.
I remember being so proud of managing to win enough races (and pass enough of those infuriating licence tests) to be able to buy a Mitsubishi GTO/3000GT, and then upgrading it over time.
And here’s the thing; the GTO was my “dream car” in Gran Turismo, and that has translated to it being my dream car in real life.
If I won the lottery, before even ringing up the bank manager to pay off my mortgage I’d be asking my friend Tim from J-Cars (who specialises in finding and importing JDM ‘modern classics’) to source me the best possible twin turbo GTO, money no object.
More importantly, I don’t think I’m the only person in this camp. In fact, I believe that Gran Turismo – and subsequent titles in the series, as well competitor franchises like Forza – has had a direct impact on why JDM modern classic cars are now so crazy expensive.
A generation growing up and aspiring to own on Gran Turismo digital versions of the Supra MK4, RX-7, Skyline GT-R and all those other ‘halcyon names’ has compounded the growth of JDM classic car prices.
Even more modest or less prestigious JDM cars like the Toyota Levin BZ-R or Mitsubishi Galant VR-4 are going for substantial money (whereas when I was at high school in the mid 2000s, you could hardly give them away. I remember being offered a mint condition VR-4 Galant for about $5000 NZD, and turning it down because the insurance would have been too high)
Here’s the logic behind my seemingly insane argument:
As a kid, I dreamed of owning a GTO. However, as an 8 year old I couldn’t drive. As a 17 year old in 2009 with my driver’s licence, I couldn’t afford one on my part-time supermarket job wages, and even if I borrowed the money the insurance and maintenance would have killed me.
Now, at the ripe old age of 30, I’m finally in the position to afford a GTO. I know I mentioned above that buying one would be a “lottery purchase”, but if I compromised to some extent on condition and/or spec, then a GTO would be an attainable purchase for me. Even a more modest RX-7 (not one of the super rare limited edition models) or something like an R32 GT-R would be doable.
And that’s because I’ve grown older, gone out and built a career, saved up money – and now I can actually afford to make my dream a reality.
For the longest time, a car like the Mitsubishi GTO was only attainable to me in digital form on my PS1 memory card. It’s only recently have I reached a stage in life where I could consider affording to indulge my dream.
But I’m not alone … there are many others, all across the world, who grew up playing Gran Turismo (and other racing games – but let’s face it, the early GT games were without parallel for the time) who dreamt of one day opening their real garage to find the car once parked in their digital garage.
Considering that Gran Turismo appealed to both to late Millennial children such as myself, as well as early-to-mid Millennials and even potentially those at the tail end of Generation X (e.g. someone born in 1979 would have been 18 when Gran Turismo 1 released in 1997) as the “GT Generation” has aged those who were a bit older when they first built their dream digital garages have enjoyed the earlier opportunities to scoop up JDM/Japanese modern classics when prices were more affordable.
For example, the 18 year old mentioned above would have been about my current age – 30 – when I was finishing up high school in 2009. That 30 year old (who is now the best part of 45) would have been able to realise their “Garage Dream” thanks to more affordable pricing and natural career/income progression.
However, as the Gran Turismo Generation has collectively aged, we have still largely maintained desire for the cars of our dreams. The cars are now more expensive, and supply is more limited, but the desire remains. When you combine this with general inflation in the classic car market (read here my article on why classic car prices are so insane these days) as well as wider inflation across almost all goods and services, you can start to see why prices on JDM and Japanese “modern classics” – the sorts of cars that were the bread and butter of Gran Turismo in its earlier iterations – have risen so much.
I’m convinced that Gran Turismo has a role to play in explaining the continued desirability and increasing prices of cars like the Mitsubishi GTO/3000GT, Toyota MR2, and Honda Integra Type R.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts!