Whether you call them “modern classics,” “youngtimers,” “Radwood cars” or something else, enthusiast automobiles from the late 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s are having a moment right now. Over the last few years, most enthusiast cars from that era have made that all-important transition from “used” to truly “collectible.” Of course, how one defines collectible is up for debate. All cars are collectible to some degree, but what we keep an eye out for is when a car stops depreciating and prices start moving up, spurred on by either a large auction sale, demographic shifts in the hobby, changes in the economy, or some other combination of factors.
Clinton-era cars are definitely hot right now, and that makes sense when you look at the market conditions. The folks who took their driving test in the mid-1990s are now in their 40s. The cars themselves are 20-30 years old, and the cruel forces of attrition (rust, wrecks, neglect, etc.) have taken their toll. But most of the headlines and heat in the ’90s car market focus on imports: think six-figure Supras, E30 M3 BMWs, and super low-mile Hondas. Meanwhile, two of the biggest names in the business—Mustang and Corvette, to be specific—plod along at middling prices while their peers from Japan and Germany soar. In the 1990s, both of these home-grown automotive heroes offered big and (relatively) powerful V-8 engines, rear-wheel drive, and the conveniences of modern cars. So why are they still cheap even as Honda Civics sell for $50,000 on Bring a Trailer?
Nothing puts this predicament into high relief quite like values for the #2 (Excellent) condition 1995 Miata ($18,300), which is now worth more than a 1995 Corvette coupe, a car with more than double the horsepower and triple the torque. A Mustang coupe in the same condition costs $11,100, on average. Why has appreciation for nearly every performance car from the ’90s outpaced both America’s sports car and America’s pony car? The answer is a mix of subjective preference and hard production numbers.