Identifying future classics is an art form. So, with that in mind, thisismoney.co.uk asked Paul Michaels, the owner of Hexagon Classics, to hand pick six cars newer than this 205 GTI that he thinks are destined for a value hike in the not too distant future.
‘You get all of the character of a classic, but with modern creature comforts and safety systems like ABS, not to mention decent handling and performance.
‘What’s more, cars from the last two decades aren’t – in the most part – very complicated and have a plentiful parts supply, which keeps maintenance bills down and means you can go on enjoying them as the years go by.
‘They are also unlikely to depreciate and, in some cases, can go up in value.
‘As ever with buying an older car, unless you’re an expert yourself, always have it inspected by a specialist. Get it up on a ramp and have a good look underneath.
‘Making money from this era is not guaranteed, but appreciation is always more likely if you buy the best i.e. a low mileage car with few owners and a full service history.
‘First and foremost you should buy it because you want it, though. Then if it makes money, it’s a bonus.’
The six cars Paul predicts will become future classics
1. Porsche 928 (1977-1995) – Price range: £8,000 – £50,000
Paul says: ‘While rear-engined air-cooled 911s have rocketed in value over the last five years, the front-engined 928 is still underrated and undervalued.
‘Built from 1977 to 1995, it got faster and grew spoilers and wings, but didn’t really change that much.
‘All versions are luxurious coupes that mix a great GT experience with good handling. The vast majority were sold as automatics but that’s no bad thing as the lazy V8 suits this transmission and makes for a relaxing drive.
‘The first cars from the late ’70s and early ’80s are the purest (think telephone dial alloy wheels as seen in the Tom Cruise film Risky Business), the last-of-the-line GTS the fastest, while the S4 represents a sweetspot in the range with great looks and a 320bhp 5.0-litre V8 giving plenty of punch.
‘Check all the electrical goodies work and that big water-cooled V8 has been regularly serviced. Most do 20mpg at best. You can be hit by some big bills if you buy a poor car that hasn’t been looked after.’
One we found: Porsche 928 S4 (1991), 85,000 miles, £15,995
2. Audi TT Quattro Sport (2005) – Price range: £7,500 – £12,500
Paul says: ‘Ignore all those bores who trot out the usual ‘Golf in drag’ clichés. The Mk1 TT is quickly becoming a classic in its own right. It still looks fantastic, so sharp in fact that, two further generations down the line, even Audi hasn’t been able to top the drama of the Mk1.
‘My pick is the Quattro Sport, of which just 800 were made. These very special cars have contrasting black roofs, while inside they are strict two-seaters with lovely Alcantara/leather Recaros and a brace bar in the back where the rear seats have been removed.
‘Weighing 75kg less than the standard version and with an uprated 237bhp 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbo engine, this four-wheel drive coupe can do 0 to 60mph in 5.9 seconds and 155mph.
‘They’re not quite as sharp as a similar vintage Nissan 350Z or Porsche Boxster but with sports suspension they’re fun, fast and very rare indeed. What’s more they’re pretty reliable too and cheap to service compared to other high performance cars.
‘Those VW underpinnings do come in very handy when it comes to keeping running costs down.’
One we found: Audi TT 1.8 T Sport Quattro (2006), 66,000 miles, £8,750
3. Lotus Elise S1 (1996-2000) – Price range: £8,000 – £20,000
Paul says: ‘The car that saved Lotus and still one of the purest roadsters ever made, the Elise is also a proper, reliable modern classic that, if bought right, will only appreciate in value.
‘Built from 1996 to 2000, the first generation S1 cars came with a 118bhp 1.8-litre MG Rover K-Series engine and weighed just 725kg thanks to a lightweight chassis and composite body.
‘Performance is searing with 0 to 60mph in 5.5 seconds, but it’s the steering and handling that will make you want to drive it again and again.
