How old do cars have to be in order to be considered collectible? Once vehicles hit that magic 25-year mark many consider them collectible simply for having survived normal vehicular attrition. Yet it’s hard to think of a Chevrolet Cavalier as being worthy of the description, despite the fact that it’s been around for longer than that (Z24 lovers can complain now if they’d like). Here are a handful of cars that haven’t yet reached their milestone birthday but we believe are worthy of collector status today. We base this selection on general interest for the cars but also on vehicles insured as non-daily drivers with Hagerty Insurance by enthusiast owners.
1996-2005 Jaguar XK-8/XKR
The replacement for the XJ-S brought styling that was more of a modern interpretation of the brand’s XK past with an E-Type-inspired oval grille and long sleek silhouette. First made available in 1996 as a convertible or as a less-common though no-less-attractive coupe, all models at first came with a 4.0-liter V-8 engine. A couple of years later, a supercharged version was added and called XKR. Though no manual transmission was ever offered, these were all smooth and sporting grand touring cars with beautiful leather and wood-lined interiors in the classic Jaguar vein. Now nearing 20 years of age, the earliest examples are in the “just a used car” pricing category but we don’t expect them to stay there long. Even the base model came standard with 290 horsepower and a 5-speed automatic transmission and was based on a platform shared with (then) Ford stable-mate Aston Martin.
1993-1995 Mercedes-Benz 124 Series Cabriolet
The Mercedes-Benz W124 Chassis (300E, 260E, 300CE, E320, etc.) was offered in the U.S. from 1984 through 1995. Millions were built worldwide as sedans, wagons, and later as coupes and convertibles. It was only offered in this latter form in the U.S. during the model’s last three years. The cabriolet model was exceedingly expensive (over $85,000 when new) and made a great co-star to Tom Cruise in the movie adaptation of “The Firm” as an example of the character’s new-found wealth. The 1993 model year was called the 300CE Cabriolet and later the E320, yet all examples shared the 3.2-liter 217-horsepower 24-valve inline 6 and 4-speed automatic transmission. Along with the name change came a redesigned front-end with all-clear headlights, a sleeker grille and the tri-star emblem’s move to the painted hood surface rather than the chrome grill surround. Approximately 6,000 of these cars were sold in the U.S. during its run, making it relatively rare by modern production-car standards.
2002-2005 Ford Thunderbird
A two-seat luxury cruiser with styling that evoked the original 1950s T-Bird seemed like a surefire hit when it was first introduced on the auto show circuit. Neiman Marcus offered a special edition and the eye-catching design was the ride of choice for Halle Berry’s character in a James Bond movie. Despite initial price gouging (or perhaps because of it), first-year sales were strong but quickly tapered off. The car was based on the mechanicals of the Lincoln LS and Jaguar S-Type and came standard with a V-8 engine, an automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive, and it was more of a cruiser than an outright sports car — not far removed at all from the original “personal luxury car” of 1955. Total production over the model’s four-year run was just over 67,000 units. Many appear to have lived cushy lives as weekend cars or as garage mates to first-generation Thunderbirds. As a result, clean low-mile examples appear for sale regularly. We are particularly fond of first-year cars with the retro two-tone interiors, which weren’t offered in later model years.
1990-1996 Nissan 300ZX
After years of the Datsun/Nissan Z car slowly getting heavier and softer around the edges, the 1990 model year brought a complete redesign. The squared-edge wedge of the previous model was replaced with an exotic swoopy design that took the market by storm and still looks great today. Base models produced 222 horsepower from the 3.0-liter V-6 and a twin turbo version made 300, matching the new Ferrari 348 that was introduced at the same time. Japanese performance cars of the time were chock full of technology and the 300ZX was no slouch, with the twin turbo offering four-wheel steering. This generation also offered what was perhaps the best styling integration of any Z car of the longer wheelbase into the 2+2 version (never offered with the turbo), and later a convertible version to augment the standard car’s t-tops. Reportedly, 80,000 of this generation were sold in the U.S., but we suspect that clean, low-mileage, unmodified cars have become automotive unicorns and are clearly worthy of collector status.
2002 Lincoln Blackwood
Unlike the 2002 Thunderbird, which is sometimes considered a sales flop but actually appears to have sold in decent volume for an expensive two-seater, the Blackwood was a serious, um, black eye for Lincoln. Pickup trucks were getting more expensive and more luxurious at the time and even Cadillac was getting into the game with an open-bed Escalade. What could go wrong with a Lincoln version of the Ford F150? Available as a four-door crew cab and only in black, naturally, the basic utility of the pickup truck was compromised by only making the Blackwood available in rear-wheel drive. More limiting was that the pickup bed came only with a power non-removable tonneau and was lined with carpet and stainless steel, essentially making it into a big trunk. Yet, with trucks becoming one of the hottest segments of the classic car market, the Blackwood is one of the rarest modern pickups around (total production was only 3,356). And while the utility was compromised for typical pickup truck use, collector status likely limits the truck’s use as a manure hauler, anyway.