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Car Corner
Affordable Future Classics

December 1, 2013
By Scott Lewis

This is the third time at this topic, and I have renamed it. Instead of calling this the "Future Classic Watch" I am changing that to "Affordable Future Classics." Why? Glad you asked. Put simply, there are lots of cars that will eventually make it to classic status. Surely when a car reaches 25 years old it is supposed to be a classic. In fact, next month I will examine that exact topic.

For this column I want to list cars that will hopefully gain respectable classic status, while being affordable cars today. I also want this list to be a potential shopping list. If you have say $5-20K laying around and want to buy a car that you hope will be a classic... I want this list to be your guide.

With all that said... I am looking to refine this list from year to year. This year I did not take the time to ferret out specific examples of cars for sale. I started looking a few months before this article went to print and came to the conclusion that there will ALWAYS be some examples available. It may be just a matter of time waiting for that "just right" car if you have your heart set on something. The cars below I hope will be respected classics when their time comes, and are affordable now (or will be affordable before they start climbing in value).

1990-1996 Nissan 300ZX

These cars are very affordable. I have seen quite a few under $10K. But I believe that unmolested originals are already on their way up in price. So now is the time to buy these cars... before they reach true classic status. If you are thinking about these cars as collectible, I don't know if you will make a lot of money on them. Although I believe good examples are already rising in price... I don't expect them to do anything crazy like double in value within a few years. And since they are affordable now, then they will only become less affordable later, but not expensive. At least that is my opinion.

Having said all that... these cars make great part time drivers. They handled exceptionally well in their time, and had enough power, even without the twin turbos, to make them very sporty today. You could easily buy one of these and enjoy a good canyon road on a sunny Sunday.

Examples: With a quick search I found two interesting examples. One was a twin turbo with 70k original miles for just under $16k asking price. The other was a non-turbo with 29K miles for $12,500, but it did have an automatic (yuck). Both perfectly good samples that would be nice as drivable future classics.

Toyota Supra/Mazda RX7

These are not on the official list... yet. I am thinking about them. Yes, it is possible that some Supras & RX7s may be classics in their own right. But I see so few out there that have not been modified. And how likely will there be restoration parts for those that were not chopped up. Of the three Japanese "super" cars I believe the 300ZX will be the most collectible. But I could be wrong. I really like the first gen RX7, and the Mark III (1986–1992) Supra. I will think about these some more over the next year and decide if they belong on my "shopping list."

Mustang

I have always been a fan of the Mustang, so there has to be a place for an affordable one (or two) here. For now I am listing just two examples of future classics that I believe will be affordable.

1999-2004 Mustang SVT Cobra, in particular the 2003-2004 edition. These are the only versions of the Mustang to come with an independent rear suspension (IRS). And the 03-04 editions also received a supercharged version of the 4.6 liter engine rated at 390 hp. That makes for respectable performance even by today's standards.

2012-2013 Boss 302 Mustang. I had the chance to drive one of these and they are impressive. And quite addictive. The engine puts out so much power, across the entire rev range that you just don't want to let up. I am surprised I did not get a ticket during my 20 minutes behind the wheel.

Last year I listed the 1984-1986 Ford Mustang SVO. Well, they are no longer future classics. Technically they are classics. They are over 25 years old. These may still be on my personal shopping list some day... but not for this article anymore.

Examples: I found very few low mileage Cobra Mustangs under $20k. There were some, particularly a nice silver coupe with 62k miles for $16k. It is possible the time to get these is now. Many are over $20k, so they may already be going up in value. I didn't bother looking for a Boss 302... yet. They are still working out their new car depreciation.

Camaro

I am a Mustang fan, yet I have owned two Camaros. So, yes... I am also a Camaro fan. There needs to be at least one Camaro on this list. I decided on two.

1993-1996 Camaro Z-28. Any of the 4th Gen Camaros (1993-2002) can become a classic. The Z-28 being above regular Camaros, and of course the SS cars even more so. These cars are very affordable now. I have seen excellent examples as well as a lot of crap. I emphasize the early 4th Gen cars here for a couple of reasons. First, I had one. I used to own a 1993 Camaro Z-28. I loved that car and as I stated last year when I added these to this list... I will get another one someday. But I particularly like the front end treatment of the early cars. When they changed the front end in 98 I think it got ugly. Just my opinion.

