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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
Will
Intermediate Driver

He did mention the '96 with the LT4 in this paragraph.
"Over the last eight years, the median #2 (Excellent condition) value for C4 Corvettes (1984–96) is up just 3 percent, and exceptions are limited to low-production performance models like the 1996-only Grand Sport (up 18 percent for convertibles, 28 percent for coupes) and the 1988 35th Anniversary model (up 32 percent). Looking at Hagerty insurance quotes, the quoted value is dead flat over the past five years."
chrlsful
Instructor

I believe public opinion smeared from the "80's malaise" into the 90s. I'm not interested in the above specific models but asa 'car guy' I see plenty to like abt BOTH decades. Am seeking models currently. Yes, a lill more on the "mod" than the "rest0" but still 'sleeper style' all the way. Look a lill deeper, I bet you'll agree~
Stormfly
New Driver

The us sports cars were mostly inferior at the time, and are still inferior now. They were cheaper at the time (when new) and that’s mostly still the case with today’s cars. US sports cars were produced in far greater numbers vs the ones imported and so on. The prices will never ever rise to the level of much rarer (and mostly much better) “imports”. Outside of being American - in reality comparing an M3 / M5 to a Mustang or a 911 to a Corvette is silly. You can always pick out one or two specifics or special editions (ZR1, Boss 302 etc) but as a whole the quality of German sports cars vs American cars is not even remotely on par. My two cents.
Jack2
New Driver

Don't forget the C5 starting in"97. An absolute steal in the $15 to $20,000 range. Where else can you get 0-60 in 4.7 seconds, 172 MPH and reasonable maintenance. Nothing compares!
Jack
bellaghia
Pit Crew

As each successive generation makes its mark on the hobby, the expertise and desire to turn wrenches is I believe diminished. In all fairness the cars required less fiddling and were more computerized. And at the top of that reality were the Japanese cars that seemed to run just fine with minimal maintenance. So when that generation can buy a toy ( a car not for everyday use) it makes sense. On top of this, they can be everyday drivers. Now, the real story will be what happens when this generation embraces electric vehicles; do they leap forward forgetting the past or get nostalgic?

DougL
Intermediate Driver

I have owned both a 92 C4 Corvette, 300 hp V8, 6 speed manual, traction control and ABS, and a 90 Miata, 116 hp 4 cyl, 5 speed, no ABS or traction control. Very different driving experience but both are wonderful to drive. Both were high mileage cars in good driving condition (#4?) I am amused that the Miata, and other imports are generally thought to be somehow higher in quality. The Corvette had little other than wear on the driver seat bolster to betray it's age and mileage. The Miata had peeling paint, cracked plastic instrument panel shroud, leaking shocks and more. The Corvette needed a water pump and I had to dry out the distributor. Initial build quality goes to the Miata, but long term durability definitely goes to the Corvette.
1956meteor
Intermediate Driver

The poster who mentioned the electronic parts for C4 Corvettes becoming hard to locate does make a point. I bought an 89 convert last fall which had not been driven by it's elderly original owner in almost 8 years at the date I purchased it. It was kept under cover in dry storage but I had to replace the ECM and MAF sensor . I joined the forum for Corvettes and had a fellow actually send me a free ECM [ thank you again sir if you should happen to see this ] , and was able to locate 2 Bosch MAFs which are the only ones that will actually work correctly with the GM ECM. I previuosly had a 85 Greenwood C4 and the various relays etc that I replaced in it over the years were always in stock at my local Carquest. Luckily, I have not been able to not locate what I have needed so far. Thank you Lord.
Highrider
Pit Crew

Like everything else in the " media" Anti American is the rule of the day. These so called Far East cars are really the car of the liberals. I never met anyone who drove one of those to be a proud conservative.
Can't fix " stupid" is a unfortunate label many folks wear. including this "hit" piece. I will say there are lots of American junk out there, but LOL, come on ever try to restore a foreign car? Duh.
PS I have mint 92 C4 low miles and always in demand. I also have a 17 C7, just super!
Gary_Bechtold
Instructor

Somebody is mixing up cars and politics again.  I didn't take it as a hit piece.  Plenty of "far east cars" are driven by "Conservatives" and "Liberals".  I didn't know that "far east" was the litmus test.  If it is then I don't meet your criteria and I suspect others don't either.  The 90's wasn't the greatest time for american cars after the disasterous 80's but they were getting better in the 90's.  The Japanese cars in particular were at their peak in the 90's and slowly cooled off after that.  Sports cars are arguably at their peak today for American cars but they were not in the 90's. 

