2018 Bull Market List: The 9 hottest collectible cars right now

If you’re in this game solely to make money, you’re really a car dealer more than a car enthusiast. Knowledge and wits are your guide as you assemble an inventory that can be retailed for a profit. The last thing you listen to is your heart, because what you like in a car doesn’t matter; it only matters what the customers want.

For the rest of us, we’re all about listening to the heart, which usually talks a lot louder than the head. Certain cars just have that organ on speed-dial and there’s not much we can do about it. Whether your thing is Studebakers, Bricklins, flatroof Cadillacs, or four-seat Ferraris, profit is not your primary motive. Still, we’ve identified a group of cars that may just please both the head and the heart. Using a variety of metrics beyond just prices, Hagerty’s valuation team selected nine cars that supply driving pleasure today and possibly a decent return going forward. We know you don’t buy cars to make money, but you might be interested to know that you’re not the only one who may suddenly take a second look at a Porsche 996 Turbo or a Firebird Firehawk.

2000–2006 BMW M3

BMW M3 Jeremy Cliff

To many people it’s still the emperor of the M3s, the concentrated embodiment of everything the blue spinner stood for at the dawn of the 21st century. Arriving in 2000 as the third generation of Team Munich’s hot-rodded compact (you know, back when the 3 Series was still actually compact), the E46-chassis M3 promised to finally deliver to America the same horsepower as that enjoyed by European M3 buyers, something not true of the previous detuned E36 and E30 M3s. Another big change was the dropping of the sedan version, freeing up budget to produce a wide-body coupe and convertible with specially flared fenders and unique part numbers throughout the suspension, brakes, and powertrain. The car had stance in spades.

The SMG paddle-shift six-speed returned as the clutch-free alternative to the bolt-action six-speed manual, but it leveraged enhanced electronics that included driver-selectable throttle response. Certain to be long remembered for its 8,000-rpm redline, the iron-block S54 inline-six used roller-follower lifters actuated by hollow camshafts controlled by BMW’s VANOS variable valve-timing system, with individual intake runners leading to six individual throttle butterflies. It was a gorgeous gem befitting the master jewelers at a company with the word “motor” right in its name.

Today, with M models proliferating and some of the cachet drained out of the badge, the E46 M3 such as this pristine 2004 SMG model owned by Jared Cannone of Warwick, Rhode Island, represents BMW’s Motorsport division at its old hardcore finest, which is certain to make these cars more collectible as time goes on.

BMW M3 engine
BMW M3 engine Jeremy Cliff

Engine Inline-six, 3,246 cc
Power 333 hp @ 7,900 rpm
Torque 262 lb-ft @ 4,900 rpm
Weight 3,400 lb
Power-to-weight 10.2 lb/hp
0–60 4.8 sec
Top speed 159 mph
Price when new $48,195 (2004)
Hagerty value $23,500–$29,700*

The last M3 before they got a lot bigger and heavier. A real driver’s car, with just enough power that you can drive it and enjoy it without getting a ticket in third gear.

PROS: One of the most enjoyable M3s ever made; lots of aftermarket parts; great club support; low-mileage and well-maintained ones are sure to rise in value as happened with the earlier E30 and E36.

CONS: Both the top and bottom ends of the engine are prone to expensive disasters; VANOS will fail eventually and cost dearly; no easy repairs for the SMG transmission; finding one that hasn’t been beat is hard.

1976–1986 JEEP CJ-7

Jeep CJ-7
Jeep CJ-7 Jeremy Cliff

New Jeeps come with the imprint “Since 1941” somewhere in the interior, but Willys-Overland wasn’t officially granted the Jeep trademark until 1950, well after the company had already developed a good business selling civilian versions of the wartime jeep. Probably the smartest thing American Motors president Roy Chapin ever did was acquire Kaiser-Jeep Corporation in 1970. In 1976 the CJ-7 appeared as basically a stretched CJ-5 to compete with a growing assortment of rivals, fitted with the first factory-equipped hard top and steel doors among its upgrades. It would carry the CJ line for the next 11 years, right through AMC’s merger first with Renault, then with Chrysler.

