The Top 10 Modern Day Collector Cars
Classic cars that have reached collector status are easy to spot because, well, they’re the ones that show up the most often and bring the most money at auctions, specialty dealerships and other sellers. But what about cars that have been made within the last 20 years or so? Which years, makes and models among them are or probably soon will become collector cars?
Well, there’s no particular one-size-fits-all formula for establishing collectability, but things like rarity, performance, design, and being the first or last of something all help. In any event, here are 10 recently-built cars (none of which are hyper-limited production models whose collectability is all-but-assured) that are sure to get car connoisseurs all hot and bothered.
Cadillac CTS-V Wagon
If high performance station wagons are the bearded ladies of the automotive circus, then the Cadillac CTS-V Wagon is the bearded twelve-fingered hermaphrodite that juggles live land mines with its fourteen-inch-long tongue. Here was a rear-wheel-drive station wagon with available Recaro bucket seats, a 6-speed transmission of the manual persuasion (or an automatic with the same number of gears, if you’re into making Baby Jesus and/or Bob Lutz cry) and a variation of the contemporary Corvette ZR1’s supercharged 6.2L V8 that was detuned to the point that it “only” made 556 horsepower coming from a brand that, less than a generation earlier, was more closely associated with curb feelers, counterfeit convertible tops and Denny’s dinners consumed at 4 p.m. (a.k.a. two hours before bedtime). Sure, the lighter and slipperier sedan and coupe versions of Cadillac’s Autobahn assassin put up (fractionally) better numbers, but neither of them afford you the opportunity to blow a snot-snouted M3 jockey into the crabgrass while lugging an eight-year supply of Charmin Ultra from Sam’s Club back to your castle. How in the name of all that is artificially flavored can that not lead to future collectability?
BMW 1 Series M Coupe
The E92-generation BMW M3 was and is a brilliant car but, at the same time, it was and is considerably softer and flabbier than the E30-based original. So true was this, in fact, that BMW’s in-house tuning shop – M GmbH – saw fit to create a sub-M3 super coupe based on the 1 Series Coupe. Christened the BMW 1 Series M Coupe (apparently calling it the M1 would have caused confusion and/or anger among fans of the late-‘70s mid-engine supercar of the same name), this “parts bin special” of sorts utilized the E92 M3’s suspension, rear subframe, brakes and wheels, flared fenders front and rear to accommodate the M3 chassis parts, a limited slip differential, compulsory 6-speed manual transmission and a specially tuned version of the company’s N54 3.0L twin-turbo inline-six.
Thanks to the engine’s 335 horsepower and 332 lb.-ft of torque (369 lb.-ft on overboost), the 1 Series M Coupe (or 1M, as it’s often nicknamed) can move quite smartly in a straight line; of course, it’s real forte is cornering, where the top notch hardware from its big brother joins forces with E82 chassis’ tidier dimensions and low (by early-2010s standards, at least) 3,296 lb. curb weight to make sweet, sweet love to road and racetrack.
Originally set to be limited to just 2,700 units worldwide, unexpectedly high demand from potential buyers prompted BMW and the M division to eventually build 6,309 of these small super coupes. Rumors persist of an M2 (based on the 1-Series Coupe’s replacement, the 2-Series) coming down the product pike in the next year or two but, considering how many folks outside the company consider the current crop of M cars to be the most sellout-y yet with their electric power steering and canned engine noise piped into the cockpit through the stereo system, we don’t see the bottom of the 1M market dropping out any time soon…
Colin Chapman – founder of Lotus Cars – used a well-defined and well-known formula when designing his cars: Simplify and add lightness. The mid-engined Lotus Elise and its hardcore fixed-roof sister, the Exige have been keeping Chapman’s vision alive since 1996 (and from 2005 to 2011 here in the U.S.). Their riveted and bonded aluminum chassis provides a remarkable combination of strength and lightness, while the Yamaha-designed, Toyota-supplied 1.8L inline-four (based on the one powering the last-gen Celica GT-S) supplied 190 horsepower worth of kick (and 240 horsepower of kick in supercharged form) for this one-ton (-or-minus a couple hundred pounds) full-bodied go kart for two. What’s not to like?
