Coulda, woulda, shoulda is a popular refrain among those who watch televised auctions like Barrett-Jackson and Mecum. Those of a certain age can remember when million dollar-plus Hemi ‘Cudas were $3K used cars. The kicking of one’s self multiplied by 500,000 or so backsides when one of these cars crosses the auction block on prime-time TV registers on seismographs. Is it too late? Are all of the good ones mega valuable already? Probably not. Here are five performance cars all built within the last 20 years that have a fair shot a big-time appreciation.
- 2002 Pontiac Trans Am Firehawk: Sadly, the beloved Trans Am kicked the bucket (along with the Camaro) in the 2002 model year. And while the Camaro is back with us, the Firebird Trans Am is homeless, given that Pontiac expired in 2009. At least the T/A went out with a bang rather than a whimper. The ’02 Firehawk had a whopping 345 hp and was produced in very small numbers. That end-of-the-line status combined with rarity and high performance should prove intoxicating to future collectors. Its current price of approximately 20 grand will seem like a gift 20 years from now.
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- 2000 Mustang Cobra R: Overshadowed by the Shelby Mustangs built on the latest generation (2005-present) Mustang, the 2000 Cobra R has yet to be surpassed in many ways. For example, unlike the newer Mustangs, it sports an actual independent rear suspension that makes the car corner nearly as well as its 385 hp quad cam V-8 will propel it in a straight line, and real attention was paid to making it lighter in weight. Only 300 units where built —all with side exhaust — and in the tradition of cars like the L-88 Corvette, it totally lacked street amenities like A/C and even a radio. Already starting to appreciate in value at around $40,000, when these are $250,000 cars, don’t say we didn’t give you a head’s up.
- 1993 Mustang Cobra R: Sort of the bookend to the 2000 Cobra R, the ’93 was built in far different times. The automotive performance recovery was just starting to solidify after the end of the malaise era (1973-87) when the ’93 Cobra R was introduced. Like the 2000 Cobra R, it was race-oriented and came without radio, A/C and — most importantly —without a warranty. Just 107 were built, and it’s a sure bet that a good number of those got soundly thrashed back in the day. Survivors in good condition are excruciatingly rare.
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- 1993-96 Mazda RX-7: The last generation of the RX-7 was a twin-turbocharged, lightweight and gorgeous sports car. For a number of reasons — not the least of which was the fact that the target market couldn’t afford the insurance — the car never sold in large numbers in the U.S. Vintage Japanese cars are currently a hot little niche in the collector car world. Cars like the RX-7 and the next one on this list will be among the most desirable future collectibles.
- 1993-98 Toyota Supra Twin Turbo: A bit bigger and heavier than the RX-7, the last iteration of the Supra to date showed that when it was so inclined, Toyota could compete with nearly anyone on the planet in building kick-ass, ultra high performance GTs. Capable of 0-60 in less than five seconds and with world class brakes to haul it down, the big Supra is revered by the “Fast and Furious” crowd. It’s already the Holy Grail of Japanese performance cars of its era and, sadly, this has led to the demise of many examples — too much car for inexperienced drivers of limited judgment. The sky is the limit for future appreciation.