By on October 17, 2013

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With yet another Ferrari 250 GTO selling for record sums, the world has its eyes focused on the funny little microcosm that can be described as“blue chip cars”.  Investors are looking at high-profile classic cars as a potentially lucrative asset class, a way to diversify their portfolios in a world where interest rates are zero and the only investment offering decent returns are securitized car loans. Others think that it’s just another bubble, reminiscent of the million-dollar Hemi ‘Cudas that were crossing the blocks at Barret Jackson in the good old days before the Great Financial Crisis.

But none of that matters much to the average car enthusiast. At least unless we take into account the trickle-down effect which Jack mentioned in his recent article, or until someone starts an investment fund specializing in 1960s LeMans racers. Many people consider classic car investing to be the realm of the super-rich. They conclude that only the appreciated classics can be considered an investment, while cars within the reach of us peasants should be only looked at as depreciating goods.

And from the standpoint of pure investment, they are right. Every car costs money in maintenance, storage fees, insurance and other expenses required to keep its value – less so if you just keep it stored somewhere, very much so if you drive it. And these costs are not that different between, say, a Miata and an E-type Jag, so the cheap car will have much harder time recouping them through increasing value. Unless you lucked out and bought a 1971 Hemi Cuda in 1980, any ordinary car very much sucks as a pure investment.

But what if we look at it another way? If you consider the maintenance, storage and insurance to be a price for the fun you have with the car, you can look at the price increases alone – making even investing in relatively cheap cars much more interesting. Especially if the other option is buying a “comsumable”, heavy depreciating relatively new car and losing great amounts of money on it.

So, what is the best way to buy a fun car and lose as little money as possible on it, or even make some?

The key here is the depreciation curve. Every car, even the most mundane ones, has a point when it stops depreciating, starts to keep its value and, after some time, even starts to appreciate. For some cars, it takes many decades to reach the turning points, others get to it in just 10 or 20 years. Of course, you want to pick a car which will have steep appreciating portion of this curve, and buy it as close to the bottom of the curve as possible. Here’s my few ideas on how to do it:

1. Memories sell

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If you look at most cars that really appreciated in value as classics, from the ’32 Fords and ’57 Chevys to Datsun 240Zs or E30 M3s, they are cars for young people. Or at least cars young people dream about – they are either cars that were cheap enough for young people to own, and stylish at the same time, or the ones you dreamed about as a child or young adult. Ask any owner of a Lamborghini Countach or Ferrari Testarossa why he bought his car – I am willing to bet some money that one of the most common answers will be “I had it as a poster on the wall/scale model/toy” when I was a kid. And with computer generation coming to age for buying supercars, maybe you’ll hear “I drove it in original Need For Speed” as well.

If you want to find a car that will have a steep appreciation curve, you need something loved by kids/young adults. The best choice is a car with a cult following, with bonus points for every movie or song about it. And even more bonus points for cars popular with a tuner/hotrodder/donk/crowd.

In the 1950s, cash-strapped kids modified their junkyard pre-war Fords to go fast, or their used Mercurys to look cool. Now, they keep doing it as old guys with money to spend, moving those vehicles far out of reach for any today’s kid. But today’s kids also have their toys – do you think all those guys with tricked-out Civic Coupes, CRXs, Nissan Sentras or DSMs will grow up, get wise and, embarrassed by their youthful mistakes, start collecting classic muscle cars or Italian sports cars? No way. Hot rods went into style decades ago. Today, 70s tacky modified muscle cars and custom vans are starting to become appreciated. And in one or two decades, there will be classic JDM car meets, and NOS, rear wings and Fast and Furious vinyls will be changing hands for outrageous sums.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that every clapped out family sedan that has a wing and stickers slapped on will be valuable. But cars that are popular in certain circles, be it aforementioned Civic Coupe, CRX, Chevy Caprice “box” or VW R32, will probably keep being popular in said circles, even as owners grow up and eventually grow old.

And the same goes for cars that didn’t achieve their popularity for being modified, but for their qualities – be it handling, performance or off-road abilities. Youths in 1950s and 1960s craved muscle cars, English and British small roadsters, but also various cheap cars, from VW Beetles and Buses to Minis. Look at what young people love today, and what will they remember in a decade or three. Fox Mustangs? BMW E30s and NA Miatas? Jeep Cherokee Xjs?

Of course, there are also many cars that people pay big bucks for not because they have fond memories of owning them when they were young, but because they dreamt of them. This concerns both affordable cars (like Kevin Spacey buying his Firebird in American Beauty) and expensive, or even outrageously expensive ones. And I strongly suspect that such childhood dreams are what propels the most crazy car prices ever higher.

Look at any crazy expensive classic car, and odds are you will see something a 15 year old boy could have dreamt of. It starts with the 250 GTO itself, and continues with Hemi Cudas, Shelby Mustangs and of course Lamborghinis, Ferraris or Porsches of all stripes. This is also one of the reasons why old zn Porsche or Ferrari is expensive, while old an Rolls-Royce or Mercedes usually isn’t. Boys dream about sportscars and racecars. They dream about speed and excitement, not about being pampered by soft leather seats, listening to classic tunes in total silence. Thus, old men’s cars will always be less expensive, making them worse investment material.

2. Practicality doesn’t sell

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While being practical is very beneficial for the value of a used car, it has little to no effect on the value of a classic. In fact, it’s usually the opposite – classics are usually bought as toys, so people prefer body styles which are prettier and more fun to drive on weekends. So, with a few exceptions, usually the less doors, less roof or fewer pillars is usually more. The possible exception may be the wagon – as wagons are usually regarded as more cool than sedans, and they can be used for sleeping at car shows, or for hauling parts.

3. Rarity doesn’t equal high price

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This is probably the most common mistake people make when assessing the car’s value. The fact that a certain vehicle is rare doesn’t, all by itself, mean it will ever become valuable. The value of any car in the world depends on the number of said cars available and number of people who want one. That’s why classic Mustangs are expensive, even though there were literally millions of them made, and why even classic Beetles are somewhat valuable, despite being one of the most produced cars in the whole history of the automobile. That’s also the reason why many truly rare, maybe even unique, cars will never be really valuable.

Case in point: the Chrysler 300 Hurst (pictured above). There were only about 500 made. It is a monstrous muscle car with 440-4bbl engine, fiberglass hood and trunklid, crazy spoiler, lots of stripes and hood pins. It has the Hurst name on it, and it was made in 1970, one of the best years of the muscle car era, and maybe even one of the best in history of car. It isn’t exactly worthless, but even nice examples go for similar money as a same year Plymouth Road Runner with no options – a car that cost about one third of what the 300 Hurst did cost, and more than 80,000 were made. If equipped with 426 Hemi engine, which was installed in about the same number of Road Runners as the total number of 300 Hursts, the Road Runner is worth at least five times as much as the Hurst, despite costing half as much at the time.

And the 300 Hurst was still at least a somewhat youthful car, with its muscle car image, stripes, spoilers etc. Fancy an Imperial from the same year? A few years ago, I imported a 1969 Imperial Crown Sedan for a friend of mine. Nice, original shape, and one of the 823 units of that model and body style produced in 1969. The price was $4,500, or about the same what a base Coronet from the same year would cost in rough, pre-restoration shape. A Super Bee from that year would cost maybe five or six times as much, even a low-optioned one. A Coupe version of the same Imperial would maybe come close to $10,000 mark, but would still stop far, far short of even the lowliest muscle car of the same age.

So, when someone offers you a “great deal” on some “rare and unique” car, of which only a few hundreds or thousands were made, think twice before pulling the trigger – odds are that they were made in low numbers because nobody wanted them when new. And in most cases, nobody will want them as classics, either.

4. Unreliability costs you twice

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In the beginning of this article, I decided to take the maintenance costs out of the investment equation and consider them to be just a price for the fun you enjoy with your car. But even if you’re prepared to stomach crazy maintenance and repair bills, the unreliable, high-maintenance car will probably turn out to be worse investment than the reliable, simple one with cheap and easy-to-get parts.

Why? People tend to take the maintenance costs into account when shopping for cars, and they are willing to pay less money for cars that are known to require lots of cash to be kept on the road. Just look at the old Jaguars – maybe with exception of the E-type, all are pretty cheap to buy, and even the less desirable E-type variants (2+2s, later models, automatics) are not that expensive, considering their iconic looks, and the fact that they were one of the best sportscars of their age. Compare it to some top of the heap Mustang or Camaro – do you really think people would prefer having a Mustang fastback over E-type Coupe, if the cost to keep them running were the same? No? Me neither.

