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Hagerty
Hagerty Employee

Why are '90s American sports cars still so affordable? | Hagerty Media

Whether you call them "modern classics," "youngtimers," "Radwood cars" or something else, enthusiast automobiles from the late 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s are having a moment right now. Over the last few years, most enthusiast cars from that era have made that all-important transition from "used" to truly "collectible."
https://www.hagerty.com/media/market-trends/hagerty-insider/why-are-90s-american-sports-cars-still-s...
82 REPLIES 82
espo70
Intermediate Driver

Aside from the production numbers and supply/demand, I feel a lot of the cars of the 90's didn't age well style-wise. It was a very specific moment in time for design. Cars went back and forth between looking like jelly beans or bars of soap.
2112
Pit Crew

Umm, Nailed it.
Gary_Bechtold
Instructor

I think you hit the nail on the head. I like the 90's American cars but other than looking at the beautiful ZR-1 motor I have no real desire to get a C4. My brother had a '98 Mustang GT and it is a nice car, looks good but I would have no desire to spend big money to get one. Pontiac has the whole going out of business thing to boost it's price otherwise people would probably not care too much beyond a similar Camaro of the day. Meanwhile the Japanese poured money and resources in their highly advanced cars which took quite awhile for the American cars to equal or better. In the 90's a Mustang GT or a Camaro was cool, a ZR-1 was cooler but an NSX, RX-7 300ZX Turbo and Supra were far more interesting. I've had my Supra since 2002 and still love it today.
DC
Intermediate Driver

If Mustang is a sports car,
what is a pony car ?
Cougracer67
New Driver

I think most "writers" don't know the difference.
JimDino619
New Driver

I've seen so many articles about the "Top 10 Sports Cars" that show 80% 4 door sedans that I don't think the general public any longer knows what defines a sports car. Or, at least many writers no longer differentiate "sporty car" from "sports car"
Bunka
Intermediate Driver

Yes, this article is about American Sports Cars and it then sort of groups the one prevailing American Sports car with a group of American Pony cars. Mustangs and Camaros were and still are pony cars. They are not and never were sports cars. The advertising folks would like us all to think they are so they try to change the definition through their advertising. I'm not buying it.
MustangJim
Detailer

People call them sports cars because of what they symbolize, ie: non conventional, sporty, etc...its not a big deal. To a purist hardly anything is a true sports car anymore, ie: no top, two seats, roll up windows, manual steering. A miata comes closest but to that purist the new miata would be more of a grand touring car. So let's allow ambiguity to live happily. And, as a disclaimer, I dont think my mustang is a sports car.
2112
Pit Crew

Same goes for the definition of Coupe'
BMD4800
Instructor

I think we need to stretch the rules a little, not much to pick from otherwise.
Early 4.6 SN95s, especially with that purple-green changing paint, are quite forgettable.
Once Camaro/Firebirds got the LS, they got increasingly better to the end. Those are worthy to consider and age decently well.
mikem350
Pit Crew

Mustang = Pony?
Peanut
New Driver

The last section should read "Quality Per Dollar"
You write that "A C4 Corvette isn’t half as good or half as fast as an E36 M3 or a 300ZX Turbo, but it is half the price." If you factor in the quality and style of the imports during that time frame, the equation becomes more telling.
MustangJim
Detailer

I think the Corvette is just as good, if not better. And you have easier maintenance on the vette. I have had several Japanese and European cars in my lifetime, they were no better then the domestics
Rick2
Detailer

Quality is important. I liked the C4 until I drove one. The build quality was terrible. My Ford Festiva did not rattle over every pebble on the road.
DaveH
Intermediate Driver

Speaking of quality- have you ever owned and tried to keep an RX-7, M3, 968 or 300 running cheaply once the warranty was up? I foolishly did.
Cougracer67
New Driver

I think a lot of the market is driven by the hangers-on at the fringes of the hobby. These people are not real gearheads; they are more the 'bench racer' types concerned more with their image, so they just buy what seems to be popular at the moment.
Bettyemae
Intermediate Driver

The words in this article I most noticed were ‘plod along’. These ‘sports cars’ were overweight, underpowered and had the build quality of a ‘Barbie Dream House’ (with apologies to Mattel).
XXXMIKEXXX
Pit Crew

