Collectible Cars for Today’s Auto Enthusiast

Twenty or 30 years ago, I owned three 1937–51 Ford wooden station wagons. None of them cost me more than $1,000. Today they sell for about $100,000. My old 1964 Ferrari Lusso—which I bought in Italy when it was two years old for $4,200—today has a value of about $500,000. And my old Porsche race car (the actual one, not one like it, but the actual one I’d owned) just sold for $800,000. It cost me less than a Honda when I purchased it.

I didn’t collect these cars, I just owned them. I was too stupid to keep them. But that doesn’t mena that you have to be.

So here’s some advice from a really clueless car collector. Keep the following cars I mention, and keep them stowed away—except on sunny days, of course—and in 20 years you might be able to send your kids to college with what they have gained in value. I’m not kidding.

First, go out and buy any air-cooled Porsche 911 (actually called a 993) you can find. Porsche stopped making them in 1997 and went to water-cooled engines. Get the best low-mileage examples you can find (that is good advice on any car I mention).

Ferraris are always a good investment, but they’re expensive to get into and insanely expensive to maintain. Just look at, sit in or drive any Ferrari and you’ll understand why they are so highly coveted. However, if you don’t know cars, hire an expert if you want to purchase any model.

Jumping from the high-end cars above, there are always the very affordable old favorites, like vintage British cars. There is a great deal of charm about wire wheels, long bonnets and wooden facias (and tops that leak in the rain). They are all terrifically affordable and, being mostly ragtops, are great summer cars for the Hamptons. Historically, all of these cars have experienced slow but positive value growth over the years. My current best buy is the MGB. Stick with the early chrome bumper model, if possible (you can convert the later, rather insane-looking rubber-bumper model to an earlier chrome-bumper look if desired). Buyer beware, all these cars are rust prone.

My favorite British collectible is the 1967–69 Jaguar XKE. About five years ago I wrote an article in Dan’s Papers about how XKE coupes were undervalued. Good ones were then selling for about $25,000. Today, good coupes cost $100,000. If you want to own what is considered to be the most beautiful mass-produced sports car ever made, put an XKE in your garage. I personally think the coupe is prettier than the convertible, though less valuable.

Asian cars have gotten little respect by car collectors, but there are bargains to be had, and these cars run forever. Trust me, these cars are going to climb in value.

My favorite is the Acura NSX—this is the car that gave them nightmares in Stuttgart. An all-aluminum Honda tour de force of engineering that’s beautiful, fast and easy to own. The only letdown in this car is the Honda Accord-ish interior. This is a Honda superstar.

The second Honda superstar is the S2000 convertible, with an insanely powerful two-liter engine to die for. The only thing I found wrong with this bullet is that I don’t fit in the thing, and I’m only 5’11”.  Anyway, if you fit in the thing, it’s currently very inexpensive, and a solid gold investment.

Okay, I’ve run out of space, but not out of investor car picks. More to come in my next column. Happy driving…and collecting.

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