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Grace
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?"

 

Read the full article on Hagerty.com: https://www.hagerty.com/media/valuation/5-underappreciated-80s-and-90s-cars/

92 REPLIES 92
Bullypit
New Driver

I had an 87 Turbo Tbird identical to the one shown in your photos.  It was nice to look at but the most unreliable car I have ever owned.  I got it with 55K miles on the clock and the following items occurred within my three years of ownership:

1. Failure of catalytic converter the DAY I bought it, resulting in blockage of exhaust system and failure of car to run.  Flatbed #1.

2. Broken timing belt at 56K miles.  Flatbed #2.

3. Complete failure of ignition module.  Flatbed #3.

4. Clutch replacement and rebuild of 5 speed.

5. Ignition module failure #2 - Flatbed #4.

6. Alternator failure and rapid discharge - Flatbed #5.

 

When it was not in the shop it was fun to drive, but never have I had som much trouble...

 

SilentBoy741
Detailer

Hmm.  It seems that when defining the worthiness of a car, the author never looks up from what's under the hood.  There's more to "underappreciation" than auction dollar per horsepower. 

 

Not many memorable or interesting cars came out of that era, but occasionally there are a few that make people say, "Oh yeah, I *do* remember that car.  I liked that one!", and it didn't always involve how long a burnout mark it could make. 

 

Some were just unique, different, or fun, but don't get the attention or prices they should these days.   For me, I still fondly recall the Porsche 944, the 911's cute-but-oft-ignored little sister, or the old Buick Reatta.  If I could find a Reatta with a working touch screen, I'd be in love.

Kemosabe
Pit Crew

Would add the Aston Martin DB7 Vantge to the list

Historian
Detailer

C4 Corvette's underappreciated?  Yes they are.  The people on here talking trash about them don't have a clue of what they are talking about.  Did they have problems in the various years, caused by Chevy's moronic engineers?  Yes, but show me a car ever made that didn't.  When the C4 was first produced, it BEAT every one of Europe's high-priced prima-donnas in road racing; so much so, that they were outlawed, and Chevy was forced to create C4 Corvette-only racing events.  I know a guy that even today regularly beats C5's and C6's on the race track with his "lowly" C4.  Only a fool would buy a C4 thinking he is going to restore it to factory fresh and make money on it.  People buy C4's because they fall in love with them.  You get a lot of bang for your buck, and you don't need 1000 HP to have lots of fun.  As for those stupid problems that Chevy created, dedicated owners have long ago solved most of them in some pretty creative ways.  There is a huge and loyal community of C4 owners out there who help each other, share ideas, and generally act like true ladies and gentlemen (unlike many of the snobs you'll find in other generations of Corvette owners).  There is a solid online community, from a C4 forum, to many C4 dedicated groups on social media.  I used to run a group on Facebroke with hundreds of members, and a friend of mine ran another with an even bigger membership list.  I currently run a C4 group on MeWe; having gotten fed up with the nazi's who run FB.  The 92-96 C4's are okay, and yes, they had more horsepower than the 84-91's, but I certainly would not dismiss the early C4's.  They can all be made to go faster than you really want to drive, and because prices are low, you can build a hot rod fairly cheap.  Because prices are not likely to shoot sky high in our lifetimes and C4's become rare collector items, you are not obligated preserve it in immaculate factory condition like a C1 or C2 in order to reap financial rewards.  Think of a C4 as a blank canvas ready for you to customize to your heart's content.  And many people do.  The 84 C4 was the first one to come out with a computer, so it is very easy to do away with said pretty much useless computer, if you like non-computer cars.  Also, the majority of 84's came out with the Z51 suspension package that was truly race-ready.  So many people complained that the 84 Z51 was too stiff, that in 85, Chevy started wimping them down for those who wanted a Cadillac style ride.  C4 Corvettes were never intended to be drag racers, although some people do that.  They were designed to go fast around curves and corners in road-race style driving, and they do that quite well.

Chevelle_man
Intermediate Driver

Well said sir!
100thdeuce
Passenger

Between my wife and I, we've owned 3 of the 5...almost. I had a Dodge Conquest TSi which was the 87 version of the Dodge/Mitsubishi. Great car with no problems in the 5 years wife 1 drove it. Wife 2 drove a Mazda Rx7 for several years and has remained a sports car lady ever since. I have owned two '93 40th Anniversary Corvettes just like the one in the picture. Bought the first one new on December 22nd of '92 as my Christmas present. I had been a good boy. 17 years and 4 corvettes later, I got sentimental about having traded my '93 so I found a clean low-mileage example and bought it. It was every bit as much fun as I remembered despite having had a C5 and currently driving a C6. Then the ECU went crapola and I found out why I didn't want to own it any more. GM no longer had parts, and no aftermarket ECU's are available. I ended up buying a used ECU out of a junk yard in Texas that came from a Z28. Got it fixed and quickly sold it.