What Bettyemae said !!!!!!!
4wheel2wheel
Pit Crew

Not just sports cars but anything from the 90s are collectable to the extent that they attract attention at a car shows, especially the everyday, daily drivers still going strong.
The biggest issue with these cars are parts availability. I liked the smooth curvy lines on 90s era cars as opposed the the angular, notchy ( like something out of a Tron movie) body styles that assault my eyes on the road today.
I applaud GM for building the only true American sports car, the Corvette. In continuous production since 1954 and still a bargain when you consider the price tag on it's competition.
GC
Intermediate Driver

I agree that parts availability, particularly electronics parts can be a huge problem -- even on GM products like the C4. GM no longer stocks the electronic modules, so if you suffer a failure, you are forced to source the parts from "rebuilders" at high prices and unknown reliability. My brother sold his 95 vette for just this reason.
WOJ
Intermediate Driver

You hit the problem...ELECTRONICS...the problem is TIN WHISKERS....which are not dependent on the old adage of vehicle mileage but rather pure age. You can a a very low mile car and still suffer the problem of tin whisker....you even get it with NOS parts that are sitting on the shelf and have never been in a car.
WOJ
Intermediate Driver

In September 2011, three NASA investigators claimed that the tin whiskers they identified on the Accelerator Position Sensors of sampled models of Toyota Camry could contribute to the "stuck accelerator" crashes affecting certain Toyota models during 2005–2010
KBetts
Intermediate Driver

I have a 2001 Mustang SVT Cobra convertible with almost 25,000mi sitting in my garage right now. I bought it 5 years ago with 11,700 miles on it for $12,200. At twenty years old, the registration, classic insurance, new and used parts availability/cost (performance parts too), and knowledge base are better than anything else out there except maybe a VW Beatle.
In my neighborhood there are a late 80's Corvette, an 80's 944 Porsche, a 2010"ish Comaro, and a recently brought home a customized 60's Galaxie 500. It's rare to see any of them on the road where as I take mine out several times a month.
Between the affordability and being able to drive often, late 90's American Muscle Cars are the sweet spot. You can find low mile special edition models that are beautiful and fun to drive without guilt and even (DARE I SAY IT?) let one of your friends or family members drive. Fun, which is the whole idea of having one, in my opinion. Cheers.

BMD4800
Instructor

Drive them! Agree 100%.
Padgett
Intermediate Driver

Interesting that in an article about American sporty cars of the 80s, three from GM were missed (never mind, few noticed anyway) the Fiero, Reatta, and Allante, three two seaters that were too expensive when new and pocket change today (well Fiero was least expensive, only RWD, and sold the most). The Chrysler TC also belongs in this bunch.

Best to get two, one nice and one for parts, but still talking well under $10k. For both. Chump change and easy to store.
DaveH
Intermediate Driver

Well the Fiero was dead in '88, and the other 2 are NOT sports cars.
DaveH
Intermediate Driver

Neither is the orphan TC
Geok86
Advanced Driver

This is an easy one to figure out...in the late 80s and onward, the American “performance” cars all cost more to buy and insure than Civics, Integras, Corollas, Miatas, etc., so that is what the majority of late gen x and millennials grew up driving, so it only makes sense that they now want to relive their youth in the cars they grew up with...either that they owned, or wished they could have at the time. The majority of Mustangs, Camaro/Firebird, Vettes, etc., where actually bought by Boomers, and early gen x. I’m from the middle of gen x, and I like and own/have owned all types...currently have a MKVII GTI, a 95 Firehawk, and an R56 Cooper.
Jzobie
New Driver

I agree completely. As a teenager getting my license in 2000 I had the choice of getting a 3rd gen f body, Fox mustang, or import as a first car. Corvettes were too expensive to insure and the LT1 vetted were still too pricey to buy for most of us who were emptying our own accounts for that first car. I chose to go the 3rd gen f body route but I had many friends who went with an import and I can’t blame them. While I was busy putting money into my Trans Am to keep it in the road every weekend they were modifying and customizing their cars. On top of that the imports were FUN; you could thrash on them, bring them to redline (around 6500 rpm), and they were readily available in manual which could not be said for the domestics. I currently have a 2000 Camaro SS but would love to grab a CRX/Del Sol, Integra, Civic hatch, b13 Sentra, Miata, Eclipse/Talon or Prelude if given the chance to pick a clean one up on the cheap. Looks like that is not going to happen though.
DaveH
Intermediate Driver

Why are you comparing Civics and Corollas etc to Corvettes and Mustangs? They're talking about expensive sports cars not commuter cars..
Geok86
Advanced Driver

