If you look at a list of the most expensive sales at the end of every major automobile auction, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that the only marques collectors really care about are Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, Aston Martin and Bugatti. But that’s starting to change, mainly because the thinking about what qualifies as a classic is finally starting to evolve, too. At the forefront of this is a wave of visually stunning and fun-to-drive vehicles known as “youngtimers.”
Let’s get this out of the way: There is no firm, carved-in-stone definition of youngtimer. That said, the vehicles most people agree fall into the class meet a couple key criteria. First, they’re relatively new. We’re talking about cars built after 1980. And second, whether they’re powered by a peppy inline-four or a brutish V-12, they deliver a visceral thrill when you’re behind the wheel. Unlike an eight-figure Ferrari 250 GTO, a youngtimer isn’t meant to be put on display, it’s meant to be driven. In short, they’re the kind of vehicles that today’s enthusiasts have been drooling over since first getting into cars.
“For me, it is a car that’s fun to drive or own,” Brian Rabold of Hagerty recently told Robb Report. “For some people, that’s wanting to go fast. For some people, it’s the way it makes them feel. For other people, it might be the places it allows them to go.”
Youngtimers aren’t just made by the usual suspects, either. Sure, some of the most storied automakers in history, like Lamborghini and Porsche, have built vehicles that fit into the class, but so have brands more associated with everyday drivers, like Audi and Toyota. Almost every automaker is capable of building something special, and the demand and prices that youngtimers are beginning to command is proof of this. Changes in import laws have also given collectors access to cars that weren’t originally sold stateside, either.
Youngtimers are more accessibly priced than older classics, but data provided by the valuation experts at Hagerty show that the sums needed to buy these cars have risen dramatically over the last half-decade. Vehicles like the BMW E30 M3, Lexus LFA and Nissan R34 Skyline GT-R are going for prices that were unimaginable when they were still in production. There are several reasons for this, including newer collectors being able to afford the dream cars of their youth, and more established collectors interested in vehicles that they’ll feel comfortable driving. There’s also the culture that surrounds the vehicles, with dedicated youngtimer gatherings and shows, including the popular Radwood series of events, popping up all over the country.
“We’ve created a platform to celebrate this era of cars,” Art Cervantes, the co-founder of Radwood and co-host of the Driving While Awesome podcast, told us. “There’s a place for people to showcase these vehicles. And so people are trying to get them for multiple reasons, but they want to be part of this movement.”
Wondering where to start with your youngtimer journey? Here are 13 cars that are deserving of a spot in any car lover’s collection, along with pricing trend information so you know what it will take to make one of them yours.
Just look at the first-generation NSX and you’ll immediately understand why it’s such a cult classic. The mid-engine two-seater, which was sold as a Honda outside North America, has one of the best designs of its era. There was more to the vehicle than its pioneering all-aluminum body, though. It may have never become the Ferrari competitor Honda hoped it would be, but its VTEC V-6 packs a punch, especially after a mid-generation performance upgrade. It had some pretty influential fans too, like McLaren F1 designer Gordon Murray, who was inspired by the sports car and put thousands of miles on his personal example.
Production Years: 1991 to 2005
Engine: 3.0-liter V-6 (3.2-liter V-6 after 1997)
Power: 270 hp and 210 ft lbs of torque (290 hp and 224 ft lbs of torque)
Zero to 60 mph: 4.5 seconds
Top Speed: 175 mph
Price in 2018: $73,000
Current Price: $136,000
Appreciation Since 2018: 86 percent
Aston Martin Lagonda Series 4
It’s nice to see an established automaker leave its comfort zone. Aston Martin is best known for its sporty grand tourers—from James Bond’s preferred DB5 to the current DB12—but in the 1970s the company decided to release a wedge-shaped saloon called the Lagonda. It may have been in production for 16 years and gone through four distinct iterations, but the four-door never caught on and has even been called one of the ugliest cars of all time. Despite this, the car, especially its final version, the Series 4, has developed a following since its discontinuation. It makes sense, it’s unlike any other Aston Martin before or since.
Production Years: 1987 to 1990
Engine: 5.3-liter V-8
Power: 285 hp and 321 ft lbs of torque
Zero to 60 mph: 8.8 seconds
Top Speed: 143 mph
Price in 2018: $106,000
Current Price: $120,000
Appreciation Since 2018: 13 percent
Audi TT Quattro Sport
Audi may be about to take the TT out of production, but there’s no denying it’s a modern classic. Since its launch in 1998, the sports car has been the rare Audi that stands out. The retro-inspired design of the first-generation TT, or Mk1, is easily one of the most distinctive to ever come from the marque. There was plenty of substance to go with its style, though, especially if you’re talking about the high-performance Quattro Sport variant. It has a more powerful turbocharged inline-four that delivers 237 hp and 236 ft lbs of torque.