Even after 30 years of CJ development, you didn’t have to squint too hard to see the old hero of Normandy and Guadalcanal in the 7’s sheetmetal. But if the design still looked inspired by cardboard shipping boxes, the changes were significant, including a longer wheelbase for more stability and a roomier and fancier cockpit. Even so, with the top and doors removed, the windscreen folded, and the available 304-cubic-inch AMC V-8 purring away, the CJ-7 put the wind in your face and bugs in your teeth just the way its predecessors had been doing since 1945.

Various editions, including the relatively luxurious Limited, the Jamboree, and the Golden Eagle, a sort of off-road Trans Am complete with screaming chicken on the hood, kept the CJ grooving through the disco years and into the yuppie era. Like the Blazer, it’s a classic that you don’t worry too much about getting dirty or using for grocery runs, and which might still be useful after the hurricane or earthquake hits. That’s not something you can say about a vintage Ferrari.

Engine V-8, 4,981 cc
Power 150 hp @ 4,200 rpm
Torque 245 lb-ft @ 2,500 rpm
Weight 3,000 lb
Power-to-weight 18.7 lb/hp
0–60 16.0 sec (est)
Top speed 80 mph
Price when new $5,732 (1979)
Hagerty value $12,400–$17,300*

Two-thirds of quotes that are requested from Hagerty come from Gen X and Millennials. The interest from those younger generations means it stands to do well, as those are the collectors who are actively growing their collections.

PROS: Plentiful and still cheap compared with alternatives such as the Toyota Land Cruiser; parts are no problem; fun in almost every situation except a freeway; a gosh dang American hero.

CONS: Rust and frame cracks are joy killers; good-condition special editions like the Golden Eagle are already expensive; engines are from the 1970s low-compression malaise; still subject to smog rules in California.


Mercedes-Benz SL
Mercedes-Benz SL Jeremy Cliff

The fourth-generation SL, codenamed R129, had exceedingly large shoes to fill when it debuted at the 1989 Geneva Motor Show. The model’s illustrious scrapbook already included images of Stirling Moss at Ravenna, Clark Gable Gullwinging through Hollywood in a cowboy hat, Audrey Hepburn looking bemused from her Pagoda, and Stefanie Powers as TV’s one-percenter shamus Jennifer Hart in her R107.

The R129 was the Silver Star’s technical showboat, introducing electronic stability control and a soft top erected in a mechanical performance of Swan Lake by 15 pressure cylinders, 17 limit switches, and 11 solenoids. A pop-up roll bar erected itself via high-tension springs in one-third of a second when the car’s sensors detected impending disaster, a solution that allowed engineers to relieve the optional hardtop of occupant protection duties and make it 22 pounds lighter than its bulky predecessor. Better advertising than anything Mercedes-Benz dreamt up was a surveillance video of an R129 turtling in Germany at 120 mph and then sliding on its roof for a hundred yards before flipping over and being vacated by its otherwise unharmed occupants. Among its other credits, this car helped popularize YouTube.

Given the long production run and the numerous variants, it helps to know the car’s history before settling on one. For example, until 1995 the power went through a ropey hydraulically controlled four-speed automatic, which at least was better than the previous SL’s long-serving three-speed. But then the SL joined the modern era with a computer-controlled five-speed, a vast improvement. However, in 1999 Mercedes dropped the four-cam, four-valve V-8 in favor of a single-cam, three-valve design aimed at fuel economy, so the connoisseurs tend to gravitate toward the ’96–’98 models. And if you’re a real haystack-sifter, there were 166 300SLs imported in 1992 and 1993 with five-speed manual transmissions hooked to a 24-valve inline-six with a 7,000-rpm redline. With one of those, all you’d need is a cowboy hat to be legendary.

Engine V-8, 4,973 cc
Power 315 hp @ 5,600 rpm
Torque 302 lb-ft @ 5,600 rpm
Weight 4,160 lb
Power-to-weight 13.2 lb/hp
0–60 6.4 sec
Top speed 155 mph
Price when new $81,100 (1999)
Hagerty value $9,800–$11,500*

The SL is the best example of substitution in the collector-car space, meaning that those who are priced out of one generation automatically look at a newer generation that is more affordable. The R129’s depreciation has finally bottomed out and it’s the next SL on the list to go up. Right now it’s the most affordable of the top-of-the-line Benzes.

