Classics of the Future
November 10, 2007 10:17 AM   Subscribe

CarFilter: What cars on the market today (preferably more common models, not high end exotic vehicles) have potential to be considered classic in 20-30 years?

My old vehicle is rapidly deteriorating, and I'm starting to think about replacing it. But I started to wonder if I could get something that would be neat in the future as well as now. While looking at some classic cars recently, it occurred to me that a lot of these were fairly typical cars, the type that pretty much anyone could afford at the time. Cars such as the Chevy Bel Air, the Plymouth Barracuda/Dodge Charger, Ford Mustang, Oldsmobile 88, Pontiac GTO, the Chevelle, Galaxie 500 and so on. Thing is, today I'm having trouble considering what cars today might hold that kind of nostalgic esteem in the future. I have a hard time seeing someone in the future lusting over a Toyota Camry (Solara convertible version excluded), a Ford Taurus, a Chevy Mailbu, or Honda Accord, etc. Not that they're bad cars... I just don't see the future "classic" appeal to them. Ideas?
posted by azpenguin to Travel & Transportation (48 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
PT Cruiser
posted by Gungho at 10:33 AM on November 10, 2007

MINI Cooper?
posted by jdroth at 10:33 AM on November 10, 2007

People now have all those tricked out old 80's and 90's honda hatchbacks and average things like that. At least a lot of the people in my old neighborhood in Toronto were into that asthetic. I haven't seen it here in syracuse.

I think it will be the normal boring cars and we just can't see them the way that people in the future will.
posted by Melsky at 10:44 AM on November 10, 2007

I like this question, but it's kinda like picking the "Rookie of the year" card. What people are going to latch on to is just inexplicable.
posted by thebrokedown at 10:50 AM on November 10, 2007

Pre-2000 Acura?
posted by porpoise at 10:55 AM on November 10, 2007

Prius. The famous first hybrid car.
posted by amtho at 10:57 AM on November 10, 2007

The cars you mention are mostly 40 to 50 years old, not 20-30 years old. I drove a 20 year old Pontiac GTO in high school and few people thought it was a "classic," instead I got teased for driving a "Tijuana taxicab." (I still have it! I could trade it in for a small house.)

That car is now 42 years old. Its 1965 sticker price was $3500, give or take a few bucks; a Web inflation calculator suggests that that is worth $22,000 today. I'm having trouble thinking of any new car in that price range that people would be interested in in 2047. I am certain that someone in 2047 will be polishing their 2007 Z06 Corvette with carnauba wax and a diaper, but that's way out of your price range. If I had to take a wild guess, I would nominate the Mazda MX-5.

That old GTO used steel like it was cardboard and was covered in chrome; it was sold when 103 octane gas was considered costly at 9 cents per gallon. Its carburator and belts were noisier than most modern cars' engines. I think a large part of the car's appeal is nostalgia for that simpler era. If you can figure out why a sane person in 2047 would have nostalgia for 2007, you have got it made.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:04 AM on November 10, 2007

From the late '60s to late '70s my mother owned almost every American car that's now considered classic. It's really impressive to go down her list: Superbeetle, '67 Mustang, MG Midget, '68 Camaro, etc.

She now insists that her Honda Del Sol will be a classic later, and she's hanging on to it.

I'm guessing it's going to be cars like the Mazda Miata, the Del Sol, the Prius, the Insight (which was before the Prius amtho), Mazda 8, Acura NSX, Subaru WRX STi, etc. Who knows, but it'll be interesting to see. You should ask this over on Jalopnik.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 11:11 AM on November 10, 2007

Seconding amtho on the early-model Prius. It was the first widely-sold hybrid (I think - I'm not too up on cars but it's the first one I remember seeing lots of), it's got the distinctive (unique?) vent on the left quarter panel, and it's cute. Looks like a hamster, in fact. What's not to love?

Disclaimer: Hubby has one. Its name is Stumpy the Hamster. Yes, I'm biased.
posted by Quietgal at 11:11 AM on November 10, 2007

Seconding PT Cruiser. And some of Chrysler's other cars, like the 300C. The Prius? Sure, though I guess the battery would be useless by then. The Scion Xb? (Er, maybe not.)