SamAdamsPaleAle
Advanced Driver

What? Japanese cars in the early 90s were faster than American cars. Nothing about that statement is anti-American or anti-conservative. I've met many of Republicans in Supras and many of Liberals in Mustangs. Someones mad that there Corvettes won't fetch for more than 15 at Mecum lmao

Paddy
New Driver

Time to sell my '94 RX-7, 28K miles. Heck, it was $33K new, that's $59K in '21 dollars.
Supercoupe91
New Driver

Author wrote that American sports cars in 90s weren’t revolutionary? The c4 zr1 was as revolutionary as the twin turbo zr1. Comical take from a bad author.
Sajeev
Community Manager

Aside from Lingenfelter (and the like) who made a twin turbo ZR1? 

Gary6
Pit Crew

As an older car hobby guy, I have gone through periods of loving cars from different parts of the world. In the '90s, after a disastrous experience with a plymouth "tragic wagon", I promised myself to look elsewhere for a well made car. Coincidently, the kids had all moved out so I went looking for a car that I wanted without practical concerns whatsoever. I ended up with a 1994 Turbo Supra with the 6 speed manual and sport roof. I could not be happier with any car, still have it, looks like new and is a hoot to drive. I did tinker with it so it does go and stop even better than factory. Two years ago at a car meet I was offered $140k on the spot for it so when it comes time, I'm going to get all of my money back.
sytydave
Pit Crew

As prior C4 owner, I think a good portion of segment of the potential buyers are "Corvette owners". What I mean in that term is they are looking to buy a Corvette not other performance cars in the segment. The problem with C4 is GM keeps build better and faster Corvette's. I suspect in the future, C5 will be in the same predicament. I would probably never buy another C4, but I would buy another Corvette. I like C4 but not enough own another one. In general, they were much more mechanically reliable in general than the sought after Japanese sports car of their day. The cosmetic did wear worse than the competitors from Japan.
Gtogirl
New Driver

I am the very happy owner of several classics, but always wanted a TA WS6 convertible. When close friends lost their adult son to cancer, his became available at a price too good to resist although it wasn't quite the color or transmission I had hoped for. I flew down to AL to pick it up, and have been just crazy about this hot, curvy beast! Although it needed freshening in some areas, I have diligently worked to track down missing items, repolish the aluminum rims, detail the entire vehicle, repaint and wrap the front end so as to resist chipping, and slowly replace/repair worn or broken items. Result? An absolute pleasure to drive, and one stealthy-looking car to see sneaking up in your rear-view mirror. Although I will always be true to my first love of nearly 42 years, I cheat regularly with the irresistable 1999 Trans Am WS6 convertible, 1 of 14 produced that year (or 11, depending on the site you visit). The best money ever spent (besides my #1, of course!)
hyperv6
Gearhead

One needs to go back and look at what was going on. Muscle cars and old sports car prices were rocketing up. 

People bought new sports cars and Muscle cars in great numbers. They drove them on nice days, kept miles low and wiped them with a diaper with hopes this would make them an instant collectible. Remember magazines predicted a Fiero by 2000 would be $100,000. 

Flash forward and see that sports cars got better and faster and I never created a demand for the now 25 year old sports cars that are in great number. 

Most forget that cars like the Cobra and GTO were hated back in the day. They were hot, noisy and used up race cars. This is why Nick Mason bought his GTO for around $10,000. 

The  low number of remaining models took off and the rest is history. 

The Moral here is classic cars happen they are not made. 

