Craft Sports USA – Major Japanese GT-R Specialist Comes To The US!


In the six years since I bought my first JDM import car the US market has absolutely exploded in terms of interest. As word has spread about once forbidden Japanese-exclusive cars now being legal to import more and more people have set out to buy one, driving prices sky high in the process.

The seemingly insatiable demand in America meant that a lot of US-based companies quickly jumped into the fray vying to be the for die-hard import fans and the JDM car of their dreams. Japanese companies on the other hand tend to be more methodical and measured when jumping into a new market but the huge figures quality vehicles were pulling in meant that it was only a matter of time before even the bigger players in the Land of the Rising Sun took notice.

Enter Craft Sports. Established in 1995 in Gunma prefecture (a locale every import fan worth his salt will recognize as the setting for drifting manga Initial D) Craft Sports is a huge GT-R specialty shop. Some of you might have heard of them from Super GT where they're the main sponsor of the number 3 GT-R in GT500.

Last year Craft Sports decided to expand to the US market and on November 23, 2020 they opened the doors to their swag new showroom in Naples, Florida. Being a long-established GT-R specialist dealer in Japan and having a close association with Nissan and Nismo Craft Sports has the ability to pick up some really choice examples for their inventory so I was really curious what cool stuff they would bring into the crowded American import scene.

In May I had to fly out to Florida for a combination work and family vacation trip so while I had the chance I decided to take a trip out to Naples to check out Craft Sports in person. Naples is about 2 hours west of Miami, in case you're wondering where it is since it's much less famous than the big headliner cities in Florida. Not to mention that Florida is probably not the first place that comes to mind when the name Naples is uttered. A lovely city beside the Mediterranean where pizza was invented is probably what you'd think of first instead of one beside the Gulf of Mexico that gave the world Judge Judy.

Having said that, you may also be wondering why Craft Sports picked Naples instead of more obvious choices like Miami or Orlando where tons of tourists come all the time to throw their Benjamins around. Apparently the president of the company liked the atmosphere of Naples when he went to Florida to look for a location for their new US base. Of course, it doesn't hurt that Naples is pretty affluent with the second-highest number of millionaires per capita in the US of A (Los Alamos was apparently first in case not knowing will keep you up night).

With beachfront real estate going for tens of millions of dollars in the city, high dollar exotic cars are a common sight. Once you know that, plopping a fresh new car dealership specializing in rare and expensive examples of the red-hot Japanese import collector market starts to make a lot of sense.

Having checked out their inventory online I was expecting to be wowed by the selection at their showroom and that certainly happened with a capital W-O-W. For a quick overview of the smorgasbord of cool sleds they had please check out this video and then come back here if you want more detail.

As you'd expect the bulk of their US inventory was made up of R32 Skylines. Nothing too different from many other companies except that the ones they had all looked like very clean and well-kept examples. 

Take this car for example. The paint showed no signs of fading. The engine bay was stock. It was rocking some nice BBS alloys with red highlights to add some spice to the otherwise “just another gun metal R32” look. The interior had only the slightest hint of the infamous dash bubble but otherwise it seemed factory fresh with the added highlight of lovely red Robson Leather seat upholstery. Oh, and it came with maintenance records – a rarity for Japanese imports. The asking price of $42,995 isn't chump change but par for the course nowadays for good R32 GT-Rs and this one looked like a particularly good specimen.

If a “normal” R32 won't cut it for you then you might want to check out the various TommyKaira-tuned cars they have. It's rare enough to see a TK in the wild but when I was there Craft Sports had no less than three R32s tuned by the shop made famous by Gran Turismo. The white one has already found a new home but they also had a silver and a gun metal car that are still available and apparently come with their original TommyKaira warranty cards as proof of their provenance. I don't think the warranty is still applicable now but at least you'll be assured the car was indeed blessed by the house that Yomikazu Tomita and Kikuo Kaira built.

If you really have to be the guy with a rare R32 then may I interest you in a car that's a relative bargain? How about this one of 182 Autech R32 GTS-4?

Never heard of Autech or their GTS-4? I'll do you a solid and give you this link to my guide to rare R32s so you can brush up on what makes this car eminently cool and collectible. Feel free to have a read and come back to me. Don't worry, I'll wait.

Your price for this lovely sleeper dedicated to the father of the Skyline himself Shinichiro Sakurai? A mere $33, 995! Yeah, not cheap I know, but far less than what you'd pay for a Nismo or N1 R32, and it's even rarer than those cars! Okay, it's got an automatic and it's non-turbo but when you're getting a bargain some things have to give sometimes. Think of it as the hipster's R32 - no, wait, that's not a compliment is it? Anyway, it's cool! Buy it so I'm no longer tempted to go deeper into debt myself.

Maybe you'd rather have an example of the most recent Skyline generation to hit US-legal  import age? Well, there's plenty of R33s to choose from as well!

Unlike on the R34, Midnight Purple is one of the most common R33 colors since it wasn't a limited edition choice. It's been a very in-demand color since the R33 became legal to import and of course Craft Sports had some on hand.

One of them was amazingly stock - even the wheels were the original OEM R33 ten-spokes -but it did come with this tasty vintage Nismo Weldina exhaust:

Most GT-R owners wouldn't keep their car stock for long and if you're one of those and want a car that's a real attention-getter then this TommyKaira R33 should suffice:

Okay, the gigantic wing and shouty graphics may not be to everyone's tastes but this would be a great car for fans of period-correctness. This car screams peak 9o's and at least is a lot more tasteful than say, a purple Eclipse Spyder with silver graphics and a park bench on the trunk. That would be fire...sorry, scratch that, I meant to say that should be ON FIRE, unlike this R33 which is fine.

