Modern Classic Cars Worth Buying in 2016

Collage 51 photos
Photo: Edited by autoevolution
Nissan Skyline GT-R (R32)Nissan Skyline GT-R (R32)Nissan Skyline GT-R (R32)Nissan Skyline GT-R (R32)Nissan Skyline GT-R (R32)BMW 850iBMW 850iBMW 850iBMW 850iBMW 850iHonda BeatHonda BeatHonda BeatHonda BeatHonda BeatMercedes-Benz S-Class (W140)Mercedes-Benz S-Class (W140)Mercedes-Benz S-Class (W140)Mercedes-Benz S-Class (W140)Mercedes-Benz S-Class (W140)Nissan FigaroNissan FigaroNissan FigaroNissan FigaroNissan FigaroLancia Delta Integrale 16vLancia Delta Integrale 16vLancia Delta Integrale 16vLancia Delta Integrale 16vLancia Delta Integrale 16vMitsubishi 3000GTMitsubishi 3000GTMitsubishi 3000GTMitsubishi 3000GTMitsubishi 3000GTVauxhall Lotus CarltonVauxhall Lotus CarltonVauxhall Lotus CarltonVauxhall Lotus CarltonVauxhall Lotus CarltonMazda Eunos CosmoMazda Eunos CosmoMazda Eunos CosmoMazda Eunos CosmoMazda Eunos CosmoRenault Alpine A610Renault Alpine A610Renault Alpine A610Renault Alpine A610Renault Alpine A610
Driving is one of the hardly any activities that grant the human race with a supreme sense of freedom. Contemporary passenger cars are safe, fast, reliable, and everything else except for one thing - they’re full of technologies that separate the driver from the act of driving. It’s no secret that keen drivers with enough room in the garage prefer to enjoy those brief moments of freedom behind the wheel of older cars such as the ones included in the following list.
Retro automobiles made in the ‘50s and ‘60s are getting more and more expensive with each passing day, the reason why most people in the market for a blast from the past tend to opt for cars built in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. The best argument, however, is that cars built right after George H. W. Bush was elected the 41st President of the United States don’t cut back on creature comforts.

Think about the prospect of using a 1960s MG or Alfa Romeo as a daily driver or for longer journeys than driving to the nearest supermarket for a carton of milk. Given the circumstances, it’s a given that cars made in the 1990s offer just the right balance between the burnished old school and the new kids on the block.

The cars featured in the following list are at least 25 years old, which means they’re legal to import in the United States. People living in Cali have to think twice before spending their money on this kind of car because there’s an additional hurdle of making your import CARB compliant. And as you can imagine, compliance work is very costly.

Of the 10 cars that made our list, two are German, one was born in Italy, one is British, one is Italian, and five are Japanese. And no, I’m not a JDM fanatic. Japanese automobiles account for half of the list because every manufacturer from the Land of the Rising Sun churned out fascinating products in that era.

Propelled by the asset price bubble that was succeeded in 1991 by the so-called “Lost Decade,” Japan’s automotive industry was a boiling kettle of wild and innovative ideas. Those and the European entries in the list are currently available at reasonable prices, and that’s the ticket to ride for most prospective buyers. Without further ado, let’s get going.

Nissan Skyline GT-R (R32)

Nissan Skyline GT\-R \(R32\)
Photo: Nissan
You’ve seen this coming, and sure enough, the Nissan Skyline GT-R is a thoroughly special beast. After all, Australian publication Wheels coined the term “Godzilla” to describe the Japanese grand tourer. The R32 generation is similar to the 1980 Audi Quattro in an aspect. To be more specific, it’s been built to dominate motorsport.

The race-prepped R32 GT-R never lost a race in the All Japan Championships series, and that racing pedigree shows in the road-legal configuration of the damn thing. 276 horsepower from 2.6 liters, motorsport-oriented all-wheel-drive, and blistering performance is the name of the game here. A good example of the R32 will set you back at least $20,000. If you fancy the R33 GT-R more than the R32 GT-R, you’ll have to wait until 2020 to legally import one in the U. S. of A.