Porsche 911 (993)
If it’s a sure bet for future appreciation in just about any field of collecting you’re after, you can’t go too far wrong with picking the last of something. In Porsche circles, that usually means the company’s final air-cooled production models, the 993-series 911 family. Endowed with smooth, flowing fenders and bumpers that owed more than a smidge of inspiration to those fitted to the mighty 959, the 993 was the ultimate evolution of Butzi Porsche’s original masterpiece of a shape. And suspension revisions that filtered out much of the Neunelfer’s inclination toward firing itself into the scenery ass-first if you took even a little pressure off the gas pedal mid-corner turned the chassis into a real masterpiece, too.
Of course, it’s the reassuring warble of the 3.6L M64 SOHC flat-six and the steady hum of the great-big fan it drives via a belt that’s the real chicken soup for the Orthodox Porschephile soul. Whether you picked rear-drive or the AWD Carrera 4, 6-speed manual or 4-speed “Tiptronic” automatic, and the coupe, convertible or Targa (which introduced a massive sliding glass sunroof in place of earlier models’ lift-off panel), the last waterless 911was and is a hoot. And the 993 Turbo and Turbo S? Oh baby…
When Mazda introduced its first rotary-powered production car (the L10A Cosmo) in 1967, many of the world’s other automakers (including giants General Motors and Mercedes-Benz) were working toward releasing their own Wankel production models. By the time the 21st century dawned, however, all but Mazda had long since abandoned the wacky little powerhouse due to its inherent efficiency, emissions and longevity bugaboos. Yet the 1.3L two-rotor unit – dubbed Renesis – that Mazda put in the RX-8 addressed some of those concerns, and made decent power, to boot (238 horsepower on manual transmission models).
But it was the RX-8 platform that really distinguished the car from not only its competitors, but also its predecessors. Strictly speaking, it’s a 2+2 sport coupe, but there are two noteworthy twists. First, because the rotary engine takes up so little space, the firewall is fairly close to the centerline of the front axle; that allowed designers to push the front seats forward, giving the two rear chairs massive (by sports car standards) legroom without having to stretch the bejeezus out of the wheelbase. The second unusual feature helped make those rear seats even more useful: A rear-hinged half-door on each side.
Sadly, the RX-8’s impressive tag team of playful driving dynamics and voluminous cockpit wasn’t enough to spare it from the chopping block at the end of 2011, with no immediate successor on the horizon. Four years later and there’s still no confirmation that Mazda will build another pistonless model, even though it seems like nary an hour goes by that a rumor of a two-seat heir to the RX-7’s throne being under development isn’t spread. But unless and until we actually see a new Wankel-powered Mazda zoom-zoom its way onto our local dealer’s lot, we’re going to call the RX-8 the last rotary-engined production automobile.
Volkswagen Golf R32
We Americans missed out on hotter-than-GTI Volkswagen Golfs like the Mk. II G60 and Rallye Golf, but VW went a long way toward making amends for those oversights by sending us the Mk. IV based Golf R32. Armed with a 240 horsepower 3.2L VR6 engine, 6-speed manual transmission, 4Motion AWD system and an independent rear suspension, the R32 was the refined Teutonic alternative to the wild child Lancer Evolution and Impreza WRX/WRX STI. Just 5,000 of these hyperactive hatchbacks were sent to the U.S., and the allocation sold out in just 13 months.
Come 2007, VW sent 5,000 Mk. V Golf R32s over here, with 10 more horsepower out of the VR6 and a 6-speed dual-clutch transmission. Regardless of which generation you pick, you’ll have an Autobahn-bred hot hatch whose values will likely stay strong ‘til the cows come home.
Toyota Supra (A80)
Even if the fourth-generation Toyota Supra (Chassis code A80.) hadn’t had a starring role in the first Fast and Furious movie in 2001, it would still be a god among the class of ‘90s Japanese sports cars. This handsome 2+2 (based on a cut-down version of the first-gen Lexus SC’s platform) might be very much a grand tourer in its base, naturally-aspirated form, but step up to the Twin-Turbo and its 320 horsepower sequentially-turbocharged version of the 3.0L 2JZ inline-six and you have a car that, while not a match for today’s mid-level sports cars, had no trouble holding its own among some pretty big names in period.