Production Years: 2005 to 2006
Engine: Turbocharged 1.8-liter inline-four
Power: 237 hp and 236 ft lbs of torque
Zero to 60 mph: 5.9 seconds
Top Speed: 155 mph
Price in 2018: $31,200
Current Price: $40,800
Appreciation Since 2018: 31 percent
BMW E30 3 Series
The second-generation 3 Series was important for several reasons. It was the first available as a four-door and the first BMW to feature all-wheel drive. But the reason why the E30 is so revered is that it was also the platform that the M3 was launched on. The high-performance model featured a more aggressively styled body, a retuned suspension and an inline-four that produced more grunt than some of the bigger mill available on the standard version of the model. That alone earns the E30 its spot on this list, but it’s also one of the best-looking Bimmers of all time. Need proof? Just look at the cover of Frank Ocean’s breakthrough mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra.
Production Years: 1984 to 1991
Engine: 2.3-liter inline-four
Power: 192 hp and 170 ft lbs of torque
Zero to 60 mph: 6.9 seconds
Top Speed: 141 mph
Price in 2018: $16,000
Current Price: $28,000
Appreciation Since 2018: 75 percent
BMW 850 CSi
The 8 Series was something completely new when it arrived in 1990, supplanting the 6 Series at the top of the German automaker’s lineup. The high-priced model had been in development for close to a decade and had a modern look that previewed what was to come from the rest of the brand’s cars. It was also a genuine sports car, regardless if you chose the V-8 or V-12 it was offered with. This was especially true of the range-topping 850 CSi which could reach a top speed of 155 mph thanks to the 375 horses produced by its 12-cylinder mill.
Production Years: 1992 to 1996
Engine: 5.6-liter V-12
Power: 375 hp and 406 ft lbs of torque
Zero to 60 mph: 5.9 seconds
Top Speed: 155 mph
Price in 2018: $90,000
Current Price: $181,000
Appreciation Since 2018: 101 percent
The popular Urus wasn’t Lamborghini’s first SUV. That distinction belongs to the LM002, or, as its more commonly known, the “Rambo Lambo.” The 4×4 debuted in the mid-1980s and is just as brash as any vehicle from the Italian marque should be. It has an angular truck-style body that is rugged, sporty and oh so stylish (there’s a reason why Beyoncé owns one). It also packs a V-12 that delivers supercar-like performance. The mill produces 450 horses, thanks to which it can sprint from zero to 60 mph in 7.8 seconds and hit a top speed of 130 mph.
Production Years: 1986 to 1993
Engine: 5.2-liter V-12
Power: 450 hp and 369 ft lbs of torque
Zero to 60 mph: 7.8 seconds
Top Speed: 130 mph
Price in 2018: $277,000
Current Price: $331,000
Appreciation Since 2018: 19 percent
As this list makes clear, Japanese automakers know how to build a sports car. The LFA was proof that they could build a supercar too. The racing-derived coupé was only in production for two years, but it’s fair to say it made an impact during that brief period. That’s because the car combines and incredibly attractive design with a naturally aspirated V-10 mated to a manual gearbox that pumps out 553 horses and 354 ft lbs of twist. Thanks to all that oomph, the car can rocket from zero to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds and has a top speed of 203 mph. Only 500 examples of the car were ever built—though an electric successor seems to be on its way—so prepare to spend big to add it to your collection.
Production Years: 2010 to 2012
Engine: 4.8-liter V-10
Power: 553 hp and 354 ft lbs of torque
Zero to 60 mph: 3.6 seconds
Top Speed: 203 mph
Price in 2018: $572,000
Current Price: $1,073,000
Appreciation Since 2018: 88 percent
Mercedes-Benz 560 SEC AMG 6.0 Widebody
Here’s one of the reasons why AMG models are held in such high regard today. The ultra-exclusive 560 SEC AMG 6.0 “Wide Body” was only built for a single year and has become a holy grail of sorts in the years since. The shop took the already capable 560 SEC and transformed it into a super coupé with an aggressively styled and wider body kit and a mechanical makeover. The main attraction is a special 6.0-liter V-8 that produces 385 hp and 417 ft lbs of torque. It cost $170,000 at launch, but on the off chance you happen to find one of the 26 examples for sale today, you can expect to pay significantly more.