Unbalanced
Intermediate Driver

The most under appreciated 90’s car is without a doubt the Subaru SVX. Concept car looks inside and out and a fabulous GT driver. During the year or so I had one it got more attention than just about anything else I’ve owned, with the possible exception of my 3.0CS. And yet they go for next to nothing.

Not sure why, but the self-destructing auto transmissions might have a little bit to do with it.

Andy458
New Driver

I would add to this list the Ferrari 348, the cheapest way into mid-engined Ferrari ownership and a greatly underrated car. I never really considered it as I preferred the much prettier 355 to it, but I have a couple of friends who own them and absolutely love them. The engines and gearboxes are absolutely bulletproof, and once the typical electrical gremlins are sorted out, these little V8s are pretty solid cars and will go on forever. Just look at youtuber Tyler Hoover (Hoovie's Garage) and his 100,000 miles Ferrari 348 - he keeps on saying it's his favorite car, and when he put it on the dyno it showed pretty much the same power as new.

 

I'm not saying that 348 ownership is something for everyone because any repairs are going to be pretty expensive (it's a Ferrari after all), but most definitely it is an underrated car from this era.

DFDjr
Passenger

Interesting and worthy list for sure. I’d suggest one addition...Saab 900 Turbo. Great design, handling, Grand touring comfort, unusual then and beginning to be scarce now...

Biff1
Pit Crew

Now THAT’S a forgotten and interesting car. My chiropractor leased one from me, fit his quirky personality perfectly. Reminded me of a 911 with a Swedish accent and the same “get the cows fed before you go out driving Eric” mentality. I liked it.
SJM1
New Driver

Not bald, not single... Maybe that's why I own a Morgan +8 and a Westfield 11... 

Actually, there is a reason that some of these cars are under appreciated, and should likely stay that way.  

'Not much of a fan of the overweight Turbo T-Bird. It had a rattly buzz box of an engine, in an overweight chassis that didn't really handle that well.

I had the SVO Mustang with that engine. Loved the chassis, hated the engine. Within a year, I got rid if it for a Toyota 24Valve Supra.  Loved the engine, not too enamored with the chassis... I did return to the Mustang fold with a Saleen that I modified extensively, and proved that life is better with a V8. 

 

The Turbo Stealth was good in the Mitsubishi VR-4 version.  Rare, and an amazing performer. 

 

Love the C4 Corvette. I would not mind having one now, even though I still have a full head of hair, and a wife half my age. 

Clifford
Passenger

Throw the BMW 850 in that bunch of un appreciated. First 12 cylinder with 6 speed manual. First electronic throttle pedal. Not to mention the push button sport adjustable shocks and rear steer on the CSI . Many many features , then the 90's recession killed it. Take a good look, it was way ahead of its time. The good ones that are left are increasing value at this time. There is a group of owners registered on www.8coup.com and the website gives much information about this car.

ryanwm80
Pit Crew

There's no shortage of cars from the 80's that are under appreciated - Thunderbird SCs, Escort GTs, Isuzu Impulse turbos, Chrysler LeBaron Convertibles - I'm sure many people would laugh at that short list, but those intangible feelings of what makes a car a great collectible is part of what drives prices, and another is aftermarket part availability, especially plastic cosmetic parts, and molded carpets.

DT
Detailer

In general what really makes a car collectible and continue to go up in price is availability. The fewer made the higher the price. That's why C-4 Vettes (Other than the ZR-1) will never really be worth any real money. For us guys just looking for a nice driver that's a good thing 🙂
ScottM
Pit Crew

The cost/performance value of the C4 is undeniable. Yes, there were plenty produced, but in time, the number remaining will change, and so will their value. It just a matter of time.
Piper
Intermediate Driver

You forgot the 1996 Grand Sport of which only 1,000 were built.
Pmckib6787
Passenger

C 4 Corvettes are stupid cheap right now.  When I was it grade school. (mid 70s) 63-67 Corvettes were the cheapest ones you could buy' $3-4000 would buy the nicest ones. By the time I got to highschool (early 80s) 68-72 Corvettes were the cheapest ones, $4-5000.  Early 90s 74-77 were the cheapest you could buy $6000 for the best ones.  C 4s are at the bottom of the curve right now and will start to increase in price just like the C 2s and C 3s.  No one buys a 30 year old car for the cutting edge performance or technology when that car was built.  Example, how many L88 Corvettes or hemi Cudas do you see street racing or doing burnouts?  30 year old cars are bought because they are iconic and fun to drive.  If reliability is one of your primary concerns when your buying a collector car then you probably shouldn't be buying a 30 year old car......or buy a vintage Volvo and drive it every day. 

