Home Cars 14 Underrated Classic Cars You Can Buy Right Now

14 Underrated Classic Cars You Can Buy Right Now

Vukasin Herbez October 20, 2017

Since the 1980s, the collector car market has been on the rise. At first, people only collected the classic models from the 1930s to the 1950s with lots of chrome, bespoke bodies and historical significance. But as the market grew, other cars entered the market, such as muscle cars, classic sports cars and roadsters. Today, the definition of a collector’s car is wide. In fact, you can consider any vehicle as a collectible if someone has taken the money, time and effort to preserve it, despite its age or rarity.

That is why you will see those instant classics from the 1990s that have already reached collector car status. Since the classic car market is now so diverse, it is constantly looking for new models to promote as the next big thing. When that happens, the prices go up and cars become scarce. It has happened numerous times in the car industry. It’s easy to see how trends have shifted from classic muscle cars to hot hatches, and from classic VW and Porsches to those 1980s JDM models.

Sometimes, the market promotes some mediocre cars into classics, boosting the price. Car enthusiasts can do nothing about it. This is because if there are buyers, there will be sellers who will form the price. However, despite the active automobile market, there are a few cars that people have forgotten. So, they are affordable considering their performance, looks, rarity or significance.

However, once the market recognizes them as good buys, you have a little time to snap up those cars while they are still affordable. Before you know it, the prices will go up and that dream car will be out of reach. So, here is a list of cars that are interesting and cool enough to catch the attention of any enthusiast, yet old enough to be rare on the streets and desirable.

1. Mazda RX-7

The re-entry of Japanese sports cars from the 70’s to the 90’s is one of the biggest news in the classic car world in recent years. Those forgotten models, some with RHD-only configurations, are becoming more popular with U.S. enthusiasts who import them from Japan or Australia. If you are looking for a genuine JDM example, you are late, since the prices are stratospheric and your choice of models is limited.

However, there is an alternative in form of the Mazda RX-7. The first generation of the compact Mazda sports car has all the right ingredients to become a cult classic. It is 40 years old, has rear-wheel drive, a specific design and pop-up headlights. It also includes interesting technology and is affordable. The Mazda RX-7 is plentiful and even has had some racing success.

They introduced the first generation in 1978 and it stayed on the market until 1985. During that period, they produced almost 500,000 RX-7s, selling most in America. Under the hood was a 1.1 to 1.3-liter Wankel rotary engine, which was the RX-7`s most notable feature.

Its extremely compact and light engine produced 102 to 135 HP, which was more than enough for a lively performance from this little coupe. But, this interesting feature can be the biggest problem for the RX-7 since Wankel engines are not common, so sourcing parts and services could be a problem. If you are fit for the challenge of owning a classic Japanese Wankel sports car, you can find the RX-7 for as little as a couple of thousand dollars. Remember to check the engine for leaking oil as a sign of potential trouble.

2. Ford Mustang SVT Cobra

Inspired by the wild SVT Cobra R’s from the 1990s, they didn’t name the 2003 model “R” since it wasn`t as limited in production. In fact, it was available to the public rather than just racing drivers and private teams. However, this SVT Cobra was an interesting and important model for the Mustang dynasty since it featured two firsts: a factory supercharged engine and an independent suspension.

The team took a standard 4.6-liter block and mounted different heads and superchargers to get 390 HP and 390 lb-ft of torque. They called the engine the “Terminator” and rumor was that it delivered more than the advertised 390 HP. To handle all that power and torque, Ford equipped the SVT Cobra with an independent rear suspension setup similar to the first Ford GT. This helped ensure stability at high speeds and hard launches, and made this Mustang handle like a dream. The 0 to 60 MPH sprint took only 4.7 seconds making the SVT Cobra a drag strip terror.

Ford offered this model in 2003 and 2004, making around 20,000 of them in coupe and convertible form. Despite being almost 15 years old, those cars still hold high prices on the used car market. Expect to pay around $20,000 for cars of excellent quality. Look for original cars with a great maintenance and repair history.

The originality pays in the long run, so if you invest in an SVT Cobra now, expect the prices to rise significantly in the future. Just look at the original Boss 302 cars, which are six digits today.

3. Porsche 944

The 911 is and was the quintessential Porsche; however, it couldn’t singlehandedly support the brand. So, Porsche introduced the 924 in the mid-70’s as the first model with a water-cooled, front engine. The 924 was a fine, entry-level sports car, but back in 1983, Porsche presented a 944 that proved to be an important model for the brand. They developed the concept of the 924 further, but with more innovations inside and out, like a transaxle system, a superb suspension and improved steering.

