JDM Two-Door: 1997 Toyota RAV4 – Sold?
January 2, 2023, Update – We confirmed the listing for this “Classifind” expired, so with no replacement found, we’re assuming this ride is “Sold?” While this one got away, please reach out either by email or call us directly if you’d like to be informed when we come across something similar.
November 30, 2022 Update – The seller dropped their asking price from the original ask of $14,500 to $9,500. A thirty-five percent price drop hints this right-hand-drive RAV4 has a motivated seller for an owner.
While importing a Japanese market vehicle may seem like a hassle, sometimes it’s the path of least resistance if you’re looking for a specific model that’s become elusive in the states. The Toyota RAV4 is a perfect example of this, especially in two-door form. Toyota offered its successful sports utility vehicle in two- and four-door form, with the Jeep-like short wheelbase model becoming very hard to find in recent years while also becoming increasingly sought-after by the “rad”-era crowd of enthusiasts. We first spotted this 1997 two-door with 88,000 miles and the preferred five-speed manual in November 2022 on Craigslist in Tigard, Washington, for $14,500, or the best offer. Comparing that price against the Classic.com model guide shows that the seller is asking for a premium price, given the going rate is around $8,613, but that doesn’t necessarily consider the rarity of the JDM-market example.
The RAV4 on its own is not an exciting vehicle. In fact, it’s a mild shame what the model has become, considering how novel the first-generation model was introduced. The Honda CR-V and RAV4 were introduced simultaneously in the United States and represented an entirely new class of vehicles. While some may call it a crossover and others refer to them as an SUV, the concept of a light-duty all-wheel-drive truck with optional manual transmissions and tons of clever features and packaging made quite a splash on the marketplace. In addition, they were just fun: the RAV4 came with funky upholstery, while the CR-V with a picnic table stowed beneath the rear cargo floor. The accessories catalogs were loaded with cool adventure-lifestyle accessories that further carved out this new niche of vehicles, a class that today is overrun by mundane mall crawlers with no personality. First-generation models like this RAV4 remind us how special these trucklets were when first introduced.
The BetaMax King YouTube Channel features this 1997 Toyota RAV4 launch year commercial:
Now, some people might say it makes no sense to import a make and model you could have bought in the U.S.A. (and likely could find for sale if you’re patient.) However, when it comes to an elusive model like the two-door RAV4, even if you manage to find one for sale, the odds are good that it will be quite rough and have very high miles – either way, it’s likely to be the kind of purchase that needs enough deferred maintenance addressed that you negate any cost savings associated with trying to buy one that’s already in the states. The seller notes his truck has well under 100,000 miles and comes with the preferred manual gearbox. It also has locking differentials and functioning air conditioning. In a world where anyone looking to get into off-roading immediately buys a Jeep Wrangler with a lift kit, the early RAV4 reminds us we don’t need a huge, brawny truck to tackle some trails and ride out to the beach with a pair of surfboards in the back. This JDM RAV4 features a super clean body and the kind of mileage that means the next owner will be driving this early soft-roader for many years.
Here’s the seller’s description:
“For sale is a great, well-taken-care-of Rav4. 142k kilometers (88k miles).
Legally imported from Japan
5-speed manual transmission
All-wheel drive with locking differentials
The heater and air conditioner work great
Interior panels in excellent condition
New fuel pump, spark plugs, cap-and-rotor
Freshly professionally detailed and ceramic-coated
This Rav4 needs nothing; it’s ready to be enjoyed as a daily driver or as a collection piece… that’s literally how nice and rare it is.
This a highly excellent example of a well-taken care of legally imported Toyota Rav4 that you must see in person to appreciate.
For sale or trade for the right vehicle. No junk and lowball cash offers.“
JDM in the USA: Would you buy a cherry version of a car or truck you still find in the US?