Chevelle_man
Intermediate Driver

You are absolutely correct. I bought my 96 C4 (in Polo Green) 1.5 years ago. Great handling and acceleration for a 25 year old car. I never cared for C4s when they first came out...I guess I heard to many complaints. But they've grown on me and now I have one. Very happy with it so far!!!
jbarone01
Pit Crew

I recently sold my '89 Convertible Vette with the AUX Hard Top.  I actually got more for it when I sold it than when I bought it.  I bought it right when I first got it (It was  C-4); drove and enjoyed it for many years; and then sold it when I decided to reduce the number of cars in collection.  It was a good car for me over the years, with a few mechanical hiccups along the way (I had well over 100,000 miles on it).  It was no "garage queen" for me and I drove whenever I needed to go someway.  The Corvette community has looked down on the C-4 vintage cars for many years, but I think that is unfair when you consider the much better performance the Vette provided when compared to other cars of that era.  I have owned many different Vette vintages over the year and I still have four in my Pole Barn. 

But I do miss that '89 Vette.  I loved the '89 Vette-era digital dash and performance was always good enough for my needs (I am one of those old white guys who still likes Corvettes. )  Now I am looking forward to the delivery of the new C-8 Corvette Convertible that I have on order.  Corvettes keep getting better and better all the time and still represent the best value in the performance world. 

BTW; regarding the other cars on your list, please don't forget the saying the LOTUS really stands for "Lots Of Trouble, Usually Serious" before you buy one.  :<)

spoom
Technician

Perhaps most unappreciated, is the difference between, "underappreciated" and "unappreciated". In this article's context, that IS the story IMHO.

GForce
Pit Crew

The last edition Thunderbird Turbo Coupes were good. But weren't a match for the 89 SC. If I had to put a Thunderbird on my list, it would be the 89 - 95 SC. But I'm bias as there is always my desire to have kept my '89.

Guitar74
Gearhead

While they were no match for a Super Coupe, I shut down a 5.0 Tbird in one without a problem.
68mercougar
Passenger

A lot of people don't like cars from this era or view them as "not true classics," but as my formative years were in the 90s, I wouldn't be upset with owning any of the cars on this list. Always liked the Stealth, but they are hard to come by; I feel like the 3000GT is more likely to pop up for sale. Unfortunately, many of these cars were driven hard and put away wet or modified to to the extreme (the Japanese examples especially) - making nice quality original examples tough to find. Not on this list, but the '91-'92 Dodge Spirit R/T was another car from this era that I liked, since it was a sportier version of my first car (1990 Plymouth Acclaim).

Guitar74
Gearhead

It's crazy, but the Turbo Coupe in the photo looks just like the one my friend's dad drove when I was in high school. I had another friend whose dad had a '91 or '92 with a 5.0 that kept badgering him to race. Since my friend couldn't drive his way out of a wet paper bag, his Dad tasked me with shutting the 5.0 Thunderchicken down. The only stipulation was that if I tore it up, he got my Camaro. 

 

I shut the 5.0 down with very little effort. They were surprisingly fast. 

Snakevine
New Driver

Looks exactly like the one I used to drive around Dearborn with the m plate on it. Embarrassing, yet funny, first time I got stumped by the new safety feature of the brake shift interlock. sat in a parking lot for 10 minutes trying to figure out what the f*** was going on. Hahaha.
Bill
Detailer

I have never been a fan of digital dashes but the C4s was one of the worst. I have often forgotten that and looked at a few for sale, other than the dash they are very cool cars.
ScottM
Pit Crew

The early C4 dash looked like an arcade game and washed out in sunlight. 90’s units had better contrast, I had a ‘92. At that time, GM embraced electronics and the “jetsons” look for dashes in general. Dials were passé.
Piper
Intermediate Driver

