Hooniverse Asks: What '80s Car is Presently an Under-Appreciated Collectable?

Ah the nineteen eighties, era of the nascent personal computer, MTV, and auto makers that suddenly seemed to get their mojo back. You know, I don’t even know what mojo is, or what it smells like, but if that’s what car companies were missing throughout the long desolate winter that was the seventies, then I’m sure glad they decided to pop out to the market and got some more of it.
The ’80s gave us the return of performance in the form of muscle and pony cars finally finding their horsepower like it had been hiding in the couch cushions, while foreign makes got the message that Americans were ready for things like high-revving engines and handling that actually handled. It was quite the epiphany and resulted in cars like the VW GTI finally making its way here after years as an exile. The Japanese added cams and turbos and more to make their cars go faster, and we even got a four-door sports car, imagine that.
That glorious age is seeming under-appreciated when it comes to collectables these days. Oh sure, Porsche’s ’80 911 has taken off, but the 944 really hasn’t, and there are plenty more that you can today pick up for a song. Fiero? C4 Corvette? Man, there are a lot of them out there that are still relatively cheap, and are probably not half bad drivers. Which of them however is the best collectible at the moment? What do you think is the most under-appreciated ’80s collectible?
Image: Blu-Ray.com


  1. Maybe some of the lesser GM Turbo cars, the pre-EFI Turbo Regals and Turbo Monte Carlos, the Turbo Sunbirds, Z24 Cavaliers. The Regals and the Monte Carlos are actually very rare and most have probably had a V-8 dropped in them by now or got sent to the crusher. I think the Allente’s time will come too. The Allente has the most going for it: Cadillac, semi-rare/low production, Italian made body, V-8, convertible, lots of survivors.
    I will also throw out the 1989 MN-12 Thunderbird S/C and Mercury Cougar with the SC 3.8L V-6. Those are rare, somewhat special, almost halo cars that are somewhat fast too.
    1980s cars and late 1980s cars especially are in sort of in a strange limbo. Not really collectible, factory parts support is drying up, just a little too complicated for the shadetree mechanic to keep on the road in decent condition. Most were never seen as anything special. I can give a list of why other older cars have survived:
    1930s Hot Rods and many were kept on the road for longer than normal due to WWII. Easy to keep running.
    1940s (see 1930s or 1950s) 1940 Fords always a hot car.
    1950s The Tri-Five Chevys were always seen as special. Same goes for T-Birds, etc. Easy to keep running.
    1960s The muscle cars were always sort of special and by the time most would have been taken off the road (mid-late 1970s) they were seen as better and faster than the newer cars. Also easy to keep running
    1970s Early 1970s, see 1960s. Mid to late 1970s only the special ones are left in any numbers (Trans-Ams, Corvettes, etc.)

  2. I think later R107s stand to appreciate over the next couple of decades. Fair-to-good condition runners can be had for under $10k, substantially less than the W113 that preceded them.
    They’re not the best looking classic Mercedes convertible, but with Euro-lights and bumpers, they clean up mighty nice.

      1. Oh, for a condition 1 560SL, sure. But for the much-more-common 380SL, it’s still peanuts. I found a condition 4 for sale locally for under $4k.

          1. A dog when strangled with US emissions (lost ~50hp and ~30tq, barely more power than my 300SD), and early ones had a single-row timing chain prone to failure, but at least that reliability issue was solved with a double-row chain in ’84.

          1. Early ones, yes. ’84-onward had double-row chains, problem solved. They were still dogs in the power dept, though, thanks to US emissions.
            And if I’m getting this car, I want a ‘vert, not a coupe. I really, really want another convertible. Open-top driving is so grand.

    1. They can still be found for affordable prices, but if you were hoping to catch the bottom of the depreciation curve, you’ve already missed it. The R129, however, is at the bottom of its curve now.

      1. But the R129 also typically has some insanely expensive stuff, like the air suspension. A friend has one (500SL) that he barely drives at all (sold an Allante’ to buy it), but it’s had some pricey repairs.

