5 affordable classics that ended 2022 on a high

Enthusiasts who have been priced out of Japanese classics like the Nissan Z and Toyota Supra are looking elsewhere, like to the Mitsubishi Starion and Chrysler Conquest. Bring a Trailer/Josh Bryan

As the big January auctions kick off in Kissimmee, Florida, the general take on the collector car market is that the buying fever of early 2022 has receded, owing largely to inflation. Yet our latest Hagerty Price Guide, which updates values quarterly for more than 40,000 vehicle configurations, again makes clear that such generalizations don’t always tell the full story.

It’s true the latest guide, based on all the sales data we pored over from the fourth quarter of last year, broadly confirms that appreciation slowed and in some cases retreated. But we also noticed plenty of other cars picking up steam, particularly in the affordable part of the market.

We’re talking really affordable vehicles—stuff that not long ago could be had for pocket change. Even with the gains in this guide, most remain solidly within reach for most enthusiasts.

To some extent, this uptick is likely a trailing effect of the appreciation we saw last year, not to mention general inflation. Just as a cash-strapped grocery shopper might swap in a store-brand ketchup when the price of Heinz gets too high, so might enthusiasts who have been priced out of their favorite classics look seriously at cars they previously hadn’t considered. These gains also show that even in the face of economic headwinds, overall interest in buying classic cars remains very strong.

1981–1994 Maserati Biturbo +45 percent

1981 Maserati Biturbo front three quarter
Maserati

Mention the Biturbo and two images likely come to mind. One is the segment of Top Gear in which Jeremy Clarkson drops a dumpster on one to drive home his distaste of the car. The second is the stack of crippling repair bills associated with its questionable reliability. Despite the ill will that surrounds these cars, prices rose by 45 percent. All joking aside, due to the reputation around the Biturbo, any increases are noteworthy.

That said, a 45 percent increase on a dirt-cheap car still makes for a dirt-cheap car. Well, maybe organically composted topsoil cheap rather than simply plain dirt. A questionable Biturbo will still cost well under $10,000 and the cost to put it right will probably still cost several thousand additional, but a good car with no issues and meticulous service records is well into the $20,000 range.

If you’re expecting the Biturbo to hit it big, however, curb your enthusiasm. Our take is that these cars are simply now catching up with the rest of the market.

1987–1989 Mitsubishi Starion ESI-R/Chrysler Conquest TSi +43 percent

Mitsubishi Starion ESI-R front three quarter silver
Mitsubishi

Relative to the nutty market for 1990s Z-cars, Supras, and Skylines, Japanese sports cars from the 1980s has remained relatively calm. In particular, we’ve wondered why more collectors haven’t taken note of the Mitsubishi Starion and sister car, the Chrysler Conquest.

These cars scream 1980s and the ESI-R and TSi models (Mitsubishi and Chrysler, respectively) could be had with a wide body and a turbocharged engine. Their relative affordability probably has a lot to do with the popularity of other, more recognized Mitsubishi products like the 3000GT and Lancer Evolution. Top-tier trims like the wide body ERI-R are in the $20,000 range; a true unicorn car that’s been virtually unused since new might crack the $40,000 range, but that’s more an exception than the rule.

Of course, many of those other Japanese cars have climbed out of reach, so many enthusiasts are starting to shift their gaze to lesser-known substitutes. As with the Maserati above, it is likely that the increase here is more related to catching up with the market rather than the potential for sustained, rapid growth.

1973–1976 Chevrolet Chevelle Laguna Type S-3 +40 percent

1974 Chevrolet Chevelle Laguna Type S-3 Colonnade
Chevrolet

One of the segments that caught our attention in 2022 was so-called “malaise-era muscle.” Considering the general lack of support for aftermarket restoration parts and low performance of the mid-1970s, it comes as no surprise that cars from this era have been sitting at a discount when compared to other eras. That outlook may be slowly changing.

While we may be quite a ways from these cars being truly “expensive,” we’ve observed notable activity in more “sporty” models, particularly GM A-Body based vehicles like the Oldsmobile Hurst/Olds or the Pontiac Grand Am and Can Am. Chevrolet has been relatively stable until lately, when we observed that the Chevelle-based Laguna has started to gain attention.

