Future Classics: What to expect and my predictions
Because the world hasn't covered this topic enough - it needs my input once again!
Everybody loves a classic car. There's always something so mystical and yet awe-inspiring about the machines of years gone by - the looks, the sound, the engine, it's all there. Even long after the electric takeover of 2030, and the government introduces that new 10% Ethanol fuel that'll ruin existing cars' rubber bits, those machines will no doubt continue to be used for decades to come.
And one of the most important things someone in the market can do is preserve that experience for as long as possible.
However, choosing a car that will soon become one of the collectibles is hard; to the degree that some people just consider it random. But if you look a little deeper into the topic, like heaven knows I have before, you'll find there are some sneaky tricks you can use to help narrow down the correct choice. So let's go into that: we'll have a look at current classics, see what made them so desirable, and then apply that to the cars of today to see what will and won't be a massive hit 30-odd years down the line.
Factor 1: Beauty
This is the obvious one, right? If a car is good-looking enough, it will no-doubt make a dent in the automotive world collectively and therefore be remembered. There are many many examples I could use for this topic - I could use a Jaguar E-Type, or a Lamborghini Miura, or a Ferrari Daytona to name a few - but I've tried to narrow it down to only cars that became collectibles on looks alone.
And what I came up with is this: the Volvo P1800. Born from the era where Volvo was pushing out models like the Amazon, this little Swedish sports car collectively dropped jaws all around the world when it was released in 1961. Under the long and smooth bonnet, however, lived a melancholy 1.8L four-cylinder with around 100 horsepower, which could take the P1800 to a top speed of just under 110mph with overdrive.
Now that wasn't terrible for the time, but it wasn't anywhere near the Aston Martin DB4, the fastest in the world at the time, which could do 140mph. Volvo made around 47,000 P1800s in all forms, so they weren't exactly of limited supply either.
So there's only one explanation, as far as I can see, as to why it's so popular, to the degree that a good condition one will set you back around £35,000-£50,000.
Just look at it! Every little line and detail fits together perfectly - nothing is left hanging or unfinished. The design is simple: headlights, indicators, a grille and a bumper; none of the weird mix-and-match of lines most modern cars have today. The shape fits the typical GT silhouette - a long bonnet, a sloping roof, and a short and stubby tail. The streak of chrome along both sides ties it all together beautifully, all to create this symphony of 60's style and general perfection.
So, the Volvo was beautiful, yes. But what about today's market?
Well, as we all know, Volvo did redo a P1800 a while back and called in the P1800 Cyan. But they only made one of those, and it was valued at around £500,000, so something tells me that might be a tiny bit out of budget. So instead I've settled on this chap - the Nissan Figaro.
Now I won't pretend the Nissan Figaro is a brilliant car. When it was first launched in 1991, it was a front-engined, front-wheel drive, 900cc city car in a world dominated styling-wise by the likes of the Ferrari F40 and the Lamborghini Countach. But, over time, I'd say the little Figaro has developed nicely into it's own little style. It was reminiscent of the bubble cars of the 50s, based on the cutesy looks and folding roof with a solid rear window (according to Wikipedia).
Under the bonnet, as I mentioned, was a 900cc turbocharged four-cylinder, producing around 75 horsepower. Somehow, this little fella can reach a top speed of 106mph, but raise your hand if you'd actually dare going this fast in one of those.
The whole car is retro-inspired - the interior feels like something out of the 1960s, the details are chrome and/or painted to look like vinyl, and it seems to carry a surprising amount of styling touches from the Volvo - the large, round headlights; the simple chrome bumper; and the round grille, and the little chrome strip along the side that connects to the doors.
I very much doubt this was intentional, but it's fun to theorise.
If you're now tempted by the little Figaro, I have good news! They are worth almost no money right now. I managed to find one here in a gorgeous blue with some go-faster stripes (which you might need) down the bonnet, boot, and doors, all for £3,000. Even without making money, this would be a brilliant little car to own, and I'd imagine that's all the advice needed.
I'll bet you've never seen someone theorise that before.
Factor 2: Rarity
Rare cars are often one of the most ideal candidates for classics - because there are so few of them, people will fall over one another just to get their hands on one. Most limited production cars are often very high performance and/or expensive anyways (see, for example, the Lexus LFA) and so those examples would be obvious classic material. But sometimes, as I've found, your car doesn't need either of those things to qualify for the rarity class.
Note please, the early 2010s Ford Focus RS500. A front-wheel drive hot hatch designed to rival the likes of the Subaru Impreza hatchback of the time. It had a 2.5L five-cylinder turbo with 345 horsepower, which once petrol was applied could get it from 0-60mph in 5.6 seconds, and keep it going to a top speed of 165mph.
Now I won't pretend that's slow for a car like this; far from it.
But when you stare at the second-hand price tag on most car selling sites, you really start to wonder how on earth it could be worth so much. And what is that price tag you ask?
Around £80,000, as seen by this example here. That's around 20k more than my dad paid for his Ferrari 360, with more power, less weight, and a higher top speed. And, of course, it's a Ferrari. The reason for this lunacy in my mind is most likely that Ferrari made around 16,000 360s, whereas Ford only produced 500 of the Focus RS (hence the name, Focus RS500).
The fact that a hot hatch can sell for second-hand Ferrari money on rarity alone should be an immediate awakening to anyone looking to invest in a future classic, and because you're reading this here and now, I suppose I'd better try working some ideas out for you.
So rare cars will almost always be classic material, I get it.
But most limited production cars are expensive from new, so what should I buy?
Well, I'm glad... I asked. It's true that most limited production run cars tend to be the more expensive variety nowadays, like for example the Porsche 918, where they only made... 918. Says it on the tin, I suppose.
The key to cracking this in my eyes is to look at a selection of cars that weren't at all rare when they were first made and distributed, but have dwindled in numbers over the years since then. And from the wide variety of cars to choose from, I'm gone for the Vauxhall Calibra, of all things.
When the Vauxhall Calibra was first debuted in 1989, it was marketed as an alternative to the Japanese sports coupes that were rising in popularity in the early 1990s. They came in quite a few flavours - the regular 8-Valve, the sportier 16-Valve, the sportier still V6, and the best of the bunch 4x4. The 4x4 is a 2.0L turbo model with four-wheel drive, with a production run of only 3,300 units, so obviously that would be the one to aim for.
However, most of the 3,300 made appear to be in either Austria or Germany, where they are already worth around £30,000, so that’s a little far out of the price range.
The next best thing then is the V6 - a front-wheel drive model with a production run of 12,000 units as opposed to 3,000. However, according to my secret weapon - a website I found called howmanyleft.co.uk, there are only 15 manual examples left on the roads of the UK.
And would ‘t you know it, I’ve found one of them.
The example I found here is up for sale for a tiny fee of £1,500, and for that you get a 2.5L German V6 with 168 horsepower, which is more than enough to play around with. It can do 0-60 in 7.8 seconds, and carry on to a top speed of around 150mph. That’s nothing to the speed of the Focus I examined earlier, but it’s a whole lot rarer and there’s a whole lot more value for money in it.
And if that number stays where it is, the little Calibra could one day make it‘s way to auctions far into the future to make just as much money as the RS500. And then the cycle continues.
Factor 3: Lunacy
A madman’s car is often worth a lot of money. A timeless example of what can be done when there are no rules will appeal to customers in that rather childish way that you can never really lose; it always keeps popping up whenever you’re trying to not do something stupid. It also helps that doing something stupid but really very cool with your shiny new model does cost rather a lot, creating rather large bills for the people that buy them new and thereby causing less depreciation.
Feast your eyes upon this: this is a 1989 Lister Le Mans, and as you might be able to tell it’s based on a Jaguar XJS V12.
What British racing company/inconsistent automobile manufacturer Lister Cars did to create this was take the standard V12 and throw most of it away. They then bored the cylinder block out from 5.2L to 7.0L, fitted a load of racing bits from there, and then for good measure supercharged it. Twice.
In the modern day this is hailed as the poor man’s Ferrari F40.
The result of all those mental racing bits was over 600 horsepower, more than even the big bads of the supercar world at the time, and - despite it weighing as much as a large city - a 0-60 time of 4.3 seconds, and a top speed of 200mph. This was more powerful than Lister’s own Storm a few years later.
And that went up against the likes of the Bugatti EB110.
The sale of a Lister Le Mans is a rare event, but when you can find one, they typically sell for around £80,000 - £120,000. That's... quite a lot of money, isn't it?
You make a car mental, and it becomes expensive. I get the idea.
So what should I buy to jump on this train?
Well, there are a few options you can immediately go to if you want something mental. You've got TVR, you've got Abarth, you've got the BMW M division; and most importantly for me, you've got AMG.
AMG are Mercedes' in-house tuners, if you've been living under a rock since the 1890s, and up until a few years ago they were tasked primarily with taking Mercedes' normal road cars and turning them into tyre-smoking madhouses (and of course there was the SLS and all that but that didn't have a standard road model). And one such good example of this is what I've selected: a 2003 Mercedes CL55 AMG.
The CL55 was a part of a long line of AMG models based on the C-Class platform, and an example I found can be seen here.
The early 2000s model I've found here in particular has a fire-breathing 5.5L V8 with around 500 horsepower bolted on under the bonnet, which can pull even an 1800kg luxury barge like this to 60 in exactly 6 seconds, and keep it going to a (limited) top speed of 155 mph.
The iconic early 2000s Mercedes styling (still the best, in my opinion) and the hyper luxurious interior may fool you into believing that this car is as tame as it's C-Class counterpart, but make no mistake - this thing is a snorting monster.
Earlier AMGs are typically known to be rather... excitable, in the corners especially, and I think it's safe to say that a mostly standard piece of Mercedes kit with a massive V8 wrestled into it will definitely fall into that class. There are a fair few quite low quality videos circulating YouTube of people who have tuned their CL55s to as high as 620 horsepower, and wouldn't you know it - they're tyre smoking lunatics.
Plus, remember what happened last time AMG put their biggest engine in one of the smallest cars Mercedes had? We got the Mercedes 300 CE 6.0 AMG - otherwise known in the cult following it's developed as the Hammer. There were only 4 built, and they each had a 6.0L handcrafted V8 producing around 375 horsepower; and back in the day, it was blistering.
And that's the advice I'd give: don't wait for history to repeat itself, grab yourself one of these, and watch the future generation of AMG fans drool over them in a couple dozen year's time.
Factor 4: Pedigree
Pedigree is a bit of a double-edged sword in the automotive world; if you have a bad reputation or a poor pedigree, the chances are the second-hand value of all of your models will most likely take a hit. However, if your brand has good reputation or a strong pedigree, the second hand value will most likely soar on most, if not all, of the models you release.
Take this car for example: the Ferrari 512BB. I love this car; there's something so fantastically 80s about it, and I full-on love almost any car from the 80s. But I think a few people love it a tiny bit more than I do.
Because to buy yourself one of those nowadays will cost you a good quarter of a million pounds.
The BB had a 5.0L Flat-12 mounted in the middle (hence the name 512 - 5 litres/12 cylinders) producing around 360 horsepower, which can push the car to 0-60 in 5.1 seconds and keep it going to a top speed of around 175mph.
Which, for 1979, is fantastic - but is still slower than a Lamborghini Diablo from 20 years prior, which is worth a good £50,000 less than the previously mentioned BB. I understand that they were built for different markets in different times, but you would expect a 6.0L V12 supercar to be worth a little more than an upgraded £60,000 Ferrari 308 from 1979.
Hell, that thing is worth more than most Aventador's second-hand! The Aventador would make mincemeat to almost all Ferraris up until now, and yet a 300 horsepower car from the 1970s is worth slightly under double the money.
Okay, okay, you can stop complaining now. I get the point.
So what do you suggest will make money with the benefits of pedigree?
Well, at this point I was going to talk about my least favourite Ferrari of all time: the Mondial. But upon looking around on the interweb, I've found that the Mondial... had it's big break. The ones I saw were worth around £20,000, and now they're worth £35,000-£40,000. So I've gone for my second option: the Maserati 4200GT.
Now I've always adored this generation and styling of Maseratis, which is very fortunate for me because, like the one you can see here, are rather cheap nowadays. This is by far the most expensive car on this list so far, but I think that's justified, because I'm going to predict that this car will be the one to make the most money on this list.
Because if brand appreciation is capable of doubling the value of a vile machine like the Mondial, it can definitely work wonders on a beauty like the 4200.
Under that gorgeous body is a 4.2L Italian V8, producing around 385 horsepower. This car specifically is powered through a rarer six-speed manual gearbox, and can the car from 0-60 in around 5 seconds, and keep it going to a top speed of 180mph.
Now that's not that much faster than the old 512, but the purpose of this car was more... luxurious. More comfortable. More... grand tourer-ish. The interior is soft and roomy, with bright tones and some proper Italian flare added into the mix. The dials, the wheel, the gearstick, and the centre console all appear to be minorly modified parts taken from Ferraris of the time (I recognise them from my old man's 360 - I knew they looked familiar when I noticed them).
All in all, the 4200GT is I think a brilliant example of what can be done when Ferrari gives you access to their entire parts bin and only wants a luxury car of sorts. And that's one of the more interesting aspects of this car: Maserati and Ferrari both have vibrant and strong racing histories, and I'd imagine no matter which one takes off in the future the car will always end up making at least some money.
If the Maserati brand becomes popular later down the line, then congratulations! You bought a Maserati. If the Ferrari brand becomes... even more popular later down the line, there's more Ferrari in this car than there is Maserati. There's no way to lose.
That's all the factors I can think of, because I'm not very imaginative. I've actually really enjoyed writing about this topic and so I'd very happily talk about it again if anyone fancies it. If anyone fancies it, as well, all three people that are probably going to read this are free to post their own suggestions / predictions in the comments, as a fun little thing to discuss. [Insert generic outro statement here], and goodbye.