And looking at most popular classic cars, the ones with steepest appreciation curves out there – cars that were once bought for peanuts by young broke guys and now change hands for tens of thousands of dollars, most of them are of the simple, reliable kind. The aforementioned muscle cars. Porsche 911s and their air-cooled predecessors – the Porsche 356s, Beetles, Buses or Ghias. The old off-road workhorses, like FJ Land Cruisers, first generation Broncos, old Land Rovers or Mercedes G-Wagens. Old Datsuns and sporty Toyotas. In Europe, first and second generation Ford Escorts…

Of course, a large part of this may be just a coincidence – because reliable, easy to maintain cars tend to catch the attention of young people, becoming legends and living in their memories, which brings us back to the first point of this article.

But it doesn’t really matter whether this is a coincidence or not – either way, complicated and fragile monsters are usually bad investments. There may be some exceptions – for example, I think that prices of R34 Skyline GT-Rs will soar in the future, but generally, you should avoid that multiple-turboed, all-wheel-drive, hi-tech monster. It will cost you twice.

5. They’re only original once

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Modifying cars is very fashion-sensitive thing. Fads come and go, and what was incredibly cool a few years ago may not be so cool today – and may become totally uncool in years to come, before coming back as “period modification”. Of course, there certain modifications on certain cars that can bring the value up, or at least not hurt is – typical examples would be traditional hot rods or customs, or “universally accepted” modifications on muscle cars. If you put a crate Hemi into a 318 Barracuda, add some stickers and special parts and create a Hemi Cuda clone, you will probably get your money back. And even things like period-correct alloy wheels (a set of TorqThrusts or Cragars S/S will never hurt anything) or some performance parts may be well-regarded by potential buyers.

But these are exceptions, not the rule. Unless you know pretty well what you are doing (and in that case, you don’t need this article), the rule is that originality is the king. And that’s not just about the modifications – original paint, upholstery, numbers-matching engine, all of that is going to improve tha car’s value.

And if you feel urge to improve your car, try to keep the changes as reversible as possible (so no body mods, please), and try not to be too creative. Famous brand name parts, popular mods typical for the time – these all can move the car’s value upwards or at least not hurt it. If you have an RX-7 FD with original Veilside bodykit, or a Mustang with aftermarket stuff from Roush, it’s probably good for the car’s value – although it will almost never bring back the money spent on mods. A BMW with huge rear wing and home-made turbo kit? Future crusher fodder…

6. Timing is the key

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Most people tend to consider cars “investment worthy” only if they already have soared up in value. Ask average car guy about good cars to buy as investment, and you will probably hear something about classic muscle cars, 1960s Ferraris, E-types or maybe F40s. In other words, the cars that are already expensive, already in the appreciating phase of the curve, and which may or may not keep continue going upwards.

But the best investment is always the car right at the bottom of the curve. Something in the phase of transition from being “used car” to “youngtimer”  (a German term for something that’s not quite contemporary but not quite classic). Of course, the earlier you buy, the higher is the risk of wrong guess, but you usually risk much less money. And there are many cars that represent a fairly safe bet on future rise of value – for example, looking at the BMW M3 (E30) values quickly rising in recent years, one could be pretty sure that E36 M3s will follow the suit shortly, considering that they were nearly as legendary as their predecessors. It’s also probably quite safe to assume that Fox Mustangs will become valuable classics, with the Generation X’ers entering midlife crisis and trying to relive their youth – and that SN95 will follow them later.

On the other hand, there are many cars which may have valuable predecessors or even successors, but don’t fetch any great money themselves – Mustang II and Porsche 911 996 come to mind here. So simply assuming that if one car became a legend and is appreciated by collectors, it’s next generation will do the same, is quite dangerous. But look at the car’s following, see if there any model-specific clubs or shows, how many people are likely to want the thing in the future, and you’ll have a good idea of what’s going to be valuable and what isn’t.

And the answer is…

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We concluded that the best “investment car” for average guy is something that is generally loved and people have fond memories of it, it’s more of a toy than a practical car, is cheap and reliable, and not yet a true classic. Something you can buy for peanuts, enjoy with reasonable running costs, and let it slowly gain value.

I may be wrong about all of the above, but if I had to choose one such car, I would have to stick to the rule of our colleagues at Jalopnik – that the answer is always Miata. In this case, a first generation (NA) example in the best shape available, with the best engine and options available, and, in ideal case, some kind of special edition. Although there’s millions of Miatas, there are still lots of people who want one – and the continuing massive production will keep generating new generations of fan, who will eventually lust after the “true original”, the NA.

And what do YOU think will be the best “accessible investment car” in the near future?

The author is Czech motoring journalist, who wrote about old cars and ran his own column answering readers’ questions in Czech edition of Autocar magazine. He also spent a few years importing classic American cars into the country.

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144 Comments on “A Car As an Investment, Or How To Buy a Toy And Not Lose Money On It...”


  • avatar
    thelaine

    Best, most comprehensible article of its type I have read. I love the “Miata Rule.”

    • 0 avatar
      Mullholland

      An unmolested 1994 Miata with matching hardtop, in the rare but beautiful shade of Laguna Blue, with the factory option R-package that currently sits in my garage. It currently has 87,000 miles on it and was purchased sight-unseen from a seller on Ebay in 2007. For once in my life I was ahead of the curve.
      Great article. Plenty of solid, sensible advice. But spreading all of that knowledge around on a site like TTAC is just going to make scoring a deal on my next “investment” car even harder.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    This is assuming that people of Generation Y will ever be wise enough to
    open the hood on occasion and keep their cars going.

    I believe that some of this article is true while some of it isn’t, yes its true that classic car buffs despise practicality (I will never understand this), but no I can’t see ricer bits trading hands for anymore than the inflated prices they go for now, despite recent thefts of modded Hondas.

    • 0 avatar
      kuponoodles

      no, this is assuming the next few generations HAVE money for a primary car, much less a 2nd car/toy/investment.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Thats true as well, games, smartphones, expensive college classes, its a wonder that anyone from my generation owns a car.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I will never understand the attraction to those phones at least at the several hundred dollar price point.

          Additional: Yahoo has an article explaining Apple orders from their supplier for the Iphone v5C.6.5 Service Pack 4 are down significantly and it appears its not selling well. Ah the schadenfreude is delicious. I think If Jobs could come back he’d kick all of their asses to the curb for failing to innovate and sell a new version instead of putting lipstick on a pig.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            i can’t speak for other people, but wrt smartphones, I don’t have any kind of social media account, so that isn’t important to me, but I just love instant access to info. My dad and I were driving along, talking about him buying a truck to tow a small fifth wheel, and I was able to provide tow ratings on the spot, furthering our discussion.

          • 0 avatar
            aristurtle

            The several hundred dollar MSRP is invisible to the customer under normal circumstances; they pay a subsidized rate of somewhere between $0 and $200 and then pay the subsidy off through the inflated prices on the monthly phone bill.

            Ends up being more expensive but looks cheaper. Not unlike a few practices in the car market, really.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Same here, I use a dated plain cellphone and even refused a free upgrade to another phone, shopping for a mobile phones a headache since the stores offer almost nothing basic and functional.

            With Apple, lets not forget that compatibility is something they seem to hate with accessories not working between each 456, their stuffs just too shady for me even when Jobs was around.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @davefromcalgary

            My brother has similar thoughts about his. Work gives me an Iphone 4, its cute and all but totally impractical to use as a phone and as a computer for lack of keyboard. Bro has some kind of first gen LG with a slide out keyboard, that I might be able to use. In any event for $99 bucks every year or two I might be more enticed just cuz why not, but not half of what I bank after bills every month for a fricking phone.

            @aristurtle

            Great point, its a bit like selling you a midsize sedan for $35,000 and giving you 84 month payments because that’s an unaffordable price for most folks.

            @Ryoku

            I surf ebay for another NIB Motorola 465, when I find one I’ll replace my beat one with it for my personal phone.

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            @Ryoku

            I think unlocked phones and no-contract, pre-paid plans are a great option if the terms meet your needs.

            As aristurtle points out, the service provider makes you pay for that “discounted” phone with inflated service prices over the length of your contract. Once the contract is up, notice that your bill does not go down. If you don’t accept their offer for an upgrade, you’re simply putting that much more money in their pocket.