PROS: Considered one of the last real Mercedes; some of the safest roof-down motoring available in a vintage vehicle; strong parts support by the factory.

CONS: Heavy and hardly Miata-like; complicated, so lots of things to break; the search may be long for the right one.


Lamborghini Diablo
Lamborghini Diablo DW Burnett

Ferruccio Lamborghini was long gone from his namesake speed boutique by the time the Diablo arrived in 1990 to replace the 15-year-old Countach, which was a rather tough act to follow. This giant slab of radioactive Italian machismo with its requisite scissor doors, which took shape during Lamborghini’s relatively stable period of Chrysler ownership from 1987 to 1994, utilized the same basic construction as the Countach, including a steel-tube frame and a backward-facing four-cam 485-hp V-12 with a direct lineage to Lamborghini’s first Giotto Bizzarrini–designed powerplant of 1963.

Advancements included electronic fuel injection governed by computers of Lamborghini’s own design (which are now the bane of many a Diablo owner’s existence) and viscous-coupling all-wheel drive in the VT models. Though, if you’re like Billy Zissis, a Connecticut restaurateur who brought our 1994 photo car and does all his own wrenching, you’ve removed the heavy front differential and shafts to save weight and cut the understeer and clunky engagement supplied by this early, crude AWD system.

Zissis is one of those rare Lamborghini drivers who makes owning a fussy exotic like the Diablo seem easy. When faced with not having access to a dead starter without first removing the engine, his solution was to cut a hole in the body. Problem solved! A 0-60-mph time of about 4.5 seconds (although the Diablo got quicker, was better designed, and became easier to drive by the final, 549-hp VT 6.0 SE version) only sounds tame in this era of sub-four-second Teslas, but back then the Diablo was every bit a rival to Ferrari’s contemporary F40 in terms of speed and its ability to provoke a street riot among school-age boys.

Engine V-12, 5,707 cc
Power 485 hp @ 7,000 rpm
Torque 428 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm
Weight 3,500 lb
Power-to-weight 7.2 lb/hp
0–60 4.5 sec
Top speed 204 mph
Price when new $271,918 (1994 VT)
Hagerty value $145,000–$158,000*

The last real Lambo before Audi bought the company, and the last analog supercar before paddle shifters and computer nannies. They have poor sell-through at auctions because owners have high expectations, they don’t need to sell, and they’re often willing to wait for someone to overpay.

PROS: Valets put it by the door every time; a 7,000-rpm V-12 is not a machine so much as Valhalla’s pipe organ; marriage proposals not uncommon from both men and women; will make you the talk of your 30-year class reunion.

CONS: Having to cut a hole in the body to get to the starter or else pull the engine nicely sums up the maintenance experience; computer failure can come with a $10,000 bill; weren’t terribly well built when new.


Toyota Supra Turbo
Toyota Supra Turbo Jeremy Cliff

Although the Toyota Supra arrived here in 1979 as a modest 110-hp offshoot of the even more modest Celica (Car and Driver dismissed it as a “make-believe Monte Carlo”), by 1994 Toyota was finally serious about building a torpedo to rival the Nissan 300ZX, Mazda RX-7, and Mitsubishi 3000GT—just in time for the market to crash for all such vehicles. Well, an unfortunate fate didn’t stop the fourth-generation Supra with its Ferrari F40–like styling and optional 320-hp turbo inline-six from blowing the doors off Toyota’s somewhat stodgy reputation as Camrys-R-Us. Car and Driver dubbed this new Supra “a Lexus for Smokey Yunick,” and indeed, it shared its platform with the Lexus SC300 coupe as well as its iron-block engine, here as the 2JZ-GTE with twin snails snuggled up to the right-hand side.

Toyota made valiant efforts to cut the 3,400-pound Supra’s weight, dispensing with adjustable shocks, a telescoping steering column, and even fashionable dual exhaust tips, figuring one big pipe was enough. An aluminum hood, roof, and bumper supports helped the new car shed 124 pounds from its predecessor and allowed it to sprint to 60 mph in 4.6 seconds. Alas, priced at over $40,000 and expensive to insure, the Supra Turbo was a slow seller and disappeared from the U.S. market by 1998.