The article speaks of 92 to 96 Vettes which don't have the instrument cluster you mention. Almost nothing remained the same on C4 over the model run even the hood which at the time was the largest SMC panel ever made had four designs. As a matter of fact if one compares part numbers from a 1984 C4 with a 1996 C4 there is very little that remained the same.
It's hard to imagine how GM could afford the engineering and production changes.
rockin50s4me
New Driver

these cars are not even close to oldies...................give me a 55 Chevie..............74 Eldorado or better yet 61 T-Bird..................
and who paints a car green...................ugh
ScottM
Pit Crew

The price of admission is the difference here. All these are good suggestions. I had a ‘92 vette with the ZF. I regret selling it to this day. An excellent performer, our taxing authority thought it was worth only $100. My win. 😂 Also, while not my first choice, “British Racing Green” is, and has been always a highly desirable color.
manorborn
Pit Crew

The Irish Green early Porsche 912s and 911s were among the most graceful cars ever built. And if you'd ever seen a willow green early Jag E-Type or a BRG Morgan or an Aston DB2/4 with matching green wire wheels you'd eat your words. But you're right, painting one of the above homely contraptions green doesn't work. Green only works on good designs.
Biff1
Pit Crew

This group of car Looks like a recycled, “ who is working New Years Day? We need some content” Kind of list. While I would love to rent a Lotus for the day, as far as owning one and paying $34,000 for an Espirit, no way. First time you had the brakes done or had the mysterious clunk repaired you would know why. While the infamous Brit “hit a puddle and the engine quits” is gone with the Lotus, parts prices remain ridiculously high. I applaud Mr Chapman for his vision but I would rather admire an Europa than own one.
2Classics95N72
Intermediate Driver

I may have commented on this article prior (original print) but allow me to comment once again. As the title stated "Under Appreciated"; that being considered the writer isn't suggesting that these are truly "Classics", that is "dated vehicles", simply they have been overlooked by many of us "Car Guys" (Girls) for their enjoyment, power and design. For me, the 92-96 Corvette really hits home.. I recently obtained (few years now) a 95 Corvette; the car was in immaculate condition, interior, body, drivetrain and it only had 40K some miles on it, add to the fact that it was "RED" (any Corvette that isn't Red is still a "Great Corvette", it was possibly just a mistake).

The price on my Vette was very, very do-able; they just haven't increased as some of us would like, but.....IT IS A CORVETTE!

I love driving it, the handling, the power, the profile and you still get the "Thumbs Up". Most think you paid a pretty penny, but for under $10K it is probably one of the coolest cars you can get and enjoy.

So the "Under Appreciated" title of the article is what the reader should focus on, not necessarily the "Collectability", "Valuation" or "Classic" aspect.

Stay Safe.
Stay Healthy.
Stay SMART

HAPPY NEW YEAR!
JFC
New Driver

I bought a new Red with red leather interior '85 Turbo Coup 5-speed. It really lighted my fire and bought it on impulse. For the time it was potentially one of the first fun cars after the introduction of pollution controls in the 1970s. It turned out to be the most unreliable car that I have ever owned by 100X. It was delivered flawed, and NEVER had everything working at once. The worst event was the engine control module went out while I was driving from Western NJ taking my parents to the airport for an international flight. They had to flag down a taxi on the approach to Kennedy and barely made the flight. I left it in the Bronx at a gas station in a very rough neighborhood expecting never to see it again, but after three days the gas station had it running. I have never even slightly considered another Ford product to include the pending Bronco.
Larbear
New Driver

I worked at the Ford Lorain Assembly Plant where the aero Thunderbirds were assembled as a department manager. We were assigned daily vehicles off the line to test drive overnight. I would drive all the manual transmission ones since the rest of the manager’s preferred automatics.
The 87 Turbo Coupe was an awesome car. I liked them so much I replaced my 1985 5.0L Mustang GT with a Dk Blue Met / Navy leather interior 5 Spd unit. It was luxurious as well as sporty. I ordered all the options on it. Never had a problem with it. Sorry to read about the two owners that had “nightmares” with theirs that commented. I can understand how owning a “lemon” turns folks off from purchasing another vehicle from that manufacturer.
I’m retired now and still drive Lincoln’s (2020 Aviator) & Ford’s (2005 Freestar Handicap converted van) for daily drivers.

I have a love for Pontiac’s and own a 1973 Firebird Formula 350 Ram Air 4 spd & a 2009 Solstice GXP Coupe turbo/intercooled 5 spd for my summer cars.

The Thunderbird Super Coupes were nice vehicles but IMO cheap looking interior wise. Mechanically, it was way ahead of its time for American cars with fully independent front & rear suspensions & 4 wheel disc brakes. It was pretty responsive too with the supercharged 3.8L V6.