            Of course, spending $200 or $300 on an upgrade out of spite is ridiculous. That’s where unlocked phones and prepaid plans come in handy.

            Now back to cars…

  • avatar
    thornmark

    The ’57 Chevy looks lousy w/ fender skirts. Makes a chunky car extra chunky.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      The Miata looks ruined with those extra fender flares too.

      Oh, and dumb too-fat tires.
      And cheapo looking gold wheels.
      And fake aftermarket hardtop.

      This is one of the worst examples of a first generation Miata I think I’ve ever seen.

    • 0 avatar
      Monty

      Agreed – though maybe that’s because I’ve never been a huge fan of the Tri-5′s.

      Now, on the other hand, that 300H has me salivating. What a looker. And those fuselage cars weighed less than the competition, so imagine what one of those with a 440 and a 4 speed could do, even today. *drool*

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Can’t agree with the Miata rule.. Too small for me. But a classic on a budget? Can’t beat older, four door Chryslers. Cheap to get, fix and own. No one loves old four door Chryslers except saps like me and I don’t see many (if any) around. It’s refreshing to see something besides coupes. Love that Plymouth VIP too.
    Sharp looking car.

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    As the owner of a classic car, I can give one peice of advice, the prices of the cars selling at Mecum or Barret-Jackson are not representative of the sale prices of cars at large and the outrageous prices do not mean that the owners of the car made any money or even broke even (unless they are flipping and where’s the fun in that?).

  • avatar
    BigOldChryslers

    > It has the Hurst name on it, and it was made in 1969, one of the best years of the muscle car era, and maybe even one of the best in history of car.

    The Chrysler 300 Hurst was a 1970 model, not 1969.

    Something you didn’t touch on in your article is that, if you think you’ll be reselling a car, don’t modify/customize it in any way that’s difficult to undo later. Unless your name is Chip Foose, your personalization generally will decrease the value of a car, not increase it.

    • 0 avatar
      Vojta Dobeš

      Stupid, stupid me. But since the 1970 model year cars started rolling of the line in 1969, I’m still technically correct – unless all the Hursts were made in 1970.

      And as for the part about modifying – actually, I thought of that today and wanted to add it into the article, but it was too late, as it was already edited and scheduled. But I may add it as update.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      I’d say it depends a lot on what type of car we’re talkng about, and the rarity of the stock mdels of that particular car. Hot rodded model A and ’32 Fords seems to go for more money than restored ones, and not many people are interested in paying much for straight six cars made between ’55 and ’73. Especially true for Mustangs. So in the future I think Miatas with the 1.6, or CRX’s with less than a 1.6 will probably not be worth as much as modified cars (depending on the quality of the work done offcourse)

    • 0 avatar
      bachewy

      100% right about modified cars. All you have to do is watch Mecum, Barret-Jackson or any other auction to see a modified version of a car goes for much less than an original one. Same is true if even trading a vehicle in at a dealer.

      • 0 avatar
        BigOldChryslers

        I caught the sarcasm. :P I wasn’t thinking about “clones” or “tribute cars” where the base model was used to make a knockoff of a more highly optioned model, but PESONALIZED vehicles with aftermarket accessories, custom paintjob, that kind of thing.

        Hot rods such as a deuce coupe could go either way. Almost never are your tastes going to exactly match a prospective buyer; there will invariably be something that they want to change. Besides, virtually nobody that builds a hotrod gets their money back when they sell. I’ve seen many ads for hot rods that read like, “Spent $35k building it, sacrifice for $15k.”

        Just read Vojta’s updated text and IMO he’s done a very good job on the subject.

    • 0 avatar
      fincar1

      The Chrysler 300 Hurst brings up an interesting point on cars like it. The fact that the factory had these modifications done makes them more valuable than if a person had bought a 440-equipped 1970 300 2-door hardtop and made the exact same modifications himself. To me that doesn’t make sense, but then that is not a requirement….

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    This article is a must read.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Buying a classic car (or toy) and expecting not to loose money is a perfect illustration of the old adage: “A fool and his money are soon parted.”

    Yes I have a classic (1967 Mustang convertible) but I didn’t get it expecting to make money or even break even. It was love, it was being a car guy, it was need. The only people who should buy old automobiles are enthusiasts who want a piece of the past. Either because it was a car they lusted after when it was new (not in my case I wasn’t born till 1977) or a car that they always thought – gosh I’d like to own one of those. My own classic I dropped $2,700 into during the first month of ownership to make it mechanically sound. There is no intention of ever selling. If my estate makes money someday 30, 40, 50, 60 years in the future then good for them but me, I’ll hang on to my old ‘Stang.

    The guys who buy multimillion dollar Ferraris so they can enter them in concurs shows deserve to have their cars recycled into Kenmore’s avatar.

    • 0 avatar
      Kenmore

      “recycled into Kenmore’s avatar.”

      Thanks for the cameo!

      (Barely had time to brush my coils)

    • 0 avatar
      CobraJet

      I did not buy my Mach I as an investment 25 years ago. I have it to use and enjoy. I wanted one since high school when a classmate got a new one equipped like mine. It was the fastest car at school at that time. Me- I had a 66 Mercury Comet 4 dr with a 289 and column shift 3 speed. Now that high school friend is envious of me. His only lasted 4 years until he totalled it.

  • avatar

    Great, authoritative article.

  • avatar
    Lie2me

    I have/had several classic cars the points you made are excellent. There are two ways of looking at classic cars. The best way IMO is to buy something you love and what to have as your own to fix up and enjoy. These you don’t care too much about resale value, you just want it. The second of course is the investor which takes a lot of work and effort the same as any good investment does, but it all boils down to desirability, the more who want it, the higher the value. Keeping a classic as close to factory stock is very important. You wouldn’t “enhance” a valuable painting, same goes for a classic car

    • 0 avatar
      Mr Imperial

      Which makes me wish I could have the best of both worlds:

      A 100% OEM stock 1968 Hemi Dodge Charger R/T, just as it rolled off of the Hamtramck assembly line, which probably would be mostly a trailer queen, and…

      A 1968 Resto-mod Charger with modern brakes/drivetrain/suspension to get a lil’ crazy with. :)

  • avatar
    highrpm

    Great article.

    I have used the argument many times that rare does not equal collectible. I always used a Geo Metro convertible as my example of a rare car that is worthless.

    If I had to pick one affordable toy car for this exercise, I would pick the Honda S2000. An early one with the 9000rpm motor. I see them regularly for less than $10k nowadays.

  • avatar
    Boxerman

    I think one factor you missed is whether there are modern alternatives. What would alfa spider or fiat spider prices be now if no miata existed. Probably a lot higher.

    Now there is no modern sunbstitute for an air cooled proche and we see this reflected in the price of a good one.

    Anotehr factor is whther cars are just plain special and achingly beautiful.
    Rememebr not so long ago when a ferrari lusso or PF coupe couldnt get near 100 thou. What about Dino prices. Cars for which there is no modern equivalent and are achingly beautiful have an investment appeal well beyond what was on a poster wall. Look at old deusienbergs T35 bugs Delahaye, these cars were built before wall posters and the generation that loved them as kids is long gone. Special vehicles are special vehicles.

    Same arguement with Shelby cobras. Here you can even get any number of new ones, yet the old builds are in the stratosphere.

    Point is some cars because of their intrinsic appeal, from performance to looks, cars that offer something special, are going to be investments.

    You refer to an etype, its really expensive to restore and run, and there were plenty made, yet prices are high because its so beautiful and special. Same with mid 60s stangs vettes and camaros.

    Yeah a fox bodies mustang if low mileage and original may fetch a price because of a bedroom poster, but that is only one type of criteria.

    Now get a bedroom poster, extremly limited prod, iconic story, achingly beautiful and great performance and you have the intersection of all factors anda 250 GTO, Cobra, SWB etc.

    I justy dont se the Miata hitting this stride. There will be new roadsters comming along lighter and better. Yes like a fox mustang the few origionals left will fetch a premium, but it wont be huge for many many years.

    I would say if you wanta future classic of that ilk find an unmolested elise. the ods of such a minimalist car being built agan are slim, it drives fantastic is reliable and easy to keep, plus at 25-30k they are full depreciated. Drive it for 10 years for toyota maintanance costs and then see how many people want one.

    There were maybe 2500 sold in the uS, they have a cult following.

