Like everything, car values have boom and bust cycles. Just ten years ago, you could buy an old Lamborghini for not much more than £40,000 ($50,000). If you want to own an important piece of motoring history, a car with racing heritage, you should be willing to pay extra for the privilege. What we can’t figure out, however, is how some ordinary models, produced in large numbers managed to get so expensive. In recent years, a dozen or so cars achieved stratospheric prices on the classic car market, some of which exceed six figures. Here are 7 cars that increased in value.
1. Volkswagen T1
The T1 phenomenon is a perfect example of an ordinary, slow, old, and pretty much useless vehicle becoming one of the definitive cars that increased in value almost overnight. Volkswagen produced T1 buses, pickups, and vans from 1947 through 1967 and made millions of them. Commonly known as the Hippy Van, the T1 was a cheap and versatile utility vehicle that led a hard life as a delivery truck or a minibus. Powered by a 1.5-liter flat-four engine, the T1 had only 42 hp which means it was painfully slow but to be fair it was durable and economical.
Gaining recognition from the surfer crowd, the T1s popularity skyrocketed since the early 2000s. The most sought-after version, the rare Samba minibus recently fetched $198,000 at auction! Even the much more common delivery models, in good condition, can reach $50,000!
2. BMW M3 E30
In 1985, the motoring world witnessed the birth of one of its biggest performance legends, the BMW M3. The first model was based on a regular E30 3-Series but featured numerous upgrades, different body panels, revised suspension and high revving 2.3-liter four-cylinder engine with 195 hp in the early model to 238 hp in later versions. The E30 M3 soon became a racing legend in the world’s Touring Car championships, winning practically every championship it entered and securing its place in motorsport hall of fame. In the early ’90s however, it was replaced by a more mature and faster E36 M3 and was soon was forgotten.
At the same time, ricers were buying up E30s, with some terrible modifications being done. Not so long ago, you could buy a decent E30 M3 for as little as $10,000. Thanks to the classic car boom and the realization of its agile handling, rev-happy engine, and beautifully analog driving dynamics, the prices started to rise. Today, nice examples are around £40,000 ($50,000) and if you are looking for a rare Sports Evolution model, be prepared to pay close to £90,000! ($112,000). A rather large sum for a car that could be beaten by a modern diesel hatchback!
3. Ford Sierra RS Cosworth
First introduced in 1986 and produced until 1989, the RS Cosworth was a proper blue-collar sports car. Built on a 3-door Sierra with rear-wheel drive, the “Cossie” featured a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder with 204 to 224 hp on tap. With a big spoiler, a totally ’80s body kit and a powerful engine with lots of turbo lag, the RS Cosworths were a proper handful to drive. Built as a homologation special for rally racing, the Cosworth wasn’t that successful on the track, but it remained a favourite as a boy racer model throughout the 90s.
For years, the prices of RS Cosworth were below £10,000 ($12,500). If you want one now, hard luck as to buy an RS Cosworth in decent condition, you’re going to have to shell out more than £30,000 ($37,000). For rarer RS Cosworth 500 models, it’s going to be more than £50,000 ($62,000)! For you Americans out there, you’re going to have to sit this one out. They didn’t bother importing it for some reason.
4. Porsche 911
Riding on the peak of the wave of insane prices has been the Porsche 911. Practically all classic models, from the early ’60s to late ’90s have experienced massive price rises which have turned them from affordable daily classics to high priced collector’s cars. Sadly, with many now locked in climate-controlled garages. Strangely, it’s not like they are limited either. Porsche has produced more than 1 million 911s over the years, so the cars are reasonably abundant.
The early models are lovely to look at but pretty slow, noisy, and rust-prone. These days, you can get a 3-year-old 911 for the same as a tatty classic of the late ’70s and early ’80s. Of course, the internet has helped spread the charming quirks of the air-cooled Porsche, but more significantly, they had dream car status for the kids back then, who are now wealthy adults, so these cars that increased in value are now affordable!
5. Lancia Delta HF Integrale
Notoriously unreliable but amazingly handsome, the Delta HF Integrale was arguably the most prominent rally legend of the ’90s, winning numerous championships. In its road-going form, it was a very capable hot hatch with a 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and perfectly balanced all-wheel drive. Italian build quality and the high strung nature of the car meant it was expensive and complicated to maintain, and it also had rust issues. Lancia produced over 40,000 Delta HF Integrales from 1986 to 1994 which meant there were loads of them around.
In the early 2000s, decent examples of this 200 hp hot hatch could be had for as little as £4000 ($5000). Today, the situation is quite different, with solid examples changing hands for £30,000 ($37,500). Top of the line models can go for astronomical £50,000 ($62,000). Don’t be fooled, the HF Integrale is still as unreliable as ever but for new owners, its more likely an investment rather than a daily driver!
6. Ferrari 308 GTB
Everyone thinks Ferraris must be expensive. These days, they’re right. The Ferrari 308 from the late ’70s and early ’80s was for a while the cheapest way of owning a true, mid-engined Ferrari and experiencing that glorious soundtrack of a carb fed high-revving V8. For years, this model hovered around the £20,000 ($25,000) mark, making it fairly affordable. The compact sports car offered pretty analog driving experience and sharp handling, although hardly groundbreaking performance. The 0 to 60 mph sprint took 7.5 seconds, which was fast by the standards of the day but nothing special now.
The 308 was, however, a proper Ferrari and for just 20 grand, it offered a ticket to the exclusive Ferrari Owners Club. In 2017 those days are gone I’m afraid, and today, a decent 308 GTB costs £60,000 ($75,000) or more. Some later versions fetch even higher prices, and experts say that those models could even reach six figures before long. Doesn’t that seem like a crazy figure when Ferrari produced more than 12,000 of them?
7. Mercedes SL “Pagoda”
Understandably, a Mercedes 300 SL Gullwing costs half a million dollars as its an incredibly rare piece of racing history with some truly unique features and stunning design. How, you might ask does that explain the Mercedes 280 SL, which now costs over £110,000 ($137,000)! With modest performance, no racing history and a high production number of 40,000 examples, it seems hard to fathom why this classic is now so expensive. The “Pagoda” generation of the Mercedes SL was sold from 1963 to 1971 and featured six-cylinder engines with a removable hardtop and concave roof, which earned its nickname “Pagoda.”
It was a comfy cruiser with decent driving characteristics but hardly a performance machine. Smaller and slower than the later R107 SL model, the “Pagoda” was around £15,000 ($22,000) pounds in the early 2000s, which seemed appropriate. In just the last few years, prices for excellent examples have risen to £50,000 ($62,000), but it didn’t stop there. Top of the line models now trade for well over $100,000 mark!
So, there you are. 7 cars that increased in value. Cheers.