The 2021 guide to classic car investment

Not all classic cars were built equal. From Ferrari to Ford, there’s value to be found at both ends of the market. Here are Hagerty’s top tips for classic car investing in 2021

Who doesn't like to make a smart investment? When it comes to classic cars, what could give you a warmer glow than the pleasure of driving and owning the car of your dreams and the knowledge that, further down the road, you were able to sell it for more than you paid for it?

But making a move before others have seen an opportunity requires more than good old-fashioned gut instinct.

You need to be abreast of market trends, and that's where organisations such as Hagerty can do a lot of the legwork for you.

America's leading automotive insurer and lifestyle brand has a substantial foothold on the UK market and tracks the values of classic cars and modern-classic cars of all shapes and sizes.

For 2021, it set out to make predictions that could help inform both car enthusiasts and investors.

A diverse mix of 10 cars – some familiar, some unexpected – were chosen, after Hagerty’s Valuation team analysed the market valuation data for condition #2 cars (one level below concours) and auto insurance quotes and policies, looking for indicators that suggest a car is rising in value and increasingly in demand among drivers.

Are these the perfect ten?

1994-2004 Aston Martin DB7

The V12-powered Vantage moved the DB7 from conventional coupe territory into the realm of the supercar, and proved comfortable and credible in that space.

And the Vantage was not engineered by TWR like the DB7, but by Aston Martin, bringing back in-house the engineering expertise it had allowed to dwindle to almost nothing.

They are very different to drive because the Vantage was so much more than a bigger engine. Its structure, suspension, brakes, gearbox, wheels and tyres were all either seriously modified or entirely new.

Much of the interior is sourced from Jaguar and Ford parts bins, and there’s no getting away from the fact it’s cramped. That’s because underneath it all lie the bones of a car designed in the early 1970s – the Jaguar XJ-S.

The V12 pairs nicely with the automatic gearbox, and while the engine sounds just the ticket, the car feels every inch the tourer it was intended to be, with a heavy feel and considered movements rather than a flighty feel.

Volante versions, while elegant, wobble about more than the coupe.

The ultimate DB7 (limited-edition Zagatos aside) was the run-out GT model.

As the cars’ age and miles creep up, well-preserved examples should become more sought after.

Before thus year, values were relatively stable at around the £37,000 mark; now may well be the time to buy while prices are low.

2002 Aston Martin DB7 Vantage

Engine: V12, 5935cc
Transmission: 5-speed automatic, RWD
Power: 435bhp @6000rpm
Weight: 1875kg

The Hagerty Valuation Team says

Hagerty value condition #2: £31,580
2019 Hagerty value condition #2: £37,680
Hagerty 12-month value change: -£6100 (16.2%)

1985-1988 Ferrari 328

The Pininfarina-designed Ferrari 328 looks sensational, as much a throwback to the ’80s as MTV, Margaret Thatcher, Motorola brick phones and the Sony Walkman.

The bodywork is impossibly low, barely over hip height. There’s a removeable roof section, and it’s a doddle to operate; release a pair of clips, step out and lift the targa panel clear, before storing it behind the seats.

You’ll need to remove that roof, because the 328 GTS’s height serves as a reminder of how little thought Ferrari gave to accommodating people in comfort.

What’s more, the driving position is chronically offset, with the pedals and steering wheel bearing little relationship to the seat.

But like waiting all evening for your meal to arrive at your favourite Italian restaurant, you can forgive this because the surroundings are so delicious – a masterclass in Italian design aesthetics, where form triumphs over function.

Given the car’s 267bhp at 7000rpm, you may scoff at the thought of a Ferrari with no more power than a modern hot hatch.

But remember, the 328 is a sports car born of the analogue age, so there are no electronic safety nets to get the driver out of trouble.

This masterpiece in aesthetics is surprisingly rare in the UK, as 130 right-hand-drive models were sold.

Choosing one today is about your budget, the car’s condition and history. From 2016 to 2019, values fell at roughly 11% per annum, but last year, this reduced to just 2%.

It has all the markers of a successful classic: a legendary manufacturer, rarity and that 1980s look that is so attractive to Generation X buyers.

