Future classics 2022: car investments that could make you money

Identifying future classic cars is a tricky but potentially lucrative business, here are our future classic recommendations

Absence, they say, makes the heart grow fonder. And as once-familiar cars start disappearing from our roads, it’s hard not to be stirred on the rare occasions that you see them. When was the last time you spotted a Ford Puma coupe or Citroen BX? 

It’s even more of a cause for celebration when you spot something that wasn’t exactly ten-a-penny when new. Seeing a Vauxhall Monaro or Volkswagen Phaeton might even elicit a sharp intake of breath.

Below we’ve rounded up a selection of cars just like these, the models produced over the last two or three decades that are a joy to spot. We feel that the wide variety of cars on our list all have future classic potential. Some are just at the point where prices are beginning to climb, but we’ve also looked at new cars that could prove to be sensible long-term investments.

How to spot a future classic

There is a trick to spotting future classics and it’s all about looking for those few key signs. Some signs are more obvious than others. For example attractive styling, desirability and rarity are pretty standard things to look for. Other attributes are a little more difficult to quantify, but a car featuring revolutionary tech or design will also stand a better chance of rising in value.

The classic car market is currently in rude health so there’s never been a better time to dabble in a bit of four-wheeled financial speculation. You need not break the bank by spending hundreds of thousands on some Italian exotica in order to make a profit.

Obviously there are no absolute guarantees about which cars will become future classics but if you follow our guide then you should be in a good position. So take a look at the cars we've found to see if any of these future classics tickle your fancy.

Buying advice

If the cars below whet your appetite and you fancy parking something a little older and interesting on your driveway, there are a few checks that you really ought to make. Most of these are no different from buying any other used car, which means paying for a vehicle history check. Totalcarcheck.co.uk is our current favourite; for £8.99 it’ll tell you if a car has been stolen or written off, is subject to outstanding finance, and a whole lot more besides.

Once you’ve done that, check over the car’s service history – ideally you’ll be looking for a vehicle that has a folder bursting with bills, invoices and receipts for work done – and make sure you check the DVLA’s MoT history site for information regarding all tests carried out since 2005. It’s free and you’ll find it at gov.uk/check-mot-history. Use this and the service history to gauge whether a car’s mileage is genuine.

Then you’re into the realms of accident damage. The simple fact is, the older the car, the more miles it’s likely to have under its belt and the greater the chances it’s encountered a ding. Ideally, you’ll find a unicorn that hasn’t had any repairs, but if you do, you need to look carefully at the quality of the work. Hastily welded panels, poor colour matches or dulled paint aren’t the hallmarks of a money-no-object repair. The front and rear of most cars are the problem areas, but when you’re looking at high-performance models, you need to carefully examine the car from all angles.

Rust is the enemy of almost all the cars on our list, so take a magnet. If you place it on steel and it falls off, expect it to be full of filler. But don’t fear. Almost all the cars we’ve included now have a keen and attentive following, so check out owners’ clubs, Facebook fan groups and forums, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Problem areas will be well documented online, described in detail and likely shown in photos, so you’ll know what to look for. 

Remember, a car belonging to an owners’ club member will probably have received plenty of love and attention. Spending a bit more to source the very best car that you can afford is usually a far better option than buying something cheaper then paying to have it fixed.

Best affordable future classics

Audi R8

  • ​​Price range: £30,000-£75,000
  • Our pick: R8 V8 FSI manual
  • Engine: 4.2-litre V8 petrol, 414bhp
  • Years produced: 2006-2014

It’s fair to say that Audi scored a stunning bullseye with its first attempt at a supercar. Thanks to its million-dollar looks, growling mid-mounted V8 and thrilling handling, the original R8 had established rivals on the ropes when it made its debut in 2007. More than a decade later, the handbuilt two-seater has lost none of its appeal. 

Blisteringly quick and great to drive, it’s also surprisingly easy to live with, thanks to its light controls, decent visibility and confidence-inspiring quattro four-wheel drive. The flagship V10 model offers an epic soundtrack and scintillating pace, but the V8 is more affordable and just as much fun.

BMW Z4

  • Price range: £2,000-£30,000
  • Our pick: Z4 3.0 Si Sport
  • Engine: 3.0-litre 6cyl petrol, 261bhp
  • Years produced: 2002-2008

With its bold curves and sharp creases, the original Z4 caused a stir when it made its debut in 2004. The two-seater still attracts attention today, looking fresh and modern for a machine nearing its 20th birthday. 

Standard Z4s aren’t as engaging to drive as a Porsche Boxster, but the rear-wheel-drive chassis offers enough driver fun. Engines span efficient four-cylinders through to the snarling 338bhp straight-six in the Z4 M. The best news is that you can get behind the wheel of a Z4 from just £2,000.

Ford Puma

  • Price range: £1,000-£20,000
  • Our pick: Puma 1.7
  • Engine: 1.7-litre 4cyl, 123bhp
  • Years produced: 1997-2001

Before it was a sales chart-topping SUV, the Puma was a compact and classy coupé that served up driver fun by the bucketload. Underpinned by the same chassis as the already fine-handling fifth-generation Fiesta, the Puma got faster steering and a quicker manual gearshift than the supermini, plus a zingy 123bhp 1.7-litre motor. 

There’s also a Racing Puma with 155bhp, bulging arches and a wider track for even greater agility. This model is pricey and rising in value, but standard cars cost as little as £1,000. Crusty bodywork is often a problem, but pick a good one and few cars offer so much fun for so little cash.

Honda Integra Type R

  • Price range: £8,000-£12,000
  • Our pick: Integra Type R
  • Engine: 1.8-litre 4cyl, 187bhp
  • Years produced: 1995-2001

The first Honda to wear the legendary Type R badge, the DC2-series Integra, is also one of the best. Developed for motorsport, the sleek coupé features a screaming 187bhp 1.8-litre VTEC motor connected to a close-ratio five-speed manual gearbox that serves up deliciously quick and precise shifts. 

Combined with its strengthened bodyshell, finely honed suspension and special limited-slip differential, it means the invigorating Integra will leave you grinning from ear to ear after a blast along your favourite twisting back road. However, only 500 were officially imported to the UK and body rot is a big issue, so you’ll need to be patient if you want a pristine example.

Jeep Wrangler

  • Price range: £8,000-£32,000
  • Our pick: Wrangler 2.0 GME Rubicon
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol, 268bhp
  • Years produced: 1986-present

If you’re after simple, uncomplicated fun, then the rugged Wrangler could be right up your rutted off-road track. A direct descendant of the pioneering World War Two Willys Jeep, this formidable 4x4 boasts tough Tonka-toy looks and unstoppable off-road performance. 

It’s not quite as at home on tarmac and running costs are on the high side, but it’s composed and capable enough, while in long-wheelbase guise it has plenty of interior space and is packed with a surprising amount of tech. Better still, spend some time tinkering with a spanner and you can remove the roof and doors for true open-air thrills.

Lotus Elise

  • Price range: £12,500-£65,000
  • Our pick: Elise 1.8
  • Engine: 1.8-litre 4cyl petrol, 118bhp
  • Years produced: 1996-2022

Timing is everything, and when the Elise arrived in 1996 it single-handedly saved the cash-strapped firm. With its brilliant driving dynamics, low kerbweight and head-turning design, the mid-engined two-seater was an instant hit. In fact, the Elise proved so successful that it stayed in production for more than a quarter of a century, with the last cars rolling off the line this year. 

However, the first generation is the purest and most desirable model. With its 725kg kerbweight and zesty 118bhp 1.8-litre Rover K-series motor, the original Elise will go down as one of the all-time greats.

Mazda RX-8

  • Price range: £1,350-£12,000
  • Our pick: RX-8 PZ
  • Engine: 1.3-litre rotary petrol, 228bhp
  • Years produced: 2003-2012

When it comes to doing things differently, few coupés get close to the quirky RX-8. Not only is it powered by a rotary engine, it also features novel ‘suicide’ back doors, which are hinged from the rear. Yet get past these leftfield additions and you’ll discover a stylish and surprisingly practical machine that’s also fast and fun to drive. 

That unique engine is turbine-smooth and mated to a quick and precise manual gearbox. There’s also the beautifully balanced rear-drive chassis and an interior that’ll seat four in decent comfort. Yes, reliability is a concern and the running costs are high, but you can bag one-owner cars with full history and under 50,000 miles for less than £3,000.

Mercedes C63 AMG

  • Price range: £16,500-£150,000
  • Our pick: C63 6.2 Estate
  • Engine: 6.2-litre V8, 451bhp
  • Years produced: 2008-2015

The next generation of high-performance Mercedes-AMG models will be heavily electrified, meaning this gas-guzzling C63 is now a sure-fire future classic. Powered by a naturally aspirated 451bhp 6.2-litre V8 engine, this fast four-door (there are also estate and coupé versions) is an unashamed old-school hot rod. 

Yet unlike earlier AMG machines, it combines its scorching straight-line pace with beautifully balanced and adjustable handling that makes it even more fun than its arch-rival, the BMW M3. Fans are starting to cotton on to the speedy C-Class’s appeal, and values are on the up, so it’s now or never if you want to bag a bargain.

Nissan GT-R

  • Price range: £32,000-£170,000
  • Our pick: GT-R Premium Edition
  • Engine: 3.5-litre V6 twin turbo, 542bhp
  • Years produced: 2007-present

When it comes to the biggest bang for your buck, the GT-R takes some beating. For more than a decade this sophisticated machine has been humbling high-performance rivals costing two or three times as much. 

Despite its size and weight, the Nissan feels incredibly light on its feet, its trick four-wheel drive allowing you to zap through corners at incredible speed. Then there’s the thundering 3.5-litre V6 that delivers up to 478bhp in standard guise and 592bhp in the wildly expensive Nismo. 

Prices start at £32,000, but regardless of how much you pay you’ll still be bagging one of the biggest supercar bargains of the past two decades.

Skoda Octavia vRS

  • ​​Price range: £2,000-£4,000
  • Our pick: Octavia vRS Estate
  • Engine: 1.8-ltr 4cyl petrol turbo, 178bhp
  • Years produced: 2001-2004

Before the Octavia vRS arrived, Skoda was known for low prices more than high performance. Based on the same platform as the VW Golf Mk4, the fast and family-friendly hatch offers a compelling blend of pace and space. 

Its 178bhp turbocharged 1.8-litre engine is muscular, while the uprated suspension serves up engaging handling without sacrificing comfort. The roomy interior has most mod cons, while reliability is good and there are plenty of examples to pick from – and bargains to be bagged.

Smart ForTwo

  • Price range: £950-£19,000
  • Our pick: ForTwo Passion 1.0 Mk2
  • Engine: 1.0-litre 3cyl petrol turbo, 83bhp
  • Years produced: 1998-present

Like its rakish roadster cousin, the ForTwo city car feels more relevant now than when it was launched. This tiny tot can squeeze into any parking spot and dive into gaps in traffic that are off limits to standard-sized machines. Over the years and three generations, the styling has become more grown-up, but the Smart has retained its dinky proportions and the exposed Tridion safety cell that offers impressive crash protection. 

The rear-mounted three-cylinder petrol and diesel engines on earlier cars are a little sluggish on the open road, but all versions are surprisingly roomy inside and fun to drive around town, plus they cost peanuts to run.

Subaru Impreza

  • Price range: £7,000-£54,000
  • Our pick: Impreza Turbo RB5
  • Engine: 2.0-litre flat-four turbo, 240bhp
  • Years produced: 1993-2000

Thanks to the exploits of Scottish rallying legend and 1995 WRC champ Colin McRae, the Impreza Turbo is an undisputed high-performance hero. With its burbling 208bhp turbocharged flat-four engine, four-wheel drive and uprated suspension, this Subaru was transformed from staid saloon into stage-winning superstar when it made its debut in 1993. It still feels fast today, while its engaging and secure handling means few cars can keep up through a series of corners. 

Corrosion and crashes have claimed many early cars, plus there are numerous grey imports and special editions floating about. Best of the bunch are the rare Prodrive-tweaked RB5 models named in honour of English ace Richard Burns. 

Tesla Model S

  • Price range: £27,500-£95,000
  • Our pick: Model S P75D
  • Engine: Twin electric motors, 469bhp
  • Years produced: 2012-present

Can an EV really be a modern classic? In the case of the Model S, definitely. It’s been a decade since it hit the road, but rivals are still struggling to match it for range, performance and tech. 

It’s not as engaging to drive as some rivals, but the Model S is quick, while even cars with the smallest battery will cover 200 miles between charges. You also get access to the brilliant Supercharger network, while studies show that battery reliability is excellent.

Toyota GR Yaris

  • Price range: £32,000-£45,000
  • Our pick: GR Yaris Circuit
  • Engine: 1.6-litre 3cyl turbo, 257bhp
  • Years produced: 2020-present

When it comes to the GR Yaris, the best things really do come in small packages. The motorsport-inspired Toyota is blisteringly quick and delivers twinkle-toed agility and limpet-like grip in the corners. 

With a 257bhp 1.6-litre three-cylinder engine, four-wheel drive and bespoke bodywork complete with bulging arches, it’s the spiritual successor to homologation heroes such as the Lancia Delta Integrale and Ford Escort RS Cosworth. So far demand is outstripping supply, with used examples changing hands for more than new. However, drive a GR Yaris and it’s easy to see why punters are paying a premium.

Toyota MR2

  • Price range: £3,000-£16,000
  • Our pick: MR2 GT 
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol, 168bhp
  • Years produced: 1989-1999

How would you like a mid-engined sports car that looks and handles like an Italian exotic, but costs less than a second-hand Skoda Octavia? While it sounds too good to be true, that’s exactly what the second-generation MR2 offers. Bigger and more powerful than the dainty original model, the sleek and sporty Toyota two-seater packs a handy 168bhp in flagship GT form. 

Very early cars can be snappy when cornering hard, but later versions with larger 15-inch alloys and tweaked suspension are just as engaging but more confidence-inspiring. Like many cars of this era, rust is a real issue, while there are also numerous grey imports around, so choose carefully.

Vauxhall Monaro

  • Price range: £13,500-£19,000
  • Our pick: Monaro VXR 6.0
  • Engine: 6.0-litre V8, 397bhp
  • Years produced: 2004-2007

Ignore the Vauxhall badge, because the Monaro is really an old-school Aussie muscle car. Essentially a rebadged Holden, this four-seat coupé has a V8 that delivers 328bhp in standard 5.7-litre guise and up to 479bhp in the supercharged 6.0-litre VXR500. 

Regardless of engine choice, it requires commitment to drive fast, with hefty controls and a fairly basic rear-wheel-drive chassis that can deliver tail-happy handling if you’re not careful. Not many examples made it to the UK so choice is limited, while that big engine is thirsty. However, find one and you’ll discover that values are only heading one way, and it’s not down under.

Volkswagen Phaeton

  • ​​Price range: £2,400-£15,000
  • Our pick: Phaeton 3.0 TDI
  • Engine: 3.0-litre V6 diesel, 237bhp
  • Years produced: 2004-2016

Looking for a modern Bentley on a VW budget? The Phaeton might not wear Crewe’s logo on its nose, but it shares many mechanicals and a platform with the Mk1 Continental GT

That connection gives you a clue to the high-quality feel and finish of the flagship VW. It was a sales flop when new but delivers top-notch refinement and a lavishly equipped interior for less then the price of a new city car.  Most examples have a frugal 3.0-litre V6 TDI diesel, but find a rare 414bhp 6.0-litre W12 and you’ll have a car that’s as quick as that Bentley.

Volvo 850

  • Price range: £1,500-£25,000
  • Our pick: 850 T5 estate
  • Engine: 2.5-litre 5cyl turbo, 225bhp
  • Years produced: 1991-1997

You used to know exactly what you were getting with a Volvo: a sturdy, safe and sensible family car. Yet when the 850 burst on to the scene in the early nineties, it injected a much- needed dose of excitement into the Swedish manufacturer’s range. 

On the surface it looks as straight-laced as its predecessors, but under the skin it features a dynamic and engaging front-wheel-drive chassis, plus a range of characterful five-cylinder engines. Yet the real 850 stars are the rapid turbocharged T5 and R models, which offer BMW-baiting performance. 

Values are on the up, especially for the high-performance estate models, but as a fun and practical entry-level classic the Volvo 850 is a boxy but brilliant choice.

Modern classics on Auto Express...

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