  • avatar
    bachewy

    Great article but a rare version of a car CAN add value – depending on the vehicle. In some cases not, as in a Geo Metro convertible. In some cases, yes, such as the difference in value between a ’70 Mach 1 with a 351 and a ’70 Mach 1 with a 428 Cobra Jet. That CJ is going to go for a LOT more money.

    A recent example is comparing a ’08 GT500 to a ’08 GT500KR. The latter went for $100k brand now and now will get $10k – $20k more at an auction over a ‘standard’ GT500. However, that $100k car is now going for less than $50k because the GT500s that came out after have much higher performance numbers. As the article points out this vehicle is still in the depreciation stage. Will it be worth tons more some day? We’ll just have to wait and see. I’m hoping my ’14 GT500 will be a rare car someday but I didn’t buy it counting on a return on investment. I bought it out of pure lust.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Really great article. The question that can’t be answered is the fate of all of the cars that are less than 20 years old. As we all know, unlike the classics mentioned, newer cars are very heavily “electronicized.” E-PROMS and the like are not so easily fabricated as gaskets for a Weber carburetor that feeds the 1600 cc four-cylinder in your Porsche 356; nor is proprietary software so easily obtained 40 years after it was in use. These electronic parts and sensors eventually will fail (as I write, the camshaft position sensor on the intake side of my 13-year old Z3 is acting up) and the question is: can they be replaced?

    So, it may be that “classic cars” made after 1980 will be to look at, but not to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      I don’t think the electronics will be a concern. The ECU and such can and probably will be replaced as whole by some thumbnail-sized Megasquirt equivalent with a homebrew fuel map. The sensors would be trickier, but the OEMs had to spend a lot of money to design them, so sensor X was most likely used in lots of different cars, which would produce a larger user base for aftermarket equivalents.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Electronics can be fixed or replaced, they’re not as big of a concern for me.

      What is a concern is keeping an 80′s-90′s collectible going with interior parts, yearly changes aside, a number of car companies in the 90′s switched to robots to put together the interiors which means that they’ll go together easily the first time, but good luck replacing a simple light bulb.

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        My other concern are the plastic bumper caps and other exterior plastic parts; they become brittle over time; and once the NOS dries up; will be very hard to find good replacements for. What few late 70s and 80s full size Cadillacs I have seen often have a huge gap between the body and rear bumper/light assembly where the plastic insert used to be.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    I doubt that first-generation Miatas will ever be collectible. They were wildly popular and sold like hotcakes. They are insanely reliable and durable and dependable, immune from rust, cheap and easy to repair, get great gas mileage and are fantastically fun daily drivers.

    They have none of the quirky behavior that would ingratiate themselves to potential collectors, and cause none of the sufferings of ownership that establish the cruel hierarchy of the p!ssing contests of collector discussions.

    A Ferrari GTO sells for $52 million because a tune-up costs $20,000, which might be necessary after an around-the-block venture in gridlocked city driving and is built out of rapidly-decompsing compressed rust.

    • 0 avatar

      Comment of the day, especially for the second paragraph.

      • 0 avatar
        Larry P2

        When I was going through my unfortunate Alfa phase, I became very very very very close to my mechanic, who specialized in working on Italian cars. I saw him virtually on a weekly basis for about two years. I trusted him and he, apparently, trusted me.

        One day he said as much, and invited me to go check out a large, non-descript concrete block building at the back of his premises. I had assumed until that point the mystery building was part of another property. Inside this windowless, humidity-controlled, climate-controlled, dust-controlled epoxy-floored vault were about 40 Ferraris of various vintage, all in immaculate condition. The epoxy floors were so slick, the cars could be effortlessly slid around the floor by two guys. His real “job” was to maintain these Ferraris for their once-a-year or so annual drive. His Italian car shop apparently was just gravy, and the Ferrari maintenance gig gave him a rent-free business premises.

        For a two or three hour drive, the Ferraris required about 8 hours of pre-drive maintenance and about another 4 or 5 hours of post-drive fixing. He confirmed that a routine tuneup was a solid 10 hour job, and could be quickly undone merely by driving in traffic. The building was specifically designed and cost a fortune, but obviated any progression of tin worm.

        • 0 avatar
          thelaine

          Larry P2, I love damn near all cars and I knew the comments to this excellent article were going to be great. I have not been disappointed. I must admit, however, that I am blown away by your secret Ferrari garage anecdote.

          “For a two or three hour drive, the Ferraris required about 8 hours of pre-drive maintenance and about another 4 or 5 hours of post-drive fixing. He confirmed that a routine tuneup was a solid 10 hour job, and could be quickly undone merely by driving in traffic.”

          I have no racing background and I don’t think I have ever even touched a Ferrari, so I guess I never even thought about it. Still…I was amazed.

          Good work if you can get it. Comfortable and quiet workplace. Customer pays or you keep their Ferrari.

          Thanks for the education. This thread is full of the B&B.

          • 0 avatar
            Larry P2

            My detour into Italian cars came after a joyous childhood being steeped in the stern, relentless worship of 60′s Muscle Cars.

            My Uncle Joe was the most diehard Oldsmobile muscle car fanatic I have ever seen, or even heard about. Why Oldsmobile? Well, this is where my agnostism regarding TTAC’s interior fetish comes from……Uncle Joe just liked the interiors of those cars. He bought a brand new Hurst Olds, after test driving a 440 six pack Road Runner and a Hemi-Cuda. The Olds’ nice interior was the deciding factor.

            Hilariously, he sold the Hurst Olds to his neighbor, who had just ran off with his fiance……….Don’t ask. The guy still has both the Olds and the Finance with just 50,000 miles on it and refreshed it a few years ago with a frame-off restoration. The Olds that is.

            Before the Hurst, Joe had a hotted up run-of-the-mill 442 that he street raced constantly. The poor engine started burning oil like crazy immediately after severely over-revving it on a missed shift while racing a Hemi Cuda across the Interstate Bridge that connects Lewiston, Idaho and Clarkston, Washington. Side by side on a two lane bridge they raced. Thereupon, he “test-drove” a brand new 442 “for” my Grandma (!!!!!!!!) had a crew of guys waiting to remove its engine, replacing it with the oil-burning motor (with all the new shiny bits from the new one on top to conceal the theft). All in about two hours. Drove it back to the Olds dealer and no one one was any wiser.

            Finally, he totalled the 442 in a big way, but the motor was still almost new (only had about 200 1/4 mile passes under its belt). Uncle Joe found a decrepit and drive train-less husk of an International Pickup at a junkyard for $100, and bought it on an installment plan of $20 per month. He installed the Olds Engine, tranny and rear end in that rolling husk and produced the “Sleeper” of the Century.”

            Won a lot of races and a lot of money with that ridiculous old thing. I often think about that truck, and wonder if the present owner has any inkling of its story.

            Another time he and my Uncle Steve were racing an E-type Jaguar through the Columbia Gorge, near The Dalles, Oregon with his brand-new 396-powered Nova. It was a very windy day. The Nova and the E-type were running neck and neck, when Uncle Steve noticed the hood shaking more violently than normal and commented on it. Uncle Joe dismissed his concern, laser-intent on the tail of the E-type. Eventually the hood ripped open, shattering the windshield and was torn off the hinges at about 120 mph, briefly lifting the whole front end of the Nova clean off the ground. The hood soared several hundred feet in the air, riding the Gorge’s air columns. Uncle Steve watched in the rearview mirror as it slowly settled back to the earth, looking like a huge, square autumn oak leaf.

            They never even went back for it. By then, the E-type had pulled ahead and stayed ahead for good. He drove that Nova hoodless for five more years, having summarily eliminated 200 pounds of useless weight.

            My parents inexplicably discouraged any contact with my Uncle Joe.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Larry, you are living in an alternate universe if you think Miatas don’t rust. My friend’s Miata was only a year round driver for him for the first 4-5 years and it has needed extensive welding due to rust. 1st gens are pretty rare here due to rust at this point. They are no better (though no worse) than any other mid-90s Japanese car in that respect.

      Otherwise I think they are great cars, I would probably have one if I fit in them. All that silly safety and comfort stuff takes up an awful lot of room compared to a Spitfire. Or an Alfa Spider for that matter.

      I think they will be collectible in the same way Spitfires and MGBs/Midgets are collectable. They will appreciate in value steadily once they get a bit older, but no one will ever get rich off one. Too common. If you think a Miata is easy to work on, you would think you have died and gone to heaven working on a Spitfire. Cars are only quirky and cause suffering when they are not maintained properly.

