Automakers will occasionally release niche vehicles or special editions of mainstream products in their model lines for sale to the general public. These exclusive vehicles are often sold as limited production editions and carry a premium price tag. Depending on the size of the production run, some dealers who represent the manufactures’ brand may not even receive a single unit to offer for sale. Other dealers who receive a single premium unit may keep it for themselves, never releasing it for retail sale.
Special edition vehicles are often allocated to dealers as rewards for exceeding volume sales goals or maintaining high customer satisfaction levels. Dealers who do receive these distinctive vehicles and do offer them for sale will frequently price them at higher than MSRP (Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price.) These "Instant Classics" ultimately represent a significant investment for sports car collectors and not all special editions provide a positive return on the initial purchase price. When it comes to buying a modern classic sports car, it’s important to examine a few recent niche vehicles termed instant classics to see if the title still holds true after a few years of depreciation. With a few tips on purchasing modern classic sports, buyers will have everything they need to know to determine how to best enter into this highly speculative market.
Are Modern Classic Sports Cars a Good Investment?
It takes more than an inventive advertising campaign to qualify a modern classic sports car as a truly valuable classic car investment, one that will at some point provide a return to its owner above the price initially paid. Unfortunately the biggest factor seems to be luck, few recent supposed instant classics have responded to the classification assigned by the manufacturer or even the automotive press. A few limited production niche vehicles that were termed to be instant classics when they were released are examined below.
The 1995 Acura NSX-T
Debuting in 1990, the Acura NSX was Honda’s first true sports car. It combined the luxury and performance of Honda’s premium Acura name brand with all the quality and dependability that the Honda reputation had come to be known for. The 1995 Acura NSX-T Targa Edition with removable roof was listed at an MSRP of $81,725. A modified version of this instant classic sold on eBay Motors for $37,900, or less than 50% of its original manufacturers asking price.
The 1995 Chevrolet Corvette Pace Car
Only 527 of the limited edition Indianapolis 500 Pace Cars were produced in 1995, all with identical equipment. Painted a dark purple metallic on a base color of Arctic White and equipped with a 5.7-liter (350-cubic-inch) motor that boasted a 300 horsepower; it produced a stunning 340 foot-pounds of torque. The 3rd Corvette Pace Car featured in the Indy 500 was a unique collectors piece with an MSRP of $49,750. A mint condition original dealer inventory model pace car with only 17 actual miles on the odometer sold on eBay Motors for $35,601 with it’s original seat and steering wheel factory plastic covers still in place.
The 1989-1990 Chrysler TC by Maserati
A total of 501 of the Chrysler TC’s by Maserati were built using a German drive-train by Gertrag, consisting of a manual transmission and a 16-valve cylinder head on the Chrysler 2.22 liter engine. This 16-valve engine is distinguishable by its Maserati stamped valve cover. With a retail price in excess of $33,000, only a few of the Gertrag limited edition remain in circulation. Depending on the mileage and condition, one of these high performance manual transmissions German drive-train limited production classics can be listed at around $11,900. Many more of the Chrysler TC models were produced with lower horsepower conventional 2.2L Chrysler "K" engine and an automatic transmission. The de-tuned 2.2L engine model is still collectible for Chrysler enthusiasts but at much lower resale values.
The 1996 Nissan 300ZX Twin Turbo
The last of the 300Z models, Nissan’s popular sports car was introduced to the U.S. market in 1984 as the 240Z; the 1996 twin turbo model had an MSRP of $44,679. While not truly a limited production model, the 1996 300 ZX achieves its exclusive status for being the last of its kind. Currently Kelly Blue Book places the value of the 1996 300ZX Twin Turbo, in excellent condition, at $9,383.
The Plymouth / Chrysler Prowler
Introduced in 1997 as the Plymouth Prowler, 457 of these unique retro modern classics were produced. Production skipped 1998, but returned in 1999 and 2000. With the elimination of the Plymouth brand in 2001, the vehicle was sold as a Chrysler Prowler in 2001 and 2002. Over its lifetime the Prowler production totaled only 11,702 vehicles, 8,532 as a Plymouth and 3,170 under the Chrysler nameplate. While the 1997 model was slightly underpowered compared to its later model cousins, the original limited production Prowler makes it more of a collector’s piece. In 1997 the Prowler’s MSRP was $38,300 and while several are listed on the Internet with asking prices in excess of the MSRP, Kelly Blue Book places the current value at $13,082.
Which Modern Classic Sports Car to Invest In
The worth of any collector vehicle is really only determined by the price a buyer is willing to pay. Certain aspects of a niche vehicle, like the first production vehicle to roll off the assembly line or an untitled mint condition model, may inflate the value to some collectors. If collectors are looking to buy a modern classic sports car for investment purposes, it would be wise to consider the five examples above and carefully factor the depreciation rate that each vehicle experienced. While it is true that real classic vehicles appreciate over time, the amount of time it takes to actualize that return on the investment may not be practical. True classics are often not recognized as such for several decades. When buying any modern sports car instant classic, consumers are encouraged to buy it because they like it and want to own it; not because they expect to make money by reselling the vehicle in the next fifteen to twenty years.
Where to Find Modern Classic Sports Cars
There are many places to find modern classic sports cars, from using the old-fashion method and searching through your local paper’s classifieds to checking local used dealership lots. However, the best methods to find these distinctive vehicles is by searching online with eBay, joining collector clubs or checking out classic car auctions, dealerships and private sellers.
Finding Modern Classic Sports Cars on eBay
The best place to search for modern classic sports cars is at eBay Motors, or even eBay ’ s Collector Cars site. Limited production vehicles and niche models may be hard to find locally, depending on where you live. With eBay’s large, diverse user base you can improve your chances of locating these unique models.