1988 Ferrari 328 GTS

Engine: V8, 3185cc
Transmission: 5-speed manual, RWD
Power: 267bhp @ 7000rpm
Weight: 1325kg

The Hagerty Valuation Team says

Hagerty value condition #2: £80,650
2019 Hagerty value condition #2: £82,300
Hagerty 12-month value change: -£1650 (2%)

1998-2004 Ford Focus

The thinking and development that went into the original Focus was influenced by Ford receiving a thorough drubbing from critics and customers alike.

The last of the Escorts had been panned, and management at Ford realised they had taken their eye off the ball in a market where cars were selling on more than price.

New faces appeared behind the scenes at the Blue Oval, and the resulting Focus took the company in a new direction.

Sure enough, it is faultless to drive. The steering and chassis have a rare harmony, whereas a comparable VW Golf would feel underwhelming and out of shape.

Needless to say, word is spreading about the Focus.

Although hundreds of thousands were sold in Britain, really nice examples that have been well cared for and show no signs of rust or neglect require dedication to find.

But persevere you should. Values for the Focus are low: even an ‘excellent’ example can be purchased for around the £1400 mark, fair ones for much less.

We believe that this is a very small outlay for a piece of automotive history.

2003 Ford Focus 1.6i 16v Zetec

Engine: 4-cylinder, 1596cc
Transmission: 5-speed manual, FWD
Power: 98bhp @ 6000rpm
Weight: 1171kg

The Hagerty Valuation Team says

Hagerty value condition #2: £1400
2019 Hagerty value condition #2: £1300
Hagerty 12-month value change: +£100 (7.7%)

1959-1967 Jaguar Mark II

The interior of the Jaguar Mark II is as regal as they come. You could be taking tea with the Queen in here.

Not an inch of the cabin space is untrimmed, with leather and veneered wood wherever you look. But the intimacy of the cabin’s proportions signals clearly that it’s a sports saloon rather than a gargantuan, palatial limo.

The Mark II was arguably only a comprehensive facelift of the Mark I (initially called the Jaguar 2.4 Litre and 3.4 Litre), yet somehow unlocked the potential in the design and turned it from a modest success into a sensation.

The car was a very early adopter of four-wheel disc brakes and, crucially, came with a higher rear roll centre and widened rear track that transformed the handling of the Mark I for the better.

In recent years, values have been relatively steady and have not fluctuated as wildly as its prettier sibling, the E-Type.

However, values have already risen by nearly a third in 2020, yet we feel that the Mark II still has potential for growth.

In 2020, in the five months from May to September, six examples sold at UK auction for over £50,000.

Compare that to the previous 18 months, when only five sold at that level.

1967 Jaguar Mark II

Engine: Straight 6-cylinder, 3781cc
Transmission: 3-speed automatic, RWD
Power: 219bhp @ 5500rpm
Weight: 1520kg

The Hagerty Valuation Team says

Hagerty value condition #2: £27,700
2019 Hagerty value condition #2: £21,700
Hagerty 12-month value change: +£6000 (27.6%)

1989-1998 Land Rover Discovery

There’s much more to the original Discovery than simply being today’s affordable classic Land Rover.

The Discovery was a very different offering to the Defender – and even the Range Rover with which it shared a chassis, four-wheel-drive system and doors.

It was envisaged to be more affordable and more utilitarian (if less aristocratic) than the Rangie, yet it was leagues ahead of the agricultural Defender for comfort and road manners. It was the happy medium in the Land Rover lineup.

The chief impression you take from spending time in the Discovery is just how much glass there is.

After the heavy pillars and raked back body styles of SUVs of the 21st century, the classic Disco’s slim pillars, low waistline and tall roof, and even those additional windows just aft of the trademark roofline ‘step’, make it feel like you’re commanding an orangerie.

A Land Rover isn’t a Land Rover without that all-empowering sense of indomitability, and off-road the Disco feels effortless – reassuringly in control even at a challenging angle.

Until recently, even the best could be bought for a few thousand, but in recent months, exceptional examples have achieved much more: in June, CCA sold one for £12,320.

Our ‘Excellent’ guide price stands at £9,800 but is likely to be revised upwards soon. If you can find a solid one, then this is a significant car in the history of Land Rover, one of the UK’s most popular brands.

