…They may not be what you’d expect.
A 1974 Chevrolet Impala advertisement once pointed out “If a car isn’t popular new, it won’t be popular used”. To make their point, behind the ’74 Impala sits a 1957 Bel Air hardtop coupe, one of the most well-known collectible cars in the world today. Point taken.
Considering 1957 Chevrolet Bel Airs were once as commonplace and unappreciated as Toyota Camrys are today, few in the 1950s or ’60s would have imagined that certain trim levels of Bel Airs would command six figures at auctions today. As recent as 1976, an episode of Charlie’s Angels has a demolition derby scene with a ’57 Bel Air coupe being bashed up. Almost unthinkable by today’s standards.
Why are some cars are so valued while others are forgotten and discarded? A difficult question to answer, but one consistency can be found across cars of all vintages, brands, price level, horsepower ratings, and target markets. Vehicles that have held their value best (sometimes going on to become pricy collectibles) all had a high percentage of car enthusiasts, gearheads, and even racers that owned them during the car’s first ten years on the road.
“Halo” versions of everyday, popular models with engines powerful enough to imbue a new subset model with a character all its own have also done well historically. For example, the majority of 1970 Plymouth Barracudas were sold with wheezy, six-cylinder engines. Most of them were forsaken over the years and have returned to the earth, while “Cuda” versions equipped with the most rare and powerful V8 engines have soldered on, survived and been restored to sell for six figures. Because car enthusiasts, gearheads, and racers valued these ‘Cuda variations and kept them one step away from the grave all along. Secretaries and librarians who bought the 6-cylinders did not. Similarly, the percentage rate of survival for 1970s Mercedes 450SEL 6.9s is much higher than identical-looking 280SELs. Or for 1988-1991 Honda CRX Si versus CRX Hf models.
By these standards, here are some top “halo” model picks from popular, affordable cars over the last ten years that are sure to hold their value. Whether you buy any of these new or used, if kept clean, original, in good repair and without an excess of miles one will never have a problem finding eager buyers willing to pay a good price. And in 2039, an above average chance of drawing big bucks as collector cars. It’s a given Ferraris, Porsches, Corvettes, Aston-Martin and other pricy exotics will be collectible, but those have been left off this list which seeks to focus on cars most of us can afford.
THE LIST – IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER BY MAKE:
AUDI S4 (2003-2008) and RS4 (2007-2008) 4-door sedans / 2-door convertibles.
Based on the 2002-08 Audi A4 compact sedan, these both share the same body panels but feature a 4.2-liter V8 engine shoehorned under the hood instead of four or six-cylinder mills. In S4 models, the V8 is tuned for 344 horsepower/302 pounds torque), and in RS4s, it produces 414 horsepower/317 pounds torque). S4s feature all-wheel-drive, lowered suspensions and 18 inch wheels standard. RS4s add 19-inch wheels, Brembo eight piston brake calipers, ceramic front brake rotors (optional), hydraulic dampers to prevent body roll, and an even lower ride height. Free flowing exhaust systems allow the V8 to produce a muscle car rumble akin to a ’69 Camaro crossed with a Ferrari.
Especially of note: S4 convertibles, and RS4 convertible (2008 in US only).
To watch an ’07 RS4 commercial, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1rA8zw30pk&feature=related
AUDI S5 two-door coupe (2008 – 2012)
The S5 coupe is powered by the same 4.2-liter V8 engine as the S4 above, and will always appeal to car enthusiasts for the same attributes. The S5 convertible introduced in 2010 is powered by a supercharged V6 engine only, and is not included on this list.
For 2013 the S5 coupe will give up its V8 for the supercharged V6 – an engine that will not be in demand as the increasingly rare V8 will be and will not be as collectible long term. An RS5 coupe with the 4.2 V8 was introduced in Europe for 2010. Audi may import it to the United States but in lower numbers and at a higher cost.