2010-2014 Camaro SS. This is a cheap shot. Yes, I believe a well kept Camaro SS is going to be a respectable classic someday. So if you are looking for a second car then some day you will want to tuck one of these away before they start going up in value. But we are years away from that. Hopefully I can narrow this down a bit later. Oh sure... I could just put the ZL1 on the list, but I don't expect those to ever be affordable. At about $60K new, it will be a very long time before they get under $20K, and they might never. Like Shelby Mustangs, these will likely become collectible before they become classics.

Examples: My favorite for a quick search (BTW... quick search means I stayed in Texas) was a silver 96 Z-28 convertible with a manual transmission and 64K original miles for just under $8K. Sticking with a coupe... I found a black 94 with 15k miles and an automatic listed for $8,300. Sweet! Again... the current generation of Camaros are still bleeding new car depreciation, so no point looking for a bargain yet.

2001-2006 BMW M3

Last year I included all versions of the 3 Series. I am dropping it down to just the M3. I believe that although a nice 328i or 335i coupe or convertible will make for a decent classic... when looked at next to the M3 they will be far overshadowed. It's the same reason I did not put V-6 Mustangs & Camaros in above. Not that they won't eventually be classics, it's just that they will not gain the respect of a classic until they are far older than 25 years. You can start finding nice examples of the M3 for under $20k now.

Examples: These are still a bit pricey. I did find a sweet 2004 electric blue coupe for $17K, but it had 98K miles. I also found a black coupe with 59K miles, but that took the price out of my affordable range at $22,500. If you want a convertible... the best compromise between mileage and price I saw was a silver drop top with 46k miles for $20k even. BTW... all the M3's I looked at were manual transmission equipped. There just is no better way to enjoy that sweet inline 6 engine.

Miata

The venerable Miata. My sons hates them. I almost thought about buying one when my Mini Cooper was in such need of repair I had to start looking for a replacement. Obviously you can buy a Miata of any vintage at an affordable price. I once saw an early 90's car with less than 1000 miles listed on Craigslist for under $10K. Truly low mileage originals like that will rise in price. But there will always be affordable versions of this classic. They are like the 65-66 Mustang. The demand may be up there, but so is the supply. They will never become super valuable. But they do make for great nostalgia rides.

Example: In my quick search I found a nice, one owner 2002 silver Miata with 38k miles for a tick under $9K. Trying harder... I found a 91 Miata Special Edition (#1440 of 4000) with 22K original miles, optional hard top, leather interior, in excellent condition for $12K. Nice!

1982-1991 Porsche 944

For the same reason the SVO Mustang is off this list... I think this car is probably not going to return next year. There are plenty of examples out there that already qualify for classic status. There are only a few model years left that can say they are "future" classics. But I love these cars and similar to the 93 Camaro Z-28 above... someday I want one of these in my collection.

Example: A quick search showed a very nice silver 83 944 with 71k miles for $6,000. I also saw a charcoal gray 86 944 Turbo with 96K miles for $9,200. But... these are already classics... by definition.

1987-1995 Porsche 928

Some of these are already classics. Remember, I list 87 (already a classic) as the first year only because I like it better than the previous years. This list could include 84-86 as well. Maintenance on these cars could make them a difficult car to consider affordable, and so might be removed from this list next year.

Example: I had to go wide (any distance) to locate a nice example, but I found a silver 928 from 1988 with 79k miles for only $13k. Not bad. I also saw 88 edition 928 S4 with 64k miles for $13,900.


2004 & 2008 Volkswagen Golf R32

With only 2 years of production (and not in a row, 2004 & 2008) these cars are going to be collectible in their own right. And you can find some below $20k now. I do not believe these have bottomed out yet. So there is no rush to go shopping. But if a screaming deal came along for one of these cars, and I had the money and garage space, I would seriously think about adding one to my collection.

Example: A quick search (Texas only) revealed a few under $20k... but all 2008 models. Going nationwide I found blue 2004 (the signature color for these) with 79k miles for $12k. But it was considerably lower in price than others, so use caution. I really liked a black 2004 R32 with 83k miles for $18. Looked to be in the best condition, but that is debatable in online pictures. As for a nice 2008... my quick favorite was a blue 2008 R32 with 41k miles for $17K.

