Everyone can see an obvious future classic, they’re the groundbreaking supercars that grace the covers of automotive magazines, drawing effusive praise from people like Jeremy Clarkson and Chris Harris.
But sometimes, it’s the cars under the radar that go from objects of our desires to our garages and driveways that make an impact. You know the type – the Mazdaspeed MX-5 NB, the E36 M3 – they’re cars that are synonymous with enthusiasts. Why is that? Because many of us own them and know firsthand what sets them apart from the sea of beige.
Some will become more desirable with age, some will simply cease to exist as time wears on, and some may simply be turned into a 17 year olds’ first project car. However, for those that do survive, they become cult classics. But, one need not scour Craigslist or BaT to find the next cult classic, because they’re available right now.
Here are five vehicles destined for cult classic stardom:
1) BMW 228i
36 MPG HWY
BMW has always seemed to offer at least a handful of truly excellent driver’s cars. The E30 M3, despite going on 30 years old, is still revered as one of the best-handling cars of all-time and the quintessential BMW model. In some ways, the new 2 Series is the closest you can get to the spirit of yore, and for $32,000, it’s a pretty good deal.
Now, granted, BMWs have become fat, bloated with technology, and what I truly believe to be shadows of their former selves. But, they’re still great cars, and as the idea of a simple, front-engine, rear wheel drive, manual transmission vehicle is fast becoming blasphemy – the BMW 228i exists today. Despite some flaws (comfort-tuned suspension, run flat tires, pricey options), it has drawn praise for maintaining many of the great qualities that have made BMW a stalwart in the industry.
2) FIAT 500 Abarth
34 MPG HWY
Yes, it’s small. Yes, it’s impractical. So what?
If you’re the type who is unencumbered by children and unyielding in the prospect of driving a large shoe, the FIAT 500 Abarth is your pinnacle. What it lacks in creature comfort and space (none), it makes up for in pure passion. 160 screaming horses might not seem like a lot, but at just 2,500 lbs., it’s plenty.
Massive discounts could make the 500 Abarth the perfect pizza delivery car in the future (seriously, these things were going for $17k-$20k new just a few months ago), there’s no doubt that a car this niche has a limited lifespan. Hell, FIAT jammed an automatic transmission from the factory storage bin just to start selling them in America. But, like the VW GTI, Peugeot 206 GTi, and other Euro hot hatches, this one’s destined to appreciate again.
3) Ford Fiesta ST
35 MPG HWY
For some reason, Ford saw the massive sales success (not) of the FIAT 500 Abarth, and decided to make their own pocket hot hatch. The result is probably the #1 deal out there for those who can handle a tight squeeze behind the wheel.
Oh yes, the Fiesta ST is tiny, and despite being just 5’8, I can assure you it’s a snug fit for me.But what you’re treated to is an engine almost too powerful for such a small package, combined with one of the finest-handling vehicles Ford has ever put out. Now, that may not seem like much if you’re used to American Ford products, but take all of Ford’s models (Sierra, Escort, etc.), and the Fiesta ST is still among the best. Handling is sublime, power is effortless, and the best part – it starts at under $21k.
4) Subaru BRZ
34 MPG HWY
Possibly the only car that came close to as long of an agonizing wait as the new Acura NSX is the joint project “Toyobaru” from…you guessed it, Toyota and Subaru. Now, there are three main versions of this car, the Toyota GT86, Subaru BR-Z, and Scion FR-S. We only have to worry about two, but there are small variations between all. Personally, I feel that the Subaru’s interior, and slightly more aggressive suspension setup gives it the edge.
Here is another simple,front-engine, rear wheel drive, manual-equipped coupe, but unlike the BMW – this one’s all about the handling – no compromises, no creature comforts, just a straight-up handling machine. But what makes it a future cult classic? Well, the BRZ has hardly been a sales success. It is certainly impractical, but not distinguished enough to be someone’s 3rd car. Scion’s FR-S could very well be a one-off and it looks like Subaru is still unsure about building a next-gen model that addresses the car’s one complaint: lack of power.
But the DNA within the BRZ is what made so many great Japanese sports cars in the 80s and 90s. In essence, it’s the perfect future cult classic – liked and noticed today, revered tomorrow.
5) Tesla Model S P85D
691 Horsepower (combined)
∞ Elon Musks MPG HWY
It is truly remarkable how far Tesla has come in just a few years. From just another Lotus-derived kit car, to official green vehicle of the rich and famous, it’s like watching the next Apple or Google come into its own. Actually, it’s more like watching Hyundai come into its own against major established brands, or Pagani becoming a worthy competitor among exotic brands.
Yes, the Model S is the outlier of this list, but there’s no doubt this will be a car duly noted in history as a game-changer. But, while the Model S works on transforming an industry, the P85D is the test subject gone haywire. 0-60 mph in 3.1 seconds, 155 mph top speed, 100% fully electric, seating for the whole family…the list goes on. The price tag for all of that really isn’t that bad and while there are better versions of this car to come, the P85D is simply astounding in ambition.
So while it won’t be a Porsche or Mercedes-Benz, if the future is kind to Tesla, this could be up there with the Ford Model T or VW Beetle when it comes to impact and appreciation.
If the future isn’t kind, it’ll still be the DeLorean Mk.II.
So there you have it, five cars, well within reach for many (for the most part), that are sure to carry on the enthusiast spirit for years to come.
If you’re lucky enough to own one of these, congrats. Hold on to it and you’ll be the one with the cult classic just a few years from now.