‘Outside of a Caterham Seven, no other car comes close to delivering so much fun. In addition to the standard 118bhp car, Lotus offered the 111S, which had a close-ratio gearbox and 143bhp, or the super rare Sport 160, which as the name suggests, featured a 160bhp engine and uprated suspension. But most will be happy with the stock version.
‘Many Elises have been crashed (whether on a track day or on road) so check it’s accident-free and buy the lowest mileage, best-maintained you can find.’
One we found: Lotus Elise S1 (1998), 34,000 miles, £14,995
4. BMW E36 M3 (1992-1999) – Price: £8,000 – £20,000
Paul says: ‘When the E36 M3 arrived in 1992, everyone accused BMW of going soft. Compared to the E30 – which had direct links to touring car racing, a raucous four-cylinder engine and was exotically left-hand drive only – the E36 was just so much more refined and useable.
‘The first straight six-cylinder M3, its zingy engine (a 282bhp 3.0-litre unit in early cars, a 321bhp 3.2-litre version from 1996) is a peach with lots of torque and high-end punch thanks to BMW’s VANOS variable valve timing, which meant it could rev to more than 7,000rpm. Factor in engaging rear-drive handling and a composed ride and you’ve got a compelling mix.
‘Your biggest problem will be finding one. Many have been used as track day specials and few are left in standard trim. And there are even fewer with low mileages.
‘Good ones – and ones with no VANOS problems – are only going up in value, though, and where you’ll need at least £50,000 for an E30 M3, I’ve just seen an absolute perfect best-of-the-best E36 go through an auction at less than half that.’
One we found: BMW E36 M3 Evolution (1997), 105,000 miles, £9,950
5. MINI Cooper JCW GP (2006) – Price: £7,500 – £15,000
Paul says: ‘The first-generation BMW MINI Cooper John Cooper Works was a riot – but it sold by the thousand and is unlikely to be a modern classic. The GP version, though, undoubtedly is.
‘Incredibly rare with just 500 allotted for the UK in right-hand-drive, it’s a very special car indeed. Essentially a road-going version of the Cooper S Challenge race cars, it gets a huge rear spoiler, 18-inch alloys, a mechanical limited slip differential, no rear seats (in their place is a huge strut and a weight saving of 50kg) along with a 218bhp 1.6-litre supercharged engine and sports exhaust.
‘It’s fast (0 to 60mph in around 6.5 secs) and handles like the race car it’s inspired by.
‘It’s not too raw though – up front, you get soft leather Recaros and the ride, while firm, isn’t track car punishing. You’ll be able to pop to the shops without your teeth falling out.
‘It all feels incredibly special and it’s certainly improved with age – MINI hasn’t made as good a car since. Prices have fallen about as far as they are likely to go with high mileage cars around £7,500 and immaculate sub-20,000-milers available for under £15,000.’
One we found: Mini Cooper S JCW GP (2006), 26,000 miles, £15,500
6. Mercedes SL60 AMG R129 (1993-1998) – Price: £20,000 – £30,000
Paul says: ‘There’s no doubt that the R129 SL is one of the best cars Mercedes ever made. So much so that the German firm sold more than 210,000 models over its 12-year lifetime and, as a result, prices have only steadily started to move upwards for the very best used examples.
‘The 5.0-litre V8-engined SL500 is a lovely, relaxing convertible and good cars are not hard to find at around £7,000 to £10,000.
‘If you want a surefire modern classic that will appreciate more rapidly, seek out the muscular SL60 AMG. Incredibly rare, only 49 reportedly came to the UK in right-hand-drive. One of the first AMG-tuned cars – before Mercedes brought the brand in-house – the SL60 packed a modified 6.0-litre V8 which was rumoured to produce well over 400bhp (even if official figures quoted 381bhp).
‘Together with a pumped-up bodykit and adaptive dampers, it commanded an enormous £110,000 price tag when new.
‘Today between £20,000 to £30,000 buys you one of the most exclusive AMG Mercedes ever made.’
One we found: Mercedes SL60 AMG (1996), 102,000 miles, £19,000