Some short-sighted prognosticators in the classic car world have gone on record as saying that nothing built post-1972 will ever be collectible, but the unmistakable popularity of 1980s and 1990s cars in the market has illustrated the fallacy of that statement. Here are 10 up-and-comers to consider:
1. 1984-89 Toyota 4Runner
Legend has it that the first-generation Toyota 4Runner came about as a way to avoid the infamous “chicken tax” that levied a 25 percent duty on all imported goods, from brandy to light trucks. Put a shell over the bed of a Toyota light pickup, install some seats in the bed and voila — a passenger vehicle. These days, the quirky 4Runner seems to be the off-road Toyota of choice for entry-level collectors now that they’re priced out of the FJ40 Land Cruiser market.
2. 1990-96 Nissan 300ZX
Trolls will continuously spout the nonsense that the rot irretrievably set in for Nissan sports cars the day the last S30 (280/260/280Z) rolled off the line. And while Z-cars did get progressively more luxurious as time went on and Turbo models of the 280ZX and Z31 300ZX had some merit, the Z32 model that was introduced in the U.S. in 1990 was a brilliant car. Two-seater, 2+2 or convertible, they were all gorgeous and handled well. They’re still a great deal, but likely not for long.
3. 1992-95 Porsche 968
Those looking for up-and-comers in the air-cooled Porsche world will find little. The train has left the station for the 911, 912 and 914, so it’s the water-cooled cars that savvy buyers are looking hard at now. The 968 is the much more scarce successor to the 944. With a massive 3.0-liter four-cylinder engine and variable valve timing, the 968 was no slouch in a straight line and one of the best balanced and sweetest handling Porsches of all time. Fewer than 13,000 were built with just under 4,700 coming to the U.S.
4. 1992-2001 Mercedes SL600
The R129 SL had the unenviable task of replacing the much-loved R107 series, which ran from 1971-89. At least Mercedes didn’t bring a knife to a gunfight. The 6.0-liter V-12 model was added to the range in its third model year. With just shy of 400 hp, it was light years ahead of any previous SL performance-wise. R129 SLs are now showing up at auctions, a sure sign that they’re hitting the radar of collectors.
5. 1995-99 BMW M3
The E36 M3 spelled the end for the edgy four-cylinder M3. The smooth BMW straight-six in the new M3 put out just shy of 250 hp in U.S. spec and was a wonderfully balanced handler. E36 M3s were offered in coupe, sedan and convertible body styles. Bright throwback colors like Techno Violet, Dakar Yellow and Estoril Blue are particularly sought-after but prices have yet to skyrocket for any but the rare 1995 lightweight model.
6. 1981-93 Ferrari Mondial
The Mondial has been the perennial underdog Ferrari along with the V-12 400i/412. Both are having the last laugh, but Mondial prices in particular have been climbing. Offered in 2+2 coupe and convertible body styles, the Mondial shares the revvy 308/328 flat-plane crank V-8 with all of the visceral thrills that entails. Striking Pininfarina looks, decent reliability, Ferrari sounds and room in back for the kids? What’s not to like?
7. 1992-95 Volkswagen Corrado VR6
Looking a bit like a grown-up MK I Scirocco, the Corrado VR6 was regarded as a legitimate cult classic before it even left production. While a front-driver, its handling can’t be faulted and the narrow-angle V-6 addresses the shortcomings of every sporting VW that came before it. Good ones are rare indeed and worth keeping.
8. 1998-2006 Audi TT MKI
The first-generation TT is a sure-fire emerging classic. With unmistakable styling courtesy of Freeman Thomas, it’s reminiscent of a 1950s Porsche 356 in some ways. The Bauhaus-like interior is a design freak’s dream as is the optional baseball glove interior. Now is the time to snap up a V-6 Quattro coupe.
9. 1971-76 Cadillac Coupe de Ville
Chalk this one up to the perennial favorite status of Martin Scorsese films, but the full-size Cadillac de Ville of the early to mid-1970s is gaining in popularity with Gen-Xers in both the U.S. and of all places, Sweden.
10. 1982-92 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am
“Smokey and the Bandit”-era T/As are now sought-after collectibles. Waiting in the wings are the “Knight Rider”-era third-generation cars. With the generation who grew up glued to the TV to see what the Hoff and KITT were up to now coming in to some disposable income, it’s only a matter of time before these cars see a serious increase in value.