The next hot classic? Check your walls.

Not a month goes by without some outlet that covers classic automobiles–ours certainly included–publishing a list of their predictions of the “next hot thing,” the cars will be the next to spike in value and outpace the market of gold or holiday-themed MREs or whatever long-term investment instrument people sock their extra money away in these days.

First, I’d like to suggest a forever ban on the term “extra” money, because I don’t know what that is, but, if such a thing exists in your world, then probably the best predictor of what models are ready to explode in value is already on your walls.

Look, as much as we all love them, cars that increase in value to obscene levels do not do so for logical, practical reasons. The ones that cross the block at the TV auctions hit those gaudy numbers for emotional reasons.

Sure, many of them feature cool engineering or amazing design, but the real reason the price went to the moon was because of our collective social contract that said those particular cars were cool. Our fantasies made them desirable, scarcity made them rare, and those few who gained the resources later in life did whatever they could to fulfill those childhood fantasies.

Think back to when you were young and discovering cars. Probably in high school, right around the age when cars became less of an abstract concept and more of a concrete reality in your life, fueled by that newly laminated license.

What was pinned to your wall next to your bed–no, not that swank centerfold you found in that lean-to by the railroad tracks, next to that? Yeah, probably something with sexy sheet metal (or fiberglass), big (for the day) tires, melodic exhaust and a recognizable badge.

If you were in high school in the ‘60s or ‘70s, it was likely a muscle car, or maybe a Kennedy-era European import if you were one of the weird (but oddly prescient) kids. Flash forward to the early oughts, those ‘70s high-schoolers are either fully burned out or well established, and those from the latter category are using their considerable financial resources to send muscle car values through the roof.

They’ve since scratched that itch, depleted the supply and ‘60s muscle car values have largely stabilized and, in some cases, even returned to inflated-but-not-insane levels–just in time for my Gen X brethren to send ‘80s exotics and the first wave of awesome Asian sporty cars out of the reach of normal folks.

It wasn’t so long ago that a Lamborghini Countach or Ferrari 512BBi–the two patron saints of mid-'80s car poster bins–could be had for somewhere in the $100,000 range. Now, aging Gen X collectors whose numbers have come in have pushed values of both to five, six or even ten times that number.

So the rest of Generation X decided that they’d never achieve the kind of resources to acquire that particular aspirational memory of their youth, so they started turning to the other cars that defined their entry point into cool car culture: Japanese sports cars.

A 1993 Toyota Supra Turbo with more than a little rust and 388,000 miles recently sold for $49,500 on Bring a Trailer.

Yeah, so there’s no rational justification for paying that much for a 30-year-old Supra, but I bet whoever did remembers that car when it was new, wanted one so bad they could taste it with every fiber of their being and finally got the chance to pull the trigger when they had the means.

Was this any crazier than someone in 2001 paying $50,000 for a 30-year-old Mustang? I mean, Ford sold nearly 200,000 Mustangs in 1970, while Toyota sold fewer than 16,000 Supras in 1993. Yet, despite their prolific numbers and previous ubiquity, those Mustangs became priceless, nostalgia-fueled artifacts, highly desired by the exact same kinds of folks fueling the current Asian explosion.

So, what’s next?

Well, what’s on your kids’ walls? Or your slightly younger siblings or nieces or nephews? We all love to claim that the next generation “doesn’t get it” when it comes to cars or music or culture or whatever, but pretty much every generation has said that about the hopeless squares of the previous generation or the idiot kids of the subsequent generation, so your personal frame of reference is not always reflective of reality.

Will fart-sounding Subaru WRXs be the Boss 302 Mustang of 2032? Will a Tesla Model 3 roll across the Barrett-Jackson stage and set a new record after Elon’s robotic exoskeleton tragically fails in an uprising of Mars insurgents in 2044? Will Camrys one day be cool?

The answers, friends, are on the wall.

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J.A. Ackley
J.A. Ackley Senior Editor
2/28/24 1:34 p.m.

Man, if I knew the last car that Kyle Petty won with was up for auction at Mecum, you bet that car would have went from being on my wall to being in my garage.

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