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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Why Japanese car parts are getting harder (and pricier) to source

"There goes my wheel," I thought matter-of-factly as I watched my left front wheel bound away from me like an excited kangaroo. My hub flange failed mid-corner while I was racing my 2000 Miata at Mid Ohio in October 2020, ending my race and beginning my search for a better hub solution.
https://www.hagerty.com/media/market-trends/hagerty-insider/why-japanese-car-parts-are-getting-harde...
36 REPLIES 36
audiobycarmine
Technician

Cue pedal-steel guitar...
"You Picked a Fine Time to Leave Me, Loose Wheel".
DMcC
Detailer

Chuckle!
Pete1
Pit Crew

Thanks a lot. That will be stuck in my brain for the rest of the day.
hyperv6
Racer

Here has been my observation.

While American muscle cars were all the rage for several decades the imports were still a select group of buyers and even then it split down to even less that were modifying.

Even back in the big sport compact era of the 90's performance parts were rare. Most were sold by companies that specialized in one make or model and they were not always very cheap. Many of these companies come and go often as it is hard to maintain a good income on a model as less and less people do much with them as they get older.

The big companies are often ignoring the market accept for the cheap easy stuff like wheels and intake tubes or big outlet mufflers. None of the real performance stuff was cheap so many never bought them.
Add to it that even though we see many Miata, some MR2 and other like sports cars none were high volume per year in this country. Then split that number by how many really race them vs just nice weekend drives that don't break many parts.

Then split these numbers by the half of the country where rust eats up many of the cars reducing number even more.

I work in the performance market and even my firm has tried to address imports but to do so you almost have top produce your own parts. Then the cost of the development is more than the return you will see. While I can drop money on a Mustang part and see 20 times the return.

This is not just a Japan car issues. I own a Fiero. They made almost 400,000 of them over 5 years and there are still many out there. I am lucky as much of the car was parts bin. It was a curse before but today it is a benefit. The 88 has many one year parts on the suspension that are difficult to find. The T Top cars numbered around 6000 plus if you count the retro fit kits and today a set of new NOS gaskets can cost $1500 if you can find them. There is just no market to make them as the return is just not there for the investment.

Same can be applied to a number of cars today. Few of these parts interchange and the demand for the Miata spindle may be high with the racers but in the kind of world where mfg. look for greater numbers before they invest.

The truth is we are pretty much reliant on small MFGs willing to take on the challenge and we will have to pay more for it. We should not complain on prices as it can always be worse and just not being able to get one unless you own your own Bridgeport.

I have spent years with envy of those who can go build a Mini or a complete Camaro from a catalog. For me I search swap meets, web and E bay for parts that are difficult to impossible to find. When I find them and if I need them the price is no issue.

With the work in my car I have also relied of friends that are machinist and even a graphic artist to help be create a new dash. I upgraded my gauges. I could make them read bigger numbers with some Diodes and a capacitor but the where do I find gauges faces? My buddy created new ones that not only were spot on he even put my last name where most say Smiths.

Like anything else this falls to not what you know but who you know.
Maestro1
Technician

SImply read hyper's remarks herein and that plus the article will tell you everything you need to know. I own a Japanese car among others, it is not raced nor modified in any way and I have not (so far) found any parts issues. What I am seeing, along with my domestic parts prices is increases at the parts counter. Like everything else. If you want some excitement fill up my Chrysler 300 at the gas pump. Until things get back to normal, whatever that is, we'll see high prices everywhere.
erne75
Advanced Driver

Clearly Brandon has to go!
RP
Intermediate Driver

I own 9 1980s vintage Toyotas. 7 running, 5 licensed and insured. Yes, certain parts are hard to find. So much so, I bought a '85 Celica parts car just for the side moldings for my '83 Celica. I have a set of replacement cab corners for my '86 dually currently in shipping after finding a Quebec shop that actually makes them. I have stripped at least a half dozen cars in the past decade, mostly for body and trim parts. I am a regular at pick and pull yards too. Just want to keep them looking good and enjoyable to drive. Most mechanical parts I can get from Rock auto.
1956meteor
Intermediate Driver

I am in the process of getting my recently acquired 1997 Thunderbird thru safety certification. It requires front end parts, my local jobber is having difficulty finding a supplier that actually has them in stock despite the parts listing numbers showing as still active. So it is not just an import issue.
Tinkerah
Engineer

Even worse for a brand that's been out of business for years. My wife is a fan of Suzuki Sidekicks/Samurais and they've won me over as well. A fuel hose failed on one, AN style flare nut on one end and banjo fitting on the other so I thought no biggie...and was quite wrong. The only sources were a local hydraulic hose shop ($400 quote) and a far off salvage yard, $100 + shipping for a piece just as old. Thankfully I do own machine tools so made one up right here at the house. Anyone else need one?

