Want an Affordable Classic? Here are 10 That Won’t Break the Bank

Updated May 27, 2018

We can all look at cars like the McLaren P1, Porsche 918 and Ferrari LaFerrari and know they will be sought-after classics in years to come. But if you’ve got the cash to buy one of those and stick it in an air-conditioned garage to keep it in pristine condition, it probably doesn’t matter to you whether it appreciates in value or not. If you haven’t got that kind of buying power but you still want to buy a car with a view to it becoming a future classic, you’ve got to shop smart.

While it’s hard to identify reasonably priced current production cars that could be collectible in the future, there are plenty of underrated older cars out there that could be worth taking a chance on.

Here are 10 cars that are a lot better than they have been given credit for. Even if they don’t go on to become expensive collector’s items in future years, they’re still affordable models that you can enjoy owning and will make you stand out from the crowd as a discerning buyer who’s “in the know.”



  1. 2008-2010 Pontiac G8 GXP

The Pontiac G8 GXP was an affordable full-size rear-wheel-drive sedan with American muscle and European style. Under the hood was an LS3 V-8 that developed 415 horsepower and 415 lb.-ft. of torque. Only 1,829 units of this excellent car were produced, and the 2009 model was priced at $39,995 when it was new. A good condition late model with low miles will cost you at least that today.

2009 Pontiac G8 GXP. X09PN_G8004 (United States)


2. 2002-2006 Volkswagen Phaeton

The Phaeton was an all-wheel drive ultra-luxury sedan for the Volkswagen brand that has to rank as one of the most notable automotive failures of the 21st century so far. It didn’t fail because it was a bad car, because it wasn’t. The real problem was that it was a Maybach-wannabe that didn’t have the prestige badge to match the price VW had to charge for this incredible car, which could exceed £100k when new. It’s potential as a collector’s item is open for discussion, but at less than $20,000 for the very best examples with low miles, it’s an absolute bargain.



3. 1994-2007 Jaguar XJ6

In its fire-breathing XJR performance version that produced 370 horsepower from its supercharged V-8, the XJ6 was the fastest sedan in the world in its day. Jaguar has now transformed itself beyond all recognition since those days, so the XJ6 has potential as a collectible for the future. The downside is that they were notoriously unreliable, but they offered power and luxury that rivalled anything coming out of Germany at the time. The big upside though, is the fact you can pick these up for next to nothing at the moment. Just don’t go planning to go on any long-distance road-trips in one unless you’re very brave, or very dumb.



4. 1982-1993 Mercedes-Benz 190E

Mercedes engineers wouldn’t declare the 190E ready for production until they made sure it offered the same ride comfort and quality as the top-of-the-line S-Class. The company spent billions of dollars developing what was at the time, the smallest car Mercedes had built in decades. The 190E was a seriously big seller for the German luxury automaker, and it’s testament to their quality that it’s not uncommon to see them on the road today. Because so many were built and so many are still going today, you’ll need to find a really exceptional one if you’ve got designs on it becoming an investment.



5. 1980-1988 AMC Eagle

With the AMC Eagle having Jeep’s selectable four-wheel drive system onboard, this rugged, go-anywhere car with real off-road credibility has a decent claim on being the world’s first crossover. At the time, the Eagle was a low-cost bridge between AMC’s solid, economical passenger car line and the well-regarded, but unashamedly off-road-focused, Jeep line. Although surviving Eagles are no longer depreciating in value, they’re not appreciating too rapidly either. However, although even a good one won’t break the bank, there aren’t too many of them around, so this is definitely one to watch.



6. 1970-1973 Datsun 240Z

At the time, the modern design, relatively low price, and growing dealer network compared to other imported sports cars made the 240Z a resounding success for Nissan, which sold its cars in North America at the time under the name Datsun. With a 0 to 60 time of 7.8 seconds and a top speed of 125 mph, the Datsun was faster than the Porsche 911T of the time. In good condition, one of these can look every-inch a $40k car. However, beautiful examples can be had for around the $15,000 mark, but that’s still a considerable uplift on its original cost of around $3,500.



7. 1970-1975 Porsche 914

When is a Porsche not a Porsche? Well, probably in the early 1970s as a 914. This car was a collaboration between Porsche and Volkswagen that was originally intended to replace the VW Karmann-Ghia, before a change of heart saw it badged as a Porsche. The Volkswagen-powered 914 was considered a failure when it was in production, but today it’s seen as something of a desirable and fun vintage cruiser that’s now becoming a classic in its own right. The Porsche badge obviously counts for a lot, but its lowly VW underpinnings mean it’s a cost-effective way to own a vintage Porsche.



8. 1967-1970 Cadillac Eldorado

The Cadillac Eldorado was one of the most advanced cars in the world when it was launched, and it was only the second model ever produced by GM that was front-wheel drive. Caddy introduced the Eldorado in 1953, but this sixth-generation was a radical redesign to capitalize on the era’s burgeoning  personal luxury car market, and it was promoted at the time as a “personal” Cadillac. The Eldorado got you from 0 to 60 mph in less than nine seconds and had a top speed of 120 mph. Its drive and handling were highly praised by contemporary reviewers, and it sold extremely well despite high list prices. Good late models average just over $20,000 nowadays, but well cared-for, all-original models with low miles can bring considerably more.



9. 1959-1970 Datsun 1500/1600/2000 Fairlady

Although there’s an 11-year production run to go at here, only around 40,000 units of this 240Z predecessor were ever built, so they’re not exactly commonplace these days. The Fairlady was an affordable roadster before the Mazda Miata was ever thought of. It took the look and feel of British roadsters like the MGs, Triumphs, and Austin-Healeys of the day and added a vital new element; Japanese reliability. Although Nissan didn’t build millions of them, they can be picked up for very little money and even rough examples can make great restoration projects, if that’s your thing.



10. 1979 Pontiac Firebird Formula 400 WS6

Prices for a late 1970s Trans Am have been inflated by a generation of Bandit wannabes, but the less flashy Formula is an inexpensive alternative that has plenty going for it. The Formula was only available in the 1979 model year but had an excellent 6.6-liter, 220 horsepower true Pontiac 400 V-8 under the hood. The addition of the WS6 handling package also gave you four-wheel disc brakes and the fabulous “snowflake” alloy wheels. There were only 24,851 Formulas made during that year, but very few of those had the 400 and WS6. Even so, you should be able to pick a pretty decent one up for around $15,000.





Chris Riley
About Chris Riley

I have been wrecking cars for as long as I've been driving them but I keep coming back for more. Two wheels or four, I'm all in. gives me a chance to give something back to the automobile community.

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