Perhaps no other car is as emblematic of 2022’s surging collector car market as Nissan’s Skyline GT-R. Between its various special editions, popular colors, and limited versions on the Federal Show or Display list, high demand for GT-Rs has whipped the market into a frenzy. It hasn’t gone unnoticed that a concours Show or Display-eligible 1999 R34 GT-R V-Spec is now worth a cool $500,000. Big numbers are big motivation, and it appears that some sellers are looking to hit a home run with cars more worthy of a double (or a bunted single). Eagle-eyed commenters on Bring a Trailer quickly took notice of certain shortcomings and open questions when this 2000 GT-R became available, and bidding quickly dried up, resulting in a no-sale.
As we’ve covered before, the surge in popularity of Japanese-market sports cars has motivated some to check their scruples at the door and skirt strict federal import requirements. Fortunately, that was not the case here. This GT-R, though just 22 years old (younger than the 25-year threshold the law requires), came to the States legally. While the car was not on the Show or Display list of cars eligible to be imported ahead of its 25th birthday, the seller applied to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to have this Midnight Purple III GT-R added to the list, and it was approved. That’s where the questions started.
It’s a very rare occurrence that a car is approved for the Show or Display list, immediately imported, and listed for sale. It effectively creates a market of one, in theory driving up demand. In talking with industry experts, no one could come up with an instance where someone had done this before. Further, NHTSA must approve the subsequent sale of any vehicle still subject to Show or Display guidelines, so the agency was now in a position to have to review a potential sale mere months after having approved the car. We reached out to NHTSA (as did several BaT commenters) seeking details. Their spokesperson had no further comment beyond confirming that this specific car had been approved and that NHTSA would have to approve any subsequent sale.
“Kudos to an enterprising individual,” you might say. Fair enough, but if that causes NHTSA to be more discerning in their approach, that doesn’t do a lot of good for the hobby as a whole.
The situation didn’t improve from there. Only vague reference to past damage and repainting along with some bargain-basement tires (remember, this could be a $200,000+ car if properly presented), did not endear the seller to the community. From the first day, there was just too much uncertainty about the car. A commenter spent a few dollars and ran the GT-R’s Vin through CarVX (essentially the Japanese version of CARFAX) and discovered that it had an R-grade. In and of itself, that’s not necessarily an issue: cars in Japan can receive that for minor repairs, but when further research showed that most of the body panels had been replaced, all trust was lost.
“The moral of the story is that when you’re dealing with a super hot car that has an incredibly educated buying base, you have to be knowledgeable and you can’t hide anything,” said Greg Ingold, Editor of the Hagerty Price Guide. “The fact that the seller could have paid $30 for that report and shared it up front didn’t sit well with the BaT community. Had it been disclosed on day one, it wouldn’t have been as big a deal.”
This isn’t the first time a GT-R hit Bring a Trailer only to be pummeled for presentation and disclosure issues. This Show or Display-eligible 1999 Midnight Purple II R34 GT-R V-Spec was withdrawn by by BaT on August 15th this year after commenters brought up a number of issues with that car. On the first day, bidding hit $315,000 before astute readers pointed out rivet repairs on the strut towers and near the pinch welds, and a replaced gauge cluster, neither of which were mentioned in the description. It got worse, and BaT pulled the car the following day.
Both of these cars have since found their way to eBay, and the 1999 car has ostensibly been sold once, only to be relisted again. “These are speculative efforts with cars of questionable history,” said Ingold. “The Skyline community is a bit like those who collect 50s and 60s Ferraris—everyone in that world knows these cars down to each nut and bolt, and when an attempted transaction discloses an issue, that specific car isn’t forgotten. These cars will be shopped around till they find someone uninformed enough, or they lower their prices to accommodate the inherent problems.”
As wild as corners of the market may still be, it’s heartening to know that there are sleuths out there to help shed light on auction listings that could benefit from greater disclosure. That said, whether it’s a high-dollar Skyline, a C2 Corvette, or a basic hot hatch from your youth, remember that you’re buying the seller as much as the car. Be careful, and if something doesn’t feel right, there’s a decent chance something isn’t right.