The classics you should buy now, according to the experts

Photography Courtesy the Dealers

You’ve been thinking about buying another car, right? Don’t worry, you’re here among friends. 

But which one? How can you possibly narrow down that field? 

Talk to the experts. So we did. We rounded up a panel of specialists from today’s collector car world and asked them what is currently catching their eye: What’s undervalued, what’s poised for a big move, and what represents a sleeper purchase?

While our panelists selected a diverse group of makes and models, they sang a similar chorus: Buy the best example possible and go with something that you love. “I always advise collectors to buy the vehicles that you are most passionate about within budget restrictions,” explains John Kraman, a popular presence at Mecum auctions.  

But generally, the most discriminating collectors will seek out original examples and quality restorations as well,” he continues. “Rarity and authenticity also influence buyers and price. Options, colors, documentation, ownership or race history, body style as well as show awards all are considered for collectors seeking the best.”

So, what’s next? Keep scrolling. 

Ferrari 365 GTC/4

Your Ferrari Daytona on a budget. Many have sung the praises of the GTC/4 time and time again and yet they remain “sleepers” in the market for vintage V12 Ferraris. A well-sorted, highly original example in an interesting color (other than red) can currently be had for under $225,000, with needy, driver-quality examples often trading as low as $165,000. At the height of the market, in 2015, a concours-restored example fetched $561,000, and most were selling in the upper-$300,000 range. This is as close as one may get to having that crystal ball. 

Power steering made it more practical with easier steering at slower speeds, mitigating some of the complaints about heavy steering on the Daytona. Side-draft carburetors also gave the C/4 a slightly different note, which to some is the best-sounding Ferrari V12 ever produced. It is a fantastic grand touring car, and it is no slouch in tight, windy corners. The GTC/4 often rides the coattail of the Daytona: With an awakened Daytona market as of late, the GTC/4 is poised to rise once again.—Adolfo Massari, Founder, LBI Limited

Pictured: 1972 Ferrari 365 GTC/4 • Sold by DriverSource via Bring a Trailer for $218,365

Porsche 3.0 Turbo Carrera

They are extremely significant in many different ways, particularly when you consider the fact that they were Porsche’s first production turbocharged car as well as the fastest production car in the world when released.

Porsche produced 2819 3.0-liter Turbo cars, but how many are left? Narrow that down even further: How many good, original cars are left? I would venture to say a quarter of the production was lost due to inexperienced drivers (these were the “Widowmakers,” after all) and careless owners who added vents, put in larger turbos and did slant-nose conversions, which utterly destroyed the cars’ potential future value. 

At the height of the recent market spike in 2015-’16, an unmodified, low-mileage 1976-’77 finished in an interesting color would fetch nearly $300,000. Today, that same car can be had for half or even less! The 1975-model-year cars–only 275 cars were produced–will always be the most valuable of the series, but be prepared to pay about a 70% premium over the 1976-’77 model years. The key would be to find a sub-25,000-mile example with mostly original paint and interior, no sunroof, and finished in an interesting pastel color.—Adolfo Massari, Founder, LBI Limited

Pictured: 1976 Porsche 911 Turbo Carrera • Sold via RM Sotheby’s for $123,200

Porsche 944 Turbo Cup

The supremely rare, Weissach-built racer that invigorated enthusiasm for transaxle cars. Where can you get a Porsche factory-built race car for under $60,000? 