Our photo car is an immaculately original 1994 Turbo hardtop, a rarity as most were sold with the optional targa top. Owner Matthew Stevens from Connecticut is undoubtedly the kind of buyer Toyota had in mind for the Supra, being young, business-savvy, and tech savvy as well as obsessed with his four Supras, one of which is punched out to 700 horsepower.

Toyota Supra interior
Toyota Supra interior Jeremy Cliff

Engine Inline-six, 2,997 cc, turbocharged
Power 320 hp @ 5,600 rpm
Torque 315 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Weight 3,400 lb
Power-to-weight 10.6 lb/hp
0–60 4.6 sec
Top speed 160 mph
Price when new $42,800 (1994 Turbo)
Hagerty value $60,800–$74,700*

Our quote requests are up 250 percent over the past 12 months, and the price guide value is up 26 percent in the same period. This is the poster car for the Fast and Furious and Gran Turismo generation. It may even pass the Acura NSX, because unmodified Examples are so rare.

PROS: White hot among the younger Fast and Furious crowd; Toyota reliability; all-day driving comfort; nobody had one but everyone remembers them.

CONS: White hot among the younger Fastand Furious crowd, so many have been hacked and chewed by shadetree tuners; failing piston rings and valve-stem seals make a blue fog that is expensive to cure; factory parts are pricey.

2010–2014 FORD RAPTOR

Ford Raptor
Ford Raptor DW Burnett

Preceded by a series of hot Lightning pickups that attempted to make over the F-150 into a snarling street racer, the Raptor represented a change in mission by Ford’s Special Vehicle Team. Rather than try to make a gas-company fleet truck look good on a racetrack, the Raptor capitalized on a growing fascination with Baja-style trophy rigs and stadium trucks among a new generation who were modifying their pickups with hiked-up fiberglass front fenders, miles of suspension travel, and bed-mounted spares.

Fitted with aluminum control arms and long-stroke Fox Racing shocks, as well as 17-inch alloy wheels sporting SVT-specific 35-inch BFGoodrich all-terrain tires, the Raptor was armored up for the outback, where it could run a dusty track at silly speeds and jump ruts with abandon. The Raptor launched in 2010 as a short-box SuperCab with a 5.4-liter V-8 making 310 horsepower, but sensing a hit on its hands, Ford expanded the product line, adding the 411-hp 6.2-liter V-8 and the popular SuperCrew four-door cab, which quickly swamped the SuperCab in sales.

By 2012, Ford had dropped the base 5.4-liter boat anchor and fitted a standard front Torsen differential for better off-road traction, as well as a front-view camera for better forward vision during rock crawling. The final Raptor had wheels with both conventional and beadlock mounting options, plus HID headlights. Compared with the Lightning, the Raptor was soft and floaty on pavement while drinking fuel at the rate of 13 mpg, but owners loved its trail-eating capability, even if they never used it. It has taken Chevrolet and Ram several years to catch up with off-road specials of their own, giving the Raptor a lock on the genre that has yet to be broken.

Engine V-8, 6,210 cc
Power 411 hp @ 5,500 rpm
Torque 434 lb-ft @ 4,500 rpm
Weight 6,000–6,100 lb
Power-to-weight 14.8 lb/hp
0–60 7.1 sec
Top speed 100 mph
Price when new $41,995 (2014)
Hagerty value $39,000–$55,000*

People just love the idea of a fast truck. New, these were out of reach for many people, so you have a lot of folks closely watching the secondhand market, and without enough supply, they don’t really depreciate.

PROS: One of the most capable factory off-road vehicles ever made; mostly a stock F-150, so parts are plentiful; first of its kind and guaranteed to be collectible.

CONS: Shocks are gone after 30,000 to 50,000 miles, replacement shocks are $2,000-plus (rebuilding is an option); 5.4 version lacks oomph; many were bent in Dukes of Hazzard–style jumps.