      • 0 avatar
        Larry P2

        I presently own two first-generation Miatas, and at one point had three of them. The one I traded away (a 1997) had a horrendous life story: When it was about three years old, it was stolen in California, “surgically stripped” and left for dead in the desert. The prior owner I bought it from bought it from, bought it from an insurance salvage auction, complete with a “California Non-Rebuildable Vehicle Certficate”. It was turned into a Miata Spec Racer and raced for the next three years, complete with multi-colored body parts. When it was stolen, it had a mere 60,000 miles according to the documentation. I was given the car with about 170,000 miles on it after the rear brake calipers ignited in the middle of a race. 110,000 miles of savage abuse on a race track, and the thing still ran like a new one. My state has very liberal rules for issuing “Salvage Rebuilt” titles, and after much wrangling I succeeded in getting the car road legal. I drove it for an entire winter in the Great White North’s winter salt fest.

        I repainted it and traded it for a four wheel drive ford van.

        I have had my 92 Miata now for 8 years, and my 1991 Miata for about 5 years. Neither have ever seen the inside of a garage. Rust has never been a problem with any of them.

    • 0 avatar
      Lie2me

      “I doubt that first-generation Miatas will ever be collectible. They were wildly popular and sold like hotcakes.”

      So, was the first generation Ford, the Model “T”… Never say never

    • 0 avatar
      rampriscort

      I have to point out that much of what you say about Miatas would apply to first-gen Mustangs, and to a lesser extent the Camaro as well. But they seem to have done quite well in appreciation, not in spite of their sales numbers, but because of it.

      They defined “fun and sporty” for a generation, and so once the kids are out of the house those who had one when young will want to re-create the experience and those who didn’t will want to see what the hubbub was all about.

      Of course, 90% of the ones I have seen on the street from day 1 have been driven by empty-nesters or 40-ish women, so I may be misreading the zeitgeist.

  • avatar

    Great article. As someone who has started his own collection on a real thin thin budget. Everything is true and I have already hit a possible winner with one of my small collection. Now I have owned allot of cars, possibly over 45 to 50. 2 BMW 2002′s, Jag XJ12L, Three Pug 505′s But I settled on Subaru for the collection.

    Currently this is what is in the collection.

    1976 Subaru 4x wagon 1400 (that is with the dry sleeve EA63) Paid very little for it, very clean running car save some paint issues that I am slowly attending to.

    1983 Subaru BRAT. I bought this car at the right time. Paid 2000 in 96 for a 100,000 on the clock BRAT. Optional AC that still works. All the toys T tops, jump seats, camper and hitch. Has a few more miles on it now. Looks great, no rust and mint interior save 1 crack on the dash. They go for quite a bit more than 2000 for a 2nd owner car with full service history like mine now days.

    85 Leone III (Loyale) wagon, done for off road, but cleanly. Lifted, 27.5 x 8.50 x 14′s, EJ22 swap. Face it this is a car, that is a tool. Swiss army knife of a wagon. It wont gain much I do not think. Hell it took 3 parts cars to build, but the drive is great and off road, as well as in the snow it does wonderfully. Low range does help.

    92 SVX. It is loaded as well, 130K on the clock 3rd owner full service history. Paid almost nothing for it because it needed a 300 dollar heater core. I am working on some body and interior issues. Not sure if I am going to make any money on this. Yes is is by production standards, a rare car. Yes many parts interchange with other Legacy models. But she is a one off, and sold not so well and can currently be bought cheap as chips. Will it go up, I have to say SOME, but not as much as a BRAT.

    94 Legacy wagon, Done up as sort of a GT touring wagon. EJ2.5 block with EJ22 Head franken motor. Other things, some suspension tweaks, but on the outside and inside it looks like a stock Burgundy wagon with JDM Subaru snowflake wheels. It can seriously go however. This a great car for driving my commute from Benton to Lee Vining over 120. Or real long trips with twisty bits.

    I am hunting for a first gen WRX or 2.5 RS currently and a 360. Then it will be complete. Being that many of the fleet share the same engines or main engine components (Timing sets, water pumps, oil and air filters) Buying bulk saves mass bucks.

    Working on them for me, well lets just say, no one touches them save the alignment shop. This also further decreases costs.

    Everything gets driven, but the Lego and the Leone get the brunt of the miles. I am lucky enough to be in a prime location for Subarus and for weather. Being on the Eastern Sierra I only have sun and snow to deal with. Not lots of rain and lots of rot!

    Value, this is the important thing. I think my cost per mile for a collection is pretty low really. Finding cars to strip for parts is a big advantage. Now I am finding that I am saving more trim bits. Word to the wise.. Trim bits! Back to value, not sure. BRAT is going to be the jewel I think since the prices are starting to go up now. But in 25 years I have no idea. I have a 25 year sell off plan. But as a collection, right now I almost span it all. Every generation of Leone, the SVX and then a Legacy does make for a broad spread of one make after all. Only lacking the 360 and a FF-1 for the really early stuff. Missed out on a FF-1 that was already through paint and needed a motor.

    What do you think in 25 years?

    • 0 avatar
      Delta9A1

      Don’t you need a Baja to pair off against your Brat? The ’04 to ’06′s are turbocharged, to boot. Mine’s an ’03, so more show than go.

    • 0 avatar
      rocketrodeo

      Don’t forget your Justy. Probably destined to be the rarest of all Subarus …

      • 0 avatar

        Point, I have been keeping my eyes open for a 89 to 91 Justy 4x 5 speed. Those years because I want the fuel injection. Just have not ran across one worth working on to get to the level of nice clean driver. They are rare here, and I have only seen one 87, and it is in POOR shape. But I do keep my eyes open just encase I see one or two.

        Some times to have one nice car, (like my Leone III) it can take 3 to 5 other cars to make it correct. Thankfully around here any parts go a long way, and Justy is another platform in and of it’s self. So figure 3 to make 1 nice car.

  • avatar
    AllThumbs

    Something that proves almost all the points in your article is how ludicrously CHEAP many wonderful cars go for in auctions I watch on TV. My goodness– amazing old Mercedes in fabulous shape with low miles for $6,000, for example, are not uncommon. Newer Mercs that cost at least $80k new will often sell for under $15k, and I’m guessing that means everyone assumes very expensive repairs are part of the package.

    An excellent example of your Hurst/Road Runner point is Chevelle/El Camino. I have a true 1970 El Camino SS (396) in quite decent shape. It is the same vehicle as a Chevelle; in fact, the owner’s manual is FOR a Chevelle, with just half a page on what’s different in the event your Chevelle happens to be an El Camino. My car is worth less than a third of a Chevelle in the same condition.

  • avatar
    George B

    I vote for a 1996 Ford Mustang Cobra Convertible in excellent condition. They would be near the dip in the depreciation and the 90s rounded body style is currently out of fashion. I doubt that future cars will make the same cool exhaust sound, best appreciated without a roof. How hard/expensive will it be to buy a new car with RWD, V8, manual transmission, and no roof in the future? Just make sure to keep it in a garage to protect it from sun, rain, and critters when not enjoying it on the weekends.

    A friend recently bought an unmodified bright red 2002 Acura RDX as a daily driver. Inexpensive to own with upside potential if someone wants a clean start to build a “tuner” car in the future.

  • avatar
    EspritdeFacelVega

    I’ve bought and sold several classics as well, esp. 107 body Benzes, which will remain a bargain for another decade at least. Great article, Vojta, and worth sending to anyone who is contemplating buying a classic (or old car they think will become a classic).

  • avatar
    Preludacris

    “And in one or two decades, there will be classic JDM car meets,”
    I predict this is about five years out from hitting the mainstream. JCCS in Long Beach gets bigger every year. A lot of popular tuner platforms are just a couple years away from being eligible.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I can understand the analogy of buying a model closely related to the car you actually want, per the Hurst 300 vs. Imperial, but if it’s not what you really want, then where’s the satisfaction in that?

    The car I’d like to have back is my old 1964 Impala SS convertible. One reason is that in the early 70′s when I owned it out in NoCal while in the air force, my wife, who I wouldn’t meet until 1975, owned a ’64 Impala convertible at the same time! Both cars were Goldwood Yellow!

