There’s more to becoming a “classic car” than just getting old. And even though today’s vehicles might not seem as regal and timeless as ones from decades past, you better believe we’ll be looking back longingly at some modern machines someday. Here are some of our current favorites.
Welcome to Jalopnik Favorites, where we name all the stuff that deserves a big fat gold star. To qualify for this list we tried to focus on cars that were sold new within approximately the last five years and that, we think, will be looked back on fondly in the future.
In trying to figure out what we drive today that will be considered a classic down the road, just look at what old stuff seems cool now.
Some key factors seem to be: limited-run variants of mass-market mainstream cars, cars that have some quality quintessential of the era they’re built in, and cars that have features that, for whatever reason, just don’t stick around. Timeless or extremely dated design seems to be significant, too.
With all that in mind, here are some of the late-model vehicles we think will be interesting in a few decades.
Did we miss anything? That’s what the comment section is for.
“What the hell,” you’re thinking. “Does that thing even still exist?” Exactly. And, actually, no.
For those who are still confused: TRD Pro is Toyota’s lowkey off-road performance line that includes variants of the Tacoma, 4Runner and, until recently, the Tundra. It’s basically a mild-suspension-and-decoration package that looks kind of cool and costs a lot of money. Toyota quietly laid the Tundra TRD Pro to rest for the 2018 model year, which would indicate that nobody was buying them.
I can’t say I’m hugely shocked that the vehicle was unpopular. The Ford Raptor is an objectively superior off-road machine at a similar price point, and its more relevant rival, the Ram Rebel, is cheaper.
But! This truck is posting up to be a treasure in the future for a few key reasons: Mostly, it’s a limited-run oddity from a mainstream manufacturer, which is the primary ingredient in a future-classic recipe. But the design is also pretty timeless, as evidenced by the fact that its shape is still sharp 10 years after its introduction.
It’s also technologically simplistic, runs a big honking V8 with a center-console shifter, and has a great sound. I might even argue it’s one of the most ’Murican feeling modern half-ton trucks, in spite of the Japanese nameplate on the grille. And seriously, a Toyota 5.7 with a TRD Pro pipe is one of the most under-appreciated and ultra-excellent notes out there.
As long as you keep yours stock, I think Tundra TRD Pros will hold their value and become objects of interest for the few people who know what they’re looking for in the future.
-Andrew P. Collins
I’m all for the democratization of power we’ve seen with cars like the updated Ford Mustang and Chevrolet Camaro. It’s now cheaper and easier to get an insanely powerful car than it’s been in decades—probably ever. But it’s gotten to the point where horsepower is almost too easy, too common. What isn’t common is lightness, tossability and pure fun.
The Ford Fiesta ST delivers all these things in a hilariously cheap package. Smaller than all the other hot hatches, but also lighter, its 197 horsepower turbo engine and manual gearbox are more than enough to turn an everyday drive into a total laugh riot. It isn’t the most powerful or fastest car you can buy, or the most luxurious, but it’s easily one of the most fun.
When I reviewed the Fiesta ST back in 2014, I predicted future ones would get bigger and fatter, and that if you get one now, “one day, when we’re talking about how much we miss this car, you can say ‘I had one of those and it was the best.’” The future of the Fiesta in America doesn’t look great. This is probably all we’ll ever get of the tiny ST experience. Enjoy it while you can, or pick one up now and keep it forever. I know I’m tempted to.
I remember the first time I laid eyes on a Jaguar F-Type. I can’t remember exactly where I was, but I do clearly recall that my exact words were, “Holy fuck.” In fact, those are still my words when I see an F-Type today. Any car that can involuntarily stop someone in their tracks like that is a future classic in my book.
But moving away from its looks, which are striking, we have the sound. You can’t write or talk about the F-Type, V8 or V6, without mentioning the sound. Who, even when the F-Type was new, was supercharging their engines instead of turbocharging them? Only a handful. Who’s doing that now? Even fewer.
As engines move more and more towards turbocharging and hybridization, sound will be the first casualty. And a filthy, guttural V8 exhaust note with an accompanying crackling controlled misfire? Igniting extra gas just because it sounds rad? If I was a betting woman, I’d wager that we’re on our last leg of things like this. Sad, but true.
It’s tough to say which F-Type will be the more sought-after one: the V6 with a manual or the supercharged 5.0-liter eight with the automatic transmission. Both are awesome in their own rights and if the F-Type does indeed ever go hybrid, that would be just fine.
But these snarling and snapping visceral cars? They won’t be easily forgotten.
In the case that Elon Musk disappears one day with a note left on his desk “Tesla is for losers see you on Mars” and launches himself into space, it’s easy to imagine the company spinning off into something unlike its current form. Maybe it’d get rolled into Mercedes or Toyota or Mitsubishi. Hey! It could happen.
As it were, should any of that occur, or even Tesla simply progresses as a company into a more mature form, its early days will look hilariously wildcat.
Look at the X. It’s a giant space egg that dances and has flappy wings. No way this is not a collectible, whether or not Musk goes to Mars.
Imagine a day when most of Fiat Chrysler’s vehicles are being shuttled around by fancy computers powered by Google with no style and no passion—just cold and efficient transportation. Then someone tells you about a time before the machines took over, when the only thing that mattered to a MOPAR engineer was shoving the biggest engine they could into a car. Sure, people will talk about the Challenger Hellcats and Demons. But those were one-trick ponies, overweight muscle cars built for straight line speed. Only one car was built to conquer the track with over 600 HP and a massive naturally aspirated V10: the Viper.
