A True Investment Vehicle
Why these cars might still be worth a little something a long way down the road.
By Andrew Tilin

(Business 2.0) – Remember the high school greaser who worked three jobs so he could blow the money on a hulking convertible called a Cuda? Maybe he wasn't such a loser after all. Today a cherry 1970 Plymouth Hemi Cuda convertible—originally priced at about $4,000—goes for some $2 million.

Who could have guessed? You, perhaps, even if you don't know valves from Valvoline. Rule No. 1 is to pick a car that's a lust object for the Fast and the Furious crowd, with a beguiling body, fat tires, and plenty of power. Why? Men in their 40s and 50s never forget the cars they craved as teens. The second rule is rarity. No matter how much your kids drool over the Boxster, Porsche has made so many that they'll never become showpieces.

With these guidelines firmly in mind—and with the knowledge that this is a long shot at best, since most cars end up being worth no more than their weight in scrap metal—we turned to Karl Brauer, editor-in-chief of car-buying guide Edmunds.com, to help us select three vehicles that drive well