It’s a bit of a guessing game as to which cars will be collectible in the future, though there are certainly factors that let us take a guess.
Rarity, sentiment, power or, sometimes, just plain failure can all be clues to future collector cars.
Buick spent years trying to shake its old-man’s-car image, and the idea of a two-seater — reportedly in the works since the 1970s — was one supposed salve. When it finally came to fruition in 1988, the largely hand-built Reatta featured such innovations as an early touchscreen control system. But as with other GM cars of the era, the styling and driving experience were watered down, and instead of selling 20,000 per year, GM sold just 21,000 over four years. Today, the Reatta marks an interesting chapter in Buick history, and with the simple and reliable 3800 V6 under the hood, they are fairly robust cars. Coupes sell in the $3,000 to $4,000 range with convertibles demanding a couple thousand more, though we’ve seen high-mileage droptops go for under $2,600.
Shop for your Buick Reatta here.
The SS sedan may be the last of the Heavy Chevys, but it’s a memorable one, with a 415-horsepower Corvette engine driving the rear wheels and the option (in newer cars) for a six-speed manual transmission. The SS is still on sale, but since production began in late 2013, Chevrolet has sold fewer than 7,000, an infinitesimal number by General Motors standards and a good indicator of future collectability. There’s no reason not to buy one new; these cars aren’t exactly popular with the mass market, and you’ll find plenty of dealers offering good deals on eBay. But buying used is a good way to kiss off the depreciation blues: We’ve seen 20,000-mile examples going for less than $30k, as well as some really good deals on leftover 2015 models. Those cars present a unique opportunity to own a one-owner original — and that one owner is you.
Shop for your Chevrolet SS here.
Dodge Charger SRT8
Nowadays, the 707-horsepower Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat is stealing the headlines, but let’s not forget the car that helped put fast four-door Chryslers back on the map: The first-generation Charger SRT8. Its 6.1-liter Hemi engine delivered 425 horsepower, a magic number associated with the legendary 426 Hemi V8 of the 1960s. With 420 lb-ft of torque and a zero-to-60 time around 5 seconds, these cars still offer plenty of thrills, and with four doors and a massive back seat, they are practical family haulers as well. We’ve seen lots of SRT8s trading in the $9,000 to $20,000 range. The banana-yellow Super Bee will likely be the most collectible version, but they can get pricey: We recently saw one auction for $42,000.
Shop for your Dodge Charger SRT8 here.
Dodge Ram SRT10
Imagine you’re Dodge: You’re watching your competitors in Dearborn make money with the F-150 Lightning. Meanwhile, you have the ultimate badass car, the Viper, and a badass looking truck, the Ram. So why wouldn’t you blend the two? With the Viper’s 500-hp 8.3-liter V10 under the hood, the Ram SRT10 was blisteringly quick (zero to 60 in around 5 seconds, top speed over 150 mph) and handling was good…for a pickup truck. Though the first batch came with a regular cab and a short bed, Dodge later added a family-friendly crew cab to the mix. About 9,500 were built between 2004 and 2006, all but guaranteeing collector status. Considering how rare and (relatively) new they are, prices are high, but not crazy: $20,000 to $40,000.
Shop for your Dodge Ram SRT10 here.
Fiat 500 Abarth
It’s a little tricky to identify a car that is still in production as a future collectible, but we’d be willing to bet on the 500 Abarth, the hot-rod version of the cute little 500. Using a trick borrowed from the Dodge Neon SRT4, the 500 Abarth’s turbocharged 1.4-liter engine has no muffler — the turbo keeps it just quiet enough that all the popping and burbling from its exhaust are perfectly legal. The 500 Abarth isn’t as agile as a MINI Cooper, but it’s good squirrely fun and it’s a lot more rare. New as they are, Abarths are still valued as drivable used cars rather than collectible classics, but you can find a good one for less than $10,000. Keep it clean and only drive it on nice weekends, and in 20 years you might be a fixture on the car-show circuit — but if the Fiat 500 Abarth never achieves collector status, at least you’ll have a good time behind the wheel.
Shop for your Fiat 500 Abarth here.
The rotary engine has always been Mazda’s baby, but the company and the engine have what can only be described as a dysfunctional relationship: They break up over poor fuel economy, high emissions, and difficult internal sealing, and yet they always wind up together again. Mazda’s latest — and so far last — affair with the rotary resulted in the RX-8, a brilliant sports car with a screaming rotary, brilliant chassis, and vestigial back doors that add a semblance of practicality. Mazda always threatens to get back together with the rotary engine, and we have no doubt they will some day, but we don’t think that’ll hurt the RX-8’s status as a future collectable — and with prices hovering in the $3,000 to $8,000 range, now is the time to get one.
Shop for your Mazda RX-8 here.
Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution
With a four-cylinder engine turbocharged to hell and back, all-wheel-drive, and a rock-hard suspension, the Evo is a rare example of a Japanese gonzo sports car that made it to the U.S. — and we guarantee it’s like nothing you’ve ever driven. Mitsubishi just wrapped up production of the Evo, and collector status can’t be far away. New ones can still be found for around 40 grand, but if you buy used and shop carefully, you’ll find plenty of cars in the $10,000 to $25,000 range. Many of the Evos have been modified, raced, and abused, so if you’re a purist, you may need to spend some money to return the car to stock — but whether you go stock or modded, you’re all but guaranteed to make it to the car show quicker than anyone else.
Shop for your Mitsubishi Evo here.
An era is ending as Toyota shutters the Scion brand, and we think the FR-S will be the most desirable of Scions in future — mostly because it’s such a great car. Though the FR-S’s engine is modest, its chassis is superb, and it’s the perfect car for those looking to learn to drift (or those who just want to experience oversteer at speeds that won’t kill them). The FR-S is relatively new, and it isn’t going to die with the brand — it will live on as the Toyota 86, as well as its near-twin, the Subaru BR-Z. We favor the 2013 and 2014 cars, which had a more aggressive suspension setup; those are the ones we think collectors will want. You’ll find first-year examples selling between $10,000 and $15,000.
Shop for your Scion FR-S here.
Smart ForTwo Brabus
The Smart ForTwo has never been a very popular car in the U.S., and the pseudo-hot-rod Brabus edition is even more rare (it didn’t help that while European-market Brabuses got a souped-up engine, the U.S. market Brabus had the same powerplant as regular Smart cars). The beefed up suspension and big wheels give it a unique look, and in 20 years, these cars are sure to be conversation-starters at car shows. And if you’re shy on space, the Smart Brabus is a good choice — it only takes up about a third of your garage. The last batch we saw had asking prices of around $7,000, but we’ve seen low-mileage examples sell for as much as $11k, so there’s apparently some interest here.
Shop for your Smart ForTwo Brabus here.
The Volkswagen GTI has been a strong seller in the U.S. for decades, but VW has always seemed reluctant to bring over the all-wheel-drive uber-Golfs — and when they do, they always come at an exorbitant price premium. The R32 has made two appearances in the United States, in Mark 4 and Mark 5 form, and sold in such small numbers that finding them for sale on the used market is rare. In fact, we’re hesitant to name prices because we just don’t see that many changing hands, but those we’ve seen (primarily 5th-gen cars) seem to go for $15,000-$20,000, a huge savings over the $40,000 price tag of a brand-new Golf R. Not only do these cars have collector interest, but they are great handlers and an absolute ball to drive.
Shop for your Volkswagen R32 here.
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