Classic Car Clubs, Auctions, Dealers and Private Sellers
Though some of the best deals can be found online, it is advisable to research alternative areas to help determine pricing and to potentially test drive like-models before buying. A good source for modern specialty vehicles is to join a classic car club in your area. Collectors often publish newsletters about their specific interests. These newsletters usually feature buy and sell offers for vehicles, parts and memorabilia. Additionally, classic car auctions feature modern as well as traditional older classics; however collectors can expect to pay a buyer’s premium if purchasing through an auction house vendor. Similarly, dealers frequently feature sales of modern classic sports cars, though the price may vary greatly depending on the age and condition of the vehicle. As previously mentioned, though the price may not be in a buyer’s range, a dealership offers the potential to test drive models before purchasing them online. Alternatively, if you can locate a private seller with the vehicle of your dreams, the opportunity to purchase at a reasonable price will be best in a private transaction.
Buying a Modern Classic Sports Car with Confidence
As with any vehicle purchase, making a confident purchase requires some effort on the buyer’s part. Therefore, researching the intended purchase is a must-buyers should make certain that they know what they are buying both in terms of the vehicle’s authenticity and price. A regular production vehicle can be made to look like a limited edition model with the right equipment and accessories. Study the manufacturers specifications to understand what makes the limited production model unique. Ask the seller for verification of the limited edition status of the vehicle s/he is selling. Niche vehicles often have engine performance specifications that are far different from the standard production models straight off the assembly line. Potential buyers should know what makes the instant classic car they are considering purchasing different from its normal production counterparts. In order to ensure buyer’s are getting a sound investment, it’s important to compare the price and cost to own a modern classic sports car, research the vehicle’s and seller’s history, and make certain to protect the investment.
Research Pricing and the Cost to Own a Modern Classic Sports Car
View price comparisons of similar vehicles that have already been sold. Using eBay motors and viewing completed listings is a good way to compare the price of recent similar transactions. Kelly Blue Book can give a potential buyer a range of prices for specific models a buyer may be interested in. Unique vehicles can command premium prices; ultimately, the price you pay depends on the perceived value that the buyer and seller agree upon. Determine your budget in advance and stick to it; a vehicle purchase that exceeds a buyer’s ability to pay will soon turn into a deal the buyer will regret. Additionally, it’s important to take into consideration the total cost to own the vehicle. Unique vehicles command higher repair costs. Likewise, extra performance means lower fuel economy and insurance rates are often higher for premium models, so it’s important to take this into consideration prior to purchasing any vehicle. If buyers plan to finance the purchase, be certain to shop interest rates. Not all lenders will treat limited edition models equally and they may not recognize the unique characteristics of a modern classic. If the financial institution has a policy of downgrading unique models to their production equivalent, buyers may need to place a large down payment to cover the total cost of the purchase. Before shopping for a vehicle, pre-qualifying for a loan is always a good idea. The buyer’s bank or credit union is in the best position to determine how much s/he can potentially afford to spend on a vehicle, and it is important to follow their recommendations.
Get to Know the Vehicle and Seller’s History
Before purchasing any vehicle, but especially a potentially expensive modern classic sports car, it is crucial to know the vehicle and seller’s history. Be certain the vehicle offered for sale has a clean title and has not experienced major body or chassis damage by using eBay’s vehicle history feature to study the title and collision history of the intended purchase. Salvage title vehicles or vehicles without a verifiable title history should be avoided.
Not all sellers are dishonest, but with any high dollar transaction, caution should be exercised to make certain the sale is being conducted on a legitimate basis. Get to know the seller, review the seller’s feedback on eBay to get an idea of how other people rate the seller in terms their business transactions with them.
Email is not always the best way to handle all inquires. Don’t hesitate to ask for the seller’s telephone number to ask questions, to discuss the vehicle or the purchase transaction. To see a particular aspect or feature of the vehicle, ask for additional photos or consider taking a trip to inspect the vehicle personally if it is within a reasonable driving distance.
Have the vehicle inspected by an independent garage or repair facility to make sure it meets condition criteria and is free from existing repair conditions that may impact the retail value. Expect to pay a fee for a used vehicle inspection; however, that fee is well worth it if the review turns up a problem that could end up costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars to repair. If no problems are found during the inspection consider the inspection fee as an investment in a peace of mind.
Most of all use common sense, if something about the transaction does not seem right walk away. It is better to miss a buying opportunity than to transact a purchase that goes terribly wrong.
Protect Your Modern Classic Sports Car Investment
Take advantage of eBay and PayPal’s buyer protection programs. With eBay Motors Vehicle Purchase Protection program buyers are covered up to $50,000 for certain types of losses associated with some types of fraud. Never send cash, money orders, Moneygram or Western Union payments to purchase a vehicle from a buyer regardless of the circumstances. If asked to pay for your purchase in a manner other than through eBay and PayPal, walk away and report the seller. Sellers who attempt to scam buyers will always ask for alternative payment methods. By finalizing the sale through eBay, you can lesson the chances of a fraudulent transaction or scam being enacted. Don’t forget to make arrangements for shipping if you are not going to pick the vehicle up personally. Factor transportation costs, insurance, vehicle tag, registration, tax and title fees into the costs of the sale. These recommendations will help buyers feel more secure and confident in the purchase of their modern classic sports car.
Modern classic sports cars can not only be fun to own and drive but also serve as an investment. Buyers should just remember that it is important to do the appropriate research and make certain to protect themselves when purchasing. eBay offers not only a great place to research and buy modern classic sports cars but also protection to make sure buyers can rest assured that their potential investment is safe, putting buyers in the driver seat and on their way to owning their dream car.