Fans of the Laguna will be quick to point out its immense success in NASCAR competition. Its aerodynamics made it hard to beat on the circuit, with Cale Yarborough posting an impressive 34 of his 87 victories behind the wheel of a Laguna. The old adage of “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” translated very well to the Laguna, with the package accounting for 6 percent of Chevelle sales. While they were not uncommon in the 1970s, attrition and lack of restoration support has made them pretty scarce today.

A 40 percent increase on the Laguna indicates enthusiasts are quite interested in the finding those survivors. Again, keep in mind we’re talking about large percentage gains on small numbers: A Laguna in #2 (Excellent) condition can still be had for $30,000, and merely good ones go for closer to $20,000. When you consider the NASCAR connection, it’s a surprise they aren’t worth more. Maybe it’s time to take another look at the Laguna. Go on, do it for Cale.

1981–1993 Volvo 240 +38 percent

Volvo 240 Turbo rear light blur effect rear
Volvo

So far, the cars on our list have become more expensive largely as a consequence of something else becoming more even more expensive. The story is different with the Volvo 240. These are solid, widely admired cars with plenty of support and a reputation of going forever. Data from the insurance side of our business show there is widespread interest in these cars from collectors of all ages, from baby boomers to Gen-Zers.

These factors led us to call out the Volvo 240 as a vehicle with high potential for growth in the 2022 Bull Market List. We didn’t expect to be proven right so quickly—they gained an impressive 71 percent in 2022, with 38 percent growth in the fourth quarter alone. Again, we’re talking about a car with a pretty low starting point, so the dollar gains are not eye watering. You can still pick up a scruffy 240 for the monetary value of your pocket lint, but pristine models can set you back into the $30,000 range.

1991–1996 Chevrolet Caprice +36 percent

1993 Chevrolet Caprice LTZ
Chevrolet

It’s big, it’s bulbous, and it’s getting attention. That’s right, we’re talking about the ’91–96 Caprice. While its sportier Impala SS sibling has been on collectors’ radar for a while, the Caprice has remained in the space between used car and fully accepted collector. Winding back to the 1990s, these cars were literally everywhere from family cars, to fleet vehicles in the form of taxis and police cruisers.

So why are these cars going up in value all of a sudden? We have a few theories. First, the Impala SS is no longer a cheap car. Second, whereas the SS sports a cleaner look than its more pedestrian stablemates, few people in today’s world are buying these cars for their performance—why not look at the base car? Last but not least, there’s the magical effect of time and nostalgia. Now that these cars are all more than 25 years old and are no longer common, the general public is accepting them as collectible. Whatever the reason, we may be witnessing a resurgence of interest in the last of the land yachts.

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    Like 4 of the choices but that Maserati Biturbo belongs in a dumpster. I’m sorry but buying dumpster cars because of their rarity is an oxmooron. They are rare for a reason. I suppose we can keep a few as a reminder that some really bad cars were made and sold to fools.

    I agree. I still think the rare BMW Z4 3.0 si coupes should make this list however that car does not seem to get the love like some of these less desirable vehicles in my opinion

    2016 BMW SDrive35is, look up 0-60 and compare with the 2016 911 Carrera, gloriously beautiful, rare (see also unpopular) and NO RESPECT. Beautiful sports car, quick, comfortable, retractable hard top, and limited appeal, there is no justice……

    I’m not sure what that 2016 BMW has to do with affordable classics, but the performance isn’t all that spectacular. My wife’s 2017 Lincoln MKZ can do that, and also carry 5 people and luggage. Lol

    I completely agree.
    The design of the Z4 coupe 3.0 S was really elegant and classic—especially the offset rear 3/4 view.

    We sold these Maserati Biturbo new and we purchased most of then back. They were JUNK from day one. Buy it and not make it home. I have been selling cars for 40+ years I have seen some great cars and seen some real junk being pushed on car buyers. I did like the Chrysler Chrysler Conquest TSi had several and if I recall they were a fun car. The Volvo 240 was a good car just rather boring .

    Speaking of Volvo 240s, I had an 81 245 turbo wagon. Car was loaded with four speed overdrive, and ran like a bat outtahell. I outran my brakes one night on a dark corner and sheered three wheels right off the car. My father was so mad at me I thought he was going to kill me.

