Now Is the Time to Buy Up Cars of the ’90s and Early ’00s
From Issue Five of Gear Patrol Magazine.
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The classic car market has, on the surface, emerged as a tantalizing place to make “investments.” Problem is, everybody seems in on it. (Have you priced out an air-cooled 911 lately? Sheesh.) Most specialty cars built before the ’90s have long been appreciating, so if you’ve had plans to buy low and sell high something already considered classic, you’re probably out of luck. But cars from the 1990s and 2000s? With some notable exceptions, they are all careening toward the bottoms of their depreciation curves. Now is the time to scoop them up, enjoy them and resell in 10 to 15 years for a payday. Here are just five ways you can explore your automotive passions while making bank. — Andrew Connor
’93-’95 Mazda RX-7
Japanese sports cars are rapidly becoming the next big thing in car collecting. While prices have skyrocketed for halo cars like the MKIV Toyota Supra or Acura NSX, the RX-7 still just barely exists on the cusp of affordability, despite fewer than 14,000 made-for-US examples ever being built. That seems surprising — its clean, curvaceous lines represented a pinnacle of ’90s automotive design. Under the hood is Mazda’s last twin-turbocharged rotary engine which, when well maintained, will scream all the way up to 7,000 rpm.
Engine: 1.3-liter twin-turbo Wankel rotary
Transmission: four-speed automatic; five-speed manual Horsepower: 255 @ 6,500 rpm
Torque: 217 lb-ft @ 5,000 rpm
Original MSRP: $37,363
’91-’99 Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4[inline]
If ever there was a car underappreciated for being ahead of its time, it’s the Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4. Its litany of technology is just now becoming commonplace: active aero and suspension, four-wheel steering, full-time AWD and a twin-turbo V6 producing nearly 300 horsepower. Spyder versions even had a folding hardtop. All that tech made it heavy and finicky, and it wasn’t much of a looker, relative to its competition.
Engine: 3.0-liter twin-turbo V6
Transmission: six-speed manual
Horsepower: 320 @ 6,000
Torque: 315 lb-ft @ 2,500
Original MSRP: $44,600
’04-’07 Volvo V70R
The average car buyer has given up on the wagon, but enlightened car enthusiasts seem to appreciate its sexy, utilitarian magnificence. The Volvo V70R was the last of its kind: a comfortable, boxy, AWD sport wagon with a turbocharged inline five-cylinder, made available even with a manual transmission. Just over 3,400 came to North America, so used V70Rs are exceedingly rare, especially manual-equipped versions.
Engine: 2.5-liter turbocharged inline five-cylinder
Transmission: five-speed automatic; six-speed manual
Horsepower: 300 @ 5,250
Torque: 295 lb-ft @ 1,950
Original MSRP: $40,940
’99-’04 Ford F-150 SVT Lightning
Before the dawn of the trail-thumping Raptor pickup, there was the second-generation SVT Lightning dialed for the street. A supercharged, 360-horsepower 5.4-liter V8 engine good for 440 lb-ft of torque sent power only to the rear wheels (2001 models and after got a healthy 20 horsepower and 10 lb-ft bump). It’d haul ass to 60 miles per hour in a tick over five seconds. Plans for a third-generation Lightning proved too large and heavy for production, and the Lightning nameplate died in 2004.
Engine: 5.4-liter supercharged V8
Transmission: four-speed automatic
Horsepower: 380 @ 4,750 rpm
Torque: 450 lb-ft @ 3,250 rpm
Original MSRP: $32,615
’04-’06 Pontiac GTO
Make no mistake, the fourth-generation GTO is not a Pontiac — it’s a “captive import” from Australia, a Holden Monaro that GM rebadged. The GTO’s lukewarm styling likely caused slow sales, but under the sheet metal was a suitable successor to the original GTO. GM’s robust 400-horsepower LS1 and 350-horsepower LS2 engines were underhood — the latter only available in 2004 — and both were mated to a six-speed manual sending power to the rear wheels.