Finding a Mk. 4 Supra that hasn’t been at least mildly modified and/or thrashed is a challenge, but it’s one we expect to pay off handsomely in the long run. In the meantime, put a few miles on it and enjoy it…just don’t wail on it (even if the JZ-series engines can take obscene amounts of additional boost with little to no apparent consequence).
BMW M5 (E39)
After sticking with inline-sixes for its first two incarnations (E28 and E34), BMW M decided to upgrade the third-generation M5 to V8 power. And what a honey of a V8 it was: Dubbed the S62, this hot rod version of BMW’s M62 V8 was bored and stroked to 4.9L and fitted with such goodies as eight individual throttlebodies, variable valve timing on both the intake and exhaust cams and 11.0:1 compression. The result was 394 horsepower and 369 lb.-ft, which was sent to a mandatory 6-speed manual transmission.
Of course, that driveline wouldn’t be very special if it was wrapped up in a crappy package; thankfully, the E39 M5 was anything but. M GmbH took the already handsome and nimble 5er sedan and gave it deeper front and rear fascias, oh-so-slightly-flared fenders and quad tailpipes, the expected suspension and brake upgrades. The two subsequent evolutions of M5 are roomier, faster, more powerful and more refined, yeah, but they lack the raw, unfiltered, hair-trigger demeanor of this turn-of-the-century super sedan benchmark.
A lot of people don’t know this, but the first production Honda automobile was a truck. And the company’s first car model that was actually a car was a tiny, frantic little roadster with the soul of a superbike called the S500. Jump ahead to 1999 and Honda rolled out a successor to that car (and the S600 and S800 that followed) in the form of the S2000. Like its predecessors, the initial S2000 made its power with sky-high revs: In fact, the 2.0L F20C inline-four made 240 horsepower – a then-unheard-of 120 horsepower-per-liter – at 8,300 rpm, while the actual redline was up at 8,900 rpm!
A 2004 facelift saw a lightly updated exterior, extensively revised suspension tuning and, for North America, a 2.2L version of the F engine that made more torque at lower revs, so you didn’t have to wind the everloving snot out of it to make significant forward progress. Given the current industry-wide rush toward forced-induction and/or hybridization for performance cars, both incarnations of the S2000 (particularly the 2008 and ’09 S2000 CR, a hardcore track version of which a mere 699 were made) represent what’s fast-becoming a bygone era, which is a good indicator of future collectability.
Normally, presenting yourself with a birthday gift is rather lame. However, when Ford Motor Company decided to do something nice for itself on the occasion of its centennial in 2003, it decided to pay tribute to its legendary Ferrari-stomping racecar of the 1960s, the GT40. The production model that arrived in 2004 as a 2005 model wore the name “Ford GT” because Ford and the company that had acquired the rights to the GT40 moniker weren’t able to work out a licensing arrangement, but its appearance inside and out stayed quite true to the GT40 Concept that premiered in 2002, which in turn was remarkably faithful to the GT40 Mark II that debuted in 1966.
With drive from a supercharged 5.4L V8 generating 550 horsepower and matched to a 6-speed manual transmission, the GT was more than a match for whatever the European junior supercar establishment could throw at it at the time. Plus, the GT had the added bonus of looking insanely cool, particularly if ordered with a retro body-and-stripe color combo or the Heritage Edition with its Gulf Oil inspired light blue and orange scheme. Alas, just 4,038 were produced over the course of the two model year run, making it the rarest car on this list and, along with its intrinsic desirability, driving recent sale prices over double what their original sticker prices were. We’re curious to see what impact the radical new 2017 GT (which will dump slavishly-retro looks and V8/standard shift brute force for futuristic functional aerodynamics and a turbo V6/dual-clutch transmission combo) will have on the value of these beasties…