        1. That’s why they are inexpensive… now. They are new enough that people are assessing them on their merits as a driver. As a commuter, it’s a terrible value, even at its current rock-bottom pricing. Once “budget ballers” stop buying them as a way to say that they have a Mercedes, their values will start to rise. It’s a very handsome car, and as a collectible, that is more important that reliability.

  3. CJ8 Scrambler, yeah I know they are climbing – but the production was low as these were super expensive back in the day( in comparison to a base sedan or even a decent optioned pick up ). I remember riding the motorcycle age 14, we could get a license in TN at that age back then, to the dealer to drool over these. Like the FJ40’s going out of sight recently, bringing silly money – these will be right there with them betcha.
    This one pictured is Ronnie Regan’s, Nancy bought it for him new.

  4. I’m going with the C4 because it elicits such disdain from many, despite being the model that began restoring some mojo to the Corvette.

  5. I was going to say top dog F-bodies (Iroc-Z and GTA) but doing a cursory search for cars for sale – oh boy, prices are escalating fast. A Trans-Am GTA for $25k! http://www.hemmings.com/classifieds/dealer/pontiac/firebird/1705355.html
    Guess I’ll go look at full size Blazers, Broncos and Ramchargers instead… http://www.ebay.com/itm/Ford-Bronco-XLT-4×4-/221815861984?forcerrptr=true&hash=item33a54172e0&item=221815861984 …WHAT THE HELL IS HAPPENING HERE? Has the world gone goofy? $30+ thousand for an ’84 Bronco! That’s it, there are no affordable collectible cars from the ’80s. It’s too late.

    1. Yep , I was going to say Dodge 4×4, with the early 12v Cummins 6Bt. Trying to find one that wasn’t used up on the farm. Great engine, mechanical injection ( since the new diesels across the board are having difficulties). Yep TOO LATE like GTXcellent says, these are climbing hard already – what happened in the last few months ?

  6. I think this question is coming about 5 years too late. Almost everything ’80s that will be worth something is already on the upswing, whereas only the most desirable of the early ’90s cars (see: any car featured in The Fast and the Furious) are seeing that now. Early ’90s cars of moderate future collectibilty are currently reaching their nadir.
    Now’s the time to pick up a Z32 or an SW20. If you’re looking for something more exotic, an S4 Esprit is about as cheap as it’ll ever be. Want American? First-gen Vipers aren’t going to get any cheaper than they are now, and the C4 ZR-1, is poised to appreciate quickly in the near future.

  7. The BMW 3.0CS is one of the prettiest cars of all time, but alas! Wrong decade. And definitely already appreciated.
    It’s offspring ain’t ugly. I think the 635CSI is pretty damned spectacular when it’s in good shape. Folks bemoan the US bumpers, but in my mind they look fine. A guy need only sit on the hood drinking a beer to really realize what a great foot rest they are.
    It was similar to the 944 in terms of its target customer and level of luxury, but where 944 owners are now paying a fortune for bespoke parts that fit nothing else, the 635 guy has millions of contemporary Bimmer donors to pull from.
    It hurt to sell mine. Had it been a standard transmission, or been outside of Cali smog regulation, I’d’ve made it work for me.

    View post on imgur.com

    1. There was a rough looking, but running & driving 635CSi on CL with a stick for $750 a few weeks ago. I don’t need (or have room for) another car, but man was it tempting. I’m remembering it had 170K miles or more, but still, lemons money!

  8. I’m going to go with perhaps an unpopular choice…. it defined a new market segment, and in the right trim contains “classic” 80’s features too. I think to find one in excellent condition will be a challenge, especially when I think it will still take 20 more years for their true collectability to appear.

    1. Major props for this choice. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve liked a 2nd-gen Caravan for a long time.

  9. E30’s are definitely climbing, but they have yet to ascend. A nice stock one will probably be worth something in the near future when all of the others have S52 swaps done.

  10. I’ll make the blanket statement of “Anything from a division that no longer exists.”
    In my mind the Thunderbirds were more desirable than the Cougars. Monte Carlos more than the Grand Prix. I could see this reversing now that Mercury, Pontiac, Oldsmobile and Plymouth are gone.