Production Years: 1989
Engine: 6.0-liter V-8
Power: 385 hp and 417 ft lbs of torque
Zero to 60 mph: under 6.0 seconds
Top Speed: 177 mph
Price in 2018: $121,000
Current Price: $426,000
Appreciation Since 2018: 252 percent
Nissan R34 Skyline GT-R
The R34 Skyline GT-R isn’t the most exclusive youngtimer, but it’s almost certainly the most coveted. That’s because the “Godzilla,” as it’s affectionately known, was never officially sold in the U.S. and it’s only now able to be imported stateside via a “Show or Display” exemption. Of course, the R34 isn’t just a legend because it’s hard to get. It’s also one of the defining sports cars of its era, thanks to a twin-turbocharged inline-six that could pump out 493 hp and 398 ft lbs of torque. Add in its appearances in the Fast & Furious franchise—Paul Walker drives one in the fourth installment—and it’s little wonder that some collectors have been paying loads to secure and store theirs in Japan while waiting for the day they can finally bring it across the Pacific.
Production Years: 1999 to 2002
Engine: twin-turbocharged 2.8-liter inline-six
Power: 493 hp and 398 ft lbs of torque
Zero to 60 mph: 3.8 seconds
Top Speed: 203 mph
Price in 2018: n/a
Current Price: $538,000
Appreciation Since 2018: n/a
Porsche 928 GTS
There’s no question that the 911 is the defining Porsche. Still, it’s not the only excellent sports car that’s come from the German automaker. It may not be anywhere near as famous as its sibling, but the 928 also has its supporters. And the most revered version of the 2+2 coupé is almost certainly the GTS model released from 1992 to 1995. The latter-day variant combined a more muscular body style with a 5.4-liter V-8 that packs a mighty 345-hp punch. Casual observers may not be that impressed by it, but enthusiasts know just how special this car really is.
Production Years: 1992 to 1995
Engine: 5.4-liter V-8
Power: 345 hp and 369 ft lbs of torque
Zero to 60 mph: 5.7 seconds
Top Speed: 171 mph
Price in 2018: $87,000
Current Price: $145,000
Appreciation Since 2018: 67 percent
Renault 5 Turbo 2
Love a sporty hatch? Let us direct your attention to the Renault 5 Turbo 2, which just might be the best—or, at least, the best build during the 1980s. The street-legal two-door, which was only available in the U.S. via the grey market, is based on the automaker’s rally car of the period and has a distinctive design that includes two giant fender flares. Its most intriguing feature, though, might be a peppy, mid-mounted inline-four that produces a very respectable 158 hp and 163 ft lbs of torque. Some cars really are more powerful than they look.
Production Years: 1984
Engine: 1.4-liter inline-four
Power: 158 hp and 163 ft lbs of torque
Zero to 60 mph: 6.9 seconds
Top Speed: 120 mph
Price in 2018: $100,000
Current Price: $168,000
Appreciation Since 2018: 68 percent
Subaru Impreza WRX
It’s not actually a rally car, but the Impreza WRX is about the closest you can get in a street-legal vehicle. The first iteration of the model was based on the Impreza that Subaru raced in the World Rally Championship during the 1990s (WRX stands for World Rally eXperimental). It may not have been as hardcore as the vehicle Colin McRae drove to racing glory three years in a row, but it could still hold its own thanks to a surprisingly powerful 2.0-liter four-cylinder mill and all-wheel drive. Add in a clean design that weathered the test of time much better than you’d think and it’s little wonder it’s held in such high regard three decades later.
Production Years: 1992 to 2000
Engine: 2.0-liter four-cylinder
Power: 265 hp and 235 ft lbs of torque
Zero to 60 mph: 5.5 seconds
Top Speed: 148 mph
Price in 2018: $28,000
Current Price: $44,000
Appreciation Since 2018: 57 percent
Toyota A80 Supra
If you were to pick the defining Fast & Furious car, it would almost certainly have to be the A80 Supra. It is the vehicle most closely associated with Paul Walker’s character, Brian O’Connor, after all. It doesn’t hurt that it’s also one of the better-looking sports cars of its era, especially when equipped with a giant spoiler. The car’s twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter inline-six means it can do much more than just look good on screen, too. Thanks to its powerful mill it can launch from zero to 60 mph in under four seconds and hit a top speed of 155 mph.
Production Years: 1994 to 1998
Engine: twin-turbo 3.0-liter inline-six
Power: 326 hp and 315 ft lbs of torque
Zero to 60 mph: 4.6 seconds
Top Speed: 155 mph
Price in 2018: $48,000
Current Price: $119,000
Appreciation Since 2018: 148 percent