For an A5 short promotional video, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSgF-d1vKTo&feature=related
BMW M3 coupe / sedan / convertible (2008 – present)
The first (and last) M3 to feature a V8 engine is a textbook “halo version” of the base 3-series introduced as an ’06 model. Base six-cylinder engines are swapped out for a V8 producing 414 horsepower and 295 foot-pounds of torque. Suspensions, steering, and brakes are all beefed up for racing level performance as well. A Formula One style direct shift clutchless manual transmission is optional. 2012 will be the last year of the current body style M3. Because the next generation will not feature a V8, current ones will be greatly valued as future M3 versions turn back to smaller six-cylinder engines with less character and musclecar feel.
To see a 2008 BMW M3 commercial, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DiXuqVaIYEU&feature=related
BMW Z3 two-seater convertible (1996 – 2002)
For Z3 pictures and ads, see the slideshow further down. To watch a Z3 commercial, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-D3a49yjevA&feature=related
Introduced as a 1996 model with a 1.9-liter four cylinder engine, the Z3 was inspired by the 1990 Mazda Miata. A 189 horsepower 6-cylinder engine was quickly added for the ’97 model year, and an “M” version added a more powerful 6-cylinder for 1998. From 1999-02, a smaller 2.5 liter 6-cylinder replaced the four as standard, and 2001-02 models received a bump in displacement from 2.8 to 3.0 liters.
With lower production numbers, good examples of the Z3 are already hard to come by. Its compact size along with six-cylinder power will always give it a special appeal to fans of classic European sports cars that the more common Mazda Miata or the larger Z4 that replaced it don’t have.
CHRYSLER P.T. CRUISER 5-doors (2001-2010), Especially Turbo models
For PT Cruiser pictures and ads, see the slideshow at end of article. To view an ’08 PT commercial, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrTa_HW0oCs&feature=related
While its styling may not appeal to everyone, very few car models two years out of production sell for more than they did new (check the internet to see what some final-year ’10 models are selling for). Drawing fans male and female alike across generations, the PT has many fan clubs and owners that customize their cars’ appearance in the vein of 1940s and ‘50s hot rods. PT Cruiser two door convertibles were sold in low numbers as 2005-08 models, but will likely not be as good an investment as they age due to their “chick car” image.
2003-06 “GT Cruiser” Turbo models with high-pressure turbo 4-cylinder engines (215 hp for 2003-05, 230 hp for ’06) will make the best investments – especially if equipped with the 5-speed manual. In addition, a less powerful 180 horsepower engine was available for 2004-09 on some trim levels.
CHRYSLER CORPORATION SRT8 MODELS (2006-present)
Five separate models are being grouped together here because while they differ in appearance, their classic musclecar appeal is equally universal. The Chrysler 300 SRT8 (2006-10), Dodge Charger SRT8 (2006-10), Dodge Magnum SRT8 wagon (2006-08), Dodge Challenger SRT8 coupe (2008-present), and Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 (2006-2010) all feature a larger-than-standard (6.1 liter) “Hemi” V8 engine producing 425 horsepower. And represent the best of what developed from the ten-year merger between Chrysler and Mercedes-Benz.
Running gear, transmissions, suspension components, as well as a wealth of smaller parts were all borrowed unchanged from previous Mercedes-Benz production cars, and beefed up for high performance in SRT8s. Wheels are all 20-inchers, and transmissions are all 5-speed automatics (except for the Challenger SRT8 which is available with 6-speed manual). With exception of the Grand Cherokee SRT8’s all-wheel-drive, all other SRT8s are driven by their rear wheels only. While SRTs took a year off when the 300, Charger, and Grand Cherokee were redesigned for 2011, they are back for 2012.
Challenger SRT8s debuted in the middle of the ’08 model year. All of the limited run of 4,500 ’08 Challengers were built as SRT8s with automatic transmissions only. Base V6 / V8 models and stick shifts debuted later as ’09 models.
These truly are classic American muscle cars with German refinement…and their uniqueness will always keep them in the highest demand. For pictures and print ads, see the slide show at the end of the article. For links to commercials, see below:
Dodge Challenger SRT8 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOukB0_5sEs
Chrysler 300SRT8 promo video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wTipbMsLe2o&feature=related
Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8 commercial http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvmE_B3xzSs
FORD MUSTANG SHELBY GT500 (2007 – present)
While V8 Mustang GTs are plentiful and appealing, they will probably never have the “gotta-have” desirability of the GT500 version. Designated “GT500” for the 500 horsepower rating of its 5.4-liter supercharged V8 engine the year it was introduced, it sports 0-60 times matching exotic sports cars.
