Seven Future Classics for the Depressed Economy

Mike Solowiow
by Mike Solowiow

Seven days and I’ll be back in the United States, having bid my farewell to the Middle East (but knowing I will return). As the countdown commences, I eagerly anticipate driving something without a Toyota badge on it, and possibly buying something interesting with all the money I have saved eating government food (and some sand). These past many months I have pored over eBay, Autotrader, and (German used car site, check it out, forbidden gems!). After looking at the multitudes of steel out there, I wondered something… what could I get that would have oodles of character, the shades of a future classic, and not cost too much. So I present, Seven Future Classics for the Depressed Economy:

seven future classics for the depressed economy

2001 – 2005 Pontiac Aztek – You might not like it, but you know what it is. For that reason alone, the Aztec will become a future classic in the same vein as the Edsel. It stands out everywhere it goes, especially in the orange and yellow shades GM slathered over its plastic cladded ass. It was hideous, poorly marketed, yet reasonably well built and comfortable. Bonus! The Aztek even came with a portable cooler/arm rest, an integrated back pack, and a tent that attached to the rear tail-gate, so you can create your own hideous children in a hideous car away from civilization thanks to an AWD system.
1994 – 1996 Chevrolet Impala SS – If Darth Vader were to drive cross-country to plead for a Death Star bailout, he would drive a black SS. Powered by the Corvette’s LT1 V8, the Impala would rocket away from a stoplight in smoking glory yet glide over the interstate in classic American fashion. Sleek and beautifully big in true Detroit fashion, especially without the chrome grill of the normal model, the SS commanded respect. It continues to do so for not much more than the price of a used Hyundai.
1993-1997 Land Rover Defender – Land Rover meant for the Defender to compete with the Wrangler, but at nearly twice the price, and the same reliability. It failed. The then-Ford subsidiary withdrew the model from the North American market due to slow sales and its inability to accommodate airbags. Available only in V8 guise, the Defender started to gain a reputation as a “trendy,” more capable alternative to the Jeep Wrangler, with just as an extensive military/explorer reputation. The Defender has now become an out-door lifestyle statement that could take you where no BMW ever could, as evidenced by quickly escalating prices.
1993-1998 Porsche 911 (993) – The last true 911 represents the pinnacle of the breed before profit sustainability and government regulations doomed Ferdinand’s original idea to the history books. Scary oversteer, funky floor hinged pedals and an interior as austere as the original one from 1964 all confirm that you’re piloting a sports car built for drivers, not a focus group. The last and most beautiful of the air-cooled 911’s now sells for more than a more recent water-cooled version, and for good reason: the legend died in 1998 giving birth to a smarter but not as quite exciting daughter.
1984-1988 Pontiac Fiero – The only domestic built mid-engined car continues to fascinate people as an oddity. It started out as mediocre machine, yet lived on to become something of a driver’s car at the end of its life. Once fitted with a powerful V6, the Fiero became a performance bargain, exhibiting chassis dynamics familiar to owners of Italian exotica. The biggest problem: reliability that matched the Italians, to the point where faulty electrics earned it the name “Fire-o” (many self-immolated themselves on the highway). Find an untorched V6 version, and you can start prepping for Pebble Beach 2030.
1999-2004 Ford Lightning – You gotta love Ford’s thinking when they shoved a supercharged V8 into the lightest F-150 body. With 380bhp on tap, the Lightning was the fastest vehicle capable of hauling a quad-bike on the planet. Ask it to turn, however, and it washed out into understeer so scary it prompted rednecks to proclaim “hold my beer and watch this.” It also carried over the horrible plastics and rock solid reliability from the regular F-150. Legendary in its own right, yet purchased by a select few, the Lighting remains rare, yet attainable– until the yuppies from California discover it at the next Barrett-Jackson auction.
1991-1996 Nissan 300ZX – 18 years later, and the original design still looks fresh, clean and futuristic (complete with weird dashboard “pods”). The Z’s looks are also backed by a rip-snorting 300bhp twin-turbo V6 (officially claimed at 276bhp). Even better: a sophisticated suspension rivaling some of the highest priced European metal. Capable of rivaling not only its Supra and RX-7 competitors, but some true exotics, the 300ZX showcases how great design never fades, and true style will last decades.
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  • Ljcabrera Ljcabrera on Jan 13, 2009

    I'd toss in the e30 m3 only 5000 imported, if you hunt for a beat up one you can get in for 8k. Although many go for 15k+

  • SWComp SWComp on Jan 13, 2009

    Re Fiero "pre-1988, be aware that there are some suspension idiosyncrasies you might need to get used to. " Yeah, for those who are too young or have forgotten, GM used the front end of an X-body Citation for the back end of the Fiero (and just hooked up the tie rod ends to the engine mounts so the wheels wouldn't turn!) and a Chevette (remember those charming things!) front end for the Fiero front end. Total POS. When they finally fixed it for '88 it was too late. Don't think they ever fixed the crummy cramped foot well. And no, the Aztek will never be a "classic".

  • Art Vandelay Interesting, the Polestar 2 I had as a rental utilized Android Automotive which is what GM said it is going to exclusively, yet it still offers Apple CarPlay according to this. Wonder if GM will do the same.
  • Stuart de Baker EVs just aren't ready for prime time for those with a single car and who take road trips. Being able to charge as soon as you arrive at a charging station, and even the chargers working on your car is a crapshoot. In the former case, you could have to wait for nearly an hour while someone else is charging.I also don't find EVs particularly fun to drive (I've driven a Tesla Model S and an Ionic 5.) I LOVE driving my '08 Civic (stick). I love the handling, the feel and responsiveness of the engine, the precise steering (the Michelin Pilot Ultra Sport tires help, but even with the snows on, the car is a joy). I have 152k on the clock, and hopefully another 25 years or so of driving (I was born early in the Eisenhower Administration and I have exceptionally healthy habits), and I'm going to try to keep the Civic for the duration.My Civic causes a less global warming emissions than some of these humongous battery operated trucks.
  • FreedMike They should throw in a Lordstown pickup with every purchase. Make it the “vapor twofer.”
  • Random1 Pretty excited about this update, I didn't see it available in mine this morning, but any day now... I think only Apple maps will be on the center display, and not Waze yet, but I assume that'll come soon enough. As to the unnecessary Tesla comment above : I'll take the build quality, the looks, and generally normal items that all cars should have over the M3 any day of the week.
  • Jonathan H. The ES production is going back to Japan so it's safe to assume its assembly building will be utilized for the new EV. Seems like a good fit for what will probably be fairly low volume compared to the Camry/Rav4 assembly lines.