No...they are talking about how the foreign, particularly Japanese vehicles, have outpaced the American vehicles in value, and while many young people in the late 80s onward may have desired a Vette, Mustang, etc., they couldn’t afford the car, or the insurance, and so they inherited the family civic or corolla, etc, or bought one...the majority ended up sticking with what they were familiar with, and now all these years later they want the same vehicle they had, or an upgraded version, or they want the Supra or NSX, etc., that they couldn’t afford back then....they have no interest in the American vehicles.
DaveH
Intermediate Driver

Obviously people will stick with what they know, but your reasoning is incorrect to compare Mustangs and Camaros with Miatas and Integras- as you will see and why I never mentioned in the last post- as is scapegoating Corvettes while ignoring the more expensive RX-7,Supra etc. 

A Mustang GT/Camaro Z28 was maybe a grand cheaper than a regular Integra RS and $2-3k cheaper than a GS-R. A Mustang GT convertible was the same price as a similarly optioned Miata and that's not even counting rebates and finance programs which would make them thousands cheaper. $1500 down and $225 a month was the usual deal for a GT coupe.

Corvttes definitely were an older demographic, but Mustangs and Camaros definitely not. Ford sold more GTs each year than what GS-Rs sold in the entire production run, world wide, over 8 years. I'm pretty sure- without looking- that similar number (or even more) of Corvettes were sold in '94 than the entire production run of all the Japanese cars listed above, world wide, over their entire production run from '93 to '98 or whatever. So production numbers are also a huge factor.

And of course it was Boomers and Z buying them all- Millenials would have been 14 years old.

FYI I got out of high school and started right away in the car biz as a dealer and broker and was dealing in this stuff when they were new.

BMD4800
Instructor

Quality, OBD-II, Clean Air Act-2, and the rush to build more SUVs didn’t bode well for performance cars.

Looking back to study hall and car mags, it is kind of hard to get excited about a non-supercharged SN95 Mustang, or a C4. Especially when the hands-on tech mags demonstrated the pure ease of turning a notch-back 5.0 into a relative superhero.
This Gen X’er, would love to find a clean LX Notch with a 5.0 and 5-speed, complete the transparent mods, and have a quick little stock looking sleeper. But, most if not all, have been converted to track cars or been wrecked.
Will
Intermediate Driver

Well, for me, that just may be good news. Maybe they will stay affordable until I have a place to keep one. I've always wanted a C4. Just a base engine coupe, with ALL the interior goodies. First, I'd like to have an '89, because it was the last year of the "cool" instrument panel that lots of people hate. I personally like it the best. I'd also like to have a one of the last couple of years. I like the outside better and they have the best gas mileage, and probably the better engine than the previous ones.
On another note, If the price stays moderate on the C4, so does the insurance premium. There are some investment grade cars out there, but these are not in that category, and not likely to be for another 25 years. I have several "flatliner", collector cars. I can enjoy all six of mine, for the same insurance and registration money as the price of one $50k toy. Just my preference, but lots of fun with various ones, rather than one single special car.
DPB
New Driver

To bad Dodge didn't make a 1990's sport car with high horsepower and torque and in low production numbers, that might have raced and swept Le Mans...oh well.
DaveH
Intermediate Driver

Yeah too bad. Maybe they they have built something totally different and crazy- with maybe 10 cylinders.

DPB
New Driver

A V10? What are you smoking? That could never happen.
Spyder
New Driver

oh you mean a Viper
Iso_Grifo
Advanced Driver

It's just hard to justify buying a not so nice looking 1995 Mustang when you can buy one of the newer, more classically styled ones. Put a 1995 next to a 2005 and it's no contest. Even the interior is cooler in a cheap fun way. Kind of the same story with a 1995 Corvette vs. a 2005 Corvette minus the retro factor. No contest really. It's hard to have a 25 year old car recognized as an appreciating collectible when the 15 year old version of the car looks better and is cooler. The Japanese cars listed don't have that problem.
BossGreg
Intermediate Driver

One car they never talk about is the ASC McLaren made from a Mustang. A two seater convertible which is closer to a sports car than any other Mustang. You can still find a low mileage example for under $10,000. They were initially twice the price of a Mustang and now are half the price of some common Mustangs in similar condition. I have one made in it's one of one paint and trim color in 1989 and only got bids up to $7,000. Not going below 13,000 though. All are rare, but you can still find them for 7,000 in nice condition.
BossGreg
Intermediate Driver

