Home Cars Underrated ’80s and ’90s Cars That’ll Soon Be Worth Insane Cash

Underrated ’80s and ’90s Cars That’ll Soon Be Worth Insane Cash

Cameron Eittreim August 3, 2023

The ’80s and ’90s were a great time for the auto industry where cars were evolving and changing. Performance continued to evolve to new heights as automakers moved away from the lethargic V8 engines of the past. For a long time, these decades were two of the most underrated in auto history. But in recent years, the cars from these decades have turned into the next generation of classics. Cars like the Buick GNX, Dodge Stealth, and even the Plymouth Prowler are rarities that offer personality and performance.

So we looked at the cars that weren’t the most expensive at the time but now command serious bucks. A lot of these cars are still reasonably affordable and you can still find a lot of them for sale. But as with the previous generations of classic cars, there’s never been a better time than now to jump on these. The unique qualities that these cars offer will make them worth serious money soon, so check them out right now.

Mercedes AMG C36
Photo Credit: Car Domain

Mercedes-Benz C36 AMG

The C36 AMG was the epiphany of early ’90s Mercedes-Benz engineering. The car had a powerful engine packed under the hood and a style that was all its own. This generation of Mercedes is usually regarded as the most over-engineered generation in the brand’s history, and that isn’t an understatement (via Motor Trend).

Mercedes-Benz C36 AMG
Photo Credit: Car Advice

The car was precision built to break all kinds of speed records on the autobahn. But even if you live locally here in the States this was one car that derives its characteristics from its Mercedes roots. From the luxurious interior to the high-quality ride and low amount of interior noise, everything about this car was excellent.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

Subaru SVX

A lot of people don’t realize that Subaru sold a quirky sports car in the ’90s. The interesting styling of the SVX was just one of the things that set the car apart from the pack. It didn’t have the breakneck speed of the Toyota Supra or the brand recognition of the Nissan 300ZX, but it was a well-built car (via Motor Trend).

Photo Credit: Subaru

The car was lauded by the press for having an extremely low drag coefficient coupled with an impeccable motor. Because the SVX didn’t sell very well, this is a rare sports car. Like many things from the 1990s, this car is only going to explode in value as time marches on.

Lotus Elan
Photo Credit: Lotus

Lotus Elan (M100)

Lotus is a carmaker with a storied reputation. In the ’90s, the brand was experimenting with a few new sports car models, one of which was the Elan. While it might not look like much from the outside, the Elan was a relatively notorious sports car. Its tuned suspension and reasonable off-the-line performance gave the car a solid reputation (via Motor Trend).

Photo Credit: Lotus

People drive the Elan because it was one of the best-built sports cars on the road. Its stellar handling and short wheelbase made the car extremely fun to drive around. The Elan was the inspiration for the Mazda Miata so you’ll notice that there were a lot of similarities between these two.

Photo Credit: Inside Line

BMW M5 (E34)

The first generation of the BMW M5 had it all. The most important thing the car boasted was exceptional performance. But like most BMW models, the handling was also a very strong characteristic. The E34 wasn’t short on great handling or performance (via Machines With Souls).

Photo Credit: Inside Line

It only takes a second to realize that this car was special in every way. The wheelbase and the overall design of the car were put in place to deliver driver satisfaction. This is one of the rarest and most highly sought-after generations of cars, and its rarity is only going to increase.

Photo Credit: Mecum

Chevrolet Impala SS

The Impala SS was simply a Caprice with a paint job, but it ended up being a whole lot more. The car started a trend and a resurgence of American muscle cars. The Impala also became an iconic part of hip-hop culture, with the car being a cornerstone for the rap community after appearing in thousands of music videos (via Car Gurus).

Photo Credit: GM

A lot of famous people own an Impala SS as well, with Tim Allen being one of the most well-known. He has owned his Impala SS for decades now and it goes to show how great the car was. The simple design resonates with people who were kids in the 1990s and dreamed about owning one of these, so the price will keep climbing.

Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX
Photo Credit: Car Domain

Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX

The Mitsubishi Eclipse was a big part of 1990s car culture, but the second generation of the car hit it big when the ‘Fast and the Furious’ hit theaters. This was the car that Bryan was driving and it ended up being a hit. The Eclipse GSX was a great car because it offered a turbo under the hood and excellent handling (via KBB).

Mitsubishi Eclipse GSX
Photo Credit: Mitsubishi

The Eclipse was also sold as the Eagle Talon, both of which offered great features and performance. A fully-loaded second-generation Eclipse was not only a fun car but also offered a reasonable amount of features for the price. From its leather seating to its comfortable interior, the Eclipse was a great car.

Photo Credit: Automobile

Mercedes-Benz 500E

The 1990s were a great time for Mercedes as the brand continued to evolve. But perhaps one of the most notable models that arrived in this decade was the 500E. The 500E was the perfect blend of luxury and performance, with a sleek design and enough engineering to win awards over and over again (via Hemmings).

Photo Credit: Automobile

The 500E has become a collector’s item over the past few years, mostly because it was popular in the’90s with rappers. These cars are relatively easy to restore and with a few upgrades, they make for a great driving car – not to mention the fact you get the nostalgia of Mercedes-Benz’s best decade.

Photo Credit: Motor 1

Toyota Celica All-Trac Turbo

The 1990s were a reasonable time for Toyota and the Celica brand was at the height of its popularity. The thing about the Celica was that it was cheap and fun to drive. So as long as Toyota stuck to that philosophy, it was fine. The All-Trac added an AWD system to the already excellent Celica at the time (via Car & Driver).