BMW 850i

BMW 850i
Photo: BMW
Few grand tourers are as aesthetically stimulating as the BMW E31. When it was launched, the 8 Series was the flagship model in the German manufacturer’s stable. The M70B50 engine of the 850i is a real treat considering that an evolution called S70/2 is the engine that motivates the fastest passenger car of the ’90s - the McLaren F1.

BMW doesn’t make an 8 Series anymore because of the global recession of the 1990s. Only 7,232 units were sold in the U.S. over seven years, and the price for an entry-level 840i started at just over $70,000. These days, an 850i in tip-top condition starts at $30,000.

Honda Beat

Honda Beat
Photo: Honda
Brace yourselves because this is one weird car. Despite its size and the fact that it’s underpowered, the last model to be approved by Soichiro Honda is a genuine modern classic. As a rear-wheel-drive, mid-engined, two-seat roadster, the Honda Beat ticks the right boxes for a kei car with sporty credentials. Have a wild stab in the dark with guessing the kind of engine that gets the Beat to 84 mph (135 km/h).

Yup, it’s a 0.6-liter three-cylinder with 63 horsepower on tap. But then again, the Honda Beat doesn’t need much oomph to lug around a curb weight of 1,675 pounds (760 kilograms). Around 33,600 units were made from 1991 to 1996. These things are hard to find for sale in the United States, yet a low-mileage example can be bought from Japan for the equivalent of 10,000 bucks. Cheap thrills? Hell yeah.

Mercedes-Benz S-Class (W140)

Mercedes\-Benz S\-Class \(W140\)
Photo: Mercedes-Benz
The W140 series Mercedes-Benz S-Class is widely considered to be the final generation of the old-fashioned S-Class brood. North American sales started in 1991, which is why it’s easy to find one on eBay or Craigslist. A 1993 Mercedes-Benz S600 Guard Edition was bought by Matt Farah from The Smoking Tire for $2,500. What that means is a luxury sedan that lost 98 percent of its original retail price.

With a top speed of 179 mph (288 km/h) with the limiter removed and a 0 to 62 mph (100 km/h) sprint of 5.5 seconds, the W140 S600 is a lot of car for a handful of green dollar bills. If you find one with the AMG aftermarket power upgrade, your right foot will control whatever is left of the original 439 horsepower and 460 lb-ft (623 Nm) of torque.

Nissan Figaro

Nissan Figaro
Photo: Nissan
Where do I start with this neo-retro midget? Though not a kei car, the Nissan Figaro is on the small side of 2-door convertibles. Around 20,000 units were manufactured in 1991. In recent years, the Figaro has become a popular second-hand bargain in the U.K., Asia, and the United States to some extent. And yes, its name comes from the play and main character in The Marriage of Figaro by Pierre Beaumarchais.

The lightweight Japanese convertible boasts air conditioning, CD player, leather seats, the lot. Not bad for a car based on the first-gen Nissan Micra. The 987 cc inline-4 turbo engine isn’t bad either, though don’t expect blistering performance from it or the matching 3-speed automatic. $20,000 is the right price for one titled in the United States.

Lancia Delta Integrale 16-valve

Lancia Delta Integrale 16v
Photo: Lancia
The Delta needs no introduction thanks to its success in the WRC. The Fulvia won the International Championship for Manufacturers title in 1972, the Stratos won it three times, and the rear-wheel-drive 037 dominated the all-wheel-drive Audi Quattro in 1983. The Lancia Delta, on the other hand, won the WRC manufacturers’ title six times in a row.

The rallying pedigree can be found in the 16-valve Delta Integrale model, which produces 200 horsepower from a 2-liter turbo. The AWD system of this Italian masterpiece is set up to split the engine’s torque 47 percent front and 53 percent rear. Pricing can get ridiculously high provided that the car is in perfect working condition and highly original in terms of appearance. Those on a tighter budget can find one for $25,000, the price of a Chevrolet Camaro with the 2.0 turbo engine.

Mitsubishi 3000GT

Mitsubishi 3000GT
Photo: Mitsubishi
Remember the Dodge Stealth? It was a captive import with minor differences over the Mitsubishi 3000GT though the two were identical regarding mechanical features. For the early 1990s, the 3000GT was a highly impressive sports car thanks to wizardry such as AWD with all-wheel steering, active aero in the form of automatically adjusting front and rear spoilers, and an electronically controlled suspension system.