But stop complaining as there are a number of great cars you can now buy at a very low price in great condition. 

oakleycmh
New Driver

Their ungainly styling will come into vogue again in lockstep with the leisure suit...
Chris2161
Pit Crew

So I’m wondering where my ‘95 Lexus SC300 fits in? Related to the Supra somewhat...distant cousins maybe. On the other hand, who cares? It’s a car, not my 401k, it’s value is how I feel behind the wheel.
bogey52
New Driver

I felt the C 4 Vettes were the best looking ever made, I am sorry they are known for rattles. Back then they also came in a variety of interesting colors, much more so than the later models.
dmboles
New Driver

Porsche - there is no substitute... 944, 968's - real sports cars, and the value climbing.
dmboles
New Driver

and 986's
MARK400
Intermediate Driver

Bottom line......poor quality workmanship, lackluster performance, somewhat inferior materials (plastic interiors) used during this time in automotive history. Most "but not all" cars produced during this era were produced cheaply by the U.S.manufactures looking to cut costs because of competition from foreign manufactures who at the time delivered more bang for the buck. Think about this, that time period was the beginning of "throw away cars" after their 10 year life cycle expired.
Chevymanj
New Driver

I’ve owned a 94z28 for 10 plus years and it was a great fun car. Had tons of extras when I bought it form the dealership I used to work at. (Stole it price wise)
But we all are missing the fact that in 20 to 30 years from now we won’t be driving anything with an I.C.E. no matter what year, make, model, or manufacture if stupid people and governments get their way. They will all become museum pieces on our own garages. Even though I hope it never happens, but it’s coming unfortunately:(( Only time will tell.
bblhed
Advanced Driver

Lets look at another part of this. I own a 1993 Miata, not an amazing car but my neighbor owned a 1995 Corvette. I have had my Miata for over 20 years and I have put about 140,000 miles and $4,000 into it for repairs and maintenance. In that time I have owned it my Miata has left me in the side of the road once with a blown alternator.

That Corvette in the 6 years managed to eat $2,000 in tires and $4,000 in other parts before a $500 tune-up and it stranded him twice with computer problems. He sold the car for $5,000 and 4 months later he bought it back for $1,500 with a blown clutch caused by a blown rear main seal. That car then sat for two more years until he managed to finally unload it for $1,800 and it would not start.

The reality is that these owner experiences are typical for both cars, Miatas are fairly reliable while the same year Corvette is not. I was offered the above Corvette for $1,000 and I turned it down, not for lack of garage space but because I knew that not just that Corvette, but all Corvettes of that vintage are just as unreliable. Maybe it is a perception because a few bad cars get a lot of attention, but lets face it, that was not GM's finest hour by a long shot.
David
New Driver

Still no love for the Mitsubishi 3000 GT? IMHO: Still one the most iconic imports of the 90's. Technology far ahead of some of the one's you mention. Twin turbo's, AWD, AWS, Active Aero all available on them. We still have & drive 3 of them. Not to mention the Spyder model only made in limited numbers and only in 1995 & 1996 that was the first retractable hard top convertible car made since 1959. We have a 1996 Spyder SL that was one of only 62 made that year. With just under 26k miles on it I'll be driving it for years to come. I have owned over a dozen 3kGT's over the last 20+ years as daily drivers. Very well built and my record (so far) was a 95 I drove for over 500K miles. You may not love them , but my wife & I do!
WOJ
Intermediate Driver

Simple answer...THEY ARE JUNK!!!!
dreamingeagle
Detailer

first, there was only one American sports car in the 90s til the advent of the Viper;

calling the Mustang a sports car is like calling Goldie Hawn voluptuous on the same stage as Sofia Vergara;

for true, both are women, but that is where all comparisons end;

that fact alone may be why 90s American sports cars are so attainable, because choices were limited to what many consider the red headed **bleep** stepchild of the marque, the C4 models (with notable if pricey exceptions like the first modern ZR1);

of course, there were sewing machines available from the East and gussied up Volkswagens (924-944-964, etc.) from the West, but even Porsche recognised the Corvette with its corporate lawyer-mobile 928 imitation;

all the rest were pony cars like the Mustang and Camaro or re-badged Asian models;