The 87-88 Turbo Coupes were the last of the full size sporty T Birds. One of my favorites.
win59
Detailer

How about the R129 SL500 Mercedes "roadsters"? Hard top and automatic soft top (hydraulic cylinders are the closest thing to a weak point), V8 or V12. Good old fashioned Mercedes quality. low mileage examples abound and for peanuts.
1956meteor
Intermediate Driver

At the start of 2020 I had in my garage a 1956 Meteor two door hardtop, restored to original and a multiple trophy winner, and a 1985 Greenwood C4 with a 1970 carbed 383  stroker engine that was a blast to drive but intimidated my wife. Then C19 hit. As 2021 begines, the 56 is gone to Sweden and the 85 C4 has been replaced with a bone stock ,white, 89 convert with 60k on it. The money for the 56 and 85 looks alot better in my bank account then the cars did sitting with no where to go . My wife loves the convert and after the health issues she suffered with this past several years, just to see her smile is worth everything. I actually like the 89 in it's stock configuration , it's fun to drive and I have received lots of compliments about it. Safe and happy motoring to all. 🙂

Maestro1
Instructor

Andrew, thank you for this article. Well done.
I had a '93 Bird that was a V-6, a Los Angeles car, high mileage (most LA cars are) with a rebuilt engine that I enjoyed as a driver before it got totaled in a rain storm going over a mountain. Bad advice on tires. A friend had a Corvette you describe, I don't remember which year but right in the ballpark, White with Tan Interior which I drove and rode in many times before he Passed, and I missed buying it by two days because I was out of town. I'm not a Corvette enthusiast but I enjoyed that one. And I remember going to Lunch in San Francisco traffic in a Lotus in this color combination, followed very closely by the Dealer who had the car in his inventory. People talk about the handling of the car; they should drive it in cut and thrust. Phenomenal.
Best wishes and stay well.
danhise
Intermediate Driver

Sorry I'm late.

My blanket approval to all those who have said, one way or the other, that every car here, even the Lotus, is as ugly as homemade sin.
dhaugh
Intermediate Driver

A lot of folks out there with some unkind words about the Lotus. I was a tech for a dealer in the late 70s and early 90s, we picked up the Lotus line in 83 and since I had all the Jag service I got trained on the Lotus as well. While this was a fragile car (Renault transaxle) and could easily be destroyed if driven incorrectly, it was the fastest thing I had ever driven at the time, and mind you I was servicing lots of E Types, both 6 and 12 cylinder. The icing on top though was its handling prowess, nothing stuck to the road, especially in corners, like the Turbo Esprit. And to boot it looked like a bodied race car under the skin. And as Collin preached, "build a great car and add lightness" (my quote might be a bit off.
manorborn
Pit Crew

Unfortunately, this period (70s through mid 90s) produced the ugliest cars of all time. Compare the Corvette reviewed here to the 62, or the 3 window coupe or even those of the 50s. Same skid downhill aesthetically for Lotus. They may be fun to drive, but you still have to look at them. I suppose if you were born during that period and didn't know any better they may be "10s."
incautious
New Driver

As an owner of a Esprit SE for the last 20 years, I can tell you that talk of unreliability and cost of parts/repairs is exaggerated. Remember GM OWNED Lotus during that time, hence lots of GM parts. While the Powermaster III ABS isn't the best of the anti lock systems its' pretty reliable and way cheaper to fix than say that on a Porsche. The electronics and Fuel Injection are strait GM and reliable as the sun, and if you buy the Gm part vs the identical Lotus part you are saving major$$. Lotus made about 10,000 Esprits during its almost 30 year run and only 1800 or so landed on these shores so the odds of seeing one on the road is rare indeed. The SE's are fast, reliable( as far as exotics go) comfortable and stunning. Its the most fun one can have with their clothes on.
Guitar74
Gearhead

I think a lot of claims like unreliability are exaggerated. On the opposite end of the Spectrum, my wife bought a '98 Cavalier new and drove it until 2014. I heard all sorts of people talk about how bad the auto transaxle was, as well as a laundry list of things that never reared their ugly heads. The only thing that DID start rearing its ugly head was the infamous key switch (why on earth GM decided that an electronic anti theft key switch was necessary on a Cavalier is still beyond me). After replacing it three times at a cost of almost $200, I decided it was time for the car to go. 

 

I would take an Esprit from the 90s any day of the week.