Or—what car is still overlooked and undervalued?
I would submit in this order from best value to worst: E36 M3, 911 964 Cabriolet, and E30 3 series (if you can find one), and the Cayman R, being the most expensive, but with the most potential appreciation.
I picked the E36 overall, because it is beautiful in both sedan or coupe form, is simple, light, and attractive. Prices seem to stay in the high teens for good ones and in the twenties for exceptional cars. I think this is a car that will increase in value because so many were turned into race cars and destroyed. The survivors will inherit the earth.
Next, the 964 values have gone wild for the coupe and Targas mainly because they represent the last narrow body, hand-built, air-cooled cars. The 964 used to be the ugly duckling because it left the factory without a head-gasket and other gremlins, but has quickly become the hottest classic 911 that isn’t a Turbo or Long-hood.
They hit the sweet spot on creature comfort / rawness between the 993 and Carrera 3.2. Coupes and Targas are almost impossible to find for sale and the few on the market are listed in the high 60s to 80s.
But, the Cabriolet prices are still in the 30s all day long for really clean cars.
Next, the E30 is the quintessential BMW—boxy, simple, light weight, and has great balance. The M3 prices are stratospheric—cars with 150k miles are listing for more than $60k. Most of the regular 325s and 328s have been destroyed as track cars, but the rare manual survivors look great. If you can find one, this seems like a no-brainer.
Last, the most expensive car on my list is the 2012 Porsche Cayman R. It was only built for 2012. It had more horse power than the 997 911, but weighed less at 2800 pounds. Prices are in the 50ks and 60ks, but in the water-cooled Porsche world this makes the most sense. Except, for maybe the Boxster Spyder.
If I weren’t stupidly hunting a Porsche long-hood (either 911 or really clean 912 is fine), I would buy a 986 Boxster for cheap, fast, flat-six smiles. It’s the German Miata with runny-eggs.