2001–2005 PORSCHE 911 TURBO

Porsche 996-generation 911 Turbo
Porsche 996-generation 911 Turbo DW Burnett

Porsche’s path into the 21st century was filled with change. Tightening emissions standards forced an end to the air-cooled era as engine temperature, especially at cold start, had to be controlled within a narrower range than air cooling could provide. Meanwhile, a team of former Toyota executives consulted with Porsche on ways to improve both quality and profits, the result being the 996-generation 911 and its codeveloped sister car, the Boxster. When the fifth-generation, all-wheel-drive 911 Turbo came along as a 2001 model, Porsche continued the evolution of the model from the original blown bass-ackwards bad-boy to a cultured executive express, producing both the fastest street-legal 911 ever made as well as a quieter, more comfortable, and more refined car befitting its $117,000 base price.

The dry-sump 3.6-liter flat-six wasn’t shared with the 3.4 in base Carreras, good news since the turbo engine isn’t subject to the infamous intermediate-shaft bearing issue that dogged the base unit. Rather, it was a version of the GT3’s engine, which also shared bits with the contemporaneous Le Mans GT1 car. For the street it used VarioCam Plus cam-phasing and a pair of KKK K64 turbochargers to make 415 horsepower and, more significantly, 415 pound-feet of torque starting at just 2,700 rpm. Because Porsche claimed an 18-percent fuel economy gain over the previous 993-generation Turbo, it felt justified in reusing the base Carrera’s 16.9-gallon fuel tank (no doubt an implementation of the lessons from Toyota’s consultants), or about three gallons less than the 993’s. Legions of 911 Turbo owners have since disagreed.

Though the 996 generation has been largely overlooked by Porsche purists, there’s a lot to like here, including 60 mph in 3.9 seconds, a 192-mph top speed, huge 13-inch brake rotors featuring one of the industry’s first carbon-ceramic options, an automatic if you so desire, and design cues from the hallowed 959. This former supercar, presented here by owner Dan Cruz in a distinctly non-Turbo Riviera Blue following a rear-ending by a Honda Civic and an immaculate respray, ran with the likes of Ferraris and Aston Martins but can be had for a fraction of the cost.

Engine Flat-six, 3,600 cc, turbocharged
Power 415 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque 415 lb-ft @ 2,700 rpm
Weight 3,500 lb
Power-to-weight 8.4 lb/hp
0–60 3.9 sec
Top speed 192 mph
Price when new $117,000 (2001)
Hagerty value $46,700–$56,500*

Another substitution car, meaning as other 911s rise, the overlooked 996s now seem incredibly undervalued. Not everybody loves the puddle headlights, but if you want a six-speed manual in a 400-hp German car, there aren’t a lot of options. In 2015, these cars bottomed out just as the air-cooled market hit its peak, but we’ve seen examples go for more than $100,000.

PROS: True supercar performance; continent-crossing comfort; choice of six-speed manual or automatic; robust engine; the 996 is starting to have its day.

CONS: Small fuel tank; has an expensive appetite for tires; lots of Porsche parts but none cheap; bonded bushings, so replacing the suspension rubber means replacing suspension links.


Pontiac Firebird Firehawk
Pontiac Firebird Firehawk DW Burnett

The last hurrah of GM’s stalwart F-body appeared for the 1993 model year, radically skimmed down into pointy wedges with windshields raked at an absurd 68 degrees and, in the case of the Firebird, sporting no less than four feet of front overhang. SLP Engineering, the General’s kinda-sorta factory-authorized tuner shop launched by rodder and drag racer Ed Hamburger in 1987, was quick to tempt fourth-generation Firebird buyers with a Firehawk upgrade to the 280-hp Formula. It infused the LT1 350 V-8 with another 20 horsepower and graced the body with a few subtle aero and appearance mods, all of it available from Pontiac dealers under RPO code R6V and with the standard three-year/36,000-mile warranty.

Through the 1990s, SLP tweaked the super-beak, adding a Bilstein suspension option, an oil-cooler package, a performance exhaust, and so on, but never building more than a handful of cars each year. That makes Firehawks rarer than Ferraris and indeed most cars considered rare today. With GM’s F-body plant in Sainte-Thérèse, Quebec, on the verge of permanent closure, the final generation of the Firebird emerged in 1999, lightly reskinned and suffused with the newer LS1 Corvette V-8, which eventually reached 335 horsepower in the 10th Anniversary Firehawk of 2001, and 345 horses in the last-of-the-line 2002 model.