A 2008-09 GT500 “KR” Edition (standing for King of the Road) pays homage to the ’68 Shelby Mustang KR, and featured the same engine tuned up to 540 horsepower. With a lightweight carbon fiber hood, lighter exhaust system and sportier suspension components the KR is practically a track-ready racecar that can be driven every day. GT500s have low production numbers, so the cost of owning one will be handsomely returned upon selling.
For 2010, Mustangs were given slightly revised exteriors and improved fit and finish inside. The six-speed manual was beefed up with larger clutch discs for improved noise, vibration and harshness. 2011 models feature engine blocks made of aluminum rather than iron for weight saving, and lower-friction cylinder liners brought the standard engine up to 540 horsepower. 2012 models received a large power upgrade to 650 horsepower.
For GT500 pictures, see the slideshow at the end of this article. To view a commercial, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6a5p4KxvujQ
HONDA S2000 2-seat convertible (2000-2009), especially ’08 Club Racer Edition
Created to celebrate the company’s 50th anniversary, the S2000 was named for its engine displacement of 2.0 liters. As well, it paid tribute to 1960s Honda two-seat convertibles sold in Japan before Honda entered the U.S. market. Unlike all other Hondas sold in the United States, the S2000 featured rear-wheel-drive and a lightweight aluminum engine mounted completely behind the front axle line. The end result was a rare 50/50 front-to-rear weight distribution that’s ideal for handling and driving fun.
A power soft top was standard on all years and the car remained basically unchanged during its ten-year production run, with a few minor updates. For ’02, plastic rear windows were replaced with heated glass and taillights were revised. For ’04, 17-inch wheels replaced 16-inch wheels and engine size actually increased to 2.1 liters. ’06 introduced electronic throttle, stability control and new wheels. ’08 introduced a “Club Racer” model geared towards performance driving. Lighter weight was achieved through decontented interiors, tighter ratio steering, stiffer suspension and rear trunk wing. All Club Racer editions featured yellow and black cloth interiors.
If for no other reason, the S2000 will make an excellent investment for any duration due to its handsome design, fun-to-drive engineering, reliability, and strong appeal to Honda enthusiasts because of its unique rear-wheel-drive layout.
For S2000 pictures and print advertisements, see the slide show below. To view a S2000 commercial, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yiFoeosCEQI&feature=related
LAND ROVER DISCOVERY five-door sport utility (1999-2004)
Sport utilities don’t usually rank among vehicles most likely to be collectible, but the Discovery may be an exception. For full details along with pictures and advertisements, see link to article http://www.examiner.com/classic-cars-in-newark/a-look-back-at-the-1999-2004-land-rover-discovery-a-modern-classic. To view an ‘03 Discovery commercial see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfOpDI3IK8Q&feature=related
LEXUS IS-F four door sedan / two door convertible (2008 – present)
The IS-F is a high performance version of the compact IS250 and IS300 sedans, designed to compete with Mercedes AMGs, BMW M3s, Cadillac CTS-Vs, and Audi S4/RS4s. Like those other makes, the Lexus “F” version features a V8 engine (5.0 liters, 416 horsepower) driving the rear wheels along with a lowered suspension. Modern “direct” fuel injection is used to rival the most advanced engineering from Germany, along with an electric steering rack, and 8-speed clutchless manual transmission. The IS will be valued for its unique balance of good looks, handling and inherent contradiction of being a Japanese V8 muscle car.
For IS-F pictures, see slide show at bottom of article. To view an IS-F commercial, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nb2Fn-xoIrw
MERCEDES-BENZ E55, CLK55 AND SLK55 AMG MODELS
AMG signifies the branch of Mercedes devoted strictly to high performance. Uniquely powerful engines, sportier suspensions, spoiler kits and hot-rod wheels spice up run-of-the-mill Benz models of all body types and sizes. As often is the case, earlier versions are simpler and tend to be appreciated as “more pure”. Plus they’re the most affordable at this point. For that reason this list focuses on lower-range AMGs with the 5.5-liter V8 engine…before they were replaced with a 6.3-liter V8 for ’07…
E55 AMG sedan (1999-2006). 1999-2002 models featured a normally aspirated 349 horsepower V8. When the E-class model line was redesigned for ’03, the E55 sedan’s 5.5-liter engine was given a supercharger to bump horsepower to 469. All featured 5-speed automatics.
