Japanese Classics: Duncan Imports Brings JDM Rides to U.S. Roads


“It is a dream come true, in the event you love vehicles,” Gary Duncan mentioned of his profession. At 70 years previous, Gary has spent the final 50 years of his life constructing an enterprise out of a ardour. A key part of that zeal is his affinity for Japanese vehicles and tradition. “Should you love Japanese vehicles, you’ll love the individuals.” A multi-day go to to Japan in 2017 was the final time he traveled there, however Gary is planning on returning this fall for the Tokyo Motor Present.

I caught up with Gary, who pioneered Duncan Imports & Classics, for a Q&A session just lately.

Why Japanese Vehicles?

Japanese vehicles are gaining in collectability, particularly examples from the Eighties and Nineteen Nineties. And now, because of the 25-year import rule in the USA, autos that have been initially bought within the Japanese Home Market (JDM) can now lawfully be imported stateside and registered for freeway use.

What’s the attraction of a JDM automobile over one which was bought in the USA Home Market (USDM)? That depends upon the make and model in query, however some autos have been merely by no means bought within the U.S. in any respect, and others got here to North America with revised gear. One key distinction is that many Japanese-market vehicles are right-hand drive. For instance, the favored two-seat Honda Beat roadster is a three-cylinder “Kei” automobile that may now be registered and pushed within the states however was by no means accessible right here when new.  

Honda Beat

Staying within the Honda realm, take into account the recently-featured 1996 Honda Odyssey from a Decide of the Day. This Odyssey originated within the Japanese market and featured all-wheel drive, which was a characteristic that first-generation Odysseys in the USA didn’t obtain. Above all else, the exclusivity of getting a uncommon imported automobile is icing on the cake once you present up at an occasion in a car that no one else drives.

Gary added to that, “You go to vehicles & espresso, and everybody’s already seen the ’55 Chevys. If you roll in with a Nissan Figaro, they should know what it’s. You higher take loads of time, since you’re going to reply quite a lot of questions.” JDM vehicles are uncommon, reasonably priced, and an funding – in addition to being straightforward conversation-starters. The Japanese Basic Automotive Present and different occasions present a transparent indication that this motion is right here to remain.

About Gary

Gary Duncan

Automotive historical past runs deep in Gary’s household. His father owned dealerships, which explains why Gary likes to inform individuals he has a Ph.D – which stands for “Papa had a dealership.” Or, on this case, a number of dealerships. Gary first received linked to the enterprise when he was 19 and ran a Triumph franchise. Later, he began working with MG, Fiat, and Lincoln-Mercury. Issues advanced from there when he took on a Honda dealership within the late Nineteen Seventies.

Of all of the vehicles that Gary has pushed and owned throughout his lifetime, there are just a few that stand out as most significant. One is a inexperienced 1974 Karmann Ghia with simply 25 miles on the odometer that was bought from a Volkswagen dealership within the Eighties. Gary mentioned he’s additionally keen on his yellow Acura NSX, and he mused a couple of 1987 Porsche 911 that he’s bought three separate instances: He first received the keys in 1988 and later bought it to a pal. He purchased it again from the pal, later bought it at public sale, and ultimately purchased it once more a 3rd time. This time it’s right here to remain. The “boomerang” Porsche exhibits solely 32,000 miles on the odometer in spite of everything these years.

1974 Karmann Ghia

Just lately, Gary determined to slender his focus a little bit. Final September, it was introduced that he can be promoting his Acura, Audi, and BMW dealerships in Roanoke, Virginia. These strategic strikes will enable him to focus extra on creating the Duncan Imports traces of enterprise. Let’s have a look at what that enterprise entails.

Duncan Imports Background

One of many first Japanese vehicles that caught Gary’s eye was the 1991 Nissan Figaro. In 2016, that car hit 25 years previous and have become authorized for import to the USA. Duncan Imports took root at the moment, and Gary has spent the final seven years amassing giant collections of autos housed in two completely different services: One is in situated Christiansburg, Virginia and one other in Nashville, Tennessee. Between the 2, there are about 1,200 autos. Add to that the autos which might be in transit or nonetheless in Japan, and the full Duncan stock is about 1,400 autos.

Gary has a community of trusted patrons in Japan who’ve a firsthand pulse in the marketplace there. They purchase vehicles daily of the week besides Sunday and Monday. The method is multi-faceted, however in a simplified kind, it begins with an public sale the place his patrons scope out autos and seize particulars on video. After buy, the vehicles make their approach to a port in Baltimore, and upon arrival stateside, they’re titled in Tennessee and made accessible for resale.

The logistics concerned in managing this work sound staggering, however extremely, Gary makes do with simply 17 full-time staff unfold throughout the 2 services. Their work is difficult, and regardless that the staff has gone by the importation course of lots of of instances, there are at all times curve balls to navigate because of Customs, motorized vehicle departments, and delivery carriers. Gary laughed once I requested him if he has this right down to a science.


Duncan’s philosophy is not like most used-car dealerships: As an alternative of spending quite a lot of effort to recondition every car for resale, the staff markets them to the shoppers in precisely the identical situation they arrive stateside. “I need you to see the automobile within the situation that I purchased it in,” Gary mentioned. “And we advocate the shopper rent their very own technician earlier than they spend a dime.” To that finish, Gary’s requirements are excessive: Japanese vehicles are rated on a scale of roughly 1 by 9. Gary’s patrons won’t have a look at most vehicles that aren’t above a 3.5 or a 4.

Nissan Figaro

Clearly, constructing relationships on this business is crucial, and Gary mentioned that having the suitable individuals in place is the important thing. The supervisor of his Tennessee facility beforehand held a job as a Basic Supervisor of certainly one of Gary’s Acura and Audi dealerships for ten years. “I don’t have to fret as a result of I can belief him,” Gary mentioned.

To anybody wishing to get an inside have a look at both the Virginia or the Tennessee facility, there isn’t any cost to go in and take a look round. Donations are accepted which go towards a charity supporting youngsters with cerebral palsy. Gary and his household are believers in good karma, and that’s clear in how he operates his enterprise. He additionally retains a eager eye on his Google evaluations and strives for buyer satisfaction.

Future Collectible Picks

I requested Gary to think about just a few Japanese vehicles that he feels are positioned for continued upward collectability.

  • Autozam AZ-1: This mid-engined kei-class automobile was manufactured by Mazda between 1992 and 1994
  • Honda S2000 and Civic Si: Ever standard are Honda’s high-revving sports activities vehicles
  • Lexus SC430: This luxo-roadster combines a 4.3-liter V8 engine with a retractable hardtop
  • Suzuki Cappuccino: Out there from 1991 to 1998, this two-seater has a detachable hardtop
  • Suzuki Samurai: Arriving stateside in 1986, this four-cylinder SUV has a powerful off-enthusiast base
  • Toyota FJ Cruiser: This succesful midsize 4×4 SUV was bought between 2007 and 2014 in North America

As an authorized Acura nut, one of many vehicles I geek out on most from Gary’s assortment is his Championship White Acura Integra Kind R with only one,100 miles on the odometer. What I’d give to place a mile or two on that!


The recognition of Japanese vehicles from the neo-classic period between 1980 and the early 2000s is on the rise, and this could be the right time so as to add a particular automobile to your storage. Our employees wish to plan a go to to Duncan’s Virginia facility. Which autos would you most wish to see us characteristic up shut and private? Share it with us within the feedback.

If you’re contemplating becoming a member of the neighborhood of JDM car house owners your self, take a look at the Duncan Imports stock, and as at all times, keep watch over the listings at ClassicCars.com.


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