The 944 Turbo Cup is the answer, but good luck finding one as only 192 were produced and many were balled up during the multinational Turbo Cup series. They are roughly 600 pounds lighter than the standard 944 Turbo. With plenty of power and a near-perfect weight distribution, these cars are incredibly fun to drive. This car speaks to a new generation of car collector who wants a rare Porsche eligible for many exclusive events at a fraction of the cost of most factory-built 911 counterparts. Watch for these to rise in the coming years.—Adolfo Massari, Founder, LBI Limited

Pictured: 1988 Porsche 944 Turbo Cup • Sold by LBI Limited via Rad For Sale for $89,999

1968-’82 Chevrolet Corvette

In my opinion, third-generation Corvettes are the up-and-coming collectible, especially the higher-horsepower models, with 1968-’72 cars being the most collectible. They are easy to acquire and some of the most fun to drive. These cars are also easiest for which to purchase parts and services. These collectibles are not as financially daunting as the older cars and are typically half the expense of the mid-year (1963-’67) Corvettes.­—John Bassler, Owner/Operator, Vintage Motorcar Company

Pictured: 1971 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray Coupe • Sold via RM Sotheby’s for $31,900 

Shelby Cobra 289

It is possible to purchase a Shelby 289 Cobra–whether a genuine, original, unrestored car or an amateurishly or older restored car–for a relatively reasonable amount of money or far less than top dollar, commission a proper restoration, and still come in under top market value. A 289 Cobra in less than top condition is, therefore, a worthwhile collector car to consider. 

Shelby Cobras have been rapidly appreciating in value and notoriety since Carroll Shelby’s passing and the “Ford v Ferrari” movie release. They are very handsome cars and a lot of fun to drive. Cobras typically have a vast and/or interesting history, and researching that history while returning the car to its original splendor is always fascinating.—John Bassler, Owner/Operator, Vintage Motorcar Company

Pictured: 1963 Shelby Cobra 289 • Sold via RM Sotheby’s for $577,000

Aston Martin DB7

We often see these advertised for under $30K. The V12 makes marvelous sounds, and even a humble DB7 will grab the loving attention of the valet at the Ritz-Carlton. Don’t forget that ownership also makes you eligible for membership in the Aston Martin Owners Club.—Jack & Brian Collins; Owners; Ceres Motorsports, LLC

Pictured: 2001 Aston Martin DB7 Vantage • Sold via Bring a Trailer for $29,000

MGB

We really like the MGB for many reasons. First, it’s just simply a fun car. It’s light, nimble and easy to drive–a less refined version of the Miata, if you will. Although MG built over 500,000 MGBs during its production run, they’re not commonly seen anymore. 

Acceleration is not a strong point on these cars, but with an overdrive or five-speed they can easily cruise at highway speeds. The top is more challenging than a Miata’s but still offers good weather protection compared to other typical British roadsters. The MGB also came in a brilliant closed GT, too. With more headroom and a usable hatchback cargo area, it’s a terrific long-distance touring car. 

Parts are widely available, and the simplicity of this car lends itself to DIY repairs. Prices for these are still low, and very good examples can be found for under $10,000. Steer clear of basket cases, rusty cars and barn finds that have not run in many years. The cost to resurrect a poor example can far exceed the cost of purchasing a really nice one to begin with.—Jack & Brian Collins; Owners; Ceres Motorsports, LLC

Pictured: 1973 MGB • Sold by VB Autosports via Bring a Trailer for $7700 

1999-2006 Jaguar XKR

The coupe is our favorite and is not as common as the convertible. Offering supercar performance at bargain-basement prices, these cars will sprint from zero to 60 in just over 5 seconds with a top speed of 155, limited by the ECM. These are usable as everyday cars and have great brakes, air conditioning and good overall reliability. Best bets are cars with a full maintenance history. Steer clear of cars with tatty (expensive) upholstery, poor repaints or bad convertible tops.—Jack & Brian Collins; Owners; Ceres Motorsports, LLC

Pictured: 2001 Jaguar XKR • Sold by Drive Society via Bring a Trailer for $10,250 

1994-’96 Jaguar XJS V12

The production numbers on these are very, very low. By most accounts, there were fewer than 1500 of these built during those model years. In 1995, fewer than 150 of these V12 cars were produced, and in 1996, only three V12 cars were built. Records indicate that there may have been only one Fixed Head Coupe produced in 1996. This final facelift version of the XJS was equipped with the 305-horsepower, 6.0-liter V12, along with a 4L80E four-speed overdrive transmission that makes them extraordinary touring cars. Fast and smooth, a V12 Jag is like nothing else.—Jack & Brian Collins; Owners; Ceres Motorsports, LLC