Now sadly, despite the promises made by the exterior this car wasn't one that's had its engine touched by the house of T & K. It actually seems to be stock except for some pod filters but it would be a great blank canvas for anyone who loves the optics of the car - such as fans of a certain Playstation racing franchise that introduced TommyKaira to the West.

The RB26-powered Skylines like the 32 and 33 get all the headlines and drooling fanboys but there's a certain charm to their older, if less potent, siblings. Although not as successful as the car-who-would-be-Godzilla R32 (frankly, almost no other car model in history has been) the R31 was an accomplished racer in its own right with wins on the Australian Group A Touring Car circuit.

Craft Sports had a pair of these GTS-Rs in impressive condition when I was there. This was the ultimate Skyline for its time and only 832 were built to homologate it for racing. It may just have an RB20 and RWD instead of the R32's all-conquering RB26 and ATTESA AWD but the clean lines have their own distinct appeal. Prices for these cars have been rising as well and for one of these clean examples you would have to give Craft Sports 56,995 of your hard-earned shekels - and maybe some vital organs...or drugs...or a couple of Baby Yoda toys.

Myself, I'd keep my Baby Yoda toys and pick up this sweet GTS. Those classic Watanabes are just on point and I find that small, angular spoiler extremely cool in a retro-modern way. 

The period-correct Kakimoto exhaust is also choice. And at $33,995 I'd save enough money to treat my family to a nice dinner and hopefully keep them from killing me for buying yet another old Japanese car.

Hidden among all these Skylines though was the real unicorn in Craft Sport's US inventory. A car that's rarer than almost any other on the planet but is still relatively affordable!

If you're a Gran Turismo fan you'd have recognized the TommyKaira cars but this one should be familiar as well - the Nismo 270R, of which only 30 were built. Yes, THREE-ZERO. 

Birthed to celebrate Nismo's tenth anniversary, while regular Japanese S14 Silvias had "only" 217hp the 270R was breathed on by Nissan Motorsports to make 270 - and gave it its name. They also retuned the suspension, upgraded the brakes, strengthened the driveline, and chucked a catalog's worth of exclusive Nismo parts at it including a vented hood, body kit, steering wheel, door-mounted boost gauge, 300kph speedo, and bespoke Nismo-branded upholstery. 

You'd think a car like this that's rarer than most Bugattis would command a ridiculously unattainable price but for this one Craft Sports was asking only $55,995. Pricey but a bargain considering the sheer rarity. Such is the rep of the Skyline and GT-R lineage though that far more common R32s and R33s ask for that much, and the 270Rs younger sibling - the 400R R33 - that had more than double the production run, is asking for at least four times as much money nowadays.

Craft Sports is a GT-R specialty shop but they do deal in non-GT-Rs and non-Nissans although not nearly as often. For those looking for something outside of Nissan's range they had an NSX and an A80 Supra on offer.

They also had a tasty second-gen MR2 on bronze wheels while a Toyota Soarer was mixed in with the other cars.

A row of Subaru Imprezas stood beside one wall of the showroom as well.

As you can see Craft Sports already has a great selection of clean JDM cars to choose from despite being so new to the US and having to deal with the issues brought on by the COVID epidemic. Aside from the cars already in the US they also had others on their website listed that could be bought and kept for storage in Japan until they were legal like a Midnight Purple 2 R34 and a rare Autech R33 GT-R. (Mind you they don't mention the MP2 R34 as being a V-Spec so it may not be import-eligible already under Show or Display like mine was).

It's good that Craft Sports has a healthy selection since it's a definite positive to have another reputable source for quality JDM imports in the US, but it also helps because unlike other importers Craft Sports makes it a point to say on their website that they don't accept requests to find a certain model. Basically what you see in their inventory is what you get. Not really a knock against them but certainly something to note if you're used to how most other JDM importers operate.

Having said that, it's fair for me to mention other quirks to Craft Sport that are outlined on their website.

First, they only accept bank transfers for payment. No cashiers checks, they don't take deposits to hold cars, and they won't help you with financing. Americans are used to dealerships helping them arrange a loan to get the car of their dreams (and wives' nightmares) but it's not common practice with JDM car importers. Some bigger ones have started offering it though but at this time Craft Sports doesn't have a similar arrangement so keep that in mind.

Second, if you do buy a car from Craft Sports it's your responsibility to arrange shipping to your location. If you're like me and have had to ship cars several times it's not a big deal but it can be confusing to the first-timer and every other JDM importer I've seen will handle it for you unless you specifically request to do it yourself. It's such a standard practice that it might surprise you that Craft Sports doesn't offer to do it if you're not aware.

All of this is spelled out on the company's website and if you have other questions their staff was very quick to respond to emails from my experience and that of someone else I know.

And so, overall, Craft Sports is a welcome addition to the US JDM import market. If you're in the market I think it's well worth checking them out. If not, then they're definitely still worth a window-shopping visit if you're an import fan.

Oh, but please Craft Sports, you NEED some merch. Us JDM otaku need our souvenirs and the fact I wasn't able to buy one during my visit needs rectification lol.

Until the next post, drive safe everybody!