One of the main features of the new car was a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produced 170 HP at first. That may not be an impressive number today, but it was potent by mid-80s standards. Further evolution of that model included the enlargement of the 2.5-liter four to 3.0-liters that delivered 211 HP in S2 form.

But the most interesting version was the 944 Turbo S. It had a 2.5-liter turbocharged engine that put out 250 HP. Due to its lightweight, updated transmission and aerodynamics, the 944 Turbo S was a fast car. It could accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in only 5.5 seconds and it could top 162 mph.

Even today, this little Porsche can outrun some modern sports cars. The prices for the Porsche 944 have been low for years, so for around $5,000, you can find a decent runner. The S2, Turbo and convertible versions are a bit more expensive. If you are looking for a fun weekend car with great performance, this could be the one for you. But, you’d better hurry up since those cars won’t get any less expensive.

4. Triumph TR6

Even though the Triumph TR6 is not an expensive classic car, this model has all it needs to be valuable. The company that produced it specialized in roadsters, but it has not been around for nearly four decades. It has a sleek design, a low silhouette and a powerful six-cylinder engine in the front. The driving dynamics are superb, followed by the growl of its torquey engine and unique feel of open-air driving.

Everything car enthusiasts love and crave is in this car. Yet, somehow, the prices are affordable, so you can find a decent Triumph TR6 for a little over $15,000, which is a steal considering how fun this car is.

They introduced the TR6 in 1968, and it stayed in production until 1976. During that time, Triumph made over 90,000 of them. Most of them ended up in America, so the cars are common, which means parts should not be a problem. Many aftermarket companies produce numerous new parts for these models. Under the hood is a 2.5-liter straight six engine with 150 HP, which is more than enough for a lively performance from this lightweight roadster.

5. Volkswagen Golf/Rabbit GTI Mk1

The Volkswagen Golf/Rabbit GTI was not the first hot hatch, but it was arguably the most influential and popular. In 1976, it brought the new concept of an exciting compact car in a segment where all models were dull and slow. The timing for the GTI couldn’t have been better because it entered the market when muscle cars had pathetic power outputs. In fact, drivers considered 90 HP, or 115 in European versions, from its 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine a lot of grunts.

The 0 to 60 mph acceleration time of nine seconds is nothing spectacular today, but back in the early 80’s, it was quick for an economy compact. The prices are reasonable, so you can find a Volkswagen Golf/Rabbit GTI Mk1 in great shape for less than $10,000. If you are looking for a classic hot hatch, a class that is rising in value and becoming popular with collectors, this is the car for you.

The parts are relatively affordable and plentiful. With some tasteful modifications, you could end up with a faster, nimbler car. The other interesting proposition is the convertible version of the VW Golf/Rabbit Mk1 that is slowly becoming costly.

6. Classic American Pickup Trucks

Pickup trucks are the backbone of the American economy. Those dependable workhorses are common street décor in any American city or town. Most people look at them as tools for business or basic transportation for their daily commute, but they are much more. In fact, this is a car class that has been on the market the longest. In addition, it hasn’t changed a lot in almost 100 years of production.

The basic mechanical layout is still the same, even though pickups have become more luxurious and comfortable over the years. They are as American as muscle cars, apple pie and the U.S. flag. Pickup trucks are iconic in the U.S. automotive landscape. Over the years, numerous manufacturers have produced millions of various pickup trucks. Due to the nature of their use, any surviving examples are often tired, rusted wrecks.

However, there are plenty of restored or well-preserved pickup truck models on the market. The classic models from the 40’s and the 50’s may be expensive to buy or restore. But, there are a lot of interesting models from the 60’s and the 70’s you can buy with powerful engines, four-wheel drive and many other features of modern trucks.

With beautiful chrome grills and bumpers, two-tone body colors and simple but tough mechanics, classic trucks can be interesting yet quite usable for entry-level collectors. The market for parts and accessories is enormous, so there are components for almost every model. The prices are starting to rise since people are realizing how cool and usable classic trucks are, so you should act fast.

7. Chevrolet Corvette C4

Making a splash in the car industry back in 1984, the C4 Corvette is a true 80’s classic. With its wedge-shaped body, pop-up headlights, rear hatch and bright colors, this generation a true pop culture icon. However, there is much more about this car than those funny stereotypes and the GTA Vice City games. In fact, the Corvette C4 was a car that singlehandedly saved the Corvette from its demise due to the recession and a lack of popularity. During the last couple of years, the C3 generation was a joke with its warmed-up 60’s styling and big engines with less than 200 HP on tap.

