18 May 2016

These five cars are long-shot collectibles

You don’t have to be Nostradamus to peg a LaFerrari as a future blue-chip collectible. For many people, the fun is in the margins, pulling something out of left field (for cheap) that nobody cares about today and showing the rest of the world how damned smart you were when everyone else comes around. OK, it doesn’t happen that often, and every car on this list is a true long shot but we can make a case for each one being more than just a disposable used car:

  1. 1994-04 Land Rover Discovery - “Discos” of nearly any year or flavor are just one step up from a curb couch in terms of desirability in the marketplace. And with good reason. They’re frigging exasperating to own and try to keep on the road.  Nearly every one of them seems to be afflicted with some sort of horrible, Ebola-like hemorrhagic fever that presents with simultaneous leaks from steering racks, head gaskets, oil pans, valve covers, differentials and A/C compressors.  But outside of a Land Rover Defender, they might just be one of the most irresistible off-road capable vehicles out there. They even look great festooned with the normally ridiculous assortment of roof racks, auxiliary lights, snorkel exhausts and brush bars. You actually can wrench on them yourself and the aftermarket parts and accessory universe is huge.  As Land Rover continues to abandon the Serengeti for Knightsbridge, the day might just come when the rare, fully sorted examples of the Discovery bring real money.

  2. 1987-95 Range Rover - This may well be the first listicle in the illustrious history of listicles about collectible vehicles with two entries from Land Rover, JD Power’s perennial cellar occupant.  But let’s face it, the original Range Rover is a legitimate style icon. Although not the first luxury SUV (that honor likely falls to the Jeep Grand Wagoneer), it was the first for people who liked their wood of the actual polished, burled walnut variety as opposed to the self-adhesive vinyl kind. In the UK, the early and very spartan two-door Rangies have already started to take off as collectibles. Even nice unrusted four-doors are heading up. Here, they’re still practically free for most of the same reasons that Discoveries are. But for how long?

  3. 1983-88 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe - This entry could have been a triad—Merkur XR4Ti, Ford Mustang SVO and T-Bird Turbo Coupe. They all share Ford’s 2.3-Liter turbo-four and they’re all interesting in their own way. But the Mustang SVO has already started attracting some interest among Fox body Mustang fans and well, the Merkur is just too damned weird. The T-Bird on the other hand has NASCAR-bred aerodynamics and real style courtesy of Jack Telnack. By 1987, it also had functional hood scoops feeding an intercooler (with the same 190 hp as the SVO Mustang) plus a five-speed, which allowed a top speed of about 140 mph. Rear wheel-drive and a limited slip differential make the ninth-gen T-Bird Turbo Coupe legitimately interesting. Unfortunately, the NASCAR crowd won’t abide its four-banger and the Euro coupe crowd finds its size and build quality off-putting. Still, multiple positives mean that it remains an ideal occupant of a long shot collectible list.

  4. 1990-92 Audi Coupe Quattro - The Audi 90-based B3 Coupe Quattro is damn near forgotten. To the extent that Audi is on collector’s minds at all, it’s the revolutionary Ur Quattro and the over-the-top short wheelbase Sport Quattro that register. Early TTs are starting to show up at some collector car auctions, but the Ur Quattro’s successor is solidly on the Automotive Threatened, Endangered and Extinct list.  A pity, they look quite good in a squatty and rather pugnacious sort of way. Audi was starting to build their envious reputation for doing really nice, up-market interiors by the time the 90 was introduced and the factory three-piece Speedline wheels are fantastic. Finding one that hasn’t been used up is indeed tough. Hell, finding one at all is pretty difficult, but as Ur Quattro prices continue skyrocketing, the Dave Kinney Principal of Substitution might just kick in here and people might start giving these a second look.

  5. BMW 318 Ti - Americans don’t do hatchbacks, so the marketers say. And while that generalization is debatable, it certainly seemed accurate when considering the BMW E36 “Compact” hatch and the C-class hatch that Mercedes tried selling in the U.S. But the 318 Ti is a car that has a legitimate shot at a cult following, just like the hatchback 2002 Touring. Its light, stripped-down ethos is appealing as is its entertaining tendency toward oversteer, the result of it using the E30 semi-trailing arm IRS, instead of the E36’s multi-link setup. Like most of the cars on this list, nice ones are getting scarce. Look for a California edition with a cool, sliding fabric sunroof that gives most of the benefits of a convertible without sacrificing rigidity.

7 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Scott K SoCal May 18, 2016 at 19:45
    A word of advice; In 1970, as a high school student, I bought a 5 year old 36,000 mile loaded Rambler Marlin as, I figured, a future collectible. Paid just under a grand. They were uncommon even then. I still have it, and I'm still waiting. Cars I pondered at the time, and within my budget were 55-7 Tbirds, 58-60 Corvettes, and a rough $600 Continental MkII. If a car isn't wildly popular when new, it rarely becomes a collectible investment. I should have bought any of the ones named above, or a 65 Mustang, or, like a friend, a dirt cheap 58 VW Bus.
  • 2
    Terry Thompson nebraska May 18, 2016 at 20:48
    I have had a 1997 Discovery and currently own a 2003. Both were and are utter paragon's of reliability compared to my wife's Audi A6 Avant. I am on my 2nd power steering pump on the 03 but that is about it for problems other than normal wear and tear maintenance items on a 140000 mile vehicle. I 4-wheel mine, so it is unlikely to be in good enough shape to be a collector in 10 years.
  • 3
    Marc A. Baltimore, MD May 19, 2016 at 08:05
    I have a 1991 Range Rover that is completely stock, and it will go through anything. Its fun to drive, has leather interior, little rust, and just over 100K original miles, and is in great condition. I was thinking of selling it for $10K OBO
  • 4
    Stachoo Traverse City, MI May 19, 2016 at 09:37
    I'm one who enjoys the rumble sound of an old Ford V8. But, I am happy to see a Ford product recognized in this article regardless. Despite all of the known reasons for the foreign brands to have taken root in America, my money will always go to buy and support the American brands and the US (particularly Michigan) economy which they contribute to in so many ways. It saddens me to see so many people sending their money abroad when they buy a foreign brand. Unfortunately, "that ship has sailed." The evidence of their expatriating is seen all across the sad former manufacturing Midwest these days.
  • 5
    David Daser MD May 19, 2016 at 11:17
    I am restoring a triple black big block 73 Monte Carlo I'm hoping the 2nd gen GM A bodys start becoming more popular kind of the next Gen muscle cars
  • 6
    Mr. Disgruntled somewherelse May 19, 2016 at 00:00
    You know, all this info is fun at first blush, but all you collectors of collectible information are ruining it for us guys out here trying to have some cheap fun with something really cool. That used to be possible. REALLY! Now, for decades, a 17 year old on his own can't even consider buying an old Corvette or other cool car or non-household heard marque any more. He's got to get a high paying job for years and then out-bid some geek at an auction. Tone down the barn finds. We can handle it all on our own. The last thing I want to see is the Rover that I've had for years now being touted as the next collectible. And called a "Rangie". Ugh.
  • 7
    Mowog1960 CT May 19, 2016 at 12:50
    My crystal ball has been pretty good over my years. My first car was a used 1960 Austin Healey 3000 for $825. Then a Mini Cooper 997. My first new car in 1971 was a BMW 2002. A Porsche 912 (used). A 1967 Mini Cooper 1275 S. A Porsche 944 Turbo. A Miata. An Acura NSX. A Boxster (oh well). A 1977 FJ40. My latest is a 2016 Mini Clubman S.

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