2 June 2010

Cars to Buy Now

Hagerty’s hobby insider reveals his picks for the next cars to take off.

At times, the collector car world feels rather set in its ways. Everything that’s going to be collectible already is – an idea famously stated by Charles H. Duell, the legendarily myopic commissioner of the U.S. Patent Office in the late 19th century who thought that his office should be closed because “everything that can be invented, has been invented.” In reality, the market is more fluid. Formerly unloved cars have come out of left field and some already collectible cars have become hyper-desirable. Since nobody has a crystal ball, you’re always better off buying what you love, but if something on the list below strikes your fancy, you might get lucky and, in a few years, see a nice return on your investment.

1976-89 Porsche 911 Turbo

Of all the cars on the list, the 911 Turbo (also known by its internal design number,“930”) seems like the surest-fire hit. Designed at a time when performance cars seemed to be rushing headlong toward extinction, the 930 boasted a 4.9-second 0–60 time and a 150 mph top end when Ferrari’s only U.S. offering, the 308 GT4, took around 8.0 seconds to get to 60 and wouldn’t reach 140 mph. Famously dangerous to the unskilled – the extra power and vicious turbo-lag accentuated the well-known booty-shaking tendencies of the 911 – the 930 scared the daylights out of its share of pro athletes and dermatologists. The giant fender flares and famous whale tail spoiler set the 930 apart from all else. Some of us can still remember when the 1973 Carrera RS 2.7 was selling in the mid-40s where 930s are now. Don’t say we sat on this one. Price range: $16,800-$64,100

1987-93 Ford Mustang 5.0

The “Fox platform” Mustangs that shared underpinnings with the Ford Fairmont sedan returned affordable V-8 performance to the masses. The five-liter Mustang, along with the Buick Regal Grand National and Camaro Z28, rang down the curtain on the 1974-87 era of malaise when a sub-ten-second 0–60 time was remarkable. With 225 hp from new cylinder heads, the Mustang was making 80 hp more than the most powerful V-8 previously available in both the Fox and the Mustang II. Interiors are among the cheapest ever in a Mustang, but leather was available as an option on the GT and the LX. Good examples are in short supply but clubs and parts vendors are starting to take notice, and so is the market. Now would be the time to find one of the few nice surviving cars, preferably a convertible. Price range: $1,200-$15,200

1956 Austin-Healey 100M

Few people would dispute that the Austin-Healey 100M (Le Mans) is a very collectible car. However, it’s difficult to figure out why it isn’t considerably more valuable already. Only 640 examples were built by the factory to replicate the spec of the actual cars that raced at the ill-fated 1955 Le Mans. Bigger carburetors, a cold air box, and a louvered bonnet with a rakish leather strap to hold it down turned an ordinary Austin-Healey 100 into a Le Mans. Le Mans Healeys have a real competition heritage, the simple great looks of the early 100, good performance and rarity. The closest comparable is an AC Ace, and those are $200,000 cars. True, the Ace was a hand-built car with a six-cylinder engine, but in looks, performance and rarity, they’re a close match. Price range: $27,200-$104,000

1964-67 Sunbeam Tiger

A Ford V-8 was Dr. Shelby’s cure for any case of anemia in a British sports car. Shelby was sure a V-8 would do the same thing for Sunbeam’s rather soft Alpine that it did for the AC Ace. Over the last several years, Tigers have seen modest appreciation, particularly unmodified cars with factory hard tops and the rare 289-powered Mk IIs. Still, it’s been nothing like the quadrupling of value experienced by small-block Cobras. The Tiger’s sort of frumpy looks and limited competition history ensure they’ll never be A-listers like the Cobra, but at their current prices, Tigers still seem relatively undervalued. Price range: $23,500-$97,100

1970-72 Chevrolet Monte Carlo 454

Few people remember that for the first three years of production, the Chevy Monte Carlo personal luxury car was available with the 360-hp Turbo-Jet four-barrel 454 from the Chevelle LS5. But they’re quite rare, accounting for an estimated 3 percent of production. A surprising amount of glass and sheet metal was also shared between the Monte Carlo and the Chevelle. What isn’t shared between the two cars is the pricing. In spite of their rarity, 454 Monte Carlos are generally half the price of a similar LS5 Chevelle. Price range: $12,500-$36,100

1966-67 Oldsmobile Toronado

Oldsmobile might not be sleeping with the fish if they had kept building cars like the ’66 Toronado. Post war, the application of front-wheel drive had been limited to lowpowered cars like the Citröen Traction Avant and the BMC Mini. The Olds engineers succeeded in designing a powertrain package durable enough to handle 385 hp and 475 lb.-ft. of torque. The body design was one of GM’s best with details reminiscent of the Cord 812. Although collectors have taken notice of the purity of the original Toronado, nice cars can still trade for surprisingly little money. Price range: $10,700-$31,400

1990-95 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1

Possibly stung by comments about its reliance on a then- 35-year-old pushrod V-8, Chevrolet decided to give the C4 Corvette a world-class multivalve V-8 engine. Lotus was a partner in the design of the 32-valve engine and Mercury Marine was contracted to manufacture them. The result was a Corvette with about 400 hp and appropriate suspension and brake modifications. Unfortunately, the ZR-1 cost nearly twice as much as a pushrod Corvette and the higher torque peak of the multivalve engine was alien to Corvette fans accustomed to massive low-end torque. ZR-1s are bound to appreciate at some point but unique parts are becoming problematic. Price range: $14,800-$44,000

1984-89 Porsche 911 Carrera

The last of the low-tech, air-cooled 911s was indisputably the best. All weak spots of the earlier cars – body rust, timing chain tensioners, exploding air boxes and pulled head studs – had been addressed. None of the later complications such as power steering, ABS, all-wheel-drive and water cooling had been added. These are grenade-proof cars that with proper maintenance are capable of 250,000-plus miles without major problems. While high production numbers and a large survival rate will keep these cars out of the stratosphere, they’re not getting any cheaper. Price range: $8,900-$43,600

1968-78 Lamborghini Espada

The Espada is the only pre-1973 frontengine Italian V-12 GT that has yet to break six figures. While pure two-seaters generally do far better than 2+2s, the Espada made the competition from Ferrari look positively ordinary. The blade-like styling courtesy of Marcello Gandini was broad and low like no car before or since. Thanks to the long roofline, the rear seats were more than mere tokens. Bad examples (and there are many) will cost your child’s college fund to put right, but a good one with service records and a continuous ownership history might just be a particularly savvy purchase. Price range: $20,000-$66,800

1956-62 Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider Veloce

For a little while, it seemed like 1950s Alfas were going to be the next thing, chasing Porsche 356s up the appreciation ladder. But for some reason, prior even to the market correction of 2008, Alfas seemed to run out of breath. Odd, the Veloce versions of the Spider and Sprint coupes generally offer more performance than the Super versions of the equivalent Porsche 356, along with far more style. We can only surmise that the Porsche’s reputation for rock-solid reliability trumps the high style of the pouty Italian Giulietta. Price range: $23,200-$82,100
To see this article in its original format, view the pdf version of the Summer 2010 issue of Hagerty magazine.

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