New Jersey Firehawk enthusiast Stephen Balzano brought our photo car, a remarkably preserved 10th Anniversary job numbered 63 out of 139 and fitted with what he says is a one-of-one camel interior (the rest were black inside). If his friendliness, knowledge, and enthusiasm are an indication of the Firehawk owner body, prospective buyers would be joining a very welcoming club indeed.

Engine V-8, 5,733 cc
Power 335 hp @ 5,200 rpm
Torque 350 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Weight 3,500 lb
Power-to-weight 10.4 lb/hp
0–60 5.1 sec
Top speed 153 mph
Price when new $37,658 (2001)
Hagerty value $24,100–$31,300*

We saw a huge spike in interest in these, with the quotes doubling over the past 12 months, and 72 percent of that coming from Gen X or Millennials. Values have gone up 13 percent over the past 12 months. It kind of came out of nowhere.

PROS: So rare that you’re unlikely to see one unless at a Firehawk meet; every bit as fun as the old muscle cars but with modern amenities; nothing exotic about the mechanicals.

CONS: Firehawk-specific bits can be hard to obtain; roof hoop behind the cockpit tends to bubble and is a costly and time-consuming repair; not the most sophisticated car of its era.


Chevrolet Blazer
Chevrolet Blazer DW Burnett

General Motors spent much of the late 1960s catching up to Ford, first with the 1967 Camaro, then with the 1968 Chevy Blazer/GMC Jimmy to answer the successful Bronco. In turn, both Ford and GM were chasing Jeep, which had pioneered the marketing of utility vehicles for civilian recreational use. Unlike the 1966 Bronco with its unique frame, GM’s route was to borrow heavily from the company’s newly redesigned fleetside pickups, utilizing everything from the doors forward for its first real sport-utility vehicle. To the rear, a short box wore a fiberglass roof cap which the owner could remove, at pains, if he or she had the time, tools, and patience.

In an era when carmakers expected seven-figure sales over an individual model run, the first-generation Blazer was a comparative exotic, selling fewer than 20,000 units a year during its first four years. By 1972, GM’s marketing mavens were working overtime, churning out special editions such as the stickered-up Feathers (the adverts described it as having a “wild indianish body design”) and the plaid-upholstered Highlander to make the Blazer “the most far-out truck you’ve ever owned.”

Few Blazers lived coddled lives, and thousands were heedlessly scrapped as rust ate the porous, poorly sealed bodies from the windshield header on down. Until only recently, even the ultra-rare, coil-sprung two-wheel-drive models could be had for peanuts, leading many decent Blazers into second lives as heavily modified mud-boggers, sand-crawlers, and slammed low-riders. Nowadays, the prices on good ones as well as for hard-to-find items such as original seats or the single-wall roof, which is significantly lighter and easier to attach than the more common double-wall roof, are shocking to those who have loved vintage Blazers a long time. That includes Eric Butt of Orange, Connecticut, who supplied our 1971 Ocher-hued photo car.

Engine V-8, 5,733 cc
Power 255 hp @ 4,400 rpm
Torque 365 lb-ft @ 3,200 rpm
Weight 3,800 lb
Power-to-weight 14.9 lb/hp
0–60 12.0 sec
Top speed 90 mph
Price when new $3,234 (1971 K5)
Hagerty value $20,500–$30,700*

A good substitute for an early Bronco at a 20-percent discount. Has a lot of interest from a younger demographic, which is good for long-term values. The Bronco hasn’t slowed down, and it’s pulling up the value of the Blazer.

PROS: Everyone loves a vintage SUV; running parts are available at the grocery store; a classic you won’t mind driving over speed bumps.

CONS: Unmolested examples are rare and getting expensive; remove the top to check for rust; keep the floor jack handy to get the top back on as the body tends to sag after removal.

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    I have a 1965 Triumph TR4A in total restored condition. I would like to have some idea as to what it is worth

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