In the 1990s, baby boomers deep into their earning years and nostalgic for their imagined youth built up a bull market in GTOs, Mustangs, and ’Cudas. But today, the next generation of collectors—not counting the Ferrari and Porsche folk, who’ve practically become automotive asset managers—is coalescing around a core of a dozen vehicles that will be the substance of the classic-car market for the next decade or more. Like muscle cars before them, these cars defined high performance, engendering passion and acquisitive lust in a generation of America’s young people. These are Gen X vehicles for Gen X collectors, and they’re starting up the same appreciation curve that Chevelles have been climbing since the ’90s.
Beginning with the assumptions that speed still matters, that four-doors aren’t proven collectibles, that limited numbers mean unlimited potential, that originality counts, and that bad-assery never goes out of style, here are 12 machines that will define mainstream collecting for the foreseeable future.
1997–2001 Acura Integra Type R, $20,000–$45,000
The Hemi ’Cuda of sport compacts, most Type Rs have been ruined with bad mods or stolen, recovered, modified, and stolen again. But pristine cars are rocketing upward. “We know the most expensive one that’s traded hands was a 1997 with 10,000 miles,” says racer Peter Cunningham, who has collected five. “A dealer paid $43,300 for it on eBay.”
1991–2005 Acura NSX, $40,000–$130,000
The sublime NSX is climbing toward its perch. Early cars—easily spotted by their all-black canopies—with high mileage are still in the $40K range. But a 2003 NSX-T with 8500 on the odo went for $100,000 at Mecum’s 2016 Kissimmee auction. Zanardi-edition cars all seem to be at least $70,000, and asking prices are getting astronomical. The pricing specialists at Black Book peg a nice 2005 NSX-T at $54,500.
2011 BMW 1-series M coupe, $35,000–$60,000
Only six years old, but they’re selling for more than their original MSRPs, with some dealers asking $70,000-plus for primo examples. This M car’s one year of production promises plenty of upsides. Black Book says more-attainable specimens should be around $42,500
1988–1991 BMW M3, $25,000–$130,000
Primo early M3s have been dramatically climbing in value. High-mileage cars can still be had cheap, but the nicest examples are beyond $50K, and preserved Sport Evolution models have blasted off into six figures. Black Book sets the value of a quality first-generation (E30) M3 at $32,500.
2011–2015 Cadillac CTS-V coupe, $24,000–$50,000
In a crossover world, there doesn’t seem to be much future for another coupe like the hugely powerful, dramatically styled, low-production CTS-V. But right now it’s a used car with potential—a collecting gamble. Black Book has clean 2011 cars at $33,200 and nice 2015s at $53,375
2005–2006 Ford GT, $200,000–$500,000
Timeless the very moment it appeared, the GT has never lost value. An ’06 Heritage Edition showing five miles went for $467,500 at Barrett-Jackson’s 2016 Palm Beach auction. A good example should be $250,000, according to Black Book.
2000 Ford Mustang Cobra R, $20,000–$50,000
Ford built only 300 of these lightweight 385-hp Mustangs, and while some saw track duty, many sat pickling in garages. Sellers can ask more than $50,000, but it seems most preserved cars go closer to $40,000. Black Book has a nice example going for $45,000.
1993 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra, $15,000–$70,000
The run of these ultimate Fox-body Mustangs totaled just 4993 units, and a nice car sold for $27,500 at Barrett-Jackson’s 2016 Scottsdale auction. Prices on eBay are now around $35,000; Cobra R’s run twice that. Black Book places a decent SVT Cobra at $16,500.
1999–2000 Honda Civic Si, $3000–$7000
While most were ripped apart for stupid modifications, a few un-modded examples are still sitting around at reasonable prices. The last Civic with an unequal-length control-arm front suspension and the only one in the U.S. with the B16 1.6-liter inline-four, it’s cheap to collect and destined to rise in value. Black Book lists good examples as low as $3650.
1989 Pontiac Trans Am 20th Anniversary, $14,000–$40,000
Pontiac made only 1555 of these, each with the turbocharged 3.8-liter V-6 from the Buick Grand National. Preserved cars stalled in the $30,000 range for years, but that price rose to $37,000 at Mecum’s Kissimmee auction this year. Expect a breakout as values pass $40,000. Black Book has the Turbo T/A at $22,000.
1985–1987 Toyota Corolla GT-S (AE86), $3000–$20,000
Almost every example of the Corolla GT-S has had the Initial D brutalized out of it. “There are fewer stock GT-Ss out there than Ferrari Enzos,” asserts AE86 owner Ben Hsu, who co-founded JapaneseNostalgicCar.com. Good clean ones will run at least $15K. “I don’t even drive my hatchback. I’m afraid someone will steal it.”
1994–1998 Toyota Supra Turbo, $25,000–$80,000
It’s gaining value fast and furiously, but it’s tough to find a Supra Turbo that hasn’t been butchered. Can’t find a set of original wheels? No one else can, either. Black Book has clean 1998 Supra Turbos at $31,500.