Saab had almost totally neutered it’s 900 Turbo by then and England outside of the occasional Lotus or TVR (the best models of whom were often unavailable here) was still better at making two-wheeled vehicles than four;

there was nothing coming from France save turbo shoeboxes (Renault) and Italy was happily ensconced in its supercar phase unless one could swallow bitter jokes from Alfa Romeo (GTV, Graduate);

basically, unless you inherited deep pockets, got drafted in the first or second round or won the lotto, the performance car world at that time—like real jazz and authentic rock’n roll—was pretty much a wasteland til the Viper and C5;

few people wanted what was available then, which is why so much from then is readily available now;
Rider79
Instructor

Not many better-looking 1980's or 1990's cars than the C4 Corvette, so much better and sleeker than the big-butt C5. I drove a 1996 once, and it certainly was no noisier than I would have expected for a performance car of that era, and the price was right; I should have bought it.
dooscoop32
Intermediate Driver

I have owned 13 Corvettes ranging from 1955 to 2004 since 1971, 50 years ago! To say I love these cars is an understatement. Before 1984, I had loved every Corvette I had seen. And then the C4 arrived. I knew it was coming. My local Chevrolet dealer even called me when they received their first C4, a white coupe with black interior. I drove over there to see it. They still had it in the wash bay cleaning it up. And I remember what a letdown it was for me.

I know the C4 owners reading this will be offended and will extol the virtues of those cars. But I am entitled to my opinion and all I can say is that the C4 was a disappointment for me. And for the first time since I bought my first Corvette in 1971, I was losing interest in America's Sports Car.

And during the ensuing years, I ventured into the Street Rod foray. And amazingly, at car shows I attended with my '32 Ford, I saw many of the same people I used to see at Corvette shows. And they all felt the same disappointment I felt for the new C4. So I stuck with the Street Rod scene until my wife (girlfriend at the time) and I attended the Auto Fair at Charlotte Motor Speedway. And a local dealer in vintage/specialty automobiles was there with a new Nassau Blue C5 Corvette coupe. And I thought that was about the best looking Corvette I had ever seen.

So, my interest had been revived in Corvettes thanks to the C5. It took some time and the sale of my Street Rod to enable my finances to afford a new C5. But I ordered and took delivery of a 2004 White on Red convertible.

And I was back on the Corvette bandwagon and have been ever since. I'm retired now and would love to have a new mid-engine C8 but that is out of the question at this point in my life; both financially and physically. Corvettes are tough to get into and out of as you get older.

Oh well, I sure had a great time over the last 50 years with the ones I've had. And that didn't include any C4s.
MATTMERICA
Instructor

Not to be a Debbie Downer, but I remember the 90s quite well. The cars sucked. They were plastic crap, it was a race to find the cheapest way to build anything, including an arm rest, and don't forget, you still had Pontiac, Saturn, the typical crap from GM, caddy was a joke, and the imports were in almost every sense of the word waaaay ahead of the domestic crap autos we were making. So why is a corvettee cheap? Because it is not that good. Trust me, if there was a vehicle out there that was a hidden gem, it would have been discovered by now
Waterford
New Driver

This article leaves a HUGE void by avoiding the discussion of the most notable American sports car of the '90's. The Dodge Viper was a big success, dominating both national and international racing circuits. Prices for vintage Vipers are very strong. How could they have been totally overlooked in the article?
SamAdamsPaleAle
Advanced Driver

I mean, a lot of it comes down to the fact that most American cars of the period lowkey sucked. The Corvettes of the era had abysmal build quality. The Mustang, while cool, was definitely showing it's age, especially the early 90s Foxbodys. However, what they lack in cool factor they absolutely make up in modability. If your one objective is to go fast as hell for as cheap as possible, look no further than a C4 Corvette. You can absolutely squeeze 350-400 horsepower out of the LT1 models, and the 6 speed probably helps.