Investing in classic cars is a rewarding and risky venture. The appeal and value can vary based on many factors, much like the art of painting. Although there are no definitive rules to predict which cars will be future classics, certain indicators can provide guidance to the knowledgeable enthusiast or investor. In this article, I’ll discuss some important factors that give you a better insight into spotting future classic cars.
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Scarcity: the value of rarity
Scarcity is one of the most important factors when it comes to value. Collectors are more interested in a model that has fewer production numbers rather than mass-produced cars. The appeal of limited-production cars is further enhanced by their unique specifications, special editions or design for a specific market or purpose.
A car that was common in its production period but has become rare due to accidents, neglect or simply time can also increase in value. Volkswagen Beetles were once common with millions of cars produced, but now, well-preserved ones and uncommon versions command high prices. The rarity of a car makes it a fascinating piece of automotive history and enhances its ‘survivor status’.
Historical Significance – Groundbreaking designs and connections to the past
The place of a car in automotive history is also important. Value is often high for vehicles that have pioneered new designs or made significant technological advances. The Ford Model T and Tesla Model S are both historically significant, despite their vast differences. They each contributed to the automotive industry in terms of mass production and electrification. I won’t say that the Model S is a good investment or a real future classic, but the early Tesla Roadster has a good chance. But also, once the Model S might be neglected and the number of cars goes down over time, it might become one after all.
A car’s association with significant events, people, or racing successes can also influence its future status as a classic. For example. the racing heritage of a Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing is as important as its technical innovation.
Condition and originality: Preservation vs. Restoration
The condition of a potential classic is key to determining its price. Well-maintained cars, those that have been preserved in their original state or restored professionally command higher prices. Different collectors place different values on the dichotomy between preservation and restoration. The current market is dominated by ‘survivors’, cars in their original condition.
The devil often lies in the details when it comes to classic cars. Original specifications such as matching numbers, original colors and interior materials can increase the value of a vehicle.
Provenance: the car’s unique history
The provenance of a vehicle can be a major factor in its classic status. The documented history of a vehicle, such as previous celebrity ownership or use at significant events, may increase its value. Steve McQueen’s 1970 Porsche 911S featured in “Le Mans” is a great example of how provenance can increase a vehicle’s value.
Stars of the Screen: Cultural Impact and More
The cultural importance of a car can also increase its desire. The cars that are prominently featured in movies, TV, music videos or those associated with famous fictional figures often become classics. The DeLorean DMC-12 gained iconic status, despite initial commercial failures, due to its prominent part in the “Back to the Future trilogy”.
Collectors’ market: Demand trends
Market trends can have a significant impact on the value of a vehicle. The popularity of certain models makes or eras can increase due to nostalgia, time passing or changes in collector demographics. In the ’80s and ’90s, Japanese sports cars saw a recent surge in popularity that drove up their prices. Understanding and staying on top of these trends can give you valuable insights into what could become the next classic.
Performance and Technology: Pushing Boundaries
Classic cars are often those that were at the forefront of technology and performance during their time. Consider the McLaren F1. It was the fastest production vehicle in the world when it was released in 1992. It featured a number of technological innovations, including a monocoque carbon fiber chassis and a gold-lined motor bay to dissipate heat. The legacy of high performance cements the status of this modern classic.
A car’s racing pedigree can also make it a classic. Porsche 911 Carrera RS 2.7 is a prime example, as it became legendary for its many victories on the racetrack.
Aesthetics: Timeless Appeal with Design Innovation
The same is true for cars. The value of models with timeless or distinctive designs can increase over time. Enzo Ferrari hailed the Jaguar E-Type as one of the most beautiful cars made. The curvy shape and the elongated hood of this car make it a timeless classic.
Future classics are likely to be cars that were designed ahead of time or that exemplify their era’s aesthetics. Lamborghini Countach’s wedge-shaped design was radical in the 70s and 80s, but it is now regarded as a classic example of supercar design.
Brand Prestige: the Power of a Name
A car’s future potential as a classic can be influenced by the reputation of its manufacturer. Ferrari, Rolls Royce and Aston Martin are some of the brands with a history of innovation, quality and prestige. Their vehicles often retain and, in many cases increase in value.
It’s not only the top-end brands that create future classics. Modern classics include models like the MX-5 from Mazda, the WRX by Subaru, and the Golf GTI from Volkswagen.
Enjoyment factor: emotional connections and driving pleasure
The “fun factor” of a vehicle can contribute to its classic status. Classic cars are those that offer a unique driving experience or that evoke nostalgia for a past era. Many old sports cars with manual transmissions are in high demand because they offer a driving experience unlike any other.
The roaring of an old V8 or the tactile delight of a well-executed gear shift can give a car that extra special touch that makes it stand out and a future classic.
Go out there and find those future classic cars!
These factors are a good guide for identifying future classic cars. However, due to the unpredictable nature of the market, there is no formula that will guarantee success. As trends change, new models are introduced, and as the definition of a classic car changes over time, so does it change their value and perception. Passion, knowledge and intuition are still as vital as ever in classic car culture. The future classic car’s ability to tell stories, evoke emotions, and give a tangible link to the past is part of its allure. These are things that can’t be measured.
Curious about my protection? Check out this article where I list 10 future classic cars!