Predicting classic cars is a risky game. After all, you’re dealing with an asset that normally depreciates with time. But at what point does a car’s value stop being dictated by the used car market and start rising to the level of collectibility? And what models should you have your eye on as potential future classic cars?
Those are tough questions to answer, which is why we turned to the experts at Hagerty for some hard data on a few cars we believe are about to start climbing in value. As a leading classic car insurance agency, Hagerty collects data on vehicles when issuing quotes. By looking at insurance quote numbers over time, it’s possible to see trends in the market, making it easier to pick out future classics. With that said, here are seven cars to watch — or buy right now before prices skyrocket.
1979-1994 Saab 900 Turbo
The Saab brand was taken from this world too soon. Though the manufacturer had little more to offer than repackaged GM products in its final years, Saab’s “born from jets” slogan meant something in its glory days. The Saab 900, introduced in 1979, is a prime example.
Designed by aerospace engineers borrowed from the Swedish automaker’s aircraft division, Saab AB, the 900 featured a sloped rear end, curved windshield, and other features that have earned it the distinction of being “quirky.” Ever wanted a front-hinged clamshell hood? A longitudinal engine installed backward with the belts against the firewall? An ignition switch in the center console? The Saab 900 has all that lovable weirdness and more.
The Saab 900 got even more interesting with the addition of the 900 Turbo. Initially producing 143 hp and 173 lb.-ft. of torque, the turbo model’s 2.0L turbocharged 4-cylinder engine was thrilling for the day — especially combined with the 900’s surprisingly nimble handling for a front-wheel-drive car. There were many powertrain changes over the years, but the most sought-after models have the twin-cam 16-valve 2.0L turbo engine, which made 173 hp and 201 lb.-ft. of torque.
Saab 900 Turbo prices have only recently begun to climb. Hagerty doesn’t have enough data to publish a five-year trend, but quote values have grown 13% year over year. Additionally, the number of quotes has grown by 18%, which might indicate increased interest from collectors looking for future classic cars.
The average quote value for a Saab 900 Turbo over the past year was $8,809. Asking prices are all over the map, ranging from a couple thousand for a beater to upwards of $20,000 for a pristine example. So if you’ve been eying one of these fun-to-drive Swedish oddballs, you should get yours soon.
2004-2006 Pontiac GTO
To fill the gap left by the Firebird’s departure in 2002, Pontiac’s top brass decided to revive an iconic muscle car nameplate, the Pontiac GTO. But without a Chevrolet Camaro twin to share parts with, the midlevel GM division looked down under for its high-performance starting point.
Holden, General Motors’ Australian wing, had already developed a rear-wheel-drive V8 coupe called the Monaro. All Pontiac had to do was import it to the U.S., slap some new badges on it, and call it a day. That was the plan, at least.
Despite packing an LS1 5.7L V8 with 350 hp and 365 lb.-ft. of torque, the 2004 Pontiac GTO met a lukewarm reception in the States. Sports car shoppers didn’t take to the GTO’s more pedestrian styling. Because it was built in Australia and exported stateside, the badge-engineered coupe carried a higher price tag than initially planned.
For 2005, Pontiac added standard hood scoops, a dual exhaust system, and a more potent 400 hp, 6.0L LS2 V8. But sales floundered, and the GTO was discontinued after the 2006 model year, coinciding with the end of production for the Holden Monaro.
Though the reborn Pontiac GTO was a commercial flop, today, it holds a certain sleeper appeal for enthusiasts. There’s just something fun about getting rear-drive performance, V8 power, and a 6-speed manual in a car that looks like an overinflated Chevy Cavalier.
Looking at Hagerty’s data, it seems many agree. Quote values for Pontiac GTOs have grown 5.9% over the past five years, with good-condition examples valued at an average of $15,800. When you break down the numbers by age group, millennials have the highest share of quotes at 43%, a strong indicator of future collectability.
1995-1999 Mitsubishi Eclipse
Born out of a joint venture between Mitsubishi and Chrysler, the Mitsubishi Eclipse was the American auto giant’s attempt to cash in on the booming sport compact trend of the 1980s and 1990s — and it worked. The Eclipse, its rebadged siblings Eagle Talon and Plymouth Laser, and a handful of other U.S.-Japanese sporty cars from the era are known to enthusiasts as DSMs, which stands for Diamond-Star Motors, the name of the Mitsubishi-Chrysler partnership that created them.
First-generation Eclipses were sleek, wedge-shaped two-doors with respectable performance in turbocharged GS-T and GSX trim. But it was the second-generation (or 2G) model that resonated with the so-called tuner crowd, perhaps partly thanks to its inclusion in the 2001 movie, The Fast and the Furious. The turbocharged 2.0L inline-four engine options carried over but were now tuned to 210 hp and 216 lb.-ft. of torque. The most potent model was still the GSX with its full-time all-wheel-drive system and a limited-slip differential.
Because the tuner scene so adored them, the trick will be finding one that hasn’t been beaten on or distastefully modified. But Hagerty’s data appears to show that more buyers are treating these cars as potential future classic cars.
The number of quotes for the 2G Eclipse has grown by 19.4% in the past 12 months, while average quote values have increased by 3.9% year over year. That growth is promising, given that quote values have increased by just 6% in the past five years. And remember when we said interest from millennials is a good sign of future collectability? The Mitsubishi Eclipse has the highest share of quotes from millennials on this list at 57%.
