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Hagerty Employee

5 underappreciated ’80s and ’90s cars

With all the talk about modern classics—youngtimers, Radwood cars, whatever you want to call them—collector cars from the 1980s and 1990s are clearly having their day. This trend has been taking shape for a few years now, and Hagerty's valuation experts have observed cars from these two decades making the biggest moves.


Many such vehicles have been making that all-important transition from used car to collector car, but some haven't yet gotten their due. These underappreciated cars perhaps live in the shadow of another one, or they may have just gotten lost in the frenzy, but these five classics have us asking, "Why aren't these more expensive?"


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Not a mystery at my house. There's not a single one of those cars that gets me excited just by looking at it, and whether we like it or not, that's a huge part of car buying.


None are under appreciated all but the Corvette are to the point that they are not worth enough to invest much in them unless you can find a clean copy. 


The Lotus is just expensive to fix less the shared parts. The RX7 always needed seal work. The Mitsubishi, is just a money pit. The T birds all rusted out or the engine blew up. 


This is the future we are facing with the more advanced tech and electronics in the modern cars. They will be nearly impossible to restore due to value vs cost. 


This is what is driving the 911 Air Cooled market now as the later water cooled cars are money pits where the Air cooled simplicity makes them much easier to manage. 


The Lotus would eat you up financially but what a neat looking car.  Love the rest of them.  The Corvette is a lot of eye candy for not a lot of coin.  I've seen some sweet examples go cheap.  A couple really nice ones crossed the block at Mecum for like $7,000 or thereabouts.   Seems the Mitsu 3000gt and Dodge Stealth's are going up in value a bit.  The T-bird is so redneck fresh, awesome eye appeal, didn't they make those with the 5.0 too?

New Driver

I had a Lotus Esprit and flipped the headlights up to a passing girl , I knew.  She just drove on by and didn't wave. When I saw her later I asked if she saw me...she said "Was that you...I thought it was a Fiero"...I sold it later that week. 

Community Manager

Ouch, that's rough. 

Pit Crew

To borrow from the Godfather…“Leave the girl, take the Esprit”

The vette is a mystery. Having owned two of that year range I can say that the bang for your buck on these cars right now is phenomenal! My personal opinion on the values of these cars is that there is a certain stigma attached to their ownership, can you say midlife crisis? When you buy a foxbody you are a youthful aficionado, when you buy a Porsche turbo you are a air cooled Connoisseur but when you buy a corvette you are a balding lonely old man lol wait, crap, I owned two...  

New Driver

I have been bald and a single old man for a long long time! I also have 2 C4's (87 and 96), but I thinking with that explaination I need a looooot more! LOL

Let the haters hate. The mandolin player in one of the bands I played in had a '78, and a '90. That '90 made mince meat of the '78 in every way. I think they are a terrific car.
Pit Crew

Pit Crew

I had a 1986 Fiero GT that would clean the clock of most of these foreign cars.  It shifted into top gear at 100mph!  Buy one now with less than 10k miles for $14k.  Wish I had it back now!


Buying a 30 plus year old turbo powered car would be a nightmare. The only car on that list I'd even contemplate is the Vette. The rest are destined to be washing machines.

Intermediate Driver

Some of those haven’t hit their stride in the eyes of collectors yet. Some of them may never.  If we can add to the list, I would add the 1992-2000 Lexus SC300/400. A wonderful GT car that helped establish a brand that looks and drives great and also happens to be super reliable as well. I would also argue for the 1988-1991 Honda CRX which does get some love but not as much as it probably should, and finally, I would add the first generation of FWD Pontiac Grand Prix coupes. Amazing tech for the late ‘80’s (head up display and those awesome steering wheel controls!). I’m not saying that that any of these are necessary strong monetary investments but if you find a good one, they’ll each pay you back in their own special way which is, in my opinion, worth every penny. 


C4 prices are flat right now, but ones to watch are 84-89 z31 300zx, they are under appreciated and a better car than 81-83 280zx's. I know the v6 is a turnoff but are great cars nontheless. Values are going up on the really good ones.


I still have a Fiero and once flipped the lights at a girl. 

She got in because she knew I had money because I didn’t own a money pit. Lol! 


There is no mystery to the flat C4 prices. 

The problem is starting with the C4 many buyers are older and only drive them on weekend in sunshine. Most get wiped off and then put away. 

There are a ton of these Vettes with low miles available so supply outstrips demand. The 5,6 and 7 are facing the same thing. 