I have to believe that in the future, people will still want to race cars powered by pistons. Some way, somehow. We’ll look back and talk about the old timers who said “there was no replacement for displacement.” That was the ethos of the Viper: big motor, big tires and the only way to harness all that energy was through a six-speed manual transmission. While the Viper didn’t sell well during its time, it’s a car that will be coveted later by speed freaks looking for something raw.
The Corvette may be “America’s sports car,” to me it will never shake the yoke of being the vehicle of choice for a middle-aged man staring in a Cialis commercial. The Viper was far more extreme, even to its detriment, but the snakes that survive will be held in high regard.
There’s no way in hell it’s not a future classic—I’d bet money on it. Just look at the 4C from any angle, and the stunning lines alone will have you convinced that this thing will command some serious coin at high-roller auctions of the future.
Add the featherweight carbon fiber chassis, magnificent sounding 1.75-liter turbo inline-four, dual-clutch transmission with paddle shifters, and manual steering, and you realize that Alfa’s little sports car is not only one of the sexiest cars on the road, but also one of the best driver’s cars.
Don’t take my word for it, though. My boss Patrick got some time behind the wheel of the 4C back in 2015, and in his review titled “The Alfa Romeo 4C Shames Every Other Sports Car On The Market,” he said the 4C may be the “the purest, most unapologetic, stripped-out enthusiast sports car you can get in America right now,” and that it “puts other sports cars to shame the way Random Access Memories did to other musical acts when it came out.”
I guess you could say I *foresee* this car becoming quite the collectable.
The Fiat 500 Abarth serves up the same heady mixture as virtually every car on this list, save for maybe the F-Type. It’s awesome and visceral and great and delightful, but for some reason, it’s not broadly loved. Like almost all the others, it’s got a deck stacked against it.
The Fiesta ST and TRD Pro are oddball performance lines, lost in huge model and nameplate lineups. The Tesla Model X is an electric minivan that you can spec-up to a very-worth-it $160,000. The Alfa 4C and the Viper are not actually cars, and by that definition alone probably shouldn’t even be on this list.
But these cars are indeed all rare greats. Only the people that really know have one, and if you don’t, then you don’t.
The 500 Abarth is just like that. From a returning manufacturer that originally turned tail with a reputation for unreliability. With a silly performance name that virtually no one remembered. A small car in a market where gas just got cheap again. Only available with a five-speed manual, a transmission Americans hate, in the first few years of its life. With an interior dating back a decade. And no matter how you slice it, it’s slow.
But all that is what makes it truly one of the best cars of our time. People scared off by ethereal ghosts of Italian-car eras past stuck to their Minis, because those were BMWs, and German cars are good, except when they are neither German nor good. If you’re one of the cognoscente who recognizes Abarth, then you know its storied competition pedigree. It’s not a huge, lumbering beast, so it can dart in and out of traffic, and never leave you without a parking spot. That manual transmission is so flawed that it’s come around again to being an absolute treasure (but don’t get me started on the automatic – that’s a horrible piece of trash that deserves to die). That interior’s got timeless style.
And no matter how you slice it, it’s one of the few cars built today that truly gives you joy. It takes slow-car-fast to its logical conclusion, and shouts and bellows and barks at you until you can’t help but grin.
One day, I’ll take mine in blue.
- Michael Ballaban
Upon surveying the vast Porsche 968-less wasteland that is recent cars, there is but one excellent vehicle that stands out the most: the last of the flat-six Porsche Caymans. You should buy one. I should buy one. We’d all be stupid not to, really.
Before the turbopocalypse, Porsche’s best car was not its flagship 991-generation 911. The 991 had been saddled with a number electric steering rack and puffier proportions. Meanwhile, the smaller, prettier two-seat hardtop 981-generation Cayman was as close to car perfection as it got. The 981 generation was the last one to come with a lovely sounding, butter-smooth naturally aspirated flat-six engine and neutral, chuckable handling characteristics that reminded me of my Porsche 944.
I even drove GTS trims of the Cayman and the 911 back to back at Porsche’s Camp4 winter driving school. The 911 was okay, but the Cayman was spectacular, and absolutely the Porsche I needed.
Porsche couldn’t have this. They neutered the Boxster and Cayman in the 982 generation of these cars with a turbocharged four-cylinder engine, the likes of which will never be as smooth or nice as the outgoing flat-six. If you want a flat six in a new Porsche, you’ll now have to buy a 911. That’s right: the flat-six Cayman was simply too good for this world.
It’s not worth listing the Cayman GT4 on this list as those are already collectors’ cars, destined to be hoarded by a select few rich track rats and some sad, unworthy individuals who aren’t driving them enough. The regular Caymans are the ones you need to keep an eye on in the future.
You’ll probably want the 981 generation if you buy a used Cayman anyway, as earliest models were plagued with major engine-grenading problems, most infamously due to a bad intermediate shaft bearing design in the pre-2009 cars. But the 981 seems well-sorted so far, and there’s no doubt in my mind that even the base 981 will be a future classic. It’s a car that demands nods of approval by sheer merit of being Porsche’s last mid-engine flat-six sports car.