    Oh, I feel that- one of the places I served as an advisor was the Kingdom. A Brit I worked closely with had the Volvo Turbo Box Wagon, which was a really cool ride imo. It was no match for the Ferrari 400i I got at the auto souk for less than $10k because the original owner dinged the front left, and the lights didn’t retract. Had the V12 with a GM TH400 and the exact same shifter I had in my ’67 Impala SS. David overcooked the entry to a traffic circle trying to outrun me; hit the center curbing at close to 80mph, wiped the entire suspension off the car. Parts everywhere, but no one hurt. Volvo makes some tanks. FYI- Uncle Sam didn’t allow me to bring the Ferrari home, likely a blessing. It was cooler than cool, but to keep it meant shoveling money into the furnace like strokers on coal fired steamers. 22qts of Castrol 20/50 and 2 filters for an oil change. $110 in ’80s money for air filters. Oh, but the sound when one put the foot down hard and let it run (no limits in ’80s Saudi Arabia)? You could distill that and replace sex. I think Dave’s Volvo was probably the better car, but when I think back on what the 400i felt and sounded, I tend towards erection. Delicious would be my one word description, the Volvo? Safe. Sigh.

    I really lust after those 1990 Caprice sedans. Especially the ones that have been used as taxis and had the original cloth upholstery ripped out in favor of slab vinyl.

    That was my first thought. That Maserati B-Turbo was just not a good car. I like seeing some love for the Conquest and Laguna .

    Starion ESI-R, 3000GT-VR4, Eclipse, Lancer Evolution, Galant VR-4. Mitsubishi used to be baller. Sad what they’ve become, especially here in the States.

    Hiya from Fargo ND- dunno about the rest, but the Evo was and is the best winter scream machine, especially with the correct tires. Seen my bud’s WRX STi shot down a couple of times just this winter by a white Evo MR with a touch of aftermarket.
    Not comfortable nor quiet, needs a firm hand, but Jeezus wept does that thing move.

    I recently purchased an 88 Conquest Turbo and very similar car to my 944S2. I actually think it’s a bit faster and lighter. Hard to find good parts for the Conquest (Starquestparts.net has been my savior), but plenty of parts for the 944 (new, refurbished, used). I love the Conquest.

    In my opinion, those widebody Starquests are the best looking Japanese cars of the 80’s. Id love to have a clean 89 with the handling package in that blue color. My only fear with those is reliability and a lack of parts.

    The Caprice IS bulbous, but in a distinct sort of way, whereas too many cars/crossovers today share the same SUJellybean profile. Nobody back then mistook a Chevy for a Crown Vic, or a LeSabre/Park Avenue, and the Caddy and Buick versions had significant differences. Maybe people are seeking out the super cushy floating ride of these old cars? It seems like every luxury car tries to be a sports sedan (looking at you Lexus LS), when buyers of these cars just want a nice highway cruiser that floats over crappy roads like the 1977 Town Car they remember from their childhood. The big Genesis seems to be one of the few cars today that harkens back to that Living-Room-on-Wheels ride… I imagine this old Caprice (0-60? Eventually) rides smoother over potholes than 95% of today’s new cars.

    your comment for the caprice might be accurate for the cars that came with the 305, but for the ones that came with the 350tbi and definitely for the ones that came with the 350LT1 they had no problem getting up to 60, I now my 94 Buick Roadmaster wagon 350LT1 equipped, has absolutely no problems with 0-60.

    I had to drive one of those Caprice barges for 8-12 hours a day. Even with lights on top and all the cop stuff they were an abysmal car that I couldn’t wait to turn in at the end of my shift.

    I had to drive one of those Caprice barges for 8-12 hours a day. Even with LT1, lights on top, and all the cop stuff they were an abysmal car that I couldn’t wait to turn in at the end of my shift.

    Those cars rode so nice because there was an actual sidewall in the tires. 70 and 75 profile on 15 inch wheels. The tire would be part of the suspension and cushion the ride. Yeah, they did handle and corner like boats, but were very predictable and solid.

    My buddy in high school back in the 80’s had a ’73 Chevelle SS that originally was a 454 4 speed, but at that time had an LT1 and 4 speed. I loved that car, but I was, and still am a little weird about cars. Bob was normal so he sold it and bought a ’70 Chevelle.

    Office manager at the Ford Dealer I worked at during my high school years owned a ’73 454 SS 4 speed.

    Dealer owner wasn’t too happy but he realized her husband worked next door in the Chevrolet dealer finance department.

    Same Chevrolet dealer had a 4 door Malibu, 400, 4 speed, bucket seats and completely loaded on the showroom floor – super nice ride in the eyes of the high school kid.