1991 Land Rover Discovery

Engine: V8, 3532cc
Transmission: 5-speed manual, 4WD
Power: 150bhp @ 4750rpm
Weight: 1,925kg

The Hagerty Valuation Team says

Hagerty value condition #2: £9800
2019 Hagerty value condition #2: £8500
Hagerty 12-month value change: +£1300 (+15.3%)

2010-2015 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG

The Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG is like nothing else.

It is effortlessly cooler than the SLR McLaren that preceded it, and an unashamedly different character to any of its peers, which range from the Lexus LFA to the Ferrari 599.

There’s something almost art deco about the SLS’s lines and the arch of its gullwing doors when raised – particularly in its standard guise rather than the Black Series seen here.

The sports car marked the start of AMG’s evolution into a sub-brand in its own right.

Developed entirely by Mercedes’ performance arm, the front-mid mounted 563bhp 6.2-litre V8 was claimed to be the most powerful naturally aspirated engine of its day.

The SLS AMG is, more than anything, just a strikingly beautiful vessel for that extraordinary V8 motor.

On track, it’s epically entertaining to drive hard, but on road, the firm ride and hair-trigger throttle response of the Black Series can quite easily cause the otherwise impressive lateral traction to break. At which point you will clench every part of your body.

Values have shored up recently, according to statistics provided by Auto Trader.

Advertised prices of both body styles were dropping each month compared with 12 months previously.

Then, from September 2020, asking prices rose: the convertible by 2.3% and the coupe by 2.5%. Values range from around the £100,000 mark to about £600,000 for the rare Black Series.

As Mercedes gears up for the era of electrification, the SLS could be a high-tide mark from the petrol era.

2014 Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series

Engine: V8, 6208cc
Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic, RWD
Power: 622bhp @ 8000rpm
Weight: 1550kg

The Hagerty Valuation Team says

Hagerty value condition #2: £166,500
2019 Hagerty value condition #2: £167,000
Hagerty 12-month value change: -£500 (0.2%)

1961-71 Mini Cooper

Values of all variants of the Mark I Austin/Morris Mini Cooper have been increasing in value over the past few years, but Hagerty believes they have the potential to rise again in 2021, thanks to the car’s 60th anniversary.

So it’s sobering to think then that the popular Cooper nearly wasn’t made.

The idea of warmed-over Mini bearing the name of the current Formula 1 World Champions was resisted by Alec Issigonis, the creator of the Mini, but his bosses at BMC could see the potential in such a partnership.

Thank goodness for that. Any Cooper is a hoot to drive, but it is the S models that best fulfil the promise of the Cooper badge.

Light, insect-agile and flooded with feel, even today it’s highly debatable whether a front-wheel-drive car with more enjoyable handling has been made.

As remarkable as the drive is the car’s packaging. Parked alongside any of our other Bull Market list cars, the Mini Cooper is a postage stamp in a sea of envelopes.

Yet when you get in, there’s enough room for four people, while the boot has the original false floor (so widely used today).

Peering through the boot, Berwyn Jones points out the apertures left from when the car was assembled using a rotisserie spit.

Next year, come what may, the community will find a way to come together and mark the 60th anniversary of one of Britain’s most remarkable cars.

1961 Mini Cooper

Engine: 4-cylinder, 997cc
Transmission: 4-speed manual, FWD
Power: 55bhp @ 6000rpm
Weight: 584kg

The Hagerty Valuation Team says

Hagerty value condition #2: £24,100
2019 Hagerty value condition #2: £24,100
Hagerty 12-month value change: No change

1988 -1992 Porsche 944

The owner of the car seen here, Mike Pollock, stumbled on the 944 when looking for a replacement to his Lancia Beta HPE. “I wanted another four-seat coupe, and when a friend of mine bought a 924, it led me onto the 944. Now I own three, although I have owned seven in total, and I use them every day. They’re just great to drive and very easy to live with.”

It’s not hard to see Mike’s point.

His 1990 S2, complete with its 3-litre, inline four-cylinder engine is every inch the purist’s daily driver.

The engine feels smooth and generous in its power delivery, with the sort of instant, linear delivery that encourages the driver to confidently call on all 208 horses under the bonnet.

It’s one of those cars that requires barely any conscious thought to drive quickly.

The driving position is almost bum-on-the-ground and easy to get comfortable in.

The dials are simple and clear, the steering wheel a pleasure to hold, the pedals nicely placed. It’s all exactly as you’d want it, right from the off.

