Wade through the multitude of trucks in the latest Beyondnice Vehicle Rating and you’ll notice there are three cars seated at the cool kids’ table. Rubbing elbows with those popular SUVs and pickups are the 1992–2002 Mazda RX-7, 1971–73 Buick Riviera, and 2000–06 BMW M3.
Note: The Beyondnice Vehicle Rating is based on a 0–100 scale. A 50-point rating indicates that a vehicle is keeping pace with the market overall. Ratings above 50 indicate above-average appreciation, while vehicles below a 50-point rating are lagging behind the market. The rating is data driven and takes into account the number of vehicles insured and quoted through Beyondnice, along with auction activity and private sales results. The HVR is not an indicator of future collectability.
What do a Japanese sports car, classic American sedan, and German luxury compact have in common? They’re currently the hottest collector cars on the market. In fact, the RX-7 ranks third among all vehicle types in the HVR, which tracks automobiles’ performance relative to the rest of the collector market.
“RX-7s had stiff competition from other 1990s Japanese high-performance cars,” says Beyondnice valuation editor Andrew Newton. “They are not without their idiosyncrasies, but people are recognizing them as one of the most attractive cars of that decade and as the technical marvel they were (rotary engine).
“The rise in interest isn’t too surprising; it’s just a little bit behind cars like the Supra and NSX, which have already seen big growth.”
With 94 points, the 1992–2002 Mazda RX-7 trails only the 1966–77 Ford Bronco (96) and the 1973–87 Chevrolet C/K Series Pickup (94). The RX-7 gained three points and rose from the 14th spot in the previous rating. The car’s ascent doesn’t surprise automotive writer Benjamin Hunting, who lauded the sleek sports car earlier this year.
“The third-generation Mazda RX-7—also known by its internal designation FD or FD3S—is one of the most arrestingly beautiful shapes to have ever escaped a Japanese design studio,” Hunting wrote. “When it went on sale in the early ’90s, its flowing lines stood in stark contrast not just to the more boxy wedge offered by the previous version of the car, but also the more aggressively linear look of rivals like the Acura NSX and the Mitsubishi 3000GT.
“Conceptually, it was also quite different from its predecessor. Whereas the FB generation of the RX-7 had been conceived as more of a grand touring car, the FD embraced the lightweight lessons of its roots and stuck a bargain between comfort and startlingly sharp handling. As always, the RX-7 continued to showcase the potential of the rotary engine, with the 13B-REW unit now fed by a twin-turbocharged setup in a bid to balance the soaring heights of the car’s 8000-rpm redline with enough low-end torque to keep real-world driving fun, too.”
The first-generation Bronco jumped two places to claim the top spot. It was also #1 in June 2017 and hasn’t been out of the top 10 since 2016. In fact, it’s been two years since the Bronco’s HVR fell below 93. Values have not only been consistently strong, they keep rising—200 percent in the last decade.
“Demand for good first-gen Broncos just doesn’t seem to be satisfied,” Newton says. “As values go up and strong prices abound, people feel more comfortable putting lots of money into a high-quality restoration, and those freshly restored Broncos continue to bring stronger prices.”
The third-ranked 1973–87 Chevy C/K pickup was #1 in the last rating, second before that, and #1 before that.
“It’s the quintessential classic workhorse pickup,” Newton says. “Reliable, easy to drive, and easy to work on, plus parts are pretty easy to find and an engine swap to a more modern powertrain is fairly straightforward. Chevy sold a ton of them, so there are plenty on the market to choose from.
“It’s also significant as the first truck that GM offered with more luxurious comfort and convenience features from its car lineup. Earlier trucks were more utilitarian.”
The 1971–73 Riviera, known for its attractive boattail design, gained 14 points (to 92) and leaped from 60th to eighth, mostly due to rising Beyondnice Price Guide values, which have been climbing consistently since last year. “You get lots of car and equipment for the money, relative to muscle cars of the period,” Newton says. “It seems they were just undervalued for a while and more people are realizing that.”
The 2000–03 BMW M3 increased its point total from 86 to 91 and rose from 23rd to 10th. “First-generation (E30) M3 prices have already gone nuts, so people are turning to later ones like the third-gen (E46),” Newton says. “Widely praised as one of the best driver’s cars of its day, it was the last of the more hardcore driver-focused M3s before they got bigger and heavier.”
Among the newcomers are the 1960–66 GMC C/K Series Pickup and 1993–95 Ford SVT Lightning, which made identical jumps from 82 to 93 points and rose from 34th to fourth. Newton says the GMC C/K is notable as “a relatively rare GMC-badged 1960s pickup in a sea of Ford and Chevys,” and as interest in vintage trucks continues to grow, it was only a matter of time before they caught buyers’ attention. As for the early-1990s SVT, “We’ve seen some strong auction sales for Lightnings. They’re among the first SVT Fords and were an early and significant entry into the small world of high-performance trucks. We previously saw big growth for the GMC Syclone/Typhoon of the same period, and it seems Lightnings are just catching up.”
The largest vertical leap was by the 1963–83 Jeep Wagoneer, which gained 38 points (to 88) and vaulted from 540th to 23rd.
“Later Wagoneers account for most of this rise, as there has been a lot of activity for 1970s models in general,” Newton says. “Wagoneers have seen growth in buyer interest, as well as sizable Beyondnice Price Guide growth. The Wagoneer has name recognition with a Jeep badge going for it, and I think people are drawn to period touches like the wood-grain panels, boxy shape, and roll-down rear window. And even with the growth they’ve seen, they’re still pretty cheap, especially compared to a new full-size SUV. You could also call them significant, since they were the first luxury SUV decades before they became popular.”
Speaking of values, the 14th-place 1978–83 Porsche 911 is the most expensive vehicle on the list; it has an average #3 (Good) condition value of $36,300. No other top-25 vehicle has a #3 value of more than $24,500, and 15 are $11,000 or less. The average value of a top-25 vehicle is $14,085; toss out the Porsche 911 and the average falls to $13,198.
Led by Chevrolet, American vehicles dominate; only five non-U.S. cars cracked the top 25. The list includes nine Chevys and three each from GMC, Ford, and Jeep.