Pictured: 1994 Jaguar XJS V12 • Sold via Bring a Trailer for $18,500

Opel GT

Opel GTs are really up and coming and offer more bang for the buck and styling than any other car you can buy for $7000-$8000. Two other favorites: the early Lotus Elan and the BMW Z8, both of which have gone down in price a bit recently.—Bob Tkacik, Maine Line Exotics

Pictured: 1970 Opel GT • Sold via Bring a Trailer for $8500

VW Corrado

Volkswagen pumped out just shy of 100,000 examples of the Mk2 platform-based Corrado sports coupe over its seven-year production run. While there were a few engine options around the world, the U.S. market only got the VR6-powered SLC and the supercharged G60, and I’d recommend steering clear of the latter. The Corrado has the premium feel and driving experience of an entry-level Porsche, but it costs less than a Civic Si–and that won’t last forever. Pick up a nice example and you’ll never have to worry about it going down in value.—Bradley Brownell; Co-founder; RadwoodRad For Sale

Pictured: 1992 Volkswagen Corrado SLC VR6 • Sold by Silver Arrow Cars via Bring a Trailer for $16,000 

Ford Explorer

SUVs aren’t just the trend on new car lots, as collectors are flocking to the four-wheel-drive market en masse. The most ubiquitous family truckster of the 1990s is due for a come-up, as we’ve seen huge increases from era-competitive machines like Toyota FJ60s, Land Rovers and Jeep Wagoneers. For every hundred that have rusted away or were given a bad “Jurassic Park” redo, there’s one that has survived the ravages of time intact. If you can find it, you’ll have a classic on your hands.—Bradley Brownell; Co-founder; RadwoodRad For Sale

Pictured: 1994 Ford Explorer Limited 4x4 • Sold via Bring a Trailer for $6001

Porsche 968

The often overlooked, hand-built Porsche 968 has already found some appreciation among enthusiasts, but I think it’ll only continue to go up. As the rarer, end-of-the-line model to finish out the 924/944 lineage, these excellent cars are frequently overlooked for their oddball ’90s aesthetics. The 3-liter DOHC inline-four is a phenomenal engine, and the chassis had decades of Porsche engineering backing it. It’s impossible to go wrong with this one.—Bradley Brownell; Co-founder; RadwoodRad For Sale

Pictured: 1995 Porsche 968 Coupe • Sold via Bring a Trailer for $25,000

Starquest

The oddball Mitsubishi/Chrysler join-up produced some of the most interesting sports cars of the era, and the Starion/Conquest is my personal favorite. We’ve already seen what the Radwood-era Japanese sports coupe market is capable of with the popularity of Supras, GT-Rs and RX-7s. The 2.6-liter turbocharged four is a wonderful engine, and the anachronistic factory box flares give it a look that can’t ever happen again.—Bradley Brownell; Co-founder; RadwoodRad For Sale

Pictured: 1988 Chrysler Conquest TSi • Sold via Mecum for $26,400 

Caterham 310 S

I helped my buddy build one of these, and it is the most tingle-inducing thing I have experienced in years, fits within my budget for frivolous things, and is available. It is a new car, yes, but it’s absolutely classic in spirit and in its analog character.—Ross Robbins, Rocky Mountain Caterham

Pictured: Caterham 310 S • $39,900 (basic kit price)

Corvair Fitch Sprint

I had one of these when it was new, and it was the one car I wish I had never sold. This is one where the chase could take a while, but think of all the money I will save in the meantime.—Ross Robbins, Rocky Mountain Caterham

Pictured: 1965 Chevrolet Corvair Fitch Sprint Corsa Convertible • Sold via Bring a Trailer for $14,350 