The downside to the 3000GT is that a fully loaded model tips the scales at approximately 3,800 pounds (1,723 kilograms). On the plus side, the 3.0 twin-turbo V6 engine with 320 horsepower and 315 lb-ft (427 Nm) aided the 3000GT with blasting the quarter mile in 13 seconds. Desirable examples such as the 3000GT VR-4 are hard to find in the United States. Given the circumstances, you’re better off searching for a 1991 Dodge Stealth R/T twin-turbo. I've found one on eBay with 943 miles (1,517 kilometers) on the odometer and a buy-it-now price of $32,800, which is top dollar for a highly original example.

Vauxhall Lotus Carlton

Vauxhall Lotus Carlton
Photo: Vauxhall
autoevolution readers from Great Britain need no introduction to the Lotus Carlton. Manufactured by Vauxhall (and Opel) from 1990 to 1992, the Lotus Carlton could outgun the supercars of that era thanks to a 0 to 60 mph (96 km/h) time of 5.1 seconds and a maximum speed of 177 mph (285 km/h). Based on the Vauxhall Carlton (Opel Omega) family sedan, the Lotus Carlton was sold in Imperial Green, which is a dark shade of green that appears black in anything but direct sunlight.

950 units were made at £48,000 a pop. That’s $67,905 at current exchange rates, which is more than a BMW M3 costs in North America ($63,500). Searching through the British classifieds, good examples of the Lotus Carlton start at £20,000 ($28,295). Compared to other hero cars of the 1990s, the Lotus Carlton is still relevant today thanks to the eye-watering performance offered by its 372 horsepower twin-turbo 3-liter straight-6 engine and world-renowned handling characteristics.

Mazda Eunos Cosmo

Mazda Eunos Cosmo
Photo: Mazda
Look at this thing. Look hard at this thing and try to guess what is so special about it. Let me help you with a little hint - the Mazda Eunos Cosmo is related to the RX-7. Yes, it’s got a rotary under the hood, but not just any Wankel engine. Better still, it’s the only Mazda model powered by a three-rotor engine. As if that weren’t enough to get you weak at the knees, the engine uses a pair of turbos for maximum smiles per gallon.

On the performance front, this luxury coupe from Japan was the bee’s knees when it started production in 1990. The downside to the Eunos Cosmo is that it came with a sluggish 4-speed automatic. Fun fact - the Eunos Cosmo is the first production car to get built-in GPS navigation. 8,875 units were made and servicing this thing is a pain in the arse. The equivalent of $13,255 will buy you a tidy example of the breed. Vector in the shipping fee from Japan to the United States and the hardships that come with legal imports and you’ll understand why you rarely see these things roaming the streets of North America.

Renault Alpine A610

Renault Alpine A610
Photo: Renault
In 1991, the Renault Alpine GTA received its mid-cycle facelift and a new nameplate in the form of Renault Alpine A610. Alpine has been affiliated with the French manufacturer for many years, but the A610 was built and designed with Renault know-how. Compared to the exterior design of the GTA, only the glasshouse is carry-over. Abiding by the most purist Alpine creed (Alpine A110 Berlinette, anyone?), the French 2+2 coupe has its engine at the rear and the drive sent to the rear wheels.

In its most powerful tune, the turbocharged PRV V6 churned out 276 horsepower and 304 lb-ft (412 Nm) of torque. Full boost hits hard when the tachometer shows 2,500 rpm, translating into a surge of get-up-and-go. While mid-range acceleration was great, turbo lag is the defining character of all turbocharged cars of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. A well-maintained Alpine A610 currently sells for nigh on €25,000 on the Old Continent, which translates to $27,530 at current exchange rates. The Porsche 944 Turbo S fetches $50,000 on eBay if it’s in exceptional condition, making the Renault Alpine A610 a bargain by comparison.
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram
About the author: Mircea Panait
Mircea Panait profile photo

After a 1:43 scale model of a Ferrari 250 GTO sparked Mircea's interest for cars when he was a kid, an early internship at Top Gear sealed his career path. He's most interested in muscle cars and American trucks, but he takes a passing interest in quirky kei cars as well.
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories