Classic car insurance company Hagerty has spent the last few years expanding its brand, which now includes editorial content and commentary on the value of old cars. This week it released a list of “10 collector cars (and one bike) on the rise [in 2020],” and I have Opinions. I’m sure you do too. Let’s talk.
Hagerty seems to have a good crop of data and research into the classic car market, so as it stands, it’s probably one of the better arbiters of this realm. If you check out the article the site so nicely illustrated with original photographs, you’ll also see a neat infographic on valuations which is quite nice.
That said, generally speaking, cars are objectively weak investments. Even if you buy something cheap and it’s worth more than you paid years later, your odds of making money against inflation, maintenance, storage, and other ancillary automotive costs are slim. Usually, you’re better off parking money in a conservative stock market play.
But stocks are boring, and cars are cool, so I totally understand the desire to figure out which cars are likely to appreciate. If nothing else, getting a car that “increases in value” can relieve the financial burden of old-car ownership somewhat.
There’s also one more factor to keep in mind when considering lists like this: the difference between what’s a good car for the money and what’s a true appreciating classic. They’re not always the same thing.
With that out of the way, here’s Hagerty’s list accompanied by my commentary:
Early Dodge Viper GTS
Hagerty says: “Generation Xers and millennials are now 64 percent of the quotes on this car. The Viper has a reputation for being crude and uncompromising, but it’s a driver’s car and a visceral experience. The outlandish design has aged well, and attrition has worked in the Viper’s favor, meaning there aren’t a lot of good ones left. The early cars are now seen as desirable.”
I reckon: Worthy of any car collection based on the look alone, especially in the poster colorway, which of course is blue-with-white-stripes. If you want one, and can afford it, go for it, because I do believe good ones are likely to get much more expensive the next time they trade hands. If you want one and you’re cheap, soft top RT/10s will stay cheap because their look hasn’t aged nearly as well.
Hagerty says: “This car appeals equally to all age groups. With #2 cars going for $6500, it’s a cheaper entry point than a GTI of the same vintage but more rare. Our insurance quotes are up 25 percent on this car from 2018, so the interest is burgeoning.”
I reckon: A cool and uniquely styled car, but I don’t see a lot of collectibility appeal here outside the orbit of VW nerds. There are just too many alternatives that are better to drive and easier to look after for the sweat you’d have to spend to maintain one of these.
Hagerty says: “More of these cars are coming off normal insurance policies and onto Hagerty policies, the number rising 211 percent in the past three years. Which means they’re gaining more of a reputation as an enthusiast or collectible car rather than a used exotic. The design has aged well and looks elegant in a way a lot of cars from that era don’t. The F1 transmissions were more common, but the gated shifter is what collectors want.”
I reckon: It’s going to be a very long time before these are legitimately “collectible.” If you’ve got the stacks for, say, a new Porsche 911 but want something different, you might see prices for these and find your eyebrow moving up, though.
I happen to think the Ferrari 360 is a very handsome car, but its quintessentially aughties styling is currently in the awkward too-new-to-be-classic, too-old-to-be-fresh adolescence. That’s why they’re relatively inexpensive right now. But taking care a car like this is going to be an arduous and pricey process, and frankly, I doubt many will find the driving experience captivating enough to justify it.
Hagerty Says: “The vintage-SUV craze has been going strong for eight years, but Scouts haven’t really popped yet like FJ40s, Broncos, and Blazers have. Most Scouts rotted away, but you’re starting to see them being restored. Gen X is 56 percent of the quotes, and if Gen X likes it, the values are going to go up.”
I reckon: Ho boy, you’ve come to the wrong neighborhood, friend. Stay the hell away from my Scouts. Hah, kidding, of course. As many readers know, I do own one of these, and I consider myself active in the “Scout scene,” such as it is.
I agree with Hagerty’s assessment in that Scouts kind of are the “last affordable classic 4x4s” in America. The reasons for that are twofold: Foremost, International Harvester doesn’t have the name recognition of Ford or Toyota, so most people just don’t know what the hell they’re looking at. Second, and this is a harder pill to swallow for Scout fans, but on the real, Scouts are cheaper than other old trucks because they’re objectively inferior.