1976-1986 Mercedes-Benz W123
It’s tough to put our finger on precisely what makes the W123-generation Mercedes-Benz sedan so cool, but it definitely is — and clearly, we’re not the only ones who think so. According to Hagerty, the number of quotes received for the E-Class precursor increased by 21.3% in the past 12 months, while quote values have jumped 11.3% in the same time frame.
That’s in line with the trend over the past five years, which has seen values grow by 51.1%. The average quote value for a W123 in good condition is $9,900, which seems consistent with asking prices online, though some examples can reach over $25,000.
Just what is a W123 Mercedes? Specifically, W123 is the chassis designation for Mercedes’ best-selling midsize sedan, but colloquially it can refer to the other body styles built on the same platform, including the wagon (S123) and coupe (C123). The sedan is known for its distinctive three-box shape, excellent build quality, remarkable ride and handling for the day, and efficient and durable diesel engine options.
Introduced in 1976, the OM617A 3.0L inline-five was the first application of a turbodiesel powerplant in a passenger car. Acceleration wasn’t its strong point, but the engine earned a reputation for being a reliable fuel saver, which is why it saw duty in W123 taxi cabs worldwide.
Of course, there were other engines in the vintage Mercedes stable. The 280CE coupe was noteworthy for its fuel-injected 2.8L straight-6 that made up 182 hp and 177 lb.-ft. of torque.
1974-1993 Volvo 245 Wagon
Do you remember the first car you drew as a child? We’re willing to bet it looked something like a Volvo 240. The Volvo 240 sedan stands out in a sea of modern curves with its simple, boxy shape. Though the Swedish automaker’s most iconic car might appear boring initially, the design will grow on you the longer you look. Whether you’re a fan or not, the Volvo 240 already has its fair share of admirers. That goes double for the wagon variant, the Volvo 245.
For those unfamiliar with vintage Volvo nomenclature, here’s a quick explainer: The first digit denotes the model series, while the third digit tells you how many doors it has. So a 242 is a coupe, a 244 is a sedan, and a 245 is a wagon (counting the rear liftgate as a door). The brand dropped this system in 1983, but enthusiasts still use it when discussing Volvo body styles. Of those body styles, the long-roof version of the 240 is in high demand.
According to Hagerty, quote values for the Volvo 245 have risen 8.7% year over year and increased 67.9% over the last five years. With millennials making up 47% of quote shares, you can expect this trend to continue.
The average quote value for a Volvo 240 wagon in good condition is $6,400, but a quick scan of online classified listings suggests prices are even higher for more desirable models — those with the turbocharged and intercooled 2.3L, inline-four, 4-speed manual transmission with electronic overdrive, or “flat hood” front end, for example. If you’ve ever wanted a vintage Volvo wagon, now might be the time to pick one up.
2000-2009 Honda S2000
This entry has already crossed over into collector car territory, but it’s worth mentioning because some examples are still relatively attainable — and they’re just so darn fun to drive. The Honda S2000 is a rear-drive convertible sports car that served as a halo model for Honda for nearly a decade.
Equipped with a rev-happy 2.0L inline-four, early S2000 models (also known as AP1) boasted an astonishingly high specific output of 124 hp per liter — the highest of any naturally aspirated production car of its time. Later cars (AP2) got a slightly bigger 2.2L engine that made the same 237 hp but more torque at 162 lb.-ft. The new engine also had a lower redline of 8,000 rpm, which is still stratospheric compared to most cars on the road today.
Looking at Hagerty’s data, the Honda S2000 seems destined for future classic status. Quote values have skyrocketed 71% over the past five years, with the average value of an S2K in good condition sitting at $24,900. That’s consistent with prices online, but there are deals out there if you look hard enough.
We’re not suggesting you buy one to stow in your garage, by the way. If you get an S2000, you need to find a good canyon road to wind up the engine and hear it sing in its natural register.
1999-2001 Isuzu Vehicross
Concept cars offer designers an opportunity to let their imaginations run wild because even if the styling is bizarre or impractical, certain elements can always be toned down for the production version. Sometimes it’s the engineers, sometimes it’s the bean counters, but there’s usually some other department that puts the brakes on and forces the design team to compromise on one or more things. The Isuzu Vehicross is one of those rare exceptions where the designers got everything they wanted.
With its funky two-door SUV shape, sleek headlights, and tailgate with protruding spare tire impression, the Vehicross still looks futuristic even today. But beneath its otherworldly exterior, you’ll find some decidedly un-futuristic parts. The Vehicross shared most of its underpinnings with the Isuzu Trooper of the day.
Under the hood was the Trooper’s 3.5L V6, which was good for 215 hp and 230 lb.-ft. of torque, mated to a 4-speed automatic transmission. The Vehicross also inherited the Trooper’s Torque on Demand 4WD system with selectable low-range gears, which, combined with the SUV’s short overhangs, makes it a formidable off-road platform.
Besides being surprisingly capable and unconventional-looking, the Vehicross is also rare. Production numbers were limited to just under 6,000 units globally across three model years. Of that number, a total of 4,153 SUVs were sold in the U.S. The Vehicross was a rare sight on the road when it was new, and it’s an even rarer sight today.
Despite the Vehicross’s scarcity, they’re relatively affordable when you can find one for sale. Prices on online auction sites and used car listings hover between $4,000-10,000. But that might not be the case for long, based on Hagerty’s data. The number of quotes received year over year has increased 28.6%, while the average quote value has increased by 26.2% to $12,051. We think it’s high time this quirky piece of automotive history is recognized for the undeniable future classic that it is.