It’s easy to look back and say, “Of course the Shelby Cobra was going to become valuable!” But who knew? In the '60s, nobody wanted old race or performance cars. For $2,000 in 1975, you could have had your pick of these Cobras — now worth millions.
So forget about Cobras, classic Ferraris and Gullwings now, unless you’re Donald Trump. What’s current that might appreciate in the same way? Here are my four candidates:
2017 Acura NSX
The new NSX is a radical change from previous cars. It sports a — wait for it — longitudinal, dry sump, twin-turbo, four-cam, 75-degree 3.5-liter V-6 that’s unique in the Honda bag of tricks, a nine-speed dual-clutch gearbox, and an electric motor driving the back wheels to make it both AWD and a hybrid. How does 550 horsepower sound?
The first-gen 1991 NSX sold for $60,000 new, and is around $80,000 now. I think the new car’s combination of exclusivity, technical innovation and sheer guts — “the NSX is back to stalking Ferraris again,” says Car and Driver — will cause it to appreciate similarly. Expensive at $156,000, but it should hold value.
2016 Subaru WRX STI “HyperBlue”
There’s a reason the selections here favor mid-level performance cars over luxury vehicles and exotics. Nothing loses value faster than yesterday’s high-end sedan. But people are always going to want affordable pocket rockets, and this special Subaru is being made in small-enough quantities to become rare and desirable. Under the hood is a hardworking 2.5-liter DOHC turbocharged flat four making a whopping 305 horsepower. It’s got symmetrical all-wheel drive and a six-speed trans.
And at $39,790, the HyperBlue won’t break the bank. The HyperBlue thing just refers to a special color, but unique factory paint increases tomorrow’s valuation.
2015 Mazda Miata
The new Miata is a sales and critical hit, so I’d expect it to hold value well. No, the value isn’t likely to soar over the purchase price, but it’s quite likely that the little car—starting at $24,915—will deliver you loads of fun, then make you mostly whole when it’s time to sell.
First- and second-generation Miatas are doing very well on auction sites like BringaTrailer.com, some fetching $10,000 or more. I’d recommend spending a bit more for the Club or Grand Touring models, because they’ll sell better. Mazda does a lot of special-edition Miatas, and collectors want those, too.
2017 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth
I saw one of these at the New York Auto Show, and a small knot of auto journalists were gathered around it. To break it down, the Fiat 124 is built on the Miata platform, which should mean the Fix-It-Again-Tony aspect will be much reduced. The sexy Abarth version has the same engine as the base 124, a turbocharged four making 160 horsepower, derived from the Fiat 500 Abarth power plant. Part of the package is sport suspension, a limited-slip differential, Bilstein shocks — and optional Brembo brakes and Recaro seats. It’s likely to be sold in fairly small numbers, and having seen it in person I can report it’s simply stunning to look at. The result: appreciation. The price should be around $28,600, not a huge amount for tons of fun and value retention.