    I would practically give my arm for another 1964 Chevy Impala convertible, SS or not, but the prices are through the stratosphere, and a regular Impala sports coupe is just as untouchable, which I wouldn’t be interested in, anyway, as both of us are convertible-lovers. I’m talking about one in very good shape. What do I do? Settle for a sedan, or a Ford Galaxie? Not on your life!

    A 1957 Chevy? Ha ha ha………………. yeah, right!

    I’m at a point where I cannot do a lot of my own work, and don’t have time or money.

    For a “toy”, we owned a 1992 LeBaron convertible for over 8 years, which I seriously considered fully restoring, but while some parts were robust, too many were plastic-model fragile. Our 2007 MX5 was OK, but after 2 years, with my commute, it didn’t make sense, so we sold it, and I don’t miss it.

    I guess we’ll settle for a used Chrysler 200 convertible, or something similar at some point in the future when we decide to get back in the ragtop business…

    • 0 avatar
      Mr Imperial

      “I can understand the analogy of buying a model closely related to the car you actually want, per the Hurst 300 vs. Imperial, but if it’s not what you really want, then where’s the satisfaction in that?”

      Totally 100% agree with you on that one.

      It’s interesting that a 1964 Cadillac cost approximately 3x that of a 1964 Impala SS back then, but now, the values have flipped and then some (as you already are more than aware).

      The laws of supply and demand in effect.

  • avatar
    LeeK

    Evo VIII would be my vote for a future classic. Chevy SSR, as dumb as I think it looks, might be a good candidate. Definitely E36 and E46 M3s.

    Excellent, thoughtful article.

  • avatar
    fredtal

    Too many folks in this old car hobby worry about the money. If you are not having fun with your car then really you are just wasting time.

  • avatar
    Reino

    Any ‘collector’ car will only appreciate if you put ZERO miles on it after buying it. Odds are the folks on this board don’t fall in that category. Is anyone going to buy a classic Miata and NOT drive the hell out of it? If you want to buy artwork, then buy artwork. Don’t buy something and not use it.

    I would love to buy a used Testarossa with 40k miles on it, and then proceed put another 40k on it. I wouldn’t care if I then sold it for half of what I bought it for, that is money well spent!

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    Great article. I have to agree with you on the Miata NA. Over the last 15 years I have owned a 1991 VW Cabriolet that I found in a barn on Long Island and returned it to good running order. Used it for 10 years as a weekend car and sold it for a nice profit. Purchased a 1971 Beetle in Conn that was half restored and completed the balance. Drove for 3 years and sold for a profit this year. Purchased a low mileage 1991 Miata NA SE (BRG) 5 speed with all the toys for $4,500.00 and it runs like new. Did the 60,000 mile service (timing belt etc) and having a ball. Have checked prices on this model and they range from $5,000.00 to $8,000.00 so I think I will hold on to this car for a while. The car is so simple and pure that it a pleasure to drive and work on. Insurance only costs me $300.00 a year in the NYC area. Both my wife and myself have new cars that we enjoy but the Miata with the top down is just something special.

  • avatar
    cognoscenti

    1st-Gen Acura NSX. Anything not too beat up, not crashed/salvage (of course), driven with some regularity, and with a service history. Mid to high twenties will get a clean example if you look around a bit. Good cars are already going up in price. At the very least, you can own and drive one for a few years for nothing more than maintenance costs, then sell for break even or a profit.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    I nominate:
    -Any 190E 2.3 Cosworth (they sold those here, right?)
    -First-gen Saab 900s
    -Acura Legend coupe/sedan (pristine)
    -Mitsubishi 3000GT (AWD)
    -Final model Toronado Trofeo
    -Final model ElDorado
    -Original 4Matic M-B vehicles, specifically wagons

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’m with you on some of those. I don’t see the Olds Toros (or Rivs) doing much and maybe Eldos but you have to assume people will keep them on the road after the Northstars or trannys blow up (its not as if MY02 Eldorado was sprinkled with pixie dust to magically fix all if its known issues). I recall a TTAC article or lengthy post explaining the truth behind the 3000GT, even in VR-4 configuration I think people will “m’eh” it. I could def see all pre-95 Mercedes becoming somewhat sought after, as well as the Saabs and Volvos of their times simply because they were generally all well made cars. I’ll add Datsun/Nissan Zs and all generation Preludes and Celicas to your list.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        What was the deal with the 3000GT? BTW, I saw a convertible one on ebay couple years ago, it was bid up over 50K as I recall. Don’t know if that was ever an option, or that was some sort of special mod someone did.

        I agree on the 300Z, classic design. I don’t get the Prelude and FWD Celica love. They don’t appeal much to me – unless they’re the convertible rare Celica made for a short while which had a different appearance, around 97 or so.

        Oh, Supra – but those are already elevated.

        And hey, last model of Cressida which existed for a short time along with Lexus.

        And SC400 original (98+) when they redid the lamps a little.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I don’t know enough about it to tell you, I don’t ever recall seeing a conv one.

          Prelude has a following, its difficult to find one at any price simply because it was low volume in the 90s and when I have seen them they are base models with 100K+ for 7-10 grand. Incidentally in the late 80s there was a limited edition with four wheel steering and I believe turbo as a former co-worker had one, that would make a nice toy in 5spd. If I could find a clean Prelude at the right price I’d pull the trigger. I’m not a Celica “guy” myself but I acknowledge they too have a following.

          I would also be interested in a last gen Cressida (86-90?) or an gen 1 SC (even the V6) but both are rare in these parts and when I see them they are beat to snot or have crazy money on them. Cressidas make nice donor cars and people rice them out somehow.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I am aware of that 4WS Prelude, always seemed so gimmicky to me. I just don’t think the Prelude or non-special Celicas are worth it! Maybe an early one where it was RWD, I dunno.

            The Cressida ran through 92, and had the modern Toyota logo on it. Truly the last Toyota JDM import sedan.

            See! OMG! http://louisville.craigslist.org/ctd/4134826649.html
            Side note: I want to import a Century *drool*. Stately and starchy to the max.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Prelude AFAIK can be tuned as the Civics can be, you have a nice aftermarket to choose from and the model came in 5sp. I see it as the gentleman’s Civic although I may be looking at it through rose colored glasses. Celica I imagine is sought after for the same reasons.

            I lament Toyota’s decisions to go full on beige in the past twenty years, I call on them to do *one* JDM import for NA.

          • 0 avatar
            TheAnswerIsPolara

            I remember the 3000gt convertible. I believe it was the first in the resurgence of the hardtop convertibles. They were very expensive even compared to the AWD 3000gtb(?). Saw one when I went to look at the regular 3000gt.

        • 0 avatar
          Reino

          3000GT VR-4 ‘Spyder’ was a very rare care indeed. Only a couple hundred sold in the states, IIRC. Hence the high price for a mint condition model.

          It was the first folding-hardtop (predating the Mercedes SLK).

          However, the thing weighed like 5,000 lbs. or something like that.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        I agree with a few of those, but take off any sedans since people have this notion that extra doors spoil a cars styling.

        Toronados and Eldorados I’m not sure about, no one really liked them when they were released and they weren’t all that remarkable.

        I do think that the Buick Reatta will have some value though, its both rare and the first production car to use a touchscreen, it also had one of the only good touchscreens in a car (clean interface, didn’t need 8 patches to work).

        3000GTs had a few custom convertible models made in California but that was it, nothing factory. The question is if any of them will still be around due to them being quite complicated and hard to fix.

        I do respect Celicas and Preludes but with the latter being from Honda that means they’re doomed to fartcan Hades.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          With the 190E being so special, I think it can be included. 4Matic sedans and wagons can be included too.

          Didn’t the Trofeo have a touch screen as well? I will say that of all the Rivieras and Reattas of that gen I’ve seen for sale, I think all of them had WORKING touchscreens!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I don’t believe the Tornado/Trofeo has the CRT touchscreen, but the Riviera did.

          • 0 avatar
            ajla

            The Trofeo had an optional touchscreen system. It was different than what was used on the Buicks though.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            The more you know!

          • 0 avatar
            Lie2me

            Murilee did a piece on the Trofeo last year with the touch screen…

            http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2012/04/junkyard-find-1990-oldsmobile-toronado-trofeo/#more-440705

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            I’d like to include those sedans myself, I just don’t know how many others will value them in the future.

            The touchscreen was probably a Buick exclusive, but yea they often last as long if not longer than the cars themselves.