Also hurting the C4 is that the 5,6 and 7 all got better over time. So if you can afford a little more the later car is the better buy. 

it is a prime time for the used Corvette market if you want a good car. The C3 and down years were used up and supplies are much more limited and well used in many cases. 

Right now the best bang for buck is the C5. 

Intermediate Driver

Only if you like the rotund styling of C5.
Pit Crew

I own a 1990 RX-7 convertible that I bought 17 years ago. It was in beautiful condition then, and still is today. I never bought it to make money, and I haven't. I bought it to enjoy, and I have.


1985 performance Toyota Celica Supra. 


Good list, good reasoning. I'm more interested in the esprit than the others, so that means I would not get any of them.



Have always loved the Mazda, but since rotor housings are no longer made by Mazda, rebuilding a motor is an expensive business, if possible at all. While some outliers claim high mileage 13b motors, my experience is a rebuild at no later than 125k is typically necessary. A pity, because they are great fun to drive and don't look dated on the road, especially the beautiful convertible.


Gen 1 Vipers are a smoking deal right now as well. You can pick one up in the high $20’s. Talk about bang for the buck....

Pit Crew

Forgot about the Viper. Now I’m looking.
New Driver

Add to the list the Maserati M138.  Sexy styling a genuine Italian exotic but without tge finicky engines. Ferarri built V8 power made reliable by chain driven cams rather than the expensive to msintain Ferarri belts. Comfortabke, fast, composed and regular service items like an oil change can be done by a home mechanic for about $70 bucks.


Yet, due to the faulty and hugely expensive to repair, Cambio Corsa semi automatic  tranmission found in most of them, their price has plummeted.


But if you locate one with the true manual 6 speed, they are almost bullet proof.  As with mist exotics, tgey are usually pampered drive to the mall cars with low mileage, or hard driven beat up cast offs.


Its easy to find a low mileage, pampered manual trans example for used Honda money.

New Driver

nope. none of these are on my list. at all. 

all of these are poor choices for various reasons of unreliability, lameness, or sheer price /over value. 


can i please have my 5 minutes back? 

terrible article.

Pit Crew

I would add the BMW e24 (633/635CSi) to this list.  These are now starting to appreciate, and are great cars for the "shade tree" enthusiast with little in the way of electronics to deal with.  Parts are mostly plentiful and relatively cheap, and the drivetrain is bullet-proof if properly maintained.  Build quality from the factory was excellent which shows this many years down the road.  An overall fun car to collect, or just drive and enjoy.


"Why are they under appreciated?"...In fact they aren't under appreciated. Based on the '88 Thunderbird Turbo Coupe I owned, they're just examples of how bad so many cars of the '80s were. 


I own a 1989 RX7 GTU with 50,000 miles. OEM mechanical, interior with all working instruments and even the original floor mats. Not a total garage queen. Driven 30k miles over 14 years with about 20 track days at Road Atlanta. Other than some upgrades to suspension by RacingBeat and fresh 20/50 this example has been maintenance only and no seal problems or other mechanical issues. A World of Wheels winner in class, 20 track days at Road Atlanta and many smiles later, I recommend a purchase if you can fine a clean example. I also own a C7 Z51 and both are great in their own way. 

Intermediate Driver

ASC McLarens made from mustangs are great buys and easy to maintain. I have an 89 in a only one made color combo of Paris blue and tan with 50K miles for $14,000. Many out there with low miles under $10,000. All are rare

Advanced Driver

Thank you for this article. 

I had a close friend, who has Passed, that had a '93 Corvette I rode and drove many times. I'm not a Corvette enthusiast, but we had some good times in that car, and it never failed him. He took his wife on an 800 mile trip without any trouble.

I've owned a '93 Bird, a 6 Cylinder car and before you all laugh let me share with you that it wwas a wonderful performer for its weight and horsepower, everything worked, I

bought it used in Los Angeles, lots of miles and a real runner. It was totaled against a mountain in Northern California in the wet.

I'm trying to date a lady (there's an issue here, we're not getting into it) who drives an '89

Mazda Convertible you describe, she refuses to sell the car. It does have

oil consumption issues and frequent hard starting but runs anyway. I have referred her to the appropriate dealer here who's service department knows its stuff. 



