Five cars you should have bought five years ago


Like the Dow, the classic car market woke up from its recession-induced hibernation around 2011-12. But five years ago, it was a different story. If you had picked up a few of the following cars then, you’d likely be sitting on a tidier return than your 401K, and you’d have had a pretty good time driving to the bank.

  1. 1976-79 Pontiac Trans Am: Whether it’s Gen-Xers’ fond memories of Burt Reynolds in “Smokey and the Bandit” or even Norm McDonald’s hilarious take on him in the “Celebrity Jeopardy” sketch on “Saturday Night Live,” Bandit-era black and gold T/As are smoking hot. A nice one five years ago might have set you back in the high 20s; now it’s the high 30s.

  2. 1976-79 Porsche 911 Carrera Turbo: The 911 Turbo stuck a big middle finger up at the Malaise Era. When other cars were suffering from emission-control strangulation and low horsepower, the 911Turbo sucked the doors off of everything you could buy new and most 1960s muscle as well. Inexplicably cheap for years, they’ve taken a massive jump, a gain of nearly $100,000 in the last five years. Name a stock with that kind of return.

    (VIDEO: Porsche 911 Buyers Guide)

  3. 1977-79 Aston Martin V8 Vantage: For years these cars were pooh-poohed as “British Mustangs” and they lived in the shadow of the DB5, the Aston that Sean Connery made famous as 007. But the next generation of collectors has evidently taken quite a shine to them. A V8 Vantage that might have cost under $70,000 five years ago will now set you back closer to $150,000.

  4. 1988-91 BMW M3: The first-generation M3 (known internally as the E30) was a raw, edgy little beast with a highly tuned four-cylinder engine. The M3 has grown up since then, with first six- and then eight-cylinder power, but many purists love the competition breeding that oozes from every pore of the original M3. Cars that could be bought five years ago for well under $20,000 are now well over $40,000.

  5. 1968-71 Mercedes-Benz 280SL: This series of SL, known to fans as the “Pagoda” SL for its tapered pagoda-like hard top, is the epitome of understated German elegance. And with the rise of its predecessor the 300SL in the market, many collectors started to turn to the 280SL or its earlier iterations, the 230 and 250SL. They’re beautifully built and lovely cars that have nearly doubled in value over the last five years.

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