            Compare that to modern touchscreens that loose color over years and goof up.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Also look here!

            http://1990-1992toronadotrofeo.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderpictures/104_2482.jpg

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I could possibly see the Fox Mark VII or MN95 Mark VIII as collectibles due to RWD appeal/upgrades, I’m not seeing the E-bodies with them. Reatta maybe.

  • avatar
    duffman13

    Certain unmolested limited edition Honda/Acura models come to mind for me. Specifically, Integra GS-Rs and Type-Rs, Civic Si (EG and EM1).

    As others have mentioned, S2000s have just recently bottomed out, and unmolested low mileage examples go for good money. NSXs are achievable as well now with some being in the low to mid 20s.

    Unfortunately, the rest of the 90s Japanese sports car renaissance have either mostly succumbed to reliability issues (looking at you FD RX-7 and Z32 300ZX TT), or have already skyrocketed in price (Supra Twin Turbo, Celica All-Trac).

  • avatar
    ajla

    I had been looking at ’64-’67 Ford Galaxies and ’85-’87 442s recently, but I noticed that a similar Mercury or Grand Prix are a much better “value” in terms of what you get for your $12K-$25K.

    Price variation can be tricky too. I see this the most with ’78-’93 Cadillacs. I’m not looking to retire on an ’81 De Ville’s appreciation, but I don’t want to spend $8K on a $4K car either.

    Then there are cars that don’t even have much of an active market. Just how much is a 6000STE worth?

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I think those Caddy’s have a couple problems right now.

      -The older ones were from a rough time for GM in the early 80s, downsizing, corner cutting, etc. They’re also kind of awkward and ugly.
      -The newer ones are too plentiful. They are abundant and mostly low-miles, due to the grey-age purchase of retirees in the early 90s.

      You’ve gotta wait a while for them to even out. I’d say in addition to the Fleetwoods, the more rare Sixty-Specials with the “Euro” seat option, “Touring” Devilles, and early square-body STS’s will be worth something eventually.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        This is the 28CL Cadillac buyers guide:

        MY79 and earlier: OK
        MY80-MY81.5: Somewhat acceptable due to 368 motor but might as well go 77-79 for the downsized ones and 425ci power.
        MY82-MY87: 4100, avoid.
        MY85-MY89 RWD: Olds 307, me’h.
        MY88: First year of 4.5 which is a good motor but runs on earlier C-body. M’eh.
        MY90-MY93 RWD: Chevy 350, acceptable.
        MY89-MY95: 4.5 and 4.9 (91+) era, these are the last good FWD Cadillacs
        MY94-MY96 RWD: LT1, awesome.
        MY96+: Northstar, screw that noise.

        • 0 avatar
          NoGoYo

          90-93 was the last of the Coupe DeVilles, so good CDVs with 4.9 power are worth more than SDVs.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Relative to sedans, but neither model Deville (or Fleetwood FWD) is particularly collectible, the exception being the MY93 only Fleetwood Sixty Special. Also MY90 was still 4.5, MY91 is when the 4.9 was introduced. In 2004 I had an ’85 Coupe de Ville and briefly a silver/black roof ’91 Coupe de Ville which was gorgeous. I don’t miss the ’85 but I miss the ’91.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I’ve had my ’74 Spitfire nearly 20 years. While I never expect to retire on it, it has pretty much kept pace with what the same money shoved in an Index Fund would have done, and the maintenance is a small price to pay for quite a lot of fun over the years. Carrying costs are minimal, $33/yr to register it, $42/yr for insurance. Divided out over 20 years I have probably spent $200/yr on maintenance on average, which is WAY cheaper than renting something fun. Makes me smile just to see the little guy in the garage too. I do maybe 1000 miles a year these days, in a good year. Probably less than 200 this year though.

  • avatar
    Mr Imperial

    -1987 Buick GNX’s, IF you can find one that hasn’t been thrashed.

    -Unmolested 1996 Toyota Supras

    -Oddly enough, here in ‘Amurica, 1989-1993 Dodge Rams with the first-generation Cummins Turbo Diesel are gaining in value, especially clean ones. We love our trucks in the USA!USA!

    -1994 to 1996 Impala SS, especially since the hip-hop culture is snatching these up at record rates, probably won’t be many left soon.

    -2003 to 2004 Mercury Marauders, but nowhere near the Impalas in value.

    -Any Plymouth Prowler! When is the last time you saw one?

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    One point about Miatas – I think they are great cars, but they are quite a lot more expensive to run as a toy than a Spitfire or even an MGB. They are mostly too new to qualify for super-cheap classic car insurance or antique registration in most states. In Maine, it would cost me ~$500/yr for full coverage on a Miata, $120+ to register it, and I would have the hassle of getting it safety inspected every year. So $600+ vs. ~$75 for my Spitfire.

    The Spitfire is about the most DIY-friendly car ever made too. Nothing in it you can’t fix with a basic set of wrenches and screwdrivers and a hammer, and parts are cheap too.

    • 0 avatar

      That may be the case in Maine, but certainly not here. My ’03 is one of the cheapest cars to insure, I change the oil a few times per year (mostly because I don’t drive it that much) and it needs major servicing at 60-120k miles. You are unlikely to have any problems with it, and if something goes wrong, even a horrible mechanic like myself can fix it due to its simplicity (I have done my own brake jobs, installed coilovers, changed the clutch master and slave cylinders, but opted for a professional to do my 60k service and my rollbar). I also do not have to have a yearly inspection, while annual registration is a flat fee. I would wager that a Spitfire requires more regular upkeep, costing time if not money as well, versus a bulletproof Miata.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        We are talking about cars as an investment/collector’s item, so by definition we are talking about cherished, used low miles every year, toys. So the car should be kept in a garage, and thus if it qualifies for classic car insurance that is a HUGE savings. In that service you are maintaining a car based on time, not miles. The Spitfire will be cheaper.

        As I mentioned, I have a basis for comparison here as I have a friend who has a 1st gen Miata that he uses in pretty much the exact same way that I use my Spitfire. His car costs a LOT more to keep than mine does. If you can get classic insurance rates on a Miata in Canada, and it is exempt from inspection good for you, that is a HUGE bonus! $500 for full coverage on a car is pretty cheap even by Maine standards, but my friend and I are both middle-aged multiple car owners at this point – his other car is a Leaf. Someone your age would be paying a multiple of that price on a Miata most likely. I had collector car insurance on the Spitfire from the time I bought my garage, at age 31.

        If it was a daily driver, sure the Miata will need less maintenance, but then it would not really be a collector car. And maybe not as much less maintenance as you might think – simplicity has its own rewards. For example, no timing belt. No A/C, no power steering, no power brakes, a MUCH less complex suspension system. SU carbs are set and forget devices – mine have not been touched in a decade or so, other than to top up the damper oil once a year. Mine has electronic ignition so no issues there. Modern lubricants mean everything lasts longer than back in the day. The entire front of the car flips forward for silly easy access to everything, or you can take it right off in <10 minutes with a helper. Parts are as cheap or cheaper, and you can get absolutely everything. Either one will rust away to oblivion if used in the salty Northern winter, but the Spitfire is much less complex in its structure to fix – its body on frame. The Miata is safer (though vs. a 5000lb SUV I don't think it matters much), faster and more comfortable, but it isn't cheaper. Annual service on the Spitfire is change the fluids, adjust the rear brakes, lube a couple grease fittings and that is about it. I spend a Saturday afternoon a year on it. Every 4-5 years I go through and clean the grounds and electrical connectors to the lights and whatnot, adjust the valves. Takes an hour or two. Other than having a nearly new battery die on me this year, it is all but completely reliable. I think the last failure was a starter solenoid 4-5 years ago. Cost $12 and 20 minutes to replace. And we are talking a car that will be *40* years old next year.

        And as a bonus, you get entry to all sorts of cool classic car events. My car has been parked on a show field next to a million dollar Jag D-type – not many Miatas can say that! I've autocrossed it too – does quite well.

        As was pointed out in the TR6 comments, these cars are NOTHING like as painful to own as legend would have it, once they are sorted out in the first place they stay that way.

  • avatar
    ajla

    Good luck finding a decent GNX for under $50K. They might be a $200K car in future, but they are already priced pretty high.

