What makes a future classic? What cars would I hide away if I had a huge barn and enough money spare to tie up in some old metal?
Nobody can predict the future, but the past can help identify what buyer look for in the future. In the world of cars sporty models of a popular model always out perform the poverty spec model - no shit Sherlock I hear you say. Yet the flagship models might not be as sought after as something further down the range - a good example is the Granada, a classic and sought after Ford. But usually an Escort from the same era will always be worth more, except if your weighing in it as scrap.
Nostalgia has a lot to do with classic car prices, cars we dreamt of owning as kids are finally affordable - not because they got cheaper but because our income has (hopefully) grown. The cars were very affordable once, but that's when we didn't want them, when they were thought of nothing but an old banger. How many of us regret selling or even scrapping cars that are now sought after classics.
So how do we find these future classic gems? Look at the classic car market now, cars approximately 40 years old are top performers. Of course the real top performers are cars that are out of reach of most people even at the lowest of their value such as Jaguar E-types and Italian supercars. The ones to go for are everyday cars from 40 years ago that are a rare sight on our roads today. Hot hatches from the 80's are now five figure sums, with the best ones being Fords. Yet when these cars were ten years old they were lucky to reach £1000.
Now look for sporty cars that are ten years or older, completely standard and the best available. As I write this hitting the bottom of the depreciation curve is the Ford Focus ST170, apart from RS models this is the next best. Clean, standard examples are available for less than £1000 but I don't think they will for long. The least desirable Escort RS2000 (Not the Mk1 or Mk2) are now rapidly rising, what was a £500 car a few years ago is now a £5000 car - don't believe me then check the classified ads or ebay.
Sought after classics are also helping lesser models. Mk1 Escorts are now fetching silly money, Mk2's are close behind with Mk3 rising, especially RS and XR models. Fords are not the only ones, Golf GTi's are rising too with the Mk1 at the top.
The internet now makes finding these gems much easier, online classifieds and auctions can be checked for bargains, owners clubs and forums can be checked for common faults, what to look out for and cars for sale. Auction houses publishing sale results can also help identify rising stars.
My tips are
- The previous models must be sought after today.
- Rare or limited number available - check howmanyleft.com
- Standard cars only - modified cars are what the owner liked not the market.
- The only exception to modified cars are factory upgrades or period upgrades when the car was new such as Turbo Technics engine upgrades or period BBS wheels.
- Try to buy when prices are at their lowest, not always easy to do but I find cars at ten - fifteen years tend to have bottomed out before rising.
- Make sure you can keep the car long enough for values to rise, this could take decades.
- Commercial vehicles should not be overlooked and are sometimes rarer than their car counterpart.
- Like most investments, your losses may exceed your gains.
- Buy it because you like it and use it, not just for profit.
Just because its rare does not mean its value will rise, also the modern version must be as good/better than the original - an original Mk1 or Mk2 Escort Mexico is very valuable and sought after but the Mk5 Escort Mexico is not and betrays its heritage as does the Mk5 Escort Harrier. A few stickers does not make a future classic.
If you are lucky enough to find a future classic make sure what makes it special is still on the car, as parts on the sought after car sometimes make it on to the lesser models. Also check its genuine and not a replica. Period parts are also fetching premium prices as owners buy them for restorations or spares, new old stock genuine parts can almost be worth their weight in gold.
Connections to film/tv can increase a models worth too. Think of Life on Mars and Mk3 Cortina, then the Audi Quattro with Ashes to Ashes. Anything that brings attention to a particular car may result in a huge increase in value. People are not buying cars, they are buying dreams and emotions - try driving an Aston Martin and not pretend your James Bond, see an old car and think to yourself I used to have one of those or my Dad/Uncle/Aunt/Brother/Sister/etc used to have one - nostalgia sells.