Admittedly you'll find some people that will declare some modern designs ugly. But sometimes the ones that make the boldest statements are the ones people remember most. And some cars, I'm pretty sure, will scream the oughts like the way some epitomize the 60s.
posted by pzarquon at 11:14 AM on November 10, 2007

I don't think this is a bad question, by the way; it's just a hard question.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:18 AM on November 10, 2007

Even though I hate them, I agree it's Chryslers like the PT Cruiser, the 300, or any of those others with that whole imposing front-end, high and narrow windshield, retro-Nazi design sense. Growlers.

(Is that a Godwin?)
posted by rokusan at 11:28 AM on November 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'd think the two-seat Honda Insight hybrid has a better chance of being collectible than even the early Prius - get the 1999, sold in North America before the Prius, and a sport-type car which always bodes well for the future. And, less common.

Or, a Hummer -- the real military chassis one, not the roid-rage Suburban. ObIhateHummersqualification
posted by Rumple at 11:35 AM on November 10, 2007

If I had to guess I would say something like the Acura NSX. It was one of the first affordable super cars that could be used as a daily driver and it's pretty rare even now. It also has some pretty distinctly '90s styling. It may, however, just fall off into obscurity.

I would also guess that the first generation miatas would be the next MGs.
posted by 517 at 12:02 PM on November 10, 2007

A PT cruiser will never last the 30-40 years it takes to become a classic unless you mothball it away, and even then what redeeming quality does it have besides a unique body style? It's underpowered, build quality is typical for the Big Three, and with everyone calling it a classic-to-be, it'll probably be the most common old garaged car of the future. An important part of being a classic is being rare.

Those of you naming hybrids; none of them will be running either, since the batteries will die/leak/explode long before then. I could see an Insight or a Prius in a museum somewhere, but hundreds of them meticulously restored and tricked out, meeting in a Big Boy parking lot every weekend? Please.
posted by bizwank at 12:09 PM on November 10, 2007

It's hard to say. If we're all flying around in Jetsons cars, we'll probably be looking at current cars the same way we look at horse drawn carts now. Quaint but mostly of interest to historians and old people. If we're totally off fossil fuels or combustion powered vehicles, you might see converted old cars, but probably only as novelty items.
The other argument is that we're not producing classic cars anymore. There are lots of classics from the 50's and 60's but very few, if any, from the 70's/80's/90's. The 70's and 80's cars that are memorable, are usually memorable for being crappy cars (Pinto, Vega, Chevette, etc). The 50's and 60's were the ideal era for american cars. The culture and the economics of the times aligned with car ownership in ways that I doubt we'll see again. The coincidence of the baby boom, the embrace/expansion of suburban living and a growing and stable economy were a perfect storm for car production and design.
posted by doctor_negative at 12:44 PM on November 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

Here's a podcast featuring a representative from a car auction company with several suggestions of future car classics. The common theme seems to be limited production runs and sex appeal.
posted by jaimev at 12:47 PM on November 10, 2007

PT Cruiser, never.
Mini Cooper, maybe, but doubtful unless there is a particularly rare variant.

Future classics? Look for cars that are either unpopular (low production numbers and good cars or just simply low production (some limited edition - PT Cruiser Limited is still not a future classic IMHO).

I do think high-end Mustang variants have a good chance, Chrysler Crossfire SRT-6, Plymouth Prowler (maybe, kind of crappy car), Dodge SRT-4 (budget classic), etc. (I am not a Chrysler fan - just giving some examples).
posted by gnash at 1:12 PM on November 10, 2007

Here's a vote against the PT Cruiser. It is already trying to hard to be retro. I am thinking more along the lines of the Audi TT, the Mini Cooper, the Miata, the Hummer and the H2 (shudders), and perhaps the Prius and those boxy little Scions. I think to be a classic the car has to stand out in some fashion.
posted by caddis at 1:15 PM on November 10, 2007

oops, dropped this, "o"
posted by caddis at 1:16 PM on November 10, 2007

FYI 517 there are rumors that Acura is going to resurrect the NSX.
posted by intermod at 1:16 PM on November 10, 2007

Honda S2000?
posted by GaelFC at 1:45 PM on November 10, 2007

PT Loser and Mini's are most likely not candidates as they are remakes of older models and trying to recapture another car's greatness. I second the Scion box car and would add almost any pick-up truck to the list, they never go out of style.
posted by Odinhead at 2:01 PM on November 10, 2007

Top gear did a similar thing. In their system, future classics would have to have two of the following: rare, beautiful or interesting. I think it's a good rule of thumb in determining the future classic status of a car.