And with a near-perfect weight balance, the front-engined, rear-wheel-drive 944 also feels delightfully light-footed and responsive.

The 3-litre S2 briefly shot up in value in 2016, and after a quick correction has been gaining steadily in value ever since.

The best examples are selling for in excess of our top Hagerty Price Guide figure: always a sure sign values are moving. We feel our average value of £17,550 will rise.

1991 Porsche 944 S2

Engine: 4-cylinder, 2990cc
Transmission: 5-speed manual, RWD
Power: 208bhp @ 5800rpm
Weight: 1310kg

The Hagerty Valuation Team says

Hagerty value condition #2: £17,550
2019 Hagerty value condition #2: £16,650
Hagerty 12-month value change: +£900 (+5.4%)

1986 – 1991 Renault 5 GT Turbo

Hot hatches are the modern classic cars of the moment, combining performance, 1980s style and practicality.

Values of popular models – the Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk I, Peugeot 205 GTI and Ford Escort XR3i in particular – have soared, but one is still obtainable, and it’s more powerful than them all: the Renault 5 GT Turbo.

With the Renault 5’s looks, flared arches, and 115bhp on tap thanks to the Garrett turbo, its current value of £12,900, although appreciably up from 12 months ago, still looks as if it has significant potential to climb.

It's a hoot to drive. There is direct, unassisted steering, a surprising amount of traction and an unabashed sense of hooliganism.

This late, post-facelift example has 120bhp – around 110bhp of which is brought to its driver courtesy of the Garrett turbocharger, in a brief yet hilarious climax somewhere north of 4000rpm.

It’s no shrinking violet, then, especially in a car weighing so little.

You can get a decent Renault 5 GT Turbo for about half the price of an equivalent Peugeot 205 GTI, and what the little Renault lacks in finesse next to the Peugeot, it makes up for in swagger.

Its price is starting to jump up, though, so buy quickly or this most bombastic icon of the hot hatch era could quickly become too valuable for its own good.

1990 Renault 5 GT Turbo

Engine: 4-cylinder, 1397cc, turbocharged
Transmission: 5-speed manual, FWD
Power: 120bhp @ 5750rpm
Weight: 853kg

The Hagerty Valuation Team says

Hagerty value condition #2: £12,900
2019 Hagerty value condition #2: £9300
Hagerty 12-month value change: +£3600 (+38.7%)

Toyota MR2 Mk III

It’s a puzzle why the most recent Toyota MR2 has not gained more respect with the car enthusiast community.

A mid-engined, high-revving, rear-wheel drive, lightweight roadster, it is cheap to buy and run. In short, it’s a better budget weekend toy than a Mazda MX-5 or Porsche Boxster, in just about every way.

Some reviews of the period compared it favourably to the Lotus Elise. And climbing back into this Toyota GB heritage vehicle after all these years, the delights of the last MR2 come flooding back to us.

It is playful enough to thrill, yet talkative and reassuring enough to not be frightening.

When it comes to the Mk III, there isn’t a version that doesn’t drive brilliantly.

However, it’s worth getting one with the six-speed ‘box, if you can.

It was introduced in facelifted cars from late 2002, and the shift is so light and positive that the gearbox virtually seems to suck the stick through the next gate.

Plus, while no MR2 makes for restful motorway progress, the sixth gear keeps the free-revving 1.8 at a more tolerable background thrum.

Even a rare unmolested example with Torsen LSD and six-speed gearbox will only set you back a few thousand pounds.

With the exception of a couple of well-known mechanical issues, it has Toyota’s robust mechanicals.

With Hagerty’s ‘excellent’ condition value at just £4,100, the roadster from Japan seems undervalued at every level.

2006 Toyota MR2

Engine: 4-cylinder, 1794cc
Transmission: 6-speed manual, RWD
Power: 138bhp @ 5750rpm
Weight: 1,030kg

The Hagerty Valuation Team says

2020 Hagerty value condition #2: £4100
2019 Hagerty value condition #2: £3650
Hagerty 12-month value change: +£450 (12.3%)

*The values shown are an average of models in all body styles in ‘excellent condition’ – Hagerty Condition #2. These are cars that could win a local or regional show. They can be former #1, concours cars that have been driven or have aged. Seasoned observers will have to look closely for flaws. To learn more about Hagerty’s valuations, click this link. Read the full report here