1991 GMC Cyclone

I introduced this vehicle last year. And I have even started seeing them at cars shows. I would love to take one for a drive to see how well they run. These were made when quality in GM was not at its peak. They are already a little collectible. And just a couple of years away from becoming classics.

Example: My favorite of these had 46k miles for $16k. My search revealed a dozen in the $12-20k range with varying mileage.

2004-2008 Crossfire SRT-6

The Crossfire has been waffling on and off my radar for a few years. I actually looked at buying one in the early spring (before my finances went all to hell). After spending some time looking at them online, and talking to a couple of people that own them, I want one. But it has to be an SRT-6 edition. Someday I expect one of these to be in my collection.

Example: I found a blue (my favorite color) 2005 Crossfire SRT-6 Coupe with 36k miles for $15.5k. Not bad, but I think a better bargain might be had. If looking for collectability I did see another blue 2005 with just under 10k miles for $17,500.

2002-2006 Mini Cooper

I have having a moment here. I just traded in my 2004 Mini Cooper S. I spent over $5,000 in repairs on this car in 2013. It basically started going "out the window" when it went over 100K miles. But I still love these cars. I particularly like the interior of the first gen cars (2002-2006) with its simple center stack over the later (2007-2014). In reality, I could go either way. If I had the extra money and a place in a garage... I could consider buying another Mini... with as low mileage as possible. IMO... don't keep these past 100K miles.

Example: I came across a 21k original mile 2006 Cooper S with the John Cooper Works package.. for $15,5K. I would keep looking, but this seemed like a good candidate for having a low mileage car as a second car.

1990-2005 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1

The Corvette is my favorite affordable & future car, and the ZR-1 stands out above all the others over the last couple of decades. Although, almost any modern Corvette could count as a future affordable classic. Eventually the base Corvettes will become classics. But the low volume, special cars are what counts. And this is it. A special mention goes out to the 1996 Grand Sport Corvette as well. The C4 went out with a bang with that car. You could probably lump in the Z06 version from C5 & C6. Surely they will reach affordable status eventually.

Example: My favorite balance between mileage and price (for me) was a bright red 1990 ZR-1 with 50k miles for $16,800. Although I also saw a very low mileage, black 1990 ZR-1 with less than 7,000 miles for $23,999. A little above my idea of affordable (I prefer to stay below $20k), but this looked like a great car to add to any collection.


Mercedes Benz SLK

This car is very hard to pin down, so it is not officially on this list. The 1st gen cars (known as R170) ran from 1996–2004. I would not get one of those. I really like what they did with the R171 (2nd Gen) cars (2005-2011). Then in 2012 it got significantly better looking with the R172. I could easily see waiting for an R171 or R172 to become affordable and save it until it became a classic. We will take a deeper look at this car next year.


Off the List

1981-2005 BMW 8 Series - At one point I thought these belonged. And they do, sort of. I am rejecting them because they do not fit the "affordable" part of this exercise. Yes, you can find plenty of the BMW 8 Series at an affordable price. But they are going to be pretty expensive to maintain. If you buy a 12 cylinder version and the computer that runs the engine dies, or the engine dies... you will have a super expensive paper weight in your garage. To repair either of those issue could easily exceed the value of the car.

2003-2009 Mercedes SL - Like the BMW 8-Series... the same may have to apply to these. These were made in good enough numbers that you should not have to worry about parts availability. But those parts are still going to be very expensive. If you can find a low mileage, one owner car that has plenty of service records from a dealer... then buy that one. And drive it sparingly to avoid it breaking down.

1970-1989 Mercedes SL - These are all classics already. They fail the "future" part of this article.

1983-1989 BMW 6 Series - Again... already classics.

2006-2010 Pontiac Solstice - I hate to do this to Bob Lutz (the guy at GM that got this car made), but this car is not that nice. I got a ride in one a few months ago and it seemed like a poor quality car. Maybe I am wrong. And surely this car is going to be a classic someday for its unique styling. And there are so much more fun to drive cars out there.


Conclusion

Recent activity with my current transportation and finances will make it unlikely that I can shop for a car for another three years. So this list is completely theoretical at this point. But in three years... I am going to get a 60's classic or something from this list. So I have three years to make this the perfect shopping list.
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