1. Mazda Miata (NA & NB)
I specify NA & NB because the NC lost the feel of what made the Miata great. The first two generations of the Miatas were a glorious introduction to the demographic of the midlife-crisising adult, stuck between a used foxbody Mustang and a third-hand Harley Baggerson. They were extremely fun and easy to drive, great on gas (comparatively), and very affordable. Because of this, Mazda sold quite a few of the Miatas, eventually developing quite a cult-following from weekend trackday brodads, which has inflated the price over the past few years.
2007: NAs in the $1,500 range, NBs in the $4,500 range
2017: NAs in the $3,000-5,000 range, NBs in the $5,000-8,000 range, some low mileage examples of both body styles coming in at over $10,000.
2. Acura NSX
The Acura (Honda) NSX has always kind of been the forgotten of the Japanese “sports cars” of the 90s. It seemed slightly mute compared to some of the other things coming out of Japan at the time. People ridiculed Honda for the use of the 3.0 V6, mockingly comparing it to an Acura Legend. All that aside, this car set the bar very high for weight and rigidity in a sports car chassis, with an all-aluminum construction, nearly unheard of for Japan at the time.
2007: pre-facelifts could be had for $20,000, facelift models for $50,000
2017: pre-facelift models now starting around $40,000, facelifts creeping towards $100k
3. Ferrari 355
When most people hear Ferrari, they think unobtainable, but that’s often not the case. As long as it isn’t a special edition and/or limited production model, it’s not immune to depreciation, and being Italian with a high MSRP, they have a long way to fall, and fall they do. Many hail the 355 as the best sounding naturally aspirated V8 that Ferrari has ever created. A more powerful 348, and a less-refined, raw older brother to the 360. Downsides being that pretty much everything that has to be done to service these requires the motor to come out.
2007: these could be found for $30,000 and up
2017: it’s become rare to see these under $50k, with the average closer to $80k
4. Mazda RX-7 (FD3S)
These are unique, and I may be biased, because it’s the best looking car that mankind has ever created, but there was so little that the RX line shared with anything else out of Japan at the time. All aluminum suspension arms, spinney Dorito engine, true sequential turbochargers, 4 piston front brakes, door handles hidden in the sills, etc. It was lighter than almost everything it competed against, it obviously looked the part, and it sounded like something the world had never heard before. Downside to these is that 100,000 miles is about all you’ll get out of 13B-REW before a rebuild, often much less if it’s a low mileage car that has been “garaged” (also known as: “sat for years with bone-dry apex seals”). They also run hot as hell and are prone to horrible heat-soaking issues even on completely stock examples. Cooling mods are a must for anyone getting into an FD3S.
2007: quality examples going for $10,000, clean shells for under $5,000 (the FD3S has always been a popular shell for swaps of all kinds)
2017: quality examples going for $20,000+, shells in any condition have gotten hard to find, rarely coming up for under $10,000
5. BMW M3 (E30)
This one frustrates me to no end. I mean, I sort of get it.. It has an iconic racing history, it’s one of the few all-steel wide-body, boxy ‘80s “sports cars”, it had factory ITBs and fancy aero, so there are some cool aspects about this car. But at the end of the day, it’s a rear wheel drive VW Jetta with a puzzling suspension design and an undersized engine that made cool noises. Limited production and the weird E30 popularity amongst kids in recent years has driven these up and up and up in value.
2007: these could be had for $10,000, sometimes even less for a quality example
2017: cheapest I can find at a quick glance right now is $32,000 in the 150-200k mileage range. If you want a sub-100k car, expect to pay over $50,000. This infuriates me to even type these numbers out..
6. Nissan 240sx (S13)
whoops, wrong pic..
This was the affordable little brother to the 300zx line, featuring crappier build quality (though the ZXs didn’t have a lot to brag about in this category either), a pickup truck engine, an open differential, and automatic seatbelts that attempt to decapitate you every time you get in. They also have a tendency to rot, and pretty badly at that. The upside is that these things are infinitely fun to drive, and they can be molded into anything you desire. Aside from drifting, where most of them end up, they do extremely well in all other facets of the racing world.
2007: mediocre examples for <$1,000, prestine examples for $3,000
2017: mediocre examples for $3,000, pristine examples for $6,000+, with dwindling availability