We’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of a ‘better’ way to collect automobiles. While we’re reticent to state any form of collecting is incorrect, the backbone of our love for cars is the experience they can provide, particularly behind the wheel. Because of that desire to drive, we’re curious if it wouldn’t be better to buy a whole stable of less expensive, yet still collectible, cars rather than one single more expensive driver. We did this once before with our $30,000 garage. This time around we’re asking if our theoretical $40,000 bank account be better depleted buying a decent 964-generation Porsche 911, or a stable full of five wildly different driving experiences? Stick around to hear our argument, and feel free to chime in with your thoughts and how you’d spend your imaginary money below.
Using Hagerty’s valuation tools, we’ve determined the buying price for that aforementioned average Porsche 964 Carrera 4 Coupe would be $38,500, and rounded up to $40,000 from there to give us a good comparison starting point. There are many reasons to buy a 911, and the collector market is going crazy for all things air-cooled at the moment. The 964 body was introduced in 1989 with this all-wheel drive model, and has just started to catch up to the values of its siblings. Would your value per dollar improve with five less expensive models? We think it might.
Based on average condition values for the following cars, we’ve assembled an interesting and engaging garage full of cars that would be a hit at most car shows, gain you entry to larger groups of enthusiasts, and access to more driving events. With a family sedan, a sports car, a grand tourer, a hot hatch, a big family truckster, and even an Italian sport bike, this collection has something for everyone.
1987 Volkswagen GTI 8V - $4,500
1988 Mercedes 560SEL - $5,900
1996 Chevrolet Corvette - $10,800
1984 Jeep Grand Wagoneer - $11,800
1993 Subaru SVX - $4,100
1987 Ducati Paso - $2,900
That garage is a good chunk below the $40K cap, and with a little haggling and searching, you might even get this full set for a bit less. Keep reading to see why we chose each of these cars for this exercise.
For something completely different, why not look to the MKII Volkswagen GTI for a fun around- town runabout? The 8-valve GTI is perhaps the best hot hatchback of this era, because it has a bit more low-down torque than the higher-revving 16v version, but retains all of the suspension magic. The 8v was perceived in its day as the lesser-than option, and because of that perception, the market has remained depressed on this model for years. That may be changing, as good examples are ever harder to come by.
The MKII is the sweet spot of the GTI progression, finding a perfect balance between the MKI’s lightweight tossability and the MKIII’s too-cushy-to-be-sporty comfort. With 105 horsepower and 114 lb-ft of torque, the GTI was a reasonably quick and sporty hatch, weighing just over 2000 pounds. With most of the weight over the front axle, it drives a lot like you’d expect it to. Even with a bit softer suspension and more weight, the MKII GTI did retain the MKI’s ability to lift the inside rear wheel under hard cornering forces.
Large stately sedans are the kind of car Mercedes is known for, and if you’re going to have one, you might as well get one of the best from M-B’s history. This long-wheelbase W126 S-class is the epitome of comfort, class, and exquisite reliability. Following the 1986 mid-cycle update, the 5-liter engine was replaced by a 5.5-liter V-8 as the highest-spec, and produced a respectable 268 horsepower in the U.S. version. These big sedans are large and in charge, but they also have a good bit of grunt off the line, running from zero to sixty in a bit over 7 seconds. This isn’t a car defined by speed, however, as it’s much more of a highway cruiser, happy to sit in the triple digits all day, provided you can avoid the constabulary.
While this car’s aesthetic certainly gives it away as a child of the 1980s, it’s aged quite well. An attractive large sedan is hard to come by, and this icon of ’80s German motoring is one of the few you’ll turn back to admire as you walk away from it in the parking lot. This generation of Mercedes-Benz was highly coveted in its day, and was one of the primary drivers of European grey market importers. Well kept examples aren’t particularly difficult to come by, and offer one of the best classic family sedan bargains on the market.
With a red-blooded small-block Chevy V-8 under the clamshell hood and a six-speed manual transmission, the Corvette is the quintessential American sports car. For years the C4-generation Corvette was met with snide remarks and derision, but recently it’s experienced something of a turnaround, especially the later cars. The LT1 equipped examples built after 1992 have now regained some of that Corvette cachet. The real cream of the crop, however, is the 1996-only 330-hp LT4 engine, which was only available with a manual-transmission. And from a design perspective, the C4 has aged gracefully, swinging from the ugly duckling of the Corvette family to a proper classic.