  • avatar
    stingray65

    Cars from the 1930s to 1950s are one place to look for bargains, because the “wanted one as a teenager” crowd for that era are now moving into nursing homes or worse. Somewhat younger collectors are bidding up the cars from the 1960s to mid 70s, but have no first-hand memories of the older stuff so aren’t as interested, but the older stuff will eventually come back in style and prices will go up just as the brass-era stuff has done in recent times. Malaise era crap from the 70s and 80s, and pedestrian stuff from the 60s (i.e. Mustangs and Camaros with 6 cylinder, 283 Impala coupes, etc.) are all most likely to appreciate as resto-mods done in a tasteful manner (i.e. fairly stock appearance with strong fuel injected crate motors, overdrive gearboxes, brake upgrades, moderate wheel upgrades). Newer stuff may go the same way only because the original equipment may be impossible to replace/revive.

  • avatar
    ThirdOwner

    So what are you going to do with your classic 30 years down the road when everybody drives an electric car and the gasoline is a specialty item like the aviation fuel is today?

    Why, you go get yourself some veggie oil and fire up that old diesel Benz. All You Need Is Grease. That, and some air / lack of air (aka vacuum, for the engine and automatic tranny management). No electronics.

    An excellent article, Mr. Dobeš.

  • avatar
    DenverMike

    The $1,000K Hemi ‘Cuda convertible in Plum Crazy Purple was a freak of nature. All the stars lined up while collectors were busy hoarding pristine Corvettes. It can’t happen again, but you can still have a blast collecting, restoring, driving and speculating what the Gen X’rs can’t live without, once they cash in their kid’s inheritance. GMC Syclone? Lightning F-150?

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    Sort of related, one thing I find annoying is the lack of availability of cars such as the SRT4 Neon, Cobalt SS Supercharged/Turbocharged, Subaru WRX etc. in unmodified condition.

    As the Alero ages, and seeing as am still very single, I think one of these cars would suit me well as a fun quick daily driver, but pretty much all of the ones listed include “STAGE 3 TURBO, RACING CLUTCH, ETC” and I just don’t want to take a chance on a fast modified car that I guarantee was hooned.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Yeah it’s hard to find a “performance car” that is older that was accidentally purchased by someone’s grandmother or something. I’ve seen one Cobalt SS coupe in Gallup, NM that somehow ended up in the hands of a middle age woman with a TRUSTGOD license plate. It is bone stock (not even any window tint) so I guess someday someone might get a clean unmodified example.

      • 0 avatar
        bumpy ii

        For a year or three, the “Cobalt SS” was the model with the regular 2.4L engine, not the 2.0L super- or turbocharged version.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I still can’t even believe there even was a Cobalt “SS” package. I would have resurrected the “Z24″ monniker since the Cobalt was effectively the new Cavalier.

          • 0 avatar
            davefromcalgary

            28,

            The Cobalt SS Turbo actually deserved the SS moniker. It was fast, and a good handling FWD chassis sadly wrapped up in a Cobalt’s bland body. The supercharged model wasn’t a slouch either.

            (I’m depending on the big media experts claims regarding the Cobalt’s handling prowess. I’ve never been on a track, but I’ve driven both versions and enjoyed them.)

        • 0 avatar
          davefromcalgary

          I believe they ran concurrently for a while, the 2.4 and 2.0 SC, both called SS. The SC was differentiated by badging and was also manual only.

          When the SS 2.0T was introduced replacing the 2.0SC, the 2.4L was called the Cobalt Sport.

  • avatar
    jacob_coulter

    Making money in the car hobby is about as likely as making money as a weekend golfer, I just look at it as money for entertainment that’s well spent.

    I will say though if you were looking for a car that’s cheap now and will likely appreciate, I would say classic 4 door cars from the 60′s and 70s would probably do well, and also wagons. Many of these are being given away right now.

  • avatar
    fusionist

    How about something a little more aspirational than a Miata?

    Wouldn’t a Porsche Boxster hit all the same convertible two seat sports car notes a little higher up the price scale?

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    I wonder how long I have to wait for my 2005 LeSabre to appreciate? Look kids! A column shift! I think my cousin’s ’73 Gremlin will be worth more though, if only because he bought the plastic covers for his Levi’s interior.

  • avatar
    Panther Platform

    I have a 2003 Mercury Grand Marquis LSE with the console shifter, dual exhaust, and bucket seats. Sure it will be worth a fortune someday.

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Dang it I’m still looking for another car like yours on Auto Trader. Either that or I need to get a Maruader and “broughamify” it.

      • 0 avatar
        Panther Platform

        It has less than 73,000 miles and the air ride has been converted to coils. Just got the entire car detailed including the engine. I would consider selling it, but the offer would have to be darn good (I like the car and have dumped some money in it). The car does not float, it handles surprisingly well.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Nah too many of them, and they’re not dying anytime soon.

      • 0 avatar
        Panther Platform

        I love my car and all Panthers, but I was being a little sarcastic.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        Actually there were very few LSEs made, they are the rarest Panther with only about 10% as many made as the Marauder which it shares the bucket seats and console with. Of course they are not as desirable as a Marauder since they only have the 2v engine. However when they and the Ford cousin the Crown Victoria LX-Sport do come up for sale they do command a higher price than a run of the mill HPP equipped car that is the same except for those bucket seats and console.

        • 0 avatar
          Panther Platform

          Well I’m enjoying my LSE and intend to hang on to it. I threw in the towel on my money pit Lincoln Mark VIII and got rid of it, so the LSE sooths my grief. I still doubt it will ever be worth anything, but I would love to be wrong.

  • avatar
    NoGoYo

    @28: There was an immaculate ’93 CDV on Craigslist around here about a month ago…$6500 for an extremely well maintained low mileage Caddy is a pretty good deal.

    Though I think the Broughams can be obtained even cheaper in similar condition…I really want a Brougham.

  • avatar
    manu06

    The Pontiac Solstice hard top would be the ideal candidate. Good looking sports car
    and very few produced.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Oh I agree with this one. Very rare! I’ve seen the same one twice around here, always caught my eye (though is hunter metallic green – bleh). But they’re good looking!

  • avatar
    modelt1918

    When I show or drive my Model T, I Invariably run into someone that thinks I must be rich to own an “old car” like that. I don’t have the heart to tell them I bought it for $6,000 and drove it home.Unless it is a brass car, Model T’s will never be worth much.

    • 0 avatar
      NoGoYo

      Model Ts are super easy to fix…not sure about parts prices, but everything is so simplistic that surely anyone with a service manual could fix one up. Same goes for the Model A.

  • avatar
    Scribe39

    I like Big Old Chryslers too — or just about big old anything, as you can see by the avatar. I owned that Buick back in 1960-62, but it was a 76R. I’ve had lots of big ones and liked nearly all of them, especially the Hudsons…

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    I should pay better attention to articles like these. I’m a low-mileage driver. Unlike most people, cars such as these are a practical option as my biggest driving expense is depreciation.

    Like most any other good investment, at the right price, the risk is minimal. Saw a nice looking Saleen Mustang in the parking garage this afternoon. $5,500. Maybe it will be a classic, maybe it won’t. The risk is maybe $2,000 or so of additional depreciation on a car that has been probably well-maintained. If nothing else, it was literally a “Kandy-Kolored, Tangerine-Flaked, Streamlined Baby” a la Tom Wolfe.

    Not my style, but its hard to argue with the overall value for a low-mileage driver. There are a lot of cars like that.

  • avatar
    drtwofish

    Wow, that M3′s a dead ringer for mine! Great article. I’m inclined to think that it’s a fool’s game for any working schmoe to try to purchase cars based on future value, but I think #6 may be the wisest tip of the bunch – buy cars at the bottom of their depreciation curve, and at the very least you won’t lose money in the long haul. 80′s BMWs are a great example of this – I had an assortment of e28′s and e30′s back in the 1990′s and early 2000′s when you could easily pick up a good one for under $5k, but now that they’re rare the values of good examples have at least doubled. Of course, the counterpoint is that if you’re an addicted car-trader like me, you’re not likely to see any increase in value in the short term.

    The 1953 Kaiser Dragon I’ve been restoring with my dad over the past decade is a good example of #3, I’m afraid – even with a small-scale restoration on a solid car I suspect we’ll have more in it than it’s worth. But it’s been in the family since the early 60′s and I have no intention to ever sell it, so who cares?

  • avatar
    pack66

    I’m surprised I haven’t seen it here and I hesitate to put it up, but I’m currently looking for a 3rd gen 4runner with manual transmission. A nice example that hasn’t been modded or trashed offroad is hard to find. As a Gen X’er, this and the WRX are cars I’m looking to find and keep.


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