(Editor’s note: During the month of January, the ClassicCars.com Journal presents a series of stories related to and perhaps explaining the recent increase in interest in collecting cars produced by Japan-based automakers.)
Located in the small town of Christiansburg, Virginia, is the largest collection of right-hand-drive Japanese cars, at Duncan Imports and Classic Cars. The dealership and museum, housed in a 110,000-square-foot warehouse, holds over 1,000 Japanese Domestic Market vehicles, classic cars, and mini trucks — a collection worth more than $10 million.
We sat down a while ago with Gary Duncan, the owner of Duncan Imports and Classics, to learn how he found his passion for JDMs and started Duncan Imports.
In high school I drove a little bit of everything,” Duncan said, adding that he didn’t remember his first car, but that he couldn’t forget the first car he ever crashed – a 1966 Chevrolet Corvette when he was just 16.
At 18, Duncan opened his own auto dealership, featuring domestic brands. Over time his taste changed and he began adding Japanese brands to the mix. He would also own several other dealerships offering Acura, Audi, Ford, Chrysler, dodge, Jeep, Lincoln, Mazda, Honda, Hyundai and Suzuki.
In our conversation, Duncan mentioned that much of his JDM inventory was assembled in just one year.
“I didn’t own a single right-hand drive car until a year ago,” he said at the time, “now I have about 400 cars either here or on their way over.”
Fast forward to today and Duncan’s JDM inventory has expanded from 400 to about 1,000 vehicles. He and his team have opened a second Duncan Imports dealership in Nashville, Tennessee.
His impressive collection has drawn international fame and caught the eyes of Bill Gates, NASCAR, movie studios and more.
“I’m a collector,” said Duncan, “Tthe Japanese classic cars are very affordable, and we are now seeing things we couldn’t previously import until they became 25 years old. They are just cool and majority of them are $12,000 or less, so you can play with them or resell them and still make money.
“We have many local enthusiasts and friends that visit [the dealership] frequently to share memories and stories of their passion for automobiles,” he said, adding that the collaborative passion he shares with fellow enthusiasts inspires and fuels his mission to provide car collectors with a “fair, friendly, fun experience when buying a hard-to-find Japanese Import car.”
Recently, we checked back in with Duncan to see how his business had been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. He said business has not slowed down, but has increased.
“People have got this extra money to buy a new toy and with my stuff, you can buy a great vehicle for under $15,000 that go to the cruise-in and you’ve got the coolest car for the least amount of money.
“And that’s the beauty about what we sell to people, they’ll never loose any money.”
Although sales are booming, the doors to his museum remained closed to the public because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“You see people come from all over the country to see us and having to turn them away during the pandemic just breaks my heart.”
Duncan also opened up about recent hardships the dealership has run into with the Virginia DMV that highlights Duncan’s number one piece of advice for anyone looking to purchase a JDM vehicle: Check with your state’s DMV to make sure they will allow you to register your JDM vehicle.
“We had a really bad problem with the Virginia DMV, me and all the people in this business in Virginia. The DMV, after titling over 2,000 cars, just for me, decided in March that they’ve been doing it illegally and stopped.
“I had luckily opened up a place in Tennessee so I could still get them [his JDM imports] titled, but now Virginia has come to their senses and we’re back to titling in Virginia.”
When buying a JDM from Duncan Imports, Duncan not only provides a title from Virginia or Tennessee but gives you the vehicle will the tariffs already paid and a six-month, 6,000-mile motor and transmission warranty.
As we wrapped up our conversation, Duncan stressed the importance of checking with your state’s DMV to make sure it is JDM friendly before purchasing.
“If they [ClassicCar.com readers] buy one, they better check with their state because a lot of these states are not JDM friendly,” he warned.
Visit Duncan Imports and Classics to learn more and explore their expansive JDM inventory.