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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/

Replies (57)

Replies (57)

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...  

Passenger

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. 

Passenger

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. 

Detailer

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.

Passenger

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.

Passenger

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.

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. 

Passenger

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.

Pit Crew

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.

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.

Pit Crew

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.  

Passenger

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!

Passenger

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 (!!!)

Intermediate Driver

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.

Passenger

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. 

 

Intermediate Driver

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. 

Passenger

"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. 

Passenger

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.

Passenger

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! 

Detailer

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

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!

New Driver

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?

Intermediate Driver

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.

Advanced Driver

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).

New User

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.

New Driver

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.  :<)

Pit Crew

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.

Passenger

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. 

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...

Passenger

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.

New Driver