Acura NSX-T

Way undervalued, amazing to drive and already a classic.—Max Power Motors

Pictured: 2000 Acura NSX-T • Sold via RM Sotheby’s for $102,300 

Porsche 356

Good investment, looks classy, drives and handles quite well, reliable and comfortable enough to take on a long drive, and easy to repair as it’s no more complicated than a VW Beetle.—K.R. Baker; Founder; vintageracecarsales.com, historiccarcollection.com

Pictured: 1963 Porsche 356B Coupe • Sold via Mecum for $62,700

MGA

Plenty of nice ones available reasonably. Looks almost Big Healey 3000-like, half the price, and steers better with rack-and-pinion steering. So simple to work on; carry a simple tool kit and you are ready to go!—K.R. Baker; Founder; vintageracecarsales.com, historiccarcollection.com

Pictured: 1956 MGA Roadster • Sold via Bring a Trailer for $28,000 

Jaguar E-Type

Just looks beautiful and feels great driving. It has enough power to travel on the turnpike or accelerate up a steep hill. It’s a high-maintenance mistress–not very reliable or simple. Whenever I own an E-type, I visit it in the garage several times a day to admire.—K.R. Baker; Founder; vintageracecarsales.com, historiccarcollection.com

Pictured: 1969 Jaguar E-Type 4.2-Litre Roadster • Sold via RM Sotheby’s for $35,200 

Join Free Join our community to easily find more Buyer's Guide and Classic Car articles.
Comments
View comments on the CMS forums
Teh E36 M3
Teh E36 M3 UltraDork
12/2/21 12:05 p.m.

I think it's too late for many of those (911? 289 Cobra? Ferrari anything? NSX, 356), and I also think that the time for "old" british is past. No hate here, because I'm an enthusiast of all these things. 

I think the Elise is slipping through the affordable hands, as is the Alfa 4c. E46 M3's are appreciating rapidly. Probably too late to get an affordable Z06- especially C7. I like the starquest on the list. I like the XKR and XJR as appreciating.

 

Big Two for major appreciation in the next five years with my money are the Elise/Exige and 4C. I'm just sorry I missed my chance at a 67 Mini S MkI for anything remotely reasonable. I'll have to wait for boomers to start selling.

SSpro
SSpro New Reader
12/2/21 12:27 p.m.

The Jag XK's with the 4.0 Litre V8 had horrible issuses with timing chains and Nikasil cylinder lining. Why isnt this reported more? Jag did change thousnads of 4.0 Litre engines under warranty and these have a green tag near the firewall. The 4.2 litre version from 2002 was bullet proof. I've owned a 2001 XKR with a warranty changed engine, then a 2007 4.2 litre alloy bodied one and later an F Type. The really good XK's are 2007-2015 alloy models that were better than their Aston cousins. 

CrustyRedXpress (Forum Supporter)
CrustyRedXpress (Forum Supporter) New Reader
12/2/21 12:36 p.m.

Haven't driven one, but the 968 looks great on paper. It really is the final evolution of decades of porsche engineering and the examples that I see are usually a lot cleaner than the 944 that came before it. 

I have really mixed feelings about the NSX showing up on these lists. I bought mine because the community was pretty humble, had a really high signal-to-noise ratio, and seemed to be mostly enginerds and/or Honda fan boys. And they all drove their cars! It's gonna suck if the vibe changes.

yupididit
yupididit PowerDork
12/2/21 12:56 p.m.

I think the 2 doir Tahoe from the 90's will be a future classic 

Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter)
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) Dork
12/2/21 1:01 p.m.

MGBs and even MGAs are still cheap, available and easy to work on. You forgot Triumph Spitfires, also everywhere and easy to work on.

None of these have gone into the stupid money realm yet.

Javelin (Forum Supporter)
Javelin (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
12/2/21 1:21 p.m.

Yeah I think your experts have missed the boat on most of these already. I mean really, Cobra, 356, 930, NSX, and Ferrari are already well-healed blue chip collector cars and have been for decades. 968's are stupid expensive already, there's not much higher they can go. The British roadsters are all going down in value, the newer monied enthusiast just doesn't connect with them. Corrado and StarQuest are good picks. XJ-S and C3 Corvette are just way too common and really drive like trucks. Neither has aged well.