It would be good to have an article on all ASC affected Cars. Many brands used ASC for custom work. I have a loaded 73 Mach 1 with an Power ASC Sunroof. Never have seen another. Wouldn't own my 72 Lincoln if it didn't have one also. Feels almost like a convertible.
OHCOddball
Intermediate Driver

There is nothing wrong with prices being affordable. Reasonable prices means more normal people can enjoy cars instead of being stuck with their econobox everyday turds. It is obscene how prices for some cars, especially 60's muscle/pony cars have gone through the roof. In the late 70's when I was in high school, you could get a 69 Chevelle Malibu 2 door with a 307/Powerglide for $1000 (I did). Now you can't touch rusty hulks with no engines for less than $5k because everybody thinks their car is worth a fortune. There are more 'SS's' out there than were EVER produced from the factory. Exotic sports cars are nuts too. Overpriced mechanical nightmares. Buy what you like and drive it whether it is a hotrodded 70's Datsun 510, a more-door big Buick with big bumpers or a fart-can muffler'd Honda. People need to quit buying cars as 'investments'. They ARE NOT, except to stupid people with too much money.
DMcG
Pit Crew

As a longtime Mustang owner (Foxes, SN95s and a 2015) I pay a lot of attention to the action on the Facebook Mustang forums. Yes, Fox Mustang prices are going way up. Anything decent is $12-15k now, and $20k is becoming more common. But that inflation is beginning to wake the dead SN95 market, finally. A few years ago, you could get a decent 94-95 GT from a private party for $3,000 to $3,500. Not today. Double it. Cobras run a little higher. Low mileage cars are creeping back into the teens. I am loving it. There are submarkets. The 94-95s with the old 302 are strong and preferred by a lot of guys. The 99-04 New Edge body looks a little different and has the Performance Improved (PI) 4.6L 2V engine, so it's also a favorite. The poor 96-98 is the red-headed stepchild of the bunch, worth at least $1,000 than an equivalent car of another type. Slow (glacial with the automatic), not amenable to modifications, and not a New Edge. Give the market a few more years. As the Foxes all climb above $20,000, the SN95s are going to get at least respectable. Funny thing is they are in every objective way much better cars than the Foxes and much better for daily driving. As I say, I have had both. I have a 94 GT now. All the sound and fury of a Fox with Cobra brakes, tighter body and suspension and much more comfort. And I paid $2,500 a few years back. There are advantages to low markets.
gto_fan
New Driver

The American cars of the late 80's thru mid 90's were very bad quality with no performance. They were the worst generation of American made cars. The Grand National and Chevy Syclone are the only cars of any interest and appreciation in that era. The cars of that era were struggling to meet EPA standards and quality suffered badly. I've been in the collector car business for 30 years, and this era has no interest from the buyers.
DaveH
Intermediate Driver

Not mentioned- the top 5 vehicles for price, not coincidentally are also the top 5 for being unreliable,having expensive/unobtainium parts, and known to blow up and/or be a continual repair project. Back in the day- once the warranty was recently up- they were all bank account busters to keep going even with parts being semi available. I've owned all the top 5 on the list,some of them multiple times and learnt my lesson.
But once I got my hands on a C5 Corvette those all vanished from my though processes.
KinkCobra
Pit Crew

I generally agree that the period in discussion was not a monumental time for American cars, pony, sports or any others. However, my 1990 300ZX TT was so high tech that it was hard to get a good mechanic to work on. It also went through cash faster than a submarine sailor on leave! Beat my poor Mustang GT like a rug but it kept on providing many smiles.
KingCobra
emoze
New Driver

buyer LOCATION factor - if one lives in smoggy-check CA - a car that is older than yr 2000 can be a major pain to get thru the process (i have a 99 miata among other older sports-toys) - takes an hour or more & costs more - that's one reason pre-76 sports cars command a higher value in CA - no smog-chk, so you can hotrod to the max of one's checkbook


Spudsly
Intermediate Driver

Nice to hear that the 4th Gen Firebirds are catching on...
StevieJanowski
Pit Crew

I guess the writer either didn’t know of or purposely left out the ‘96 C4 w the LT4 motor. Of course its overall fit/finish lags behind the Z and the M3, but it has more hp, torque, and is faster 0-60 and 1/4 mile than both imports of the same year. Altho it’s a 1-year only motor there are plenty of them out there, and the parts cost a fraction of those for the Z & M.

The writer obviously prefers the trendy imports to an American car like the C4 of that era (which is fine), but he should’ve just said it instead of being plain wrong (“half as fast”) and lazy (“half as good”).