MoparMarq
Advanced Driver

Those mfg programs will help slightly with the more popular cars that break the same parts. But for lesser known and shorter run vehicles, we are mostly out of luck. The Acura Vigor, while not an enthusiast car by any stretch of the imagination, was only produced from '92 to '94, so parts for it are quite difficult to come by - even simple mechanical parts, never mind body or interior parts. The MkIII Supra was produced from late 86 to '92 - an over 6 year run - but parts for it are also extremely difficult to find. And used parts are through the roof, pricewise. The heritage program from Toyota may help, but the number of parts available can be counted on only two hands.
Snailish
Instructor

This was just a true with my 1964 Buick which shared almost nothing with it's corporate sisters when I tried to restore it 25 years ago.

3D printing is just beginning to turn the tide on this a bit.

Trick is, you need people with good examples of original/rare stuff to get it scanned.

As long as people weren't foolish, the tooling for the aftermarket stuff should exist somewhere. The key is getting someone to reissue it --we have seen this happen with a lot of flathead ford stuff.

Isky and Offenhauser have been offering some limited demand items for decades assumedly because they already made the parts (maybe they overstocked on Olds engine parts in the 50s and are just selling that for 70 years since...).
miata93
Advanced Driver

I would bet even money that if you wanted an Offy intake now for a 2.8L Ford or even a small block Chevy, they would cast it instead of pulling it from a shelf.
Camarojoe
Intermediate Driver

With all the MX-5's you can't get key parts? Skylines with part cost's like old Ferrari's? I had a 240Z as my first car and was looking to relive the glory days, but purchase and parts costs put the idea out of range. I really don't know why the market isn't there for Supra, Z car, and some of the other more rare Japanese cars, maybe they weren't supposed to break?
Like hyperv6 said the aftermarket can make a living producing parts for almost all GM, most of Ford and Chrysler repo parts. They don't have the deep pockets to take a chance on developing Japanese parts. End of story no 240Z, I have built a Pro touring Camaro, Chevelle, and and next a C-10.
miata93
Advanced Driver

The MX-5 appears to be the most common road race car on earth right now. Unfortunately for the collector or restorer this means that parts and donor cars are being cannibalized at a very rapid rate.
I wonder what the cost of restoring the 1st generation car pictured in the article was.
Tbass1020
New Driver

I have 1969 NIssan Patrol that is extremely hard to find parts for but I think it will be worth it when I am done.
wsb1960tr3a
Pit Crew

That's one thing about British cars like Triumph, MG, Morgan, etc.. You can pick up a Moss Motors catalogue and order almost anything you want. As for my Morgan, you can make many of the parts yourself. Many guys end up making their own doors and body panels. If I was really into it I could grow a tree to cut the wood to make the body chassis... It depends how much you want to do verses how much you want to buy. Simpler cars.
RP
Intermediate Driver

My '81 Corolla would not start when hot because it's starter lacked a heat shield. Yes, I made one. Two pieces instead of one, but I didn't have to remove the manifold to get it on. Incidentally, this is the issue that caused the original owner to sell the car.

DanC
Intermediate Driver

Went to look for NOS or OEM body parts ...the parts counter kid was only as educated as the computer questions he was led through. The "senior" staff member he deferred to had a pink unicorn decal on the customer side of his monitor, the caption was "I specialize in..."
miata93
Advanced Driver

Yeah, I hate it when they ask you for your engine size when you need a tail light bulb. Apparently the software is clunky enough to demand that data point.
Punk
Advanced Driver

It looks like the Japanese collector car market for parts is where I found the English car market when I got into it in the late 1980s. Most cars were never thought to still be around after 40 years of use so parts availability was hard. NOS was costly and aftermarket parts, what there were, were often from Mexico and poorly made. But time and demand changed things and today you can build your own MGB or E Type from scratch as everything is now available in good quality. Hopefully the same evolution will happen for my 1990 RX 7!
AG1962
Instructor

Thanks for this fine piece, a timely one, too, as parts prices start to follow the steep recent curve of car values. I have only one suggestion, more logical than just grammatical: the sentence “That’s a good thing, of course, but it means a major source of affordable second-hand parts are drying up.“ suggests that the parts themselves are somehow getting dried. I guess they should be dry before installation. But it’s the source that *IS* drying up.

Chris2161
Intermediate Driver

By time you track down that elusive part, pay the insanely inflated price, plus the newly increased shipping charge, wait till the container is unstuck somewhere in the Chesapeake, get it installed with a mask fogging up your glasses, gas it up at $5/gal, pay the newly increased track fee, and increased insurance……..who the hell cares anymore? The world is truly coming to an end. Bring back the horse and make the shoes and saddles the way we used to: here in our backyards and with our own hands.
I’m being sarcastic of course, but really, the love of cars and of driving has become a much rougher road.
brians356
Advanced Driver

The value of the Yen vs US Dollar just hit 125:1, the highest I've ever seen (it was 104:1 a year ago) Our dollars go a long way in Japan, but few replacement parts (OEM or otherwise) are even manufactured in Japan now.



