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Collecting vintage cars is usually a high-stakes sport: A $38 million dollar bid on a rare Ferrari GTO set a record at the most recent Bonham's Auction. But you don't need a fortune to enter the collector car market for one major reason: There's a new breed of "classics" that include recent makes and models. A few German sports cars from the 1980s, for example, have skyrocketed in value and experts predict more outliers will follow, including early Japanese sports car models.
"The classic car market was stable through the recession and has been going strong ever since," says McKeel Hagerty, president and CEO of Hagerty, a Michigan-based company that sells classic car insurance and assesses the value of cars. "High-end Ferraris, Mercedes, and Porsches from the 1950s and 1960s have gotten a lot of attention in the past five years, but we tracked significant price increases in all value ranges with many different makes and models. Going forward, we will see limited production sports cars from the 1980s and early 1990s start to rise in value."
Below are five cars that have already doubled in value in the past five years plus five picks from Hagerty that might be next smart investment. Buyers' tip: Beware of where you buy and keep in mind the costs of restorations. Cars that are not in tip-top condition dramatically deplete in value and rust is the foe of car collectors everywhere.
1991 Acura NSX Coupe
The frisky—and first—Acura NSX was stocked with 270 horsepower and performance pizzazz that refuses to grow up or to grow old. A model in top condition spiked from $35,200 in 2010 to $52,300, just shy of what it cost brand-new in 1991 at $60,600.
1967 Datsun 2000 Convertible
This late 1960s roadster featured an infectious, throaty engine and a petite, curvy body as the spirited predecessor to the Nissan Z line. The introductory year was produced in small numbers. A brand new Datsun 2000 sold for about $3,000 in 1967. The closely related 1968 Datsun 1600 sold at Gooding and Company's Amelia Island auction for over $50,000 in March.
1995 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4 Spyder
The first generation Mitsubishi was a killer, hardtop, convertible sports car that was equipped with forward-thinking technology including active aero and four-wheel drive. It sold for $64,000, but was produced in limited quantities of only 1,619 cars; its rarity adds to its potential collector cachet.
1984 Ferrari Testarossa Coupe
Miami Vice made the Testarossa a pop culture icon. Yuppies, too, loved its wide rear end; an uptick in sales prices shows that it might due for resurgence. Because of its popularity the list price skyrocketed during its run from $90,000 to well into the six-figure range by 1990, according to Hemmings before dropping down to the $50,000 range in 2005. It's now valued at an average of $60,000, but the real indicator of its potential value is in the Ferrari fever that's seizing the auction world. Hemmings reports that a 1989 Testarossa sold for $264,000 at 2012 auction in Monterey.
1993 Porsche 928 GTS Coupe
The Porsche performance craze has spilled into the 1990s models, an era when emissions regulations threatened the future of the 911. The GTS could reach speeds of 170 mph and replaced the GT and the S4 models in the '93 model year. The sticker price was $28,000 and with its performance skills it's now climbed to a value of $68,700 for a perfect version, according to Hagerty.
5 Renowned Classics
If budget is not an issue, then consider these makes and models, which are now among the most coveted on the auction bock.
1960 Mercedes-Benz 190SL Roadster
The SL Roadster harkens back to an era of dreamy convertibles made by Mercedes-Benz to suit mid-century American tastes. A 190SL sold at the RM Auctions for $143,000 and it's currently valued at close to $226,000 for a flawless model by Hagerty. In 2007, 190SLs topped out at $76,000.
1966 Sunbeam Tiger Convertible
The legendary builder Carroll Shelby helped design the short-lived Sunbeam Tiger, which was inspired by the iconic Shelby Cobra. In 2009, a mint Sunbeam was valued just under $58,100, but now earns estimates close to $95,700 for a vehicle in pique condition.
1989 Porsche 911 Turbo 930 (also called the Porsche 911 Carrera)
In the past five years, this turbo-charged Porsche has been recognized for its icon status and tripled in value, assessed at just shy of $150,000 for a vehicle in immaculate condition, painted in ideal colors, using high-quality parts and buffed to perfection. In 2007, this same model sold for $59,800 in mint condition.
1988 BMW E30 M3 Coupe
Very few M3s made it to America from Europe, but not for a lack of desire. BMW underestimated the extreme popularity of the M3, which was launched as part of BMW's entry into the Touring Car Championship. This reimagined 3 series model was a hit among performance-car enthusiasts. Its current estimated value for an immaculate model is $67,500, almost triple what it was worth in 2007.
1972 Alfa Romeo Montreal Coupe
Named for the city it debuted in when Alfa Romeo returned to road racing in 1970, this coupe in 2007 was available for a mere $39,500, according to Hagerty, but now it's estimated somewhere closer to $128,000 for a vehicle in perfect condition.
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