Here's my hot take on a few to replace on the list, like for like.

Ferrari 456 > Ferrari 365 - Still a V12 Ferrari, the last with a manual gearbox, and the cheapest modern one you can get into. Check out Hoovie's on Car Trek.

Porsche 996 Turbo > Porsche 930 Turbo - Still a turbo 911, and the cheapest one you can get thanks to runny-egg headlights. They go like bananas and are truly analog - manual trans, no electronic aids. A 997 which is nearly identical in driving performance/parts make up is almost double because the headlights are round.

C6 and C7 Corvette > C3 Corvette - The C3's worth owning (68-72 big block) have been stupid pricey for decades. Sure, an 81 crossfire injection t-top leaker is like $1000, but any C3 worth owning is already at the top of it's price. C6's especially, and C7's a little, have been depreciating but will be remembered as the last "real" Corvettes (front engine, manual trans). C6 Z06/ZR1 are already floating back up, but a good LS3 base or Grand Sport is the one to get. Same with C7, find the best spec manual-trans model you can because that's what's going to be sought after when we are all riding around in Wall-E electric egg pods.

Porsche 944 S2 > Porsche 968 - Literally the same chassis, engine, and interior and the S2 has pop-ups which make it infinitely cooler. How a 968 is worth 3 times a rarer S2 is is beyond me.

 

Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter)
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) Dork
12/2/21 2:59 p.m.
Javelin (Forum Supporter) said:

The British roadsters are all going down in value, the newer monied enthusiast just doesn't connect with them. 

I think that is actually a good thing. How about leaving a few cool cars for those of us who aren't hedge fund managers. I don't even bother with lists of cars that cost more than my house.

ShawnG
ShawnG UltimaDork
12/2/21 3:06 p.m.

LOL, how many years ago did that Cobra sell for $500K?

Those things have been a hair under a million for a while now.

Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter)
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) Dork
12/2/21 3:29 p.m.

In reply to ShawnG :

Do people even drive cars like that anymore? Do they keep them in a glass case somewhere  on a secluded estate?

ShawnG
ShawnG UltimaDork
12/2/21 3:40 p.m.

In reply to Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) :

They're locked up safe and never seen. They're an investment now, not a car. It's a shame too.

If they do get driven, they don't get driven anywhere but right back home. You can't leave it some place. You drive it out of the garage, drive it around and drive it right back in the garage. 

Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter)
Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) Dork
12/2/21 3:46 p.m.

In reply to ShawnG :

So do banks make safety deposit boxes big enough for a car yet?

CrustyRedXpress (Forum Supporter)
CrustyRedXpress (Forum Supporter) New Reader
12/3/21 7:35 a.m.

In reply to Snowdoggie (Forum Supporter) :

Welcome to the world of asset securitization

https://rallyrd.com/collections/1955-porsche-356-speedster/ 

Bardan
Bardan New Reader
12/3/21 1:12 p.m.

MGB, After you fix the rust, find decent wheels, find an O/D, rebuild the engine, paint and overall invest $20,000, will it ever be worth that 20K? Bought mine for 3K, invested about 8K and the best I could get for it was 5.5K. There are still lots available so from a supply and demand point of veiw, increase in value will be 50 years from now. They all have the same afflictions (rust, bastardized mods, and damaged wire wheels). 

Also Cobra, Turbo 911? Too late, they are maxxed out to the top 1% of collectors. Us riff raff won't be allowed to sniff the interior let alone buy one!

wlkelley3
wlkelley3 UberDork
12/8/21 11:05 p.m.

Ha! I'm one step into the game. Already own one of the cars listed. Opel GT.

Now may have to work on others on the list but think SWMBO will have something to say about that. 

 

dean1484
dean1484 MegaDork
12/9/21 7:24 a.m.