Can you have more fun in a historically-unloved Corvette than you can in a historically-unloved Porsche 911? The Corvette comes with more power, a lower center of gravity, and certainly higher cornering abilities than the Porsche (Porsche fans will no doubt argue that’s not the point). The interior of the Corvette is its downfall, but the parts costs are lower, and the LT-series engines have fewer inherent issues than the air-cooled Porsche. On a good twisty road, the Corvette will definitely hold its own against the 964, and for a whole lot less money.
For every time one of your friends bought a boring crossover because they claimed it was a necessity now that they’ve spawned offspring, show them the path of an enthusiast by getting a nice wood-paneled Wagoneer station wagon. These are big, ungainly, slow, and slurp fuel faster than a bloodhound lapping water on a 100 degree day, but it’s got class and style in spades. On the plus side, these trucks were built like tanks, set the standard for luxury SUVs in their day, and will run like a Timex for the next three generations at a minimum. The cost of entry is higher than even the Corvette above, but it’s such a versatile machine that you’ll get your money’s worth out of it in short order. Not to mention the smiles and thumbs up you’ll receive driving it.
So you’ve made it through this list thinking, “All of this sounds great, but I’m going to miss out on that flat-six sound if I don’t get the Porsche, and an AWD sports car would be interesting.” Well, that’s an oddly-specific thought to have. But, the Subaru fills both of those niches. There is no country that does oddball automobiles quite like Japan, and there is no Japanese manufacturer quite as oddball as early-1990s Subaru. Admittedly only available with an automatic, there are shops that specialize in swapping manuals from other Subaru models into SVXs if you’re committed to the three-pedal life.
With aerodynamic aircraft-inspired styling by Giugiaro and a sonorous 3.3-liter 230-hp dual-overhead cam flat six under the hood, the SVX was a strange combination of sports car and grand tourer. While it can sprint from 0–60 in 7.3 seconds, and could max out above 150 mph, it was seen as too expensive and heavy, and overshadowed on performance in-period by competition from Nissan’s 300ZX and Mitsubishi’s 3000GT. Twenty-five years later, the SVX’s style stands out better, and as a general rule, it’s easier to find a nice example than either the Nissan or Mitsu. The SVX is an unconventional choice, but unconventional is memorable, and what’s the point in driving a 25-year-old car if it isn’t memorable?
What collection is complete without a two-wheeled conveyance? They’re small enough that you’ll barely notice the garage space they take up, yet fun and fast enough that you’ll occasionally leave the sports car at home to go for a solo cruise on a great road. If Porsche is a name that carries weight in the automotive industry, Ducati does similar in the bike world. This isn’t the best bike Ducati ever made, with carburetor issues and minor electrical faults common. These old Italians reward patience, however, as they are a lot of fun for the money when they’re working right. You like to tinker, right?
The 750 Paso is an oddball Italian bike with a combination of quirky ’80s styling and the iconic desmodromic valve operation. Built by Ducati as its first bike following the company’s sale to Cagiva, the Paso had to be good, or they’d risk shuttering forever. Only 700 were sold in the US, making it a rare piece. Pick a nice one up for pennies dollar compared to its original price and its rarity will only ensure its value in the future.
So, there you have a five car collection with a motorcycle kicker which can be bought for about as much as a decent Porsche 964 Carrera 4. Which would you rather have, the single AWD German, or a full stable of cool collector cars? The great thing about having multiple options in your garage is that you can change your mood by swapping keys. None of these cars are likely to depreciate, and even the most fervent of Porsche fanatics might be inclined to rate the 964 as overpriced already.
In Europe, enthusiasts have coined the term “Youngtimer” to define collectible cars that aren’t quite old enough to be proper classics. This list is filled with youngtimers, as that is the future of collectibles. These are examples of cars that stood out in the ’80s and ’90s, either for style or performance (or both), and they’re standing in the foothills, getting ready to climb the value charts. Even if you’re not going to stack up five cars (or ask yourself where to store them), get these youngtimers while the getting is good.