Collector cars have become hugely popular, fueled by televised auctions. Not all of us can play at the level. Here are 8 cars with good potential that nearly anyone can afford.
Of course, these are all our best guesses. We don’t own a crystal ball and have no way to tell you for certain whether the value of a collector car will go up or go down. We will tell you this. All of the cars on this list, regardless of value, are fun to drive.
Ford Mustang SVT Cobra
The fourth-generation Mustang, which employed Ford’s “New Edge” design language and was launched in 1999, and included a new SVT Cobra. The SVT engineers had identified a weak point in the performance of the Mustang – its solid rear axle – and developed a full independent rear suspension that all 1999-2004 Cobras carried. For 1999 the SVT Cobra had an upgraded 4.6L DOHC engine with 320 hp, although customers weren’t seeing that on the road or track. Ford cobbled together a fix to get the ’99s and future 4.6 L to 320. For 2003 and 2004 only, the SVT engineers installed a Eaton supercharger that boosted power to 380 hp. Between the supercharged engine and the IRS, we think the ’03 and ’04 SVT Cobras (nicknamed The Terminator) have good chance of becoming a collector car in the future. These cars can still be purchased in excellent condition and low miles for around $20,000 today.
Nostalgia for older Japanese cars is on the rise, they are the cars of young collectors’ youth (much as muscle cars are to older collectors). One car that’s starting to see an upward swing in its value is the first generation Mazda RX-7. Known by its code SA22C, it was separated into three series. Series 1 were cars built between 1978 and 1980, Series 2 were built between 1981-1983, and the final Series 3 for 1984-1985 model years. One of the most desirable models is the Series 3 RX-7 GSL-SE, which unlike all other RX-7s imported to the US was powered by the larger 13B engine. Other upgrades to the GSL-SE include four-wheel disc brakes and a limited slip differential. We believe the GSL-SE has a good chance to become a future collector car. Expect to pay between $6,000 and $10,000 for a decent example.
The Triumph TR6 was among the last of the true British sports cars, right down to its wood dashboard (which was a laminate glued to plywood, BTW). As many of the parts and pieces were sourced from Triumph’s line of passenger sedans, there had been more development and updating than one might find from a specialty manufacturer. The 2.5 L straight six engine produced a stirring 150 hp (and more can be easily added) as well as excellent torque characteristics – no need to rev-up the TR6 to get it rolling. Parts are plentiful and cheap, and the car’s easy to work on as long as the undercarriage isn’t covered in a layer of rust. Excellent low mileage examples can be had for as little as $15,000.
Porsche 914 2.0
The Porsche that gets no respect is more Porsche than most people realize. Developed by Porsche for VW, and then sold as a Porsche, the 914 was constructed by Karmann, who built 356 bodies for Porsche. The steering rack, most of the braking system, the transmission, and the front suspension were all straight out of a 911. The rear suspension was similar to a 911, but with its mid-engine configuration, Porsche was able to create a superior solution. Despite the heavy rubber bumpers, we prefer the later models with the 2.0 L engine. These were VW Type 4 engines with unique Porsche cylinder heads. This engine was also used in the ’76 912E. Eventually all 911s will be out of the reach of the beginning collector, and we believe a 914 is a good Porsche to start with. Solid 914s can still be found for around $8,000 to $12,000 but beware of the “hell hole”.
When the Volkswagen Golf was introduced in Europe, shortly after a hotter GTI version was launched. In the US, Golfs were being built in an old Chrysler factory in Pennsylvania and all the decision were being made by old school auto executives. US enthusiasts drooled over the GTI and one major magazine even started a write-in campaign. About that time VW promoted Jim Fuller, who understood VW’s European heritage and the need for a GTI, and work started on a US version, launched in 1983. Good condition first generation GTIs should be available in the $6,500 to $10,000 range. And the beauty is, if the GTI doesn’t mature into a collector car, you still have a reasonably-priced, fun, light, nimble car to toss around.
The Z was one of the first popular Japanese sports cars in America, offering performance, comfort, style, and reliability. Albrecht Goertz, who had a hand in designing the BMW 507 and the Toyota 2000GT also assisted Nissan with the Z . Powered by a six cylinder version of the four that had performed so well in the company’s open sports cars, it went as fast as it looked. 0 to 60 took just 7.8 seconds, and a 125-mph top speed was quicker than a contemporary Porsche 911T or Jaguar E-Type. Just about every automotive site on the web has picked the 240Z as a future collector, so why shouldn’t we? Solid examples should be available for less than $15,000.
Ford’s F-series goes back to just after WWII and stretches right through to today, so there’s so many examples that would make a potential collector truck. We like the combination of styling and modern conveniences found in the generation that was built from 1965 – 1972 (after which the engines became too choked down by emissions controls – that is until fairly recently). Front suspension was Ford’s Twin I Beam design. Not the most sophisticated design but light years better than the competition. For an engine we prefer the 390 V8 with the 2bbl carburetor, which depending upon year, will produce up to 255 hp. The engine is stout and tough and upgrades are plentiful, if that’s not enough power for you. Depending upon which model, bed configuration, drive system, etc. you should be able to find a truck to your liking from between $10,000 to $15,000.
Ford Mustang Mach 1 428 Cobra Jet
Because its a Ford and not a Shelby collectors have passed over the ’69 – ’70 Mustang Mach 1, even though it has the same 428 Cobra Jet motor as installed in the Shelby GT500. Of course there’s a certain cache to owing a Shelby, but if you’re looking for performance per dollar, plus a good potential upside in your investment, you can purchase the Mustang at about half of the $100K that the Shelby sells for.