From the cars suggested here, I'd say the Audi TT is the best candidate, the hummer H1 is another. Obviously many expensive and less expensive sportscars will gain classic status, the NSX definitely, the Dodge Viper also. The VW Phaeton will definitely be a future classic. Now when it comes to affordable cars, finding future classics is harder. The Miata is quite common but it's pretty and somewhat interesting because of it's purebread roadsteriness, it is sure to maintain quite a bit of it's appeal in the future. Lotus Elises and Exiges will definitely be classics too. Performance models of various cars will also remain desirable, such as she SRT-4, the VW GTI, Mazdaspeed3.

Definite losers are the PT Cruiser (not pretty, not interesting, not rare). The Prius might enjoy some sort of historical significance, but that won't make it a car people will desire in the future. I'm guessing the Mini will soon be where the New Beetle is now, that is, mainly forgotten.
posted by Authorized User at 2:03 PM on November 10, 2007

"...resurrect the NSX."

Excellent, now maybe there will be a used one around in ten years when I can afford it.
posted by 517 at 2:10 PM on November 10, 2007

Am I the only one that thinks that Nissan's current 350Z is a good looking car that will age gracefully?

Also: Lotus Elise.
posted by anthill at 2:27 PM on November 10, 2007

Saw a Lotus Elise on the street today with a handicapped parking permit on the dash... so hot.
posted by anthill at 2:28 PM on November 10, 2007

If you can get in and out of an Elise, you're not handicapped.
posted by tim_in_oz at 2:51 PM on November 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

(I'm limiting myself to ones that haven't already been mentioned--and, yeah, this isn't an easy question, and you can't really count on any of these.)

Ford Thunderbird (the short-lived retro one from a few years back)
Jeep Wrangler (the 4-door one)
Toyota FJ-40
Ford Crown Victoria/Mercury Grand Marquis

Also, I think that Lincoln Navigators and Cadillac Escalades, and other monstrous luxobarge SUVs, will someday be seen as not necessarily classics, but as a low-point/high-point, or a last-of-the-dinosaurs or something--kinda like the immediately-pre-OPEC muscle cars.
posted by box at 3:06 PM on November 10, 2007

100% agree on the Honda S2000 and NSX.

Sticking with cars that are either still being made or recently discontinued, I'd add the Volkswagen Phaeton has potential (I think some 100 patents came out of it's production). Wildly unpopular as it was an 80k+ VW.

As for Lotus, I thought that was a given :). Most premium import brands will have at least a couple of classics in their lines any given year (BMW, Audi, Porsche, Jaguar, etc.).
posted by gnash at 3:16 PM on November 10, 2007

Honda S 2000 for sure, Pontiac GTO, any of the first run hybrids.

Mistu Evolution.
posted by Max Power at 4:49 PM on November 10, 2007

For all those saying Miata and S2000, I think the MR2 SW20 is much more likely to become a classic in the small-sportscar genre... though I am terribly biased there - I'm taking mine on a navigation rally today :)
posted by polyglot at 4:49 PM on November 10, 2007

Classic or collectible? Several answers here lean toward "collectible" rather than "classic," and for those I'll offer one or another of the Lincoln pickup trucks - the no-longer-produced Blackwood or the soon-to-be-discontinued Mark LT.

For "classic," I think suggestions like the Audi TT are good -- It's a stylish car that made an impression with its debut, and still turns a few heads. What's the price on a first-year VW Phaeton these days?

If you're thinking classic like a '57 Chevy Bel Air, see if there was anything special about it from a mechanical or engineering perspective. Or did it become a classic just because people loved it looks? If so, what's the best-looking car today in a common segment... that isn't going to be made long enough to become Just Another Car.?
posted by flexiblefine at 6:00 PM on November 10, 2007

Audi TT, Hummer, BMW X3, VW Phaeton. Those massive American trucks. Classic cars have to be unique and the first of a distinctive stye. The new Mini, Beetle, PT Cruiser are just modern day fads. They are old models, just made to look modern. They have no staying appeal. What you want to look for are those cars have the "wow" factor when they first come out. Like those I mentioned above.
posted by markovich at 6:46 PM on November 10, 2007

Interesting question - certainly some mutts of today may be the classics of tomorrow (the recent T-bird?)