Gary_Bechtold
Specialist

Even when a manufacturer says they are going to do parts for your car it doesn't mean they will be what you want or widely available. Still waiting on Toyota to get in gear on Supra stuff.
TG
Technician

I don't know that there is anything particularly unique about Japanese cars when it comes to OEM parts. Pretty much all manufacturers, and to a certain extent parts store chains, stop supporting OEM-quality parts past the 10-year mark. after that, you are at the mercy of chinese suppliers at the low end, or specialty manufacturers at the high end with nothing in between.

I had a 944 that after 30 years of life, the rear CV joints started clicking... so I went to the parts store and ordered two new rear axles. Two different brands and three failures later, I had to modify the transmission mount to stop the failures. While there may have been too much play in the mount, the original 30-year old axles were able to tolerate it without issue. No brand or country of origin is immune from the parts problem
DRF
Intermediate Driver

My dad ended up choosing a late era MGB over a first generation Miata partly because of parts availability mentioned by Miata owners. While not exactly the same, the MGB parts are very plentiful both used, rebuilt, and new.
hyperv6
Racer

One other problem is this. Some MFGs made so many changes and sold so many different versions of a engine in different markets that it can be difficult to find someone willing to invest in replacement parts for less common engines. 

 

Case in point Honda changed engines in markets often and often did not offer the same engine in different markets. This has made it difficult for parts suppliers to supply less common models. 

Then you get the folks who import the engine from Japan for the extra HP and there are no parts here and they get upset because these engines are not using similar parts even though they look alike. 

 

The rage over the small block Chevy for decades was this. It was light, powerful and often the same parts that fit 30 years ago still fit the new engine. This today is still no longer true but companies will make parts for the most common and most likely to make money otherwise it can get expensive. 

 

Many imports are often not as common over the years with each others and the cars from Japan often were updated and changed even during a model year. This makes for difficulty for the after market parts for many engines at a reasonable cost even if you can find them. 

MR
Intermediate Driver

Interesting article highlighting what we already know if you own and maintain classics that have been long out of production.
The internet has made is really easy to source good NOS parts. Those are drying up quickly.
Many buyers of NOS are not end users but flippers looking to make a buck on enthusiasts like us. As always, buyer beware!
The scores of OEM and aftermarket suppliers that are out there for specific makes source there parts from a relatively small pool of suppliers. I'm afraid the pool is only getting smaller. Quality is all over the place.
Finding the cottage industry of true craftspeople like Miatahub can be difficult. We have to support these people when we can!
Then trying to convince folks to open their wallet for quality, well, that's another story you should research and write.
Greg_I
Hagerty Employee

I don't know that I agree with the sentiment in your opening sentence completely. Yes, there is always going to be a shortage with any type of vehicle, but the issue is pretty pronounced in the Japanese market, especially for cars not produced for the North American market. I'm not talking just in North America, I'm talking everywhere. 

erne75
Advanced Driver

Sounds like a lot of business opportunities to produce OEM parts by entrepreneurs...With that said, the Car manufactures seem to be too preoccupied catering to Government demands of producing electric car versus making the cars that we want. That sets the tone, that with few exceptions, they are not listening to us. Here is an idea: If they are not gonna support their old cars, they should probably open source all their parts drawings/specs and let the community take care of producing those replacements.
00-328ITR
New Driver

My Integra Type R has been sitting for over 4 months waiting for a back-ordered part (the immobilizer unit that tells the ecu to complete the starting function)...this morning I was informed by my parts vendor that the part has just been discontinued (they did a dealer search as well, none available)...there are no aftermarket options as yet that I am aware of...I just found a used one on eBay, which I hope will work.

If the car manufacturers are going to the trouble of building anti-theft features (such as the Immobilizer) and when those features fail, can't even supply the part needed for me to get my own car running...what's the point...unless their market studies indicate most people won't keep a 20-year old car? End of rant...
TG
Technician

I suspect that I will have to get creative with an Arduino to solve some of the digital controller issues with my '90 Cadillac. There are people who will 'rebuild' these components for big money and questionable results, but nobody is supplying them once the original OEM parts bin runs dry

Eddie1
Intermediate Driver

Just like Japanese motorcycles. I had a 1991 Suzuki Bandit 400 a number of years back. When it came time for parts ? Good luck! Even Suzuki dealerships never heard of the model . I was told that any Japanese motorcycle imported into the USA needed to be able to supply parts for it for seven years. After that you were on your own . A very asthetic looking motorcycle and I was dead in the water with a four hundred pound paperweight.
SAG
Instructor

every one finding problems locating 'salvage parts'.
thank former President Obama, for that.
Oldimpala
Detailer

Depends on the part.

The cars weren't crushed; motors were seized (some weren't even that, I scored plenty of back door deals.)

You wanted body/interior parts, they were and are plentiful if you can find a yard that didn't crush cars.
Farm966
Pit Crew

When politicians decide to put a stranglehold on shipping in and out of California by mandating that any semi’s older than a certain age are no longer allowed to move freight, you have the beginning of a shipping disaster. Add shutdowns due to the American funded covid virus and things begin to get ugly. Add trillions into the economy by simply printing money and we are now in the middle of a man-made supply chain shortage with a decreasing value of the dollar chasing fewer parts. This disaster was done to us, now we all get to suffer through it.