As a professional detailing company, we’re lucky to work with some fantastic cars daily. As you can imagine, Matt and I have compiled quite a list of our favourite vehicles (check out our Fantasy Fleet article if you haven’t read it). But decades in the automotive industry have also given us insight into what’s hot, what’s not, and what might be hot in the future. So, in this article, we thought we’d share our thoughts on what vehicles might become future classic cars.
But first, a disclaimer!
If Matt and I could identify future classic cars accurately, we’d be rich by now! So, this article offers no advice on buying vehicles for investment. This really is just our musings on what we might buy if we had spare cash in the bank. Please don’t spend your life savings on a car we identify in this article, we can take no responsibility if you do!
Where Car Prices Stand:
Most car prices in the last few years have rocketed. One reason for this could be the looming 2025 and 2030 deadlines seeing cars with internal combustion engines being phased out. And there is no doubt that supply chain issues created through the COVID pandemic have added to the equation.
But don’t spend money on a classic (or future classic) car that you can’t afford to lose. In the early 1990s, car prices suffered a massive crash, and many people were left financially overexposed. Investors were suddenly saddled with cars worth far less than the amount they had paid for them. While motor trade experts don’t seem to think we’re heading for the same sort of crash again, prices appear to be softening a little, so be careful.
There are obvious classics, such as air-cooled Porsches, that have always been very popular. But what’s interesting is that models that were previously less popular or actively shunned are now more desirable. An example is the Ferrari Mondial. Produced in the 1980s, it was a mid-engined V8 Ferrari that could seat four people. Sounds great, right? Sadly, it was blessed with somewhat challenging styling with awkward proportions. The engine was pretty gutless and certainly didn’t provide the performance you’d expect. As a result, they’ve always been the cheap Ferrari, and in the big picture, they still are. But the prices have started to rise as other, more popular models have increased in price.
Not all classics are valuable:
It’s really important to understand that what might be considered a future classic car doesn’t automatically mean it will become valuable. There are owners groups for various British Leyland models, such as the Metro, that consider the cars classics and have a following, but they’ll never be valuable in monetary terms.
A budget to buy:
So, how much do you need to break into the future classic car market?
While it makes me feel old to even type this, an early ’90s car is now already around 30 years old! But by the 90s, cars were generally of much better build quality than those of the 60s and ’70s, and more were made. With more left to choose from, £5000 could get you into the ever-popular VW scene. But you’d still need to do your research, as something like a mint condition Mk2 Golf GTi will cost far more than that. The same applies to the super popular E30 BMW 3 series. Lots were sold, and the nice ones that have survived are now changing hands for solid 5 figure prices.
Be realistic about what you’re buying. A car that needs fixing up is a great way to pick something up cheaper. But garage labour and parts will add up quickly if you can’t do the work yourself.
What’s hot… What’s not:
If you’re on a real-world budget, buying a car you enjoy is the most important thing. Buying something for investment will always be a bit of a gamble. So, at the very least, you should be able to enjoy the ownership and driving experience.
Popular cars released in limited numbers have good potential for being future classics. A recent example might be the Toyota GR Yaris. Twenty-five thousand made worldwide (which isn’t exactly super limited, but it’s still a relatively low number for a worldwide production run, with only around 2200 in the U.K.). Universally loved by the UK motoring press, they won various car of the year awards. They sold out before release, and early delivered cars were selling for 25% over their list price for a little while to those desperate to get hold of one.
Whilst that has softened now, I imagine that in years to come, low mileage and well-kept example may be quite collectable.
Going the other way, the Volkswagen Mk1 Golf is massively revered and loved. Good ones fetch massive money (I’ve seen one for sale with an asking price north of £70k!). When VW released the Lupo GTI, it was seen by many as a spiritual successor to the Golf; small, light, perky engine… And people bought them thinking they’d be just as popular. But they weren’t and haven’t ever been. They just weren’t that good! So, again it’s essential to do a little background research before paying your money.
Top Tips for Future Classics:
I feel a bit fraudulent offering tips as I’ve owned a Mk1 Golf and a BMW E30 325i, modified them both and ruined their values! So, I can’t claim to be an expert. But I have been in the automotive industry for many years, so I know what’s popular and what I might buy now. All that said, I refer you to my disclaimer above; this is NOT investment advice. The vehicles below are musings on what I might buy if I had money to spend on a future classic car.
Celebrating 6 Cylinders:
Internal combustion engine production is in the twilight of its years. So, I think a sports car with a characterful naturally aspirated engine, with six cylinders or more, will be an excellent long-term bet.
A Porsche Cayman with the 4.0 litre flat 6 is a great car. Something like the BMW M3 in E92 guise, with the V8 engine, will be celebrated forever. If you were in a position to pick up the very limited M3 GTS (only 150 were made worldwide), you’d be in a good position already. Buyers who paid the £140k asking price in 2010 were thought crazy at the time. But they were buying one of the rarest ever M cars and would now be very happy with their investment.
Mini produced the Cooper S ‘GP’ models, which are limited numbers and will always have a massive cult following. The latest GP3 model had a production run of just 3000 worldwide, and 575 were for the UK market. The earlier R53 supercharged-based GP1 are now very collectable and sought after.
VWs to make you go Vroom:
Cars like the VW Golf TCR, or Clubsport S, both based on the Mk7 platform, are brilliant. Sold in low numbers, they both offer something significant compared to regular GTi models and shouldn’t ruin you financially while you enjoy them.
Repairing, Restoring, Protecting and Storing:
When buying a car, especially something a little older, be realistic about what needs to have done. And consider whether or not you might be able to do some of it yourself. Repairs can quickly run into thousands of pounds. These overheads can potentially eclipse the cost of buying the car in the first place. All fine if you’re looking to keep the car long-term (and enjoy it), but if you suddenly have to sell the car, you might be out of pocket.
Do think about where you’re going to keep your car. Older cars will deteriorate quickly if left out in the elements or in damp, draughty garages subject to hot and cold weather extremes. If you don’t have a decent garage to use, you might be able to rent one. Please don’t rely on leaving it in a friend’s garage long-term. Eventually, they’ll get fed up and want that space back. Many reputable storage firms will keep it for you, but at £50 a week, that needs careful consideration, too.
Depending on the age of the car, consider the tax and MOT requirements. And, of course, it will need to be insured all the time. A lay-up policy, where you don’t use the car, can be pretty cheap – but vehicles need to be used. Cars suffer when sat unused for long periods. A regular, gentle drive where everything gets up to temperature will do the drivetrain wonders. This means you’ll need to keep it taxed (if applicable) to stay legal.
We hope you enjoyed reading our musings (not advice!) on future classic cars. And if you invest and your vehicle needs a little love and attention, we can help!