The new Mini, Beetle, PT Cruiser are just modern day fads. They are old models, just made to look modern.

For many reasons, I can see why the MINI/PTCruiser/NewBeetle are lumped together, but of the three, I could see the MINI emerging as something of a classic down the road. The PT Cruiser never existed before, it's a retro grab bag of styling elements that never quite jelled, and the lacklustre performance dooms it. Yes, the new Beetle has an "old" counterpart, but it's built on a Golf chassis, with the resultant 6 acres of front dashboard and headroom space, pinched rear seats and the engine at the wrong end. At least the MINI isn't, say, a new body on some old 318 chassis BMW had lying around.

When Frank Stephenson (now the design head at Ferrari & Maserati) designed the new MINI, he made a couple of choices that really shine. Wrapping the whole greenhouse in glass and blacking out the b and c pillars gives a long, uninterrupted sweep on the top edge of the body, making a short car look longer and more substantial. Putting the wheels just inches from the corner of the car give an aggressive stance, and I find the curvy hood makes me think more Porsche than some car that starts around $18 or $19k.

Handling-wise, the MINI will also run circles around the other two on the test track. It may be down on horsepower to some of its rivals like the wonderfully insane Mazdaspeed 3 (265 horsepower!), but keep in mind that when the Cooper S was first tested by Road & Track in 2003, it was the fastest car ever through their 700 foot slalom test. It may ultimately be too common to be a classic, but I think some of the short run versions (the recent JCW GP? Though I find it a bit tacky) might be looked at with envy and longing in coming decades.

Others? I agree with polyglot and probably favor the MR2 over the Miata and the S2000, but the Mazda basically launched the whole return to smaller and simpler sports cars we're all enjoying so much, so I think it's a keeper. Let's see, how about something obscure like the 1988 Porsche 911 Club Sport?

And classic in this case might be a stretch, but the WRX's and Evo's of today will be the tattered, worn, affordable and fearsomely performing steeds future generations of 17 year-olds with 2 nickels to rub together and no common sense wrap around trees and utility poles, the same role the Mustang GT played for so many people when I was getting my license.

Not classics? I really wonder how many acres of junkyard space will be devoted in the future to relatively good condition Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Lexus, and Infinity luxury cars that have been abandoned rather than spending well over the value of the car to chase down problems in an insanely complex (and now aging and flaky) electrical system that controls nearly every aspect of the vehicle. Using BMW's iDrive system now is annoying enough, could you imaging trying to fix one in 20 years?

As for me? With an expanding family and as the proud owner of a Mazda 6 Sport Wagon, my future classic will be (regardless of my previous paragraph) something along the lines of this. The idea of putt-putting over to Whole Foods, dropping the kids at school and bringing home flat-packed IKEA bits with FIVE HUNDRED AND SEVEN horsepower is so criminally ridiculous I can't help but giggle.
posted by jalexei at 7:08 PM on November 10, 2007 [1 favorite]

The ugliest piece of crap will be collectible someday. I'd try looking into the number of cars produced in any given make or model. Buy something they hardly make any of, that no one wants, and baby it.
posted by Area Control at 7:09 PM on November 10, 2007

I agree with jalexei about the Cooper Mini. It may technically be a retread, but it has many unique and wonderful qualities all on its own. It could easily stand the test of time. For sports car folks I think the MR2 is already kind of like the Datsun (remember that name?) 240Z (and perhaps even the later Zs).

When it comes to classic, it also depends upon the audience. I sometimes attend classic car shows here in New Jersey. There will be a handful of foreign cars, but none but the most interesting seem to get any attention. Show up with a '55 T-Bird and you draw crowds.

One guy shows up with a mint Shelby Cobra which he has owned from new, or perhaps one year out. I asked him what he thought about its wide open throttle and he told me he had never tried that. Imagine that, with one of the most sought after muscle cars ever produced, he has owned it for decades and never put the pedal to the metal.

A decade or so ago late 60's early 70's Detroit muscle was interesting but cheap; now it goes for big, big bucks. There are a lot of older guys there, and the correlation between the cars of their youth and the cars they show up with is eerie. I, on the other hand, am not a 20's baby, but would love a 20's Ford Roadster rodded for the track. A 1500 lb car with 500+ hp. hmmm, better make sure my life insurance premiums have been paid.
posted by caddis at 8:25 PM on November 10, 2007

nthing the Elise. nthing the MX-5/Miata and S2000, in the way that people drive 1960s roadsters today, though the old MX-5 is more of a tinkerer's roadster. I might even throw in the now-defunct MG F to that list.

Possibly the Holden/GM Monaro for being the hard-to-find apotheosis of the muscle car in the 2000s (sorry, Americans), even though you'll pay its resale value in 2040 to fill the tank. On the other side, Japanese K-cars and European ultraminis.

Today's Mercs aren't as future-proof as the 1980s ones adopted by cooking-oil commuters. Most cars on general US sale just don't fit the bill, though perhaps Chrysler is an exception; but you will always find a buyer for a Mini, whether it's old-style or new.
posted by holgate at 9:06 PM on November 10, 2007

Possibly the Holden/GM Monaro for being the hard-to-find apotheosis of the muscle car in the 2000s (sorry, Americans)

No need to apologize - we get a Pontiac version of it.
posted by jalexei at 9:58 PM on November 10, 2007

Jeep Wrangler (the 4-door one)

I was going to say jeep also, but not the 4 door part. The 2 door has already proven itself to be a classic. Old jeeps are everywhere and wanted.

The 4 door might become a classic, or it might be unpopular and die. If the potential to be a classic is all you care about you'd have to be a fool to pick the 4 door over the 2.
posted by justgary at 10:45 PM on November 10, 2007

I would put my money on cars that look great, have very distinctive styling, are sporty, and are relatively rare. The Honda S2000 and the Audi TT fit the bill, as does the Mazda RX-8. The latter has the added advantage of having a rotary engine, which gives it even more "uniqueness" brownie points. The Porsche Cayman and Chevrolet Corvette are good bets too, though they are a little more pricey. Finally, of the cars that you can buy new now, I think you'd get the most bang for the buck by getting a Pontiac Solstice or a Saturn Sky. These cars are not nearly as refined as the ones I mentioned above, and they probably won't be as rare either, but they look great and are relatively cheap. Their designs are very distinctive but, in a way, also simple, which makes me think that they'll age well.
posted by epimorph at 3:09 AM on November 11, 2007

May I just cast my vote for the Infiniti G35? Going with classic in the sense of people at the time thought it was a cool car to drive (obviously not in the collectible sense, since everyone and their sister has one).

Also nthing the 300C and the Mini and the H1.
posted by librarylis at 3:53 AM on November 11, 2007

Talked about this with some buddies last night, and here are a couple things we mentioned: if I was going to buy a car today, hoping that it would be a classic in twenty or thirty years, it might be something that was already a little bit old, maybe a Volvo 240 (production stopped in the mid-90s). And the future of the petroleum industry will definitely influence these decisions. Among my set, at least, '80s diesel Mercedes are a lot more highly-regarded these days, and it's strictly because of their biodiesel potential.

Also: Land Cruiser, Range Rover.
posted by box at 7:54 AM on November 11, 2007

I'm not into midlife crises, but if I were to ever have one the Audi TT (with Western style leather stitching on the seats) would be my choice.
posted by Taken Outtacontext at 1:26 PM on November 11, 2007

You said car, and I think that you biased many answers. This is the (golden) age of the SUV. It's not the Hummer (1,2,3) that will be remembered, but the Cadillac Excalade XLT (half truck bed monstrosity) from 2003-2005. That thing screams "naughts" like it's no tomorrow. Put it up on some gleaming 22"s and then seal that thing in saran-wrap until 2047.

The only question is whether they will become rare enough to become really valuable, or whether they'll just remain "quintessential" without becoming collectable.
posted by zpousman at 1:35 PM on November 11, 2007

Every generation of BMW's M3 and M5 is either a classic or on its way to becoming one.
posted by wzcx at 1:08 PM on November 12, 2007

CNN Money just took a shot at this question.
posted by ikkyu2 at 11:54 AM on January 23, 2008

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