What makes a car a collectible? There are obvious traits like the combination of high performance and low volume that could describe any number of cars crossing the Bonhams or Mecum auction blocks on a given weekend. But if one or neither of these traits exist in a car, than collectibility becomes a far more interesting dance.
Take the Volkswagen Beetle, for instance. More than 21 million were produced, and the little Bug can barely get out of its own way–let alone stop once you’re up to speed. And yet it remains a supremely collectible car. The same could be said for the Fiat 500, which sits a little bit less at 3 million units, but enjoys its own collectible niche.
Here are five cars that could be worth something in the years to come that might not come to mind when you think of “collectible”:
Those unfamiliar with the handling characteristics of the MX-5 Miata may deride it as a “Chick Car.” They would be sorely mistaken. Sure, the Miata was produced in large numbers and lacks the straight-line performance of a V8 Mustang, but it makes up for it in cornering ability and the infrequency of trips to the gas station. As fuel prices inevitably rise in the decades to come, the high-volume Miata will be a collectible with minimal headaches to maintain. Special models like the turbocharged Mazdaspeed edition will be among the most collectible, but good luck finding parts 30 years from now.
Take a moment clean up the coffee you just spit out. One of the things that makes the Beetle part of our automotive consciousness is its connection to popular culture (or counter-culture). The popularity of a TV show or movie can rub off on a car, and the Aztek is no exception. Breaking Bad was one of the most daring shows in basic cable, and its gritty style has influenced television and moviemaking in the years since its creation. As nostalgia of that show builds, so will the value of this once-lamentable Pontiac crossover. Walter White’s ride may do for the Aztec what That ’70s Show did for the Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser.
In its current distillation, the Wrangler is about to become an endangered species. Jeep’s core product is a year or two away from a major redesign, and few who read the tea leaves know what it is really going to entail. There is a lot of speculation that it will be aluminum, and lose some of its ruggedness, in favor of more sophisticated off-road systems like in the Range Rover and Grand Cherokee. If you want a guaranteed long-term return-on-investment, go out and buy a Wrangler today. More points for a Rubicon or any number of the special editions.
In the modern era in which all of these cars were produced, the Roadmaster stands out as something of a unicorn, or more accurately it follows the scientific definition of living fossil. A beamy American wagon, powered by a V8 and endowed with enough interior space to herd cattle is a rarity in a car built in the 1990s. That the V8 under the hood is the LT1, also used in the Camaro and Corvette, makes this car absolutely bonkers. It’s the sleeper to end all sleepers. Oh, and wood paneling, FTW.
The Wrangler is an American icon, but as we move deeper into the 21st century, Toyota, and other Asian automakers will no longer be viewed as import outsiders. With more and more Toyotas built in America everyday, Toyotas will earn a similar place on auction blocks. Though the FJ was built in Japan and China, it has decidedly American sensibilities. The off-road drivetrain is bulletproof, the design is bold and will earn praise with age. Since original FJs are slowly becoming the stuff of museum pieces, the recently discontinued FJ Cruiser will be the must-have for Toyota 4×4 nostalgia. The rising cachet of the FJ will also rub off on stablemates 4Runner and Land Cruiser, which already retain a quite a bit of their value.