      1. So many European ones became donor cars for 205 GTI Mi16 conversions too which thinned their numbers even more.

    1. Also, the Mercury Marquis LTS, only available in Canada and around 130 was built. http://vb.foureyedpride.com/showthread.php?83687-Marquis-LTS-anyone&s=172c2d00438a84a36a481a2731d91c43&p=888031&viewfull=1#post888031
      Other candidates who might still be affordable
      1980-86 Chevrolet Caprice coupe along with the 1980-85 B-O-P counterparts
      1980-87 Ford LTD Crown Vic/Mercury Grand Marquis 2-door
      1980-82 Lincoln Continental Mark VI who looked too much like the regular Continental Town Car who was only available in 2-door version in 1980-81.

    1. Blazers, Broncos, Ramchargers, and Scouts are hot and have been for a while. Most examples are modified though. Stock examples will be hard to come by.

  11. It’ll mirror the muscle cars but the 80’s will be the cars X-Gens wanted as teens and couldn’t buy… and haven’t been torn to hell. The turbo hot-hatches for one. When was the last time you saw an unmolested 323 GTX?

  12. There are three possible characteristics that drive collectible car status: 1) the car everyone wanted as youngsters but couldn’t afford, 2) cars that were significant advances in tech or performance, or 3) cars that are so eclectic and different from current offerings that they stand out as curiosities. The first two categories are very similar and overlap, and are rarely undervalued at any time in their history. The third is where collector cars come out of left field. Therefore, I am going to nominate the MOST ’80s car…in the world.

  13. MR2 mk1
    – Lived in the shadow of the Z cars and to a lesser extent, the Rx-7
    – Lightweight, low power (shades of Miata?)
    – Toyota reliability makes it less of a disaster than the Fiero
    – Pop up headlights! Need I say more?

    1. Wait a minute, didn’t I already post that vehicle? Wire wheels? check. Wood paneling? check. Luggage rack? check. Quad headlamps? check.
      Oh yeah, one’s a convertible and one’s a minivan. I love the 80’s!

  14. I’d say an original early Lexus V8, as the best of the first wave Japanese luxury cars, I’d also throw an honorable mention to the Acura Legend Coupe.
    More obvious choices to grab asap are original and unmodified, or easily restorable tuner cars like the Honda Civic Si/CRX and the A2 VW GTI & GLI. I’d also look for a good Saab 900 Turbo since they so nicely capture the 80s Zeitgeist.

  15. The 944 bottomed out, but it’s hardly creeping up faster than inflation. For a collector (as in: owning a car or two per weekday) the maintenance costs may be negligible, and so is the purchase price. They just buy the best they can find, and probably did that already. But there are too many cars around, and the maintenance costs are too high for their current price bracket, so I can’t see it soaring soon.
    Under-appreciated of the 80ies would be any Jaguar sedan. Boy that classy looks! An XJ40 for 5kUSD chat halfway sorted has triple the amount in workshop bills…

    1. /wonk time – that’s a Series III, XJ40s had the rectangular headlights (or, in some cases, a rectangular casing for dual rounds). It’ll be interesting to see how history looks on that – it was a big step forward mechanically, but kind of went nowhere stylistically (as evidenced by the retrograde, but better looking X300 that wasn’t a huge evolution under the skin, I believe).
      Now, a Series III on pepperpots like that, is the sort of thing I wouldn’t even care if it ran, I could just let it sit in my driveway to look at.

      1. That happens when you’re hooniversing at work, instead of dedicating you to the important task, which is figuring out the correct names and generations of 35yo Jaguars.
        (I meant the Series III, that landscape on wheels I depicted above.)

  16. The Mercedes Benz W124 range. Arguably the last of the overbuilt Mercedes before the ‘cut the cost’ response to Lexus.
    And when they were introduced in 1984 they were waaay more advanced than anything else. Lowest drag coefficient, higher top speed than Ferraris and Corvettes, good ride and handling that was a revelation to European buyers, let alone American ones-look at the Cadillacs and Lincolns of the time.Great build quality and solid construction that undercut the W123 by hundreds of pounds/kilos. They still look contemporary to most people today. I’m not going to be selling any of mine,( and yesterday I just bought another one.)
    To my mind, the best car coming out from the eighties – by far. Choose your body type or power level, or collect the set.

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