Photo Credit: Cars & Bids

Car and Driver called the Celica a “Learjet for the road,” and it stuck to that reputation. The bulletproof reliability, excellent handling, and zippy performance made it a popular choice. But while these cars are cheap right now their value is going to skyrocket as fewer and fewer Japanese sports cars are left in original condition.

Oldsmobile Quad 442
Photo Credit: Car Domain

Oldsmobile Cutlass Calais Quad 442

There was a time in the ’90s when the Oldsmobile brand was the pinnacle of performance. GM was pushing the brand into the future and there were many unique nameplates being released. The Quad 442 was the revival of the old muscle car performance name, but this time it was a turbocharged four-cylinder (via Autopolis).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The fact that it had a beautiful red paint job was enough for most consumers, but its added performance made it even better. This is probably the rarest Oldsmobile from the ’90s and getting your hands on one is almost impossible. Nevertheless, it was one of the most fun-to-drive Oldsmobile cars on the road at the time.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Porsche 968 Club Sport

Who can argue with a Porsche? These cars were designed to grip the track and give you driving pleasure and that’s exactly what the 968 Club Sport did. The car had all of the bells and whistles that you’d expect and it performed well. It also did a great job of offering a competent track car (via Super Car Nostalgia).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

This was by far one of the most underrated generations of the Porsche 968. The design was outdated but the car remained popular and the values for this model will only increase. The car was relatively fun to drive and it offered a great blend of performance and luxury for the price.

Photo Credit: Hot Rod

Plymouth Prowler

The Prowler was one of the most iconic cars of the 1990s, and not because of its performance. It was just a unique-looking car that Chrysler intentionally designed to look like a retro-inspired hot rod. The power plant under the hood of the Prowler was the same setup you’d find in your mom’s Dodge Intrepid. But there were some advantages to this setup such as the lightweight design of the car, which gave the engine a more powerful feeling than it actually had. The Prowler was meant to be a halo car but it ended up dying out with the rest of the Plymouth brand in 2001 (via Car Throttle).

Photo Credit: Car Domain

The late 1990s were a time when automakers were experimenting with different styles and some retro-themed cars like the Volkswagen New Beetle were a sales success. There were few cars from the ’90s that left such an iconic mark on the automotive industry as the Prowler did. Even though it wasn’t a sales success, the car was quite unique nonetheless.

Photo Credit: GM

Oldsmobile Aurora

The Aurora was a last-ditch effort by GM to save the floundering Oldsmobile brand in the ’90s. The only problem was that the car quickly lost its way and became just another badge-engineered GM. By the end of its lifecycle, there wasn’t a whole lot to like about the Aurora and the model ended up being discontinued by the 2000s. Originally the car had a great V8 engine and several design elements that set it apart from the crowd (via Hemmings).

Photo Credit: GM

The Aurora might have been a success if GM hadn’t gone cheap with certain elements of the design. But the competition in the sedan segment was fierce back then and there were many models from much better competition to choose from. Lexus in particular had a stranglehold on the luxury car segment around this time and there was no way that a car from GM was going to take the crown.

Photo Credit: Edmunds

First Generation Cadillac Escalade

The first generation of the Escalade was a game-changer and it redefined the luxury segment. The original models in clean condition are almost impossible to find nowadays, and a truly well-kept example with low-mileage will soon be worth a fortune. Drivers and enthusiasts are starting to gravitate toward the square-body GM trucks from the 1990s as the next collector’s item. And the Escalade was the top of the line when it came to this body style (via Car Buzz).

Photo Credit: GM

The first generation of the Escalade was a great truck with several unique features. It was the only GMT-400 platform vehicle that ever had a third-row seat. In addition to the fact that a very limited number of models had a larger engine. Things changed when the Escalade came on to the scene and there was a whole lot to like about the truck that made it unique.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Lexus SC400

The SC400 was a dream car for many back in the 1990s and was one of the best-built coupes of the decade. Its bulletproof V8 engine and impeccable design made the SC400 a luxury coupe that rivaled the best that Germany had to offer. Nowadays it’s become a staple of 1990s engineering at its best, and finding a clean one will be almost impossible. You’ll seldom find a clean one on the market anymore and that will only become more of a challenge as time goes on (via Car & Driver).

Photo Credit: Hagerty

Drivers liked the SC400 because it had a big, strong V8 engine under the hood and sleek styling. Every inch of the car was unique and beautiful and the final model year is the rarest model to find, which was the 2000 model year. Nevertheless, if you can get your hands on an original SC400 you’re in for a treat, as the car was one of the best-designed cars on the road.

Photo Credit: Car Domain

Lexus IS200

Released at the end of the decade, the IS200 was another Lexus car that broke the barrier for what quality and luxury brought to the table. It was a lightweight sedan that was meant to compete with the likes of BMW and the 3-Series. Immediately after hitting the market, the IS200 was a hit for Lexus and the car sold in respectable numbers. This is another car from the ’90s that’s becoming very hard to get your hands on (via Auto Blog).

Photo Credit: Auto Blog

If there’s one instant classic in this list that’s going to skyrocket the most in value, it’s going to be the IS200 because of the legendary 2JZ motor under the hood. Very few sedans have the honest performance credentials of the IS200 and that’s why it remains a classic. The 1990s were a decade of technological change and the IS200 was at the forefront of that change.

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