Buying a car as an investment is a terrible idea, although history has showed the well-timed purchase of a few models was “less-terrible” than others. In the first column of what will be a recurring series (hopefully), what models might put you ahead in a few years? What’s worth keeping around your garage to see-what-happens? And finally, what’s got a value proposition as promising as Enron stock options? Buckle up, we’re going around the world for this one.

Note: this column in an opinion. One man’s opinion, on the internet, with no basis, at all, and you should not invest based on a free column on the internet. You should not invest in cars. Do not invest in cars. Also, sorry I have no lede graphic, the one I made sucks and I’m not making another one.

Since this is the first column, let’s define the terms, here:

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Buy: When people talk about “bang for your buck,” these models are Exhibit A, both from a drivability and a “financial-outlook” perspective. They’re fast, they’re cool, they’re desirable, and based on that combination of factors, they certainly seem cheap. And if prices do go up, better to be an owner than a buyer. If you ever wanted one of these for your garage, this is the time.

Drive: The “mama bear” of the bunch, these aren’t cars to fly out and look for, but as the winds of depreciation vs. collectability change, you could do a helluva lot worse. Might as well enjoy the ride, sit tight, put some miles on it, and check prices again in a couple years to see if you’re sitting on buried treasure.

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Kill: These cars are so ludicrously expensive they deserve to die a slow, fiery death for being so far out of reach. But more specific than that, their stratospheric sales prices mean there’s only one direction for them to go. Should you want one? Hell yeah you should want one! Window shopping is free! But if you’ve already got one, maybe consider whether you’ll end up with a case of “Tavarish’s Regret.

Buy: E46 BMW M3 (2000-2006)

Jesus, how are these cars so cheap? Capable of ripping a sub-5 second 0-60 and a 0.9 on the skidpad, this was all the best of the “old school” – 6 speed manual, 333hp naturally aspirated I6, and fully-defeatable DSC and traction control. It’s a striking model toward the end of BMW’s more restrained years, identifiable from all angles despite not being peppered with ///M badges. And the wheels, lord the wheels.

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These cars were regularly in the 30-40k range for years after they sold, seemingly tied up in the “Elise Paradox” and immune to depreciation. But as they worked their way to third owners the bottom fell out. Now granted, mid-model BMW doesn’t have the owner support of, say, Porsche or exotic brands, but what the hell happened here? Did everyone just go get new leases? Did excessive ///M badging devalue the cars retroactively? Are they lumped in with the pokey E36?

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No matter. Well-documented, mid-mileage examples are trading around $20,000, with well-driven and maintained instances flirting with four figure price tags. There is absolutely zero way that depression is sustainable, and we all know what happened to the E30’s.

Drive: Chevrolet Corvette Z06 (2001-2004)

Drive your damn Corvettes, people. If you can look past the “musty old man midlife crisis-mobile” reputation affixed to the C5, what a hell of a performer. You’d be hard-pressed to find something else that could keep up even in the periphery of the rearward visibility in the $16,000 range. Yes, that’s it. If the BMW was a scalpel the Corvette is a hammer. A really powerful hammer – like, a rocket-powered hammer. It’s a 405 hp Corvette, jeez.

That said, the ‘Vettes always seem to follow a strange and unusually protracted pricing curve, and it’s hard to tell if this is even the bottom… even if you can find sub-10k mile instances at under half of MSRP. (Yes, you can find instances where the only scheduled maintenance was an oil change, and they’re under $25k.) The C4 generation – especially the actually-limited-and-actually-worthwhile Grand Sport and ZR1 trims – is juuuuust starting to come out of the valley, and as more and more silvertops realize they can’t bend over far enough to sit in them anymore, there’s bound to be more C5’s on the market in the short term. But these are significant American sports cars in ways that few can match, so the prices will come back up. The key word though? Eventually. So in the meantime: drive your damn Corvette.

Kill: Mazda RX-7 (1992-2002)

Preface: I’ve been a bit bearish on Japanese Market imports lately, largely because those who grew up worshipping these cars in the era of Gran Turismo scraped up their disposable income to get in while the gettin’ was good. And now, that ship has sailed. It’s done. Tavarish warned you. RIP your JDM dreams.

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But if you really, really want a glimmer of hope, here it is: a significant number of people buying Z32’s and FD’s and Mk IV’s are gonna go straight over to R34 and 22B and Evo V’s as soon as 25 years rolls around. There’s a fixed number of old cars – yes – but the supply is going to increase both on a model-by-model basis and an overall JDM presence. So while the tides of the market have a lot of money flowing into Japanese future classics, something about a $25k FD with one accident 120k miles and a rebuilt engine just doesn’t line up with that.

And that’s the problem with the current FD market – there isn’t any semblance of a market for FD’s as collectibles, it’s a market for FD’s as “things.” Status symbols. Things have gone totally bananas over the last 3 years (thanks again Tavarish) to the point that no one has any idea what they’re worth. If anyone did, it would be Hagerty’s, which values them at about half of what they’re trading for. Salvage title? $30k! Half-finished project that isn’t running? $40k! Rolling shell? $12k! Whatever! Just write something on the windshield and see who calls! We’re making it up as we go along!

So if you’re one of the lucky/smart/rich ones with a FD in the extra space in the garage, it might be time to consider cashing out while you can just stick it on craigslist and see what happens. The market is going to stabilize eventually, and it sure won’t be higher than “screw it, I’ma ask for $42069.” If you’re right-side up, maybe taking the cash isn’t such a bad idea.

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Till next time.