However, in 1984, everything changed with the arrival of the C4. The car was new from the ground up. The C4 had a new chassis, engine, design and digital dash in the interior. It wasn’t perfect, but over the years, Chevrolet managed to turn it into a world-class sports car. The Corvette C4 delivered the performance and road holding that could rival European exotics that were far more expensive. In fact, the chassis of C4 was so good, they still use it in modified form for the current C7 generation.

In 1990, Chevy introduced the mighty ZR-1 with 400 HP and performance that could beat any Ferrari at the moment. Today, most people overlook the C4, despite its qualities. The C1 and C2 Corvette prices are astronomical, the early C3s are expensive and later models are not worth buying. However, the C4 is a better value and a car people will appreciate more in years to come.

You can find a C4 in perfect condition for around $10,000 and the fantastic ZR-1 for $20,000 and they are worth every penny. Not only do those cars look cool, they are fast and durable and you can use them every day if you want to.

8. SAAB 900 Turbo

SAAB introduced their 900 model in the late 70’s. This was when they were at height of their success as an upscale manufacturer of high-quality, high-tech cars. They presented the 900 Turbo at a time when turbo-charging was new. Only a few models included it as a regular production item. In fact, in the late 70’s, SAAB was briefly the only non-sports model that had the option of a turbocharged engine.

The 2.0-liter four-cylinder with forced induction produced 143 HP at first, but all the way to 185 HP in later versions. They initially offered the 900 Turbo was as a coupe, but then included a convertible in the line. In the 80’s, SAAB cars were popular among upper-middle-class buyers, intellectuals and artists. Car buyers viewed it as a stylish, yet usable and affordable transport that possessed advanced technology and a unique design. Back in the day, the SAAB 900 was different from any other offering in that price class.

The convertible was especially sought after in the yuppie circle or with young executives in the 80’s. Fast forward to 30 years and SAAB as a factory is no longer around, but the spirit of invention and uniqueness of the 900 Turbo still lives on today.

If you are looking for a usable import with a specific design and technology, the 900 Turbo could be the answer. Most SAAB fans clubs are well organized and there is support for finding spare parts. The cars themselves are not expensive. Their turbo engine provides the opportunity to tune and make it go well over the 200 HP mark. Be sure to go shopping, now, because prices will probably start riding on these gems soon.

9. Toyota MR2

Back in the mid-80’s, Toyota shocked the automotive world by introducing the MR2, a small mid-engine sports car. It offered a great performance, superb road handling and an affordable price. In those days, as well as today, consumers considered Toyota as a dull manufacturer of economy models without any interesting cars for enthusiasts. But the MR2 changed that since it was different from other Toyotas. It appealed to all fans of spirited driving and dynamic handling road machines.

They presented the first generation MR2 in 1984. It featured 1.5-liter or 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine mounted centrally behind the driver, between the cabin and rear axle. This gave the little car fantastic handling. Look for the 1.6-liter supercharged model – the Supercharger (SC) that delivers 145 HP and 140 lb-ft of torque.

Although those power output figures don’t sound like much today, the MR2 can accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in just seven seconds, which is still respectable. The prices for well-preserved examples are still affordable. The MR2 is tons of fun, so if you are looking for a small, nimble sports car from Japan with sublime handling, this is it.

10. Maserati 222 BiTurbo

Although most people have probably never heard of it, they can become the owner of an almost classic Maserati for as little as $10,000. For that money, you can buy a decent Maserati BiTurbo, which they introduced in 1981 and produced until 1994. The BiTurbo lineup of cars started with the 222 model. It was a handsome two-door coupe, and Maserati continued with the 420 and 430 sedans built on the same chassis. There was even a beautiful convertible the Zagato design house built, but it is expensive and rare.

They intended BiTurbos to be entry-level Maseratis at a more affordable price for consumers. Under the hood was a new generation of turbocharged 2.0-liter and 2.5-liter V8 engines offering a high-power output. In fact, it went from 180 HP all the way up to 270 HP in later years. The interiors were luxurious and fitted with all kinds of creature comforts.

You are probably wondering what the catch is and why these fantastic-looking cars from an exotic brand like Maserati are so affordable. The reason is simple: people considered the BiTurbo generation to lack reliability and be prone to mechanical issues. Maserati made over 40,000 BiTurbos in a 13-year period, but just a small fraction of them are still on the road.