The 944 and all its various iterations are on the increase. The higher spec cars post 85.5 especially.  I have been seeing Boxsters now selling for less.  

johndej
johndej Dork
12/9/21 9:50 a.m.

MR2 Spyders have flown up in value lately.

Could find 2 or 3 around $5-7k and now most decent ones are ~$10ish.

Also no love for the E30?

Appleseed
Appleseed MegaDork
12/10/21 1:14 a.m.

Ford Explorer?

Javelin (Forum Supporter)
Javelin (Forum Supporter) MegaDork
12/10/21 1:51 a.m.
dean1484 said:

The 944 and all its various iterations are on the increase. The higher spec cars post 85.5 especially.  I have been seeing Boxsters now selling for less.  

I paid double for my 944 S2 compared to my 986 S.

ShawnG
ShawnG UltimaDork
12/10/21 11:36 a.m.
Appleseed said:

Ford Explorer?

A few years ago I thought about buying up all the white Broncos I could find and releasing an anniversary "The Juice is Loose" edition.

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt UltimaDork
12/15/21 3:55 p.m.
Appleseed said:

Ford Explorer?

Putting the Explorer on the list seems rather premature. Possibly in another 10 or 20 years, we might have somebody wanting the car they rode to elementary school in, but right now I suspect most of the people out there who would want an Explorer would buy it for a beater trail rig.

Hmmm.... if you want a Ford engined SUV, how about a LaForza? OK, nobody's heard of that one, so it might not be very collectible either.

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
12/16/21 9:43 a.m.

In reply to Javelin (Forum Supporter) :

I think some of our experts are a little richer than some of us. Still, if I hit the lottery, I would have a 289 Cobra in my garage that day. And I have been looking hard at GT3 and turbo 986, 987 and 991's. as soon as I build some more garage space. Right now is not the time to buy though. It is the time to sell. Some of these people who git a little to frisky with PPE or stimulus money are going to have to fire sale skmething eventually.

pres589 (djronnebaum)
pres589 (djronnebaum) UltimaDork
12/16/21 9:59 a.m.

Please be keeing Ford/Mercury Capri's off this list so nobody thinks about them.

Antihero (Forum Supporter)
Antihero (Forum Supporter) PowerDork
12/16/21 10:37 a.m.
Appleseed said:

Ford Explorer?

Even though I'm a fan of the 2nd gen.. I agree that's a stretch

LanEvo
LanEvo Dork
12/26/21 1:11 p.m.

I know I'm a fanboy, but the Mercedes (W201) 190E 16-valve is starting to follow the path of the E30 M3. When I got into the platform about 10 years ago, you could find a dozen examples in the $3-7k range. I was buying parts cars for $1500. Now I'm seeing rough ones going for $15-20k and excellent ones selling for $35k and up. There's a clean, low-mileage 2.5-16 (non-Evo) in Canada right now and they're asking $60k. That was Evo money 15 years ago. Now the Evo I is $150k and the Evo II is $300k and up.

I believe the earliest Mitsubishi (CE9A) Lancer Evolution 1-3 models are about to go the same way, especially for RS versions. Of all the Lancer Evos, these early models are the only ones that were genuine Gr.A homologation specials that actually raced and won under Gr.A rules. They're 25 years old and legal to import. For me, the Evo II RS hits the sweet spot. A handful sold over the last 2-3 years in the $14-16k range. There's a clean, but high mileage, one for sale in Florida now; the the seller won't come down from $28k. 

Tim Suddard
Tim Suddard Publisher
12/27/21 7:57 a.m.

In reply to Bardan :

 A nice MGB is worth $20,000-30,000 now.

 

kkusu5591
kkusu5591 New Reader
12/30/21 8:32 a.m.

I'm one step into the game. Already own one of the cars listed. Opel GT.

vidmate

mobdro

Our Preferred Partners
9NkhE6B8Li7vZkW4CNXyB4nLn8dQLfNs1Z2EFaeaITMCghB883eWTocaO2jC8IRM