    Ford’s top dog in 1973? Gran Torino Sport w/351 4bbl and 4 speed – not counting the DeTomaso Pantera sold at the Lincoln Mercury dealer farther up the street.

    I wish I could have those five minutes back that I read that article. All those cars listed are hideous! I grew up in the 70s and 80s and still don’t care for anything made in that era. I’ll take every car made from 1900 to 1972? Including my 56 plym purchased at 16 and 40 years later still in my garage.

    When Hagerty can extol the virtues of a 90s Caprice: it’s time to stay away from the car market until reality returns.

    Amen, bro!
    after a slough of foreign jobs and family vans,
    I graduated to a 56 Belair for my 67 bday.. well worth the wait!
    Mom did have one of those 73 Laguna/Malibu’s
    I thought it was neat. “beauty’s in the eye of the beholder.”

    Ever since the 70’s I’ve always thought the Laguna’s were very kool kars. Always had a feeling they would become more collectible. I had a chance to buy a nice green one a few years back at a very nice price. I knew I was making a mistake by not purchasing it, turned out I was right!

    I think 92-95 Honda Civic have gone up in desirability and not many in good condition remaining. Most have been modified due to the popularity of Fast and Furious Civic were featured in.

    I have recently owned a 96 Caprice wagon and a 96 Roadmaster wagon. Both had the LT1 engines, were fully loaded and were great cross country rides with decent mileage. I love the old wagons. Unfortunately I was offered stupid money for each and let them go. I am now hunting for another

    My family had a ’91 Caprice Classic new. I used to drive it with one finger on the wheel and one foot plopped on the sill, very much like on my easy chair. We gave it up at 263,000 miles, and that was only because the valve stem seals leaked so much we could not pass NY emissions anymore (perfectly reasonable thing for a car with so many miles). We changed nothing on the car except a brake booster, some sway bar endlinks, and maybe a shock here or there. As smooth a ride as you can get.

    I am sorry, but each of those…with the possible, POSSIBLE, exception of the Volvo…is a terrible vehicle. Just because something is rare, that does NOT automatically make it valuable. Just stop it, Hagerty. There is no money or more important, desirability here. Recycle these things and make something useful.

    A friend of mine had a bi-turbo. We went to the June Sprints back in the 80’s with him leading the charge up to Road America. Driving back, he was sans-turbo and couldn’t keep up with my 190E.

    I bought a 1988 Chrysler LeBaron Conv. With a Turbo engine and it is a real looker. Maroon with maroon leather interior. I am curious how many were made. It was garage kept since 2005.

    I was always a little nervous about the turbo in my LeBaron. It was the only thing that didn’t break. The plastic parts in the power windows died every couple months. Sorta fast car though.

    I bought a brand new LeBaron GTS 5-speedTurbo the first year they came out. Car was pretty quick, but you better be ready to correct for the turbo steer when you booted it, otherwise you were headed for the ditch.

    Should have kept my Volvo 240GL. Bought it used with 60,000 miles for $4000 and sold it with 120,000 for $4000. Can’t beat that! Loved that car! So did my 10 year old son, but for some reason my wife hated it. All it ever needed was tires and brakes, although it was not without its shortcomings. Rear wheel drive was a challenge in Midwest winters (should have bought snow tires) and the air conditioning was so weak I had the glass tinted in a not so successful attempt at improving the performance. A short trip was better served by opening the windows on hot days. It took forever for the a/c to actually cool the passenger compartment. And it sometimes ran hot although it never overheated. One unique feature was it had a rear headlight of sorts just below the roof on the rear window, directly above the third rear brake light. It served to highlight the car from the rear for approaching drivers in fog. Also the first car I had with heated (cloth) seats.

    The Biturbo is a clean design with a beautiful interior plagued by poor quality and numerous mechanical failings, including a propensity to catch fire. The Volvo 240 is a good, but boring and rust-prone, car with the most difficult-to-replace heater blower motor ever created by man (no woman would be dumb enough to engineer such an abomination). The Starion/Conquest is the most interesting car in this group by a wide margin, but a others have pointed out, parts availability is a real issue. The Chevelle and Caprice are solid examples of what GM does best – good looking and performing cars that are pretty reliable, cheap to maintain and easy to repair/modify. Personally, I’d go for the Laguna Type S-3 and add some chassis and engine mods, along with a later four-speed automatic for economical highway cruising.

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