However, modern technology and aftermarket components can improve the quality of this gorgeous-looking, but mechanically-flawed BiTurbos. Some owners are reporting they have made these cars more dependable. So, if you want an Italian exotic, but are on a budget, the Maserati BiTurbo could be your solution.

11. BMW 325i E30

The quintessential 3-Series is the venerable E30, which BMW produced from 1982 to 1992 in over 2.2 million cars. This was the blueprint for the later 3-Series models. It was also a car that cemented BMW’s position as a premium manufacturer of compact but powerful cars. Small cars with rear-wheel drive chassis, good weight distribution and nice designs are still popular more than 30 years after the original release.

The 3-Series E30 was also a successful racing car. The legendary M3 was a Touring car with the most wins on the international racing scene. But, with the prices of the M3 street versions going stratospheric, the 3-Series models are affordable and provide a fun driving experience. The E30 3-Series came with the choice of several four-cylinder and a few six-cylinder engines. The model you want is the six-cylinder 325i in the two or four-door configurations.

The 325i has a potent engine with 170 HP and a lightweight body. The handling is precise and the car is well balanced straight from the factory. The parts are inexpensive and the tuning potential is enormous. In the last few years, the wider automotive community has started to appreciate those compact fun cars. They can provide a great analog driving feel with modern performance for next to nothing. So, act fast and buy one now before they are either gone or out of this price range.

12. Ford Ranchero

By the late 50s, pickup trucks were an established car class with numerous models from several major manufacturers. Trucks were mechanically similar, featuring straight six engines and newly introduced V8s. They also had a ladder-type chassis and a live axle in the back.

Always on the forefront of the market, Ford realized there was a market niche for smaller, more car-like trucks. They knew a smaller truck would appeal to customers who needed a usable vehicle, but who didn’t carry heavy loads. Some customers didn’t want the ruggedness of a regular truck.

The solution was simple: turn a full-size passenger car into a small pickup truck by chopping the body and adding a truck bed. Ford introduced the Ford Ranchero in 1957. It was a hit and featured Ford passenger car styling. It also had appointments along with payloads like the full-size F-Series trucks. With the Ranchero, customers could enjoy the drivability of a regular sedan with the usability of a proper pickup.

This was something that the market had never seen before. Ford even offered a long list of optional extras, so their customers could get a big V8 engine, bi-color exterior, radio and seat belts. They produced the Ranchero until 1979 over seven generations.

13. Honda CRX

One of the most interesting affordable compact cars is the legendary Honda CRX. Honda built the CRX between 1983 and 1991. They based the CRX on the Civic, but gave it a lower, sportier body with only two seats. Since it was light, nimble and had precise steering, the CRX was a true sports car, but with front-wheel drive. It produced just 140 HP, but the entire car weighed just 1,800 pounds, so that was more than enough to power this car.

The biggest selling points of this model were the extremely light body and a high-revving four-cylinder engine. Since the car was light, the handling was exceptional, as well as the fuel economy. The only downside was safety and since it was so light, the car was fragile and rather dangerous in a crash since it wasn’t able to provide much protection for passengers.

However, the CRX had a huge fan base and despite being popular, it is still affordable. Decent CRX models cost around $3000. There is also an enormous selection of aftermarket parts for the CRX. It was rumored that a CRX could beat those exotic sports cars in the handling department. Its drive dynamics are legendary, too.

14. Jeep Gladiator

A direct descendant of the legendary Willys Jeep Pickup, Jeep presented the Gladiator in 1963 with fresh new styling and great new features. The most important feature was the independent front suspension, which was same as the Chevrolet C/K. Jeep wasn’t the first with this feature, but it was the first four-wheel drive truck that featured that kind of front suspension.

It was easy to mount a double wishbone suspension or A-arms with coil springs to the front end of a truck, which Chevy did in 1960. It was hard to do the same with the front axle going through suspension components and powering the front wheels. As an all-wheel drive and off-road authority, Jeep was able to make it work. They presented the first truck with an independent front suspension and a 4×4 drivetrain, which was quite an achievement.

The Gladiator immediately became the best off-road truck on the market. Even the U.S. Army used special versions of the Gladiator for various duties. With those powerful six-cylinder V8 engines, the Gladiator was one of the most versatile trucks of the era.

If you want to become a car collector or own a classic car, one of the vehicles on this list could be an affordable, interesting choice. As with any car, old or new, be sure to learn about the repair and maintenance history to make sure previous owners have taken good care of it. Take the time to do your homework, so you can end up with a cool, yet dependable classic collectible.

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