Scouts weren’t as well-made or as well-received as Broncos and FJ40s in the 1970s. That’s no small part of why IH stopped selling SUVs altogether in 1980 and the other two still have successors in 2019.
But, since most classic SUVs (including mine) have long since retired from wheeling and now are just on beach cruising duty, that doesn’t matter as much. I like the fact that I can often fix and accessorize my Scout with parts from Home Depot, but some people have been stuffing modern LS V8s under their hoods and other modern perversions like climate control and leather.
All that to say, people who have them are either keeping them and using them or creating overrestored mall crawlers. So, yeah, if you want a nice and relatively original one, good luck.
Honda CRX Si
Hagerty says: “These filled every high-school parking lot in the 1990s, and millennials are now 60 percent of the quotes. One of the first front-wheel-drive sporting Japanese cars to get widespread recognition from enthusiasts, it is symbolic of the golden age of Honda, quick and go-kart-like and able to make any drive fun.”
I reckon: They’re cool, but, only if priced appropriately. Spending $10,000 on a CRX is bonkers to me. The fun of these cars is modifying them and driving them hard. As a result, few clean ones are left, and they’re valuable. But what good is a clean CRX if you’re going to treat it as an artifact? It’s a bit of a paradox.
Acura Integra Type R
Hagerty says: “Although front-drive is generally shunned, the Type R is widely considered the best-handling front-driver of all time. Huge with millennials; half the quotes are from them. Type Rs are super rare and hard to find in good shape and only newly added to our price guide because three years ago sales were scant.”
I reckon: The ship on these has sailed, there are zero (0) left for sale that are appropriately priced. You’d be better off buying a GSR (which has a very similar B18 engine) for way, way less money or even a non-VTEC car for a few grand and just enjoying it. Clean versions of those are hard, but not impossible, to find.
Spending “$40,700 to $51,200,” Hagerty’s valuation on Integra Type Rs, is just preposterous. Get a new Civic Type R instead.
Jeep Cherokee XJ
Hagerty says: “A relative bargain compared with other legit SUVs of its era such as the FJ60 Land Cruiser. Everyone loves a Jeep, and this one has classically rugged good looks in a reasonably sized package with tons of aftermarket support. Definitely appeals more to younger buyers than the same-vintage Ford Explorer.”
I reckon: A cool SUV for sure, and a casual perusal of classified ads confirms that good ones are somewhat pricey these days. But these were made in vast enough quantities that I don’t think you have to be in a huge rush to snatch one up.
BMW M Roadster
Hagerty says: “M cars are way up, but the M roadster was overlooked for a long time because it looks so much like a regular Z3. They are getting their due now. The coupe has already popped, and the roadster values are up 22 percent on the later 315-hp cars and 31 percent (starting from a lower value) on the earlier 240-hp cars. Yet good M roadsters are still half the price of good M coupes.”
I reckon: A good car for the money, for sure; a future collector’s item, not so much. The (in)famous “Clownshoe” coupes are coveted for their weirdness, the Z3 and M Roadster droptop will forever suffer from the stigma of being also-rans more made for cruising than real driving performance.
That said, the design of these has aged nicely.
Hagerty says: “Only the third street car Porsche ever designed is still the cheapest way to get into a vintage Porsche, and the 914 is being reevaluated for its great handling and affordability. The VW association that once tarnished it carries less of a knock now among younger buyers.”
I reckon: If you’re so high on air-cooled Porsche hype that you absolutely, positively have to spend money on one, I guess, you could find what you’re looking for here. Otherwise, the 914 doesn’t deserve any more cache than the Fiero or X1/9. (Sorry.)
Range Rover Classic
Hagerty says: “This is a vehicle that appeals to millennials and Gen Xers, and it’s affordable because it’s known to be troublesome. The brand’s current success gets people to look back at the catalog of past vehicles, and this one established a lot of the design cues that guide Land Rover now and have been copied by other manufacturers.”
I reckon: People have been calling these “future classics” since they were new. But, actually. The 1995 model was branded as the Range Rover Classic by Land Rover itself, as it was briefly sold alongside the then-new P38.
OG Rangies look cool and it’s a lot of truck for the money, but between the significant quantities that were built and their even more significant maintenance costs, I wouldn’t rush into buying one as an investment. I would buy one, though. They will never go out of style.