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Hagerty Employee

4 modern alternatives to out-of-sight '80s and '90s classics

Used car prices are out of control, and collector vehicle values are soaring right alongside them. Even those cars and trucks hailing from the rad-era '80s and '90s have skyrocketed well past anyone's expectations, with auction results and private sales continuing to break records for models that were barely turning heads just a few years ago.

I like the concept of the article. Peak interest in 80s-90s cars is now because of age demographics --there is also a weakening of the market seen in non-halo older car segments relatively speaking. So the author probably could have translated an example that was older for each "dream car" as well.

The Mini Cooper has a legion of internet comments loving them, and a legion saying they are expensive to repair. If you can't afford the VW you want I'm not sure a mini is the best way to save money?

Nissans don't get enough credit in North America, but then North America doesn't get all the best spec Nissans. Nissan has held out on several old platforms for 10+ years longer than the competition in multiple cases, so yes you can get your 90s dream in a 2011 wrapper. There is both advantage and downfalls to this.

The relative value of "typical" spec Corvettes, Camaros and Mustangs and the ease to maintain makes it hard to not include them on any such list.

I wish the list had dealt with the harder matches to make... what is the "cheap" Viper? (Alfa??? Not sure, would be interested to hear comments on that)

Good article! The Nissan Z vs Porsche 944 is interesting. 

Intermediate Driver

I had a 944 turbo back in the day. What a fun car.
Advanced Driver

Had a "twin double overhead cam" GTP with a Getrag ($2k) that had a lot of fun with Porsches. (did have a tune).
Intermediate Driver

What should be on this list is the 2004 - 2006 GTO.
Intermediate Driver

I guess Hagerty did not have any interesting articles to publish.

In 1980, I got a wild ride through the Black Forest mountains (ok, hills) in a GTI. I had experienced, though not yet driven, my grandparents’ manual 260Z and 280ZX — but the GTI was on another level. It was just amazing to hit 160 km/h in a little car like that, going uphill… I had once briefly reached that awesome speed in my mother’s 1976 Malibu wagon, then backed off immediately as the old blue whale bounced, wallowed and ducked… whereas the GTI just handled the pace as it was made to do. Canada got Wolfsburg-built GTIs starting in 1979, so I knew about the car from home, but I had not yet experienced one in the flesh. It was a real thrill to do so!

I have driven a modern Mini Cooper S, a 370Z, a Porsche 944, a 300ZX twin-turbo (which you left out, unfortunately), and frequently drive my buddy’s 1st-gen CTS-V six-speed manual. The latter car spanks pretty much every one on this list, I believe, though I have not experienced an M5. Despite its mediocre finish (peeling aluminum hoods, dull/flaking paint, yellowing headlight covers, etc.), I think the CTS-V is worth collecting in manual form, the longback being the one I would most love to have. But it makes no sense where I live (roads, speed limits, gas prices, storage) , so I’ll just keep on driving my beater Outback and borrow my buddy’s manual Caddy from time to time…
Pit Crew

I know you guys are in the business of making money off classics, but aren’t there enough real classics?
None of these cars are special in any way.
Let the buyers decide what they want and what is classic.
Including these cars in the idea of “classic” dilutes and insults the whole concept.
Intermediate Driver

Great article, with a bit of hesitation on recommending the 1st gen "new" mini cooper S, those engines are time bombs.
New Driver

Apparently early MINI’s are hit and miss in terms of reliability. I bought an 02 from a friend who bought it at a large auto auction knowing little of the car’s history. It was 6-7 years old when I got it. I kept it 6 years and did nothing to it except change the oil and add gas occasionally. It got mpg’s in the upper 30’s and was always a hoot to drive. I eventually traded it when I figured my luck couldn’t last forever. It may still be out there making someone happy. Or not…

I guess a lot of people out there need to start having better dreams. A good percentage of these vehicles are nothing more then daily drivers , some of them I would run the other way from due to reliability issues and parts cost. Money could be spent on more reliable and better re- sale value vehicles.
Intermediate Driver

Wow, a whole bunch of folks must have had pee in their cornflakes this morning.

I bought my '06 Mini Cooper S convert (R52) eight years ago with 18K on the clock. It was my daily driver until Nov. 2020, and now has nearly 80K. With the exception of installing a new brake master cylinder ($200), I have only had to replace normal wear items (brakes, tires, oil changes, etc.) I wouldn't hesitate to jump in it tomorrow and drive across the country.