SLK55 AMG two-seat convertible (2005-present 2011). There aren’t many compact German two-seat convertibles with throbbing V8s under the hood, so this AMG version of the SLK will always be prized for its one-of-a-kind blend. The non-supercharged version of the SLK’s V8 produces 355 horsepower.
CLK55 AMG four-seat coupe and convertible (2000-06). Coupes from 2000-2002 and ’02 convertibles shared this model designation. When the CLK was redesigned for ’03, only the AMG coupe ran for that one year until a convertible again joined for ’04. All CLK55s through 2006 featured a non-supercharged 342 horsepower engine.
After 2006, E and CLK AMGs featured a redesigned 6.3 liter engine. While these will likey share the same collector appeal, their higher price excludes them from this list of moderately priced cars.
For AMG advertisements and pictures, see slideshow at end of article. To view a Mercedes E55 AMG commercial see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMENRzUBB58
SUBARU WRX sedan & wagon (2002-2007), especially STi version
The WRX was created as a high-powered version of the Impreza economy sedan and wagon. Introduced for 2002, the WRX featured a 227 horsepower four-cylinder engine (designed with Porsche-style horizontally opposed cylinders) driving all four wheels. ‘04s received a facelift that replaced egg-shaped front headlights with a wider-looking design.
2005 models received updated interiors, body color rocker panels, and new wheels. For ’06, a front-end redesign, new taillights, and a larger engine (230 horsepower) with variable valve timing and electronic throttle control debuted. ‘07s received auxiliary jack ports and MP3 capacity.
The Impreza, and WRX were redesigned for ’08 with hatchback styling that many hard core Subaru fans seem to be rejecting, so we’re keeping the list to the first generation WRXs only.
For pictures and print advertisements, see slide show at the end of the article. To view a 2004 WRX commercial see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EeWEBCMvTlg&feature=related
VOLKSWAGEN R32 two-door hatchback (2004 & 2008 model years only)
On the outside R32s look like like nothing more than standard Golf GTIs with 18-inch wheels, but underneath they are quite different. Produced in limited runs as ’04 models (based on 1999-2005 style Golf) and again as ’08 models (this time based on 2005 ½ – 2009 Rabbits), both years feature the same 3.2-liter V6 engine coupled to a full-time all-wheel-drive system.
‘04s only came with 6-speed manual transmissions, and ’08s featured only DSG automatics. With relatively light weight and over 240 horsepower, R32s are potently fast and launch especially well in 2nd and 3rd gears. Due to limited numbers, R32s always find eager buyers quickly when put up for sale…and will always be a top investment. Only two-door R32s were offered in the U.S. for ’04 and ’08.
For 2012, Volkswagen has brought a new version of this winning Golf R formula back in two- and four-door form. A high performance 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder replaces the old V6, and new versions are known simply as the “Golf R”. All-wheel-drive is still standard, and a 6-speed manual is the only transmission offered.
For print advertisements and pictures see the slide show at the end of article. To view a 2004 R32 promotional video, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjK5JEsy_0Q&feature=related
VOLKSWAGEN TOUAREG V10 TURBODIESEL sport utility (2006-2008)
Based on the 2004-2010 style Touareg, the 10-cylinder turbodiesel engine in the 2006-08 “TDI” was designed for sheer brute strength. With a price tag in the $60k range, they were the most expensive Touaregs ever. Costly as they were to purchase new, the V10’s 310 horsepower engine with 553 foot-pounds of low-rpm torque ensures large amounts of weight can be pulled.
Because that also translates into very fast off-the-line performance, V10 models are in high demand by engineering-oriented car fanatics. The V10 Turbodiesel engine was dropped after the ’08 model year, replaced by a lower-cost V6 Turbodiesel engine for 2009.
For pictures, see the slide show below. To view a VW Touareg TDI commercial with one towing an empty Boing 747, click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NipMgxUH8NQ&feature=related
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