I bought a 1986 RX-7 new and enjoyed it immensely until the early 90s. The styling was gorgeous, IMO, and the performance exemplary, but that didn't last. The plastic started breaking and other planned obsolescence items began taking their toll after a few years. The engine would occasionally have trouble starting starting around 70K miles despite my regular oil changes and maintenance at the dealer. I asked a mechanic at the dealer about the engine and he told me that rotaries aren't designed to last much longer than that. Sadly, the performance car I loved, and it did have wonderful performance during the early years, had to go. There may be a reason these 2nd gen RX-7s are more inexpensive.

Pit Crew

I loved my 79 RX7 GSL but you can’t keep them all! Next car was an 86 Trans Am that felt like a truck with a TTop in comparison. I miss that Mazda.

RX7s are taking off in value. You used to be able to find a decent one for $2k Now they are $10k plus. They are tricky to buy. A poorly maintained one will cost $5k for an engine rebuild, but gawd are they magnificent to drive. The key to engine life is to add a bit of oil to the fuel at fill up. You'll get 150k out of them. Don't do this and you'll get 70k.


C-4's were killed by the early on throttle body stigma and bland lines. C-3 will up your investment faster and later 70's cars can still be found on the cheap. Check the birdcage and frame above rear wheels. Garage kept a must.


The C4 Corvettes remain my second favourite, behind the 1956-57.  My wife's friend had an RX7 convertible with 5-speed, back in the 1980's; she really liked it, but didn't have it too many years; she traded it on a Subaru XT (!!!)


What about the Pontiac Fiero, by the time they made it better it was canned?

Pit Crew

Schmucks !!! No 88 Fiero ? 

Pit Crew

The problem with the Lotus is that like the rest of it kin lots of it are from the parts bins of other manufacturers and when you’re shopping in those places you don’t usually go to the shops with the highest spec/ biggest priced items. An example for many years Lotus used a threaded length of studding as the centre bolt for their door hinges which obviously didn’t have to much of a bearing surface. It didn’t take long for the threaded surface to wear leading to door drop.


Recently got a Porsche 924S 1987 for less than 5k.  It has been the best smiles per dollar ratio I’ve ever experienced in a car.  The 87 and 88 924S deserve not to be lumped with the earlier 924.  With the 944 2.5 L Porsche engine it really is a wonderful car.

Pit Crew

No 928? 


Where’s the SVO Mustang? Very rare and ahead of its time. 


Love the C4’s totally underrated, also SVO’s , dig deep and find the fun and sole in these cars, that won’t even cost you that much compared to cookie cutter jelly beans today!


We own a 1984 Mercury Cougar that looks like it just rolled off the showroom floor. It might not set hearts a flutter, but we enjoy the heck out of it. License reads cattrack.


Underappreciated?  I don't see it.  Every car on this list seems to me to be appreciated just right for what it is.  The Lotus is probably the best there.  Lotus is a fairly focused company though, and everything they turn out follows the same formula of weight distribution and road hugging performance.  The Elise came out in '96, outdoing the Esprit (-1993).  People have short memories where cars produced by the same manufacturer and within the roughly the same time frame are track-performance focused cars.  The Vette was nothing impressive.  I like Corvettes, but that one is not on my list of cars to own should the opportunity present itself.  I can't say I have had the privaledge of driving one, so feel free to dismiss my comment if you have and disagree, but it's all relative and there were better cars in that category at the time.  The RX7 had and continues to have a strong following, so I'm not sure why that belongs on this list.  I test drove a T-Bird from that era, and I was thoroughly unimpressed.  I can see the Stealth being underappreciated; that was a good car that a lot of people are unaware of.  I wouldn't collect it myself, but it's nice to know that there are some out there being taken care of.  It's  not an easy task to come up with cars that have been less than fully appreciated.  I respect the effort.  

New Driver

Please! they were ignored for the fact they were under performers, even now the Chevrolet Corvette is a shadow of what the ZR1 was with its LT5 engine.

New Driver

No one was interested in them because they were under performers. 

New Driver

Well I fit the bill for a C4 corvette owner. Found a 40,000 mile 91 ZR1 and what a car. I paid low 20’s and that car for the money is unbelievable.  It may be under appreciated but not by me . The ultimate sleeper puts a smile on my face every time I drive it.

Intermediate Driver

I've got a nice collector bike I would like to get rid of and replace with a C-4 'vette. Tough to sell a bike in the dead of winter. Springtime maybe.

New Driver

I own two Fox body mustangs and love them. One I ordered new and the other from the original owner with 18K miles. I always wanted an '87-'88 Turbo Bird because they would be like an ultimate luxury Fox body  Auto Bahn cruiser..........