What’s hot and what’s not in ’80s and ’90s luxury cars
When high-end luxury cars first hit the market, paint sparkling and leather so plush, they’re often out of reach for the average Joe and Jane. You might admire a stylish Cadillac, Mercedes, Bentley, or Rolls-Royce from afar, imagining that one day you’ll have the time and money to simply cruise the open road in the lap of luxury. The good news? From the moment these cars drive off the dealer lot, our old friend depreciation starts to chip away at those values.
Based on the latest Hagerty Vehicle Rating data, the market for 1980s–90s luxury cruisers of this sort appears to have finally bottomed out in 2017. As values start to climb again, we’ve identified some of the early risers on the upswing, as well as a few that continue to lag.
The Hagerty Vehicle Rating tracks a vehicle’s performance relative to the rest of the market, based on a 0–100 scale. A 50-point rating indicates that a vehicle is keeping pace with the market overall. Ratings above 50 indicate above-average appreciation, while ratings below 50 indicate vehicles that are falling behind.
On the upswing
|1993-98 Lincoln Continental Mark VIII
While sleeker and less barge-like than its predecessors, the Lincoln Continental Mark VIII was nonetheless a relatively affordable, big honkin’ two-door meant for luxurious cruising. It had advanced tech like computerized air suspension, as well as goodies like HID headlights, auto-dimming mirrors, six-way power adjustable front seats with two-position memory, and a 10-disc CD changer with a JBL sound system. Under the hood was a then-new, all-aluminum V-8 with 280 horsepower, mated to a four-speed automatic with overdrive.
The main driver behind the Mark VII’s 93 rating (up 43 points since last year) is heavy insurance quoting activity, which is an indicator of buying interest. In the last 12 months we’ve received a 28-percent bump in quoting activity for the Mark VIII, which is an all-time high. Values are still steady for now, with no immediate signs of appreciation, but that could change going forward.
|1987-93 Cadillac Allante
The Allante was Cadillac’s first swing at trying to beat the Mercedes SL at its own game (the 2004–09 XLR would be the second). Designed and built by Pininfarina in Italy before piling onto a 747 cargo plane bound for finally assembly in Detroit, the Allante suffered right out of the gate from quality issues and a lofty $54,700 starting price in 1987. All models came with a folding cloth top, with a removable aluminum hardtop as an option.
Based on the Eldorado, the Allante was front-wheel-drive and initially arrived with a 4.1-liter V-8 good for 170 hp, before Cadillac upped the ante for 1989 with a 200-hp 4.5-liter V-8. As a final sales plea for 1993, Cadillac added the Northstar 4.6-liter V-8 with 295 hp as well as a new rear suspension that finally made it worthy of its cost of entry. Sadly, it was the last year of production, killed off when it was never better.
Up 55 points in the last 12 months, the Allante is seeing five-percent higher quote activity during that same period. And while values are down 45 percent over the last eight years, looking at the last 12 months alone shows a drop of just two percent, indicating prices have bottomed out. Auction prices, too, tell a positive tale; in the last 12 months, 85 percent of Allantes have sold through. That puts it in the top 10 percent of cars as judged by sell-through rate.
|1971-93 Rolls Royce Corniche
Developed as a replacement for the two-door Silver Shadow, the Rolls-Royce Corniche coupe and convertible spanned more than two decades while in production from the early ’70s to the early ’90s. Hand-built, the Corniche featured a self-leveling suspension and power disc brakes for your estate-cruising needs. Under the hood was a 6.75-liter OHV V-8 with dual carbs, until fuel injection arrived in 1977. The Corniche would add incremental improvements to its engine as well as its overall features during its long run, capped off with a final 25-car run of turbocharged Corniche S models in the final year.
The Corniche is up 54 points over the last 12 months, supported mostly by steady gains in value as well as increased quote activity. Average quoted values have seen over the last three years a 10-percent lift, while average value for Corniches purchased by Hagerty clients over the last 12 months is up 23 percent. Quote activity over that same 12-month period is up eight percent. The trick with these cars is to “know a guy” who can help you keep it running.
Wait and see
|1991-1998 Mercedes-Benz W140
The defining luxury car and design benchmark for Mercedes in the 1990s, the W140 featured all the bells and whistles you’d want from a high-end German luxury sedan. And, if the conventional wisdom is to be believed, all the headaches that come with that much complexity. It has double-paned soundproof glass, parking sensors, orthopedic seats, dual- or four-zone climate control, a sunshade, burl wood trim, soft-closing doors, and more. Around the world it came with a wide range of engines, ranging from diesel and gasoline straight-sixes to several V-8s and a V-12. The W140’s kryptonite at the time, however, was then then-new Lexus LS 400. Not only was the Lexus cheaper than its competition, it was widely regarded as beating Mercedes, Jaguar, and everyone else at their own game.
While still trending well at an HVR score of 72, the W140 experienced a minor drop of eight points over the last 12 months. Values are steady, and although Hagerty clients aren’t buying as many, quoting activity is trending up.
|1985-1992 Cadillac Fleetwood
While the rear-drive Fleetwood Brougham carried on from the prior generation largely unchanged, the Fleetwood sedan and coupe downsized for 1985 and switched to front-wheel drive. The change allowed for reduced weight and better packaging, and sales remained respectable even as competition stiffened in the ’90s with the birth of Lexus and Infiniti. The challenge of maintaining the rare 1985 Fleetwood’s diesel V-6 steers most people to the range of V-8 gas engines. Displacement for the V-8 grew from 4.1 liters in 1985 all the way to 4.9 liters by 1991.
So far, the Fleetwood isn’t bouncing back. Despite a big spike in demand early in 2017, the car has fallen 45 points over the last 12 months. A drop of 20 percent in average values from 2013 to mid-2017 helped drag down its HVR score. Even though more Hagerty clients are picking them up (up 27 percent over the last 12 months), they’re doing it on the cheap, at an average discount of 10 percent compared to a year ago.
|1985-1997 Bentley Turbo R
When Bentley decided to give the Mulsanne Turbo the tools to actually handle its 300-plus-hp turbocharged 6.75-liter V-8, the Turbo R was born. Bentley overhauled the suspension, granting the Turbo R stiffer anti-roll bars, updated dampers, and improvements to the rear subframe. It also gained wider tires and aluminum wheels, which drastically improved road manners, stability, and overall comfort.
Largely because of a 10-percent decrease in value in the latest version of the Hagerty Price Guide, the Turbo R is down 23 points over the last 12 months. And while the numbers of cars quoted is up 16 percent over that period, quoted values keep sliding—down six percent since last year and 20 percent over the last four years. If you’re in the market for one of these surprisingly nimble luxury yachts, it would be wise to hold out even a bit longer until it’s done depreciating.
|1980-98 Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit/Silver Spur
Introduced as a replacement for the Silver Shadow and Silver Wraith sedans in 1980, the Silver Spirit (and long-wheelbase Silver Spur) was a bit rounder and less boxy than its predecessors. It carried on in the classic Rolls tradition of ultra-refinement and luxury, with top-of-the-line materials, self-leveling suspension, ride height control, power disc brakes, and the essential 6.75-liter V-8 engine. All U.S. and Japanese versions were fuel-injected, technology which was standardized for the Silver Spirit worldwide in 1986, but absent in place of twin SU carbs on early models. If you were a high-roller with a taste for the classic during the last two decades of the 20th century, you couldn’t go wrong with this trademark Rolls.
In essentially every metric that influences the Hagerty Vehicle Rating, the Silver Spirit/Spur takes a hit, slashing its rating 33 points lower than 12 months ago. Over the same period, Hagerty Price Guide values are down five percent, quote activity is down 19 percent, and average quoted values are down five percent (as well as 12 percent in the last four years). Even the number of cars offered at auction is down more than 50 percent compared to last year.