The New Millennium Collection
February 1, 2009
By Scott Lewis
As promised last month I am going to cover cars that I would collect
if I had the money and the storage to do so. This is not
an article about stuffing a 638 HP Corvette ZR1 or Shelby GT500KR in a
garage and see how much money I could get for it in 5 or 10 years.
What I want to do is a modern version of Jay Leno. Jay collects some pretty unusual cars. He says it is the story, not the car. His collection is very diverse with cars some people would not even consider collectible. This month's list of cars are not collectible. In fact, that is part of my point. I want cars that are regular cars. Granted, most of the cars here are/were made in small numbers, but not so small they are considered collector's cars.
These are cars that you could by on Autotrader for reasonable amounts and enjoy as daily drivers for years. So why are they here? As I said, I wanted to do something like Jay Leno. I wanted to pick a few cars from the current millennium (2001 or newer) that are relatively normal cars. But cars that I think will be cool in 20 or 30 years. I do not expect these cars to become worth a lot of money. That's not the point. The point is that Jay drives his cars, and these cars can all be driven.
You won't see any Corvettes, Vipers, 911 GT3s, Ferrari Enzos, etc. What you will see is a handful of cars that will be very unusual cars in 25 years.
2003-2006 Mini Cooper
I have selected the first generation of the Mini Cooper. These cars are plentiful in the used car channel. I am sticking to the first design mainly because of the interior. I had a 2006 Mini Cooper S Convertible and the center stack was very clean. Two posts held the radio, HVAC controls and a bank of switches. The redesign in 2007 brought a solid center stack that moved part of the radio into the speedometer and part if it below. You cannot replace this radio without major surgery to the dash, and even then it would not look good. The 1st gen cars have a standard DIN radio that is easy to replace. More importantly it looked cleaner.
The Mini Cooper is a blast to drive. I would look for a Mini Cooper S without the Premium package which includes the sunroof. This is the perfect fun car to save for year after year of driving pleasure. I don't expect these cars to be worth more than you would pay for a used one now, but that is not the point. It is a fun car and in 20 years you will never see one on the road... except the one in my New Millennium Collection.
2004-2008 Chrysler Crossfire
I image I will get a lot of flak for this one. This car is such a poor collectible it is not funny. Chrysler even put this car on a liquidation web site for $9,000 off MSRP. Talk about tanking the resale value of these cars. You could buy one of these cars for a song. For this collection you must stay with the original coupe design. This car is very close to the concept car. Yes, it has a parts bin interior. Yes it is underpowered with only 215 hp. But that 215 hp was good for 0-60 in about 6.5 seconds. That used to be considered quick, and in 20 years that may be considered truly fast. Who knows for sure.
I can see myself buying one of these cheap and trying to keep the mileage down, but still drive it. In 20 years you will not see any of these on the road because they will have been driving into the ground. Nobody is collecting these... except me.
2003-2006 - Chevrolet SSR
This is the only car on this list that might actually be a true collectible vehicle. This is a muscular truck that never sold well. I can go into the reason for that (no coupe version, too expensive), but that is not the point. This truck was so radical and expensive it was impractical. That is how a lot of collectible cars get started.
I see very few of these of the road. They are still fetching more than I think they are worth on the used car market. But in a couple more years, and another gasoline price hike over $4 will drive the prices down as those that have them want to get rid of them. To maintain this car as a driver will probably mean a lot of maintenance cost. I assume that retractable hardtop will be expensive to repair when it fails. But in 20 years you will only care about driving it with the top down.
2006-2009 - Pontiac Solstice
This car is very unrefined compared to the Mazda Miata. But it looks cool. Cool looking cars always make better collectibles cars. I would expect the used car market to be flooded with these when the new car warranties run out on them. You should be able to pick one up for a song as they are already losing popularity. I would stick with the regular version and avoid the turbocharged GXP version. Why spend more than you have to for a car that is all show.
This car will turn heads for year to come and it will definitely turn heads 20 years from now when the only one around is in my New Millennium Collection.
2004-2006 Scion xB
This is the original "box on wheels" that started a new cube look. Honda's Element never looked good. The original xB was small and light with tons on space inside. And it stood out in a crowd of cars costing twice as much. Perfect for the New Millennium Collection. 20 years from now they will be cool and no one will have one except me.
2001-2006 Audi TT
The original Audi TT coupe is the car that belongs here. This is an orphaned car because its performance was well below the standard set by its competition. Its radical bath tub design is what counts here. The New Millennium Collection is all about looks over performance. This car will look more odd and different 20 years from now than it does today. This one is pushing the price range for a car on this list, but I think we car swing it.
Here are a few cars that I thought about, but left off the list.
Nissan 350Z - This car should belong. It has all the right ingredient. Fun to drive, affordable, cool looking. But these cars are a bit too much like a possible collectible car for this collection, and too many people will treat them that way. It's no fun collecting a car that lots of other are collecting. We want cars that others don't have the vision to see as collectible.
Mercedes 230/320 SLK - This car would be on the list if it were not for the introduction of the second generation SLK. The first was clearly a "chicks" car. It should have made the list, but the revised edition made this car look so bland you just don't want it anymore. That's a shame. Although this is not the first retractable hardtop (Ford Skyliner, Mitsubishi 3000GT) it is the one that brought the retractable hardtop into the mainstream.
Toyota MR2 - The most recent generation of the MR2 was ugly, plain and simple. Had the version from the early 90s been around in 2001 I would include it. This was a mini Ferrari and would be cool in my New Millennium Collection. Too bad it was not in the cards.
Honda Insight - The original hybrid. I just don't like it enough to include it on the list. Plus I would be more worried about the expense of keeping this running 20 years from now than I would about the top on the Chevrolet SSR.
Volkswagen GTI - The original GTI from the 70s is still revered, yet you never see one anymore. Could the current GTI get the same respect 30 years from now? Will it still look cool on the road? Or is it too common for the New Millennium Collection. I had to pass on this one.
Ford Shelby GT - I started putting this car on the list. This is not the bad-ass GT500 or GT500KR. The car I am talking about is the "low end" Shelby GT. This is the car that came from the Hurst/Shelby Mustang. They took the Hurst car and made it a regular Mustang. It did not have a lot of horsepower, just 319 I think. In fact it is about the same as a Bullitt edition Mustang. BTW, I also like the Bullitt Edition Mustang as a possible collectible car. In the end I had to pass because the Shelby dash plaque is goig to make these collectible by many people eventually. And that goes against my New Millennium Collection.
That's my list. What cars from this century would you consider collection... that no else would think to collect? Let me know.