More importantly, it is a whole lot of fun to drive - sounds great, has decent power for the size and is one of those cars that you don't have to drive at liberty-risking speeds to have a ball.
Intermediate Driver

Ok, not a really bad list. Especially the suggestion of a Nissan Z instead of a trouble prone 944 Turbo ('cause I have 944 Turbo that I bought new) that can cost more than the Z in the first year of ownership. Those cars need LOTS of attention, all of it expensive, and all of it by calendar time, not miles. Only 3000 miles on the cam/balancer belts? Well, if it has been more than 5 years,
better do the replacement, because the belts break... and bend the valves, and you will be into a $4000 repair in a heart beat. Don't get me started on the electrics, exhaust system, turbo water pump, dash cracks, upholstery, or the HVAC system. While you might be able to get parts or tech help from your local Porsche dealer for your 911, Porsche dealers don't even have anyone working there that were even born when the 944 Turbo was sitting on the showroom floor. They don't have parts. Not even an oil filter. Seriously, they don't want to see you. While the 944 Turbo is a great car when everything is screwed down right, it's a nightmare to service and maintain, and the prices are insane. The Z is actually faster, handles as well, and is perhaps built better.
You might even consider a Chrysler Crossfire if you want a two seat coupe.
A Cadilac CTS-V is certainly a nice exchange for an expensive BMW M5, but the Caddy is still expensive. The holy grail, a CTS-V wagon with a 6 speed manual is actually quite a bit more expensive than a nice M5 of any year.

What I have learned is the you buy what your heart wants. Buy it new, if you can afford it, and keep it. That might be a better deal than one of these "plan B" cars. If you have a "plan B", make sure that it is something that is on your serious list. Do your homework, drive the cars, look at everything. Eventually, what you want (within reason) will turn up, in a condition that you can live with, in a condition that you can deal with.
Intermediate Driver

While I've always liked Z's, I can't leave your "diss" on the 944 unanswered. For example, "They don't have parts. Not even an oil filter." Really? I got mine at the NAPA store. I believe it's a re-branded Wix. So what dealer can't get it?
Pit Crew

That Crossfire you mention is an interesting one--people love to make fun of it for its Mercedes SLK underpinnings (seems like you could do worse...) and its SLK interior (Ok they're probably right about that one :), but Gawd it is a neat thing to look at. I get that the style may not be for everyone, but it is one of those cars that reminds you that for a decade or so Chrysler's design team had so much leash they were basically building concept cars. If you want something that turns heads & is probably pretty fun to drive (sadly I haven't gotten to try one), that seems like a good affordable add to this list.
Pit Crew

I agree that this first-gen CTS-V could be an interesting one to buy low now and see what its value does in the next few years.  Not saying it's going to skyrocket, but I feel like this was a special car in Caddy's history--one of the first that helped them really turn the page from Fleetwoods & Devilles to the CTS-V wagons & Blackwings that would follow.  Aside from upkeep I don't think you're going to lose money buying it now, enjoying it, & selling it in 5 years.

New Driver

Instead of the Mini, pick up a Nissan Cube Krom. No it's not a racer. It's a quirky little cruiser ready to jump in value. Ultra reliable. Cool to customize like a JDM wagon, better grab one now and make a nice profit in a couple years.
Intermediate Driver

This article is good conceptually, but I don't find the alternatives to be very appealing. As one other commenter mentioned, the Taurus SHO is a GREAT car that is not getting the respect it deserves. I think people who are attracted to cars from the 80's will want to keep shopping for cars in that era, as it's not about the type of car, but the style. My list of alternative affordable 80s cars would be the Chrysler TC, Buick Park Avenue, Thunderbird SC, and Pontiac Firebird.
Pit Crew

besides a 77 MGB sitting quietly in the garage, A Saab 900se Turbo Convertible is the sleeper in the my pack.
Saab was never a mainstream ride and that was a good thing. While values look depressed on them, among those that appreciate a car with an aviation background are searching them out, restoring them and finding their value appreciating as well as being great fun to drive.
Why pay inflated prices for what were really quite ordinary cars except for wanting to relive those adventures you may have had as a kid. The Saab is a niche ride that will surprise.

CTS V with a 6 speed seems a decent alternative with some minor potential upside...
New Driver

I've never felt more compelled to comment:

Hagerty, you do realize that your clientele is largely comprised of automotive enthusiasts, right? Like, they are into cars? FYI, none of "us" are buying any of this. Perhaps those who look at cars as purely a means of transportation would buy a Nissan over a Porsche, or those who happily park their car on the street at night would happily take a newer Caddy over a classic Bimmer or even those that never had a subscription to R&T or Automobile magazine would be content to own a Cooper S over a 1st Gen GTI, but the rest of us don't adhere to such sanity and would appreciate you NOT trying to talk us into more sensible alternatives, thank you very much.
New Driver

I would like to say, thank you for a very nice article. Those that are knocking 944s in the comments need to drive one. The Na cars are not power houses but that is not what it’s about. These cars are all about the balance. I have owned a turbo for almost 20 years and can say that it holds its own against a lot of modern machines. 350 z is a very nice car too but a very different car to a 944.
Pit Crew

Similar to the note on the SHO, a Focus SVT would be a much better choice to supplant the GTI. Still dirt cheap, great performance stock with a wide range of options including recaro seats and in either 3 or 5 door hatches. 170hp dual ohead cam 2 liters revving 7000+ redline with the only choice of tranny being a getrag 6 speed. Huge range of aftermarket performance parts as well. I run my 5 door in scca stock, and it's been dead reliable for that and daily driving on the last 140000 miles. Even survived two kids learning stick! Just have to keep the timing belt changed every 60k since it's an interference engine.

"Cool"1990's and newer wagons under $8,000 could be a fun topic. Keep these types of articles coming, some of us find them interesting.