Double your money in five years?

Speculation has never been the best reason to buy a collector car. More often than not, the buyer loses money on a car that he or she didn’t want in the first place. On the other hand, there’s no shame in buying something that you love, enjoying it for a few years, then making some change and trading up to something else that you love. And while there’s no such thing as a sure thing, here are five that are a good bet to appreciate significantly in the next five years:

  1. 2001 Panoz Esperante – If a Dodge Viper is a bit too much of a blunt instrument for you, might we suggest a Panoz Esperante. A race-bred, all-American sports car from Georgia, its well-engineered suspension and generous use of aluminum (plus a Ford modular V8) make it an ideal track day weapon that you won’t see in every paddock. Only its looks, forgettable from the rear and bulbous from the front, detract. The car remains in low production, but if this changes, it’s not unreasonable to think that the Esperante is a good appreciation bet. Asking prices start at around $26,000.
  2. 1992-95 Dodge Viper RT/10 – And if it isn’t too much of a blunt instrument… Fat tires, 400+ horsepower, minimal weather protection (including flimsy side curtains and a toupée for a top) and side exhausts that sound like all of hell hound Cerberus’s heads belching in unison. It can only be a million dollar 427 Cobra, right? Not so fast, the first-gen Dodge Viper RT/10 checks all those boxes and it’s silly cheap at the moment. Early Vipers with some miles have asking prices of about $25,000, which means you can probably still snag one in the low twenties if you’re lucky. That’s cheaper than a mediocre Cobra replica. Fifty to sixty thousand dollars for one of these in five years doesn’t seem remotely unreasonable.
  3. 1992-97 Ferrari 456 GT – Ferrari is done with the clutch pedal and while those shopping for new Ferraris don’t seem to miss it, manual transmission Ferraris from the ‘90s and the aughts are hot at the moment in the collector market. Witness the meteoric rise of the 550 Maranello among others. The 456 GT has been somewhat overlooked. The autobox 456 GTA cars with transmissions that can cost over $25,000 to repair have been stuck in the forties and fifties for some time, but the manual trans GTs are about $25,000 to $35,000 more and probably climbing. Only about 1,500 were built making them almost as rare as Daytonas.
  4. 2008-09 Honda S2000CR – As affordable roadsters from the aughts go, the S2000 is far more entertaining than anything other than a BMW Z3 M roadster, maybe. And unless you like your torque and horsepower to be of the Jeffrey “the Dude” Lebowski lazy variety, it’s incredibly satisfying to drive with peak horsepower of around 240 coming at a remarkable 8,300 rpms. The CR or Club Racer was a rare North America-only variant with fewer comfort features and lower weight. Fewer than 700 were built over two model years and most have been put to their intended use and tracked to death. Surviving gently used examples are blue chip Japanese collectibles. They’re about $25,000 now. Anyone who thinks that fifty is silly hasn’t watched Acura NSX prices lately.
  5. 1982-91 Pontiac Trans Am – Of all the cars on the list, this one may come closest to a sure thing. We’ve all seen the Smokey and the Bandit-era 1976-77 Trans Ams go northbound over the last few years. In 2007, when Hagerty Price Guide publisher Dave Kinney decided to do the Bandit Run and write about it for the New York Times, he had his pick of good cars in the seven-to-ten thousand dollar range. Now those cars are in the $30-$50,000 range. Well guess what, the kids who couldn’t get enough of the show “Knight Rider” are now coming into some bucks and guess what they’re going to want? For the time being, these are about ten grand. Is double that unreasonable in five years? We think not.
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