For a car to be classified as a future classic, it must meet a few criteria. Firstly, the production year of the car must be no older than 1988. Most collectors would say 25 years is the minimum age of a classic car. Secondly, the car shouldn’t be too expensive. You must always be thinking “is this an investment?” A classic car should only get more valuable in time. Thirdly, the car must have some defining characteristic (not just age). What’s that special something for you?
Here they are, three sporty cars from the past generation. Emphasis on “sporty”. You wouldn’t say these are “sports” cars, but they aren’t all wet either. Here is a morsel of a few Future Classics, whose stock is only on the rise.
Manufactured from 1978 to 1994, the Saab 900 garnered this Swedish automaker a large success in North America. It featured a front wheel drive layout with a peppy 2.0 liter 4-cylinder powerplant. After 1985, a turbocharged option was added to the lineup. Configurations were plenty with convertible, hatchback, and sedan versions available. The 900 doesn’t have the eye-catching looks that it’s dad – the 99 Turbo – is so well remembered for, however the basic design and suspension are based on that 99 DNA. This makes a recipe for a good car, with an even better price tag.
The non-turbo cars should be very reliable (and quite safe) as daily drivers, but the one you really want is the 1993/1994 Commemorative Edition 900. Only 314 of these were sold in the United States, but I’m sure that many have survived and a few may be for sale right under your nose. These 900s featured a 185 bhp turbocharged 4 pot, with the 5-speed, sports suspension, black exterior paint, and tan interior leather. These cars will be eaten up in the next few years, but another rare 900 exists. In 1994 Saab introduced a limited 500 car production of the 1994 900T Convertible. These 500 cars had the same features as the desirable 93/94 coupes (minus the sport suspension), and were similarly painted. The plus side is that there are no defining badges or plaques on the car to separate it from the field. Check the VIN numbers (sequential for all 500), these cars are out there and you might find the deal of a lifetime!
The venerable Prelude has been through many generations and facelifts, but the one we’re interested in is the 4th Generation (1991-1996). Like the Saab, the Prelude has its share of potent 4-cylinder engines and makes use of a front wheel drive platform. Honda went a few steps further to insure the Prelude garnered a market share in the luxury car scene by adding some truly fantastic options. The VTEC model came with Honda’s DOHC 2.2L powerhouse which made 187 hp at a zippy 6800 rpm. The Si model also came with the option of 4-wheel steering… if going everywhere sideways is your cup of tea. Even though most of the mechanical bits are in the front, thanks to clever engineering, the weight distribution tips the scales at a surprising 58/42 (front/rear). Sadly even more surprising, the curb weight of the vehicle is a hefty 2840 lbs. Ouch!
While the Prelude didn’t sell nearly as many numbers as the Civic or Accord, there still should be loads of these cars lying around on the used-car classifieds. The big problem is finding one that hasn’t been molested or modded. Look for VTEC or 4ws Si models, these will be a higher initial cost but will definitely be the cars that collectors flock to in a few years.
If the VW Cabrio follows the trend for early generations Golfs – it will be quite a popular car in the coming years. The generation we’re interested in is from 1995-2002. Not a whole lot changed during this production, but that helps cut down on parts and reliability issues. These Cabbies came with a 115 hp 2.0 liter 4-cylinder, make sure you find a 5-speed version. GL and GLS models we’re available, with the only real difference being a power convertible top option. One more thing to go wrong right?
Reliability on these Cabrios should be decent. Volkswagens of the early 2000s have been notorious for having electrical wiring issues, but these cars seem to be skirting the issues. Prices are already higher than similar cars of the same age – this pick isn’t as ambiguous as the previous two. For such a small car, expect to pay about 4-5k due to demand and exclusivity.
Just a few tid-bits for the mathematically inclined reader on this weekend’s 2013 Monaco Grand Prix.
10 – # of grid places Romain Grosjean will be penalized for in the Canadian Grand Prix.
9 – # of laps Kimi Raikkonen had left when Sergio Perez made contact and pushed him back to 10th.
8 – # of points currently separating 2nd and 3rd in the Driver’s Championship – Raikkonen with 86, Alonso with 78.
7 – # of current drivers with wins at Monaco. (Rosberg-2013, Webber-2010 and 2012, Vettel-2011, Button-2009, Hamilton-2008, Alonso-2006 and 2007, Raikkonen-2005)
6 – # of most wins by a single driver. Ayrton Senna. (1987-Lotus, 1989-1993 McLaren)
5 – # of course changes in 84 years since the first Monaco Grand Prix.
4 – # of years since McLaren has won in Monaco. McLaren has 15 wins at the Monaco Grand Prix, the most of any current or past constructor.
3 – # of races in the Triple Crown of Motorsport – Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500, 24 Hours of LeMans.
2 – # of recent controversial tire tests involving Pirelli (Ferrari and Mercedes)
1 – # of leaders in the 2013 Monaco Grand Prix. Nico Rosberg led the race from pole position for each of the 78 laps.
It’s no secret that the 20-somethings are strapped for money, but that doesn’t mean they are unable to afford a great, reliable car. This list features 20 cars that can be found for sale for under $5000 (with most even cheaper than that!). Before buying any used car, make sure to have a trusted mechanic look it over beforehand. Pre-purchase inspections normally cost around $100, but that will save you tons of cash down the road if your perfect used car – ain’t so perfect.
(Rankings in order of predictability)
- 90’s Honda Civic – Small, reliable, common, and cheap. The Civic takes #1, but finding an unmolested 90’s Civic with low miles should prove a challenge.
- Toyota Tercel – Precursor to the Echo/Yaris nameplate, the Tercel offers no thrills motoring with unparalleled reliability. Less common than the Civic, but 200k miles is typical.
- Toyota Echo – The Echo replaced the Tercel as Toyota’s entry-level subcompact. Looks are a little questionable, but reliability from this Millennial is tried and true. Get a 5-speed.
- Volvo 240 (sedan/wagon) – You knew this would be here! This shoebox has been getting professors and students alike to college for years. Expect to pay a premium for a low mileage wagon, they are apparently “cool” now.
- Subaru Forester – Every town in the Northeast is full of them. Rugged, dependable, and with AWD. Make sure you check for head-gasket leaks before you buy. The ’96-’04 years are notorious for leaks in the 2.2L and 2.5L engines – but that won’t stop people from buying.
- Ford Focus – Reliability and handling that Ford hadn’t seen since the early days of the Escort. Hatchback with a standard is the most desirable.
- Toyota Corolla – Fantastic reliability, very common, parts are cheap. Expect to pay more than KBB because of notoriety.
- Saturn S-Series – Exceptional reliability from then “new” Saturn. Avoid the autobox, and find a standard wagon. SC1 is a great tuner car as well. Parts may be harder to find after Saturn’s closure.
- Mazda Protegé/323 – Mazda finally got recognized for reliability with this stylish sedan. This is a great alternative when cheap Civics and Corollas are nowhere to be found.
- Buick LeSabre – It’s not all smooth sailing with this land barge, but the LeSabre has built a reputation for being comfortable and relatively reliable. It takes the 10 spot mainly because prices are cheap and miles are low. Thanks grandparents of the world!
- TIE – Toyota Rav4 and Honda CRV – There have been more decisive hung juries than the difference between these two “soft-roaders”. Both retain good resale value, but tend to be neglected and behind on maintenance. AWD systems are a plus, but have a mechanic give it the once-over.
- Saab 900 – Saab is nearly unrivaled in safety, but you risk buying from a defunct company. Reliability is good, but parts will be scarce. Prices are attractive.
- Chevy/Geo/Suzuki Tracker – Many different names, one simple design. Trackers can be found cheap, even with all the bells and whistles. Commonly overlooked, but check for rust.
- TIE – Mercedes 190E and BMW 3-Series – Reliability hit a high point in the late 80’s and early 90’s for German saloons. Designs were simple, power adequate, and style was perfect. These cars are the riskiest investment on the list due to cost of maintenance, but you won’t look cooler in anything else.
- Jeep Cherokee – If your college campus is up a mountain and through a creek, then you’ll surely need a Cherokee to get you there. With a durable straight-6 and 4 corners of coil suspension, you’re ready to run to the hills. Find one with some problems? Run for your lives. (cough…Iron Maiden..cough)
- Ford Ranger – I liken the Ranger to the “BIC Razor” of the automobile world. Prices for 2WD versions are cheap, they are plentiful on used websites, and when it disintegrates after 10 years you won’t feel bad about it. Cheap trucks don’t get better than this.
- Ford Taurus – Slow, mechanically questionable, and far from pretty. The Taurus was one of the most common cars on the road in the 2000s, and with prices so cheap – the interior cargo space is unavoidably tempting. Call your mechanic…
- VW Golf – Prices won’t be cheap, and Mk4 Golfs are notoriously prone to electrical issues, but style, fuel economy, and resale value keep it on the list. Look for a TDI with under 100k miles.
- Mazda Miata – It’s been described as the best handling car in the world, and with many for sale around the $5000 mark, it’s a tempting buy. However, gear ratios make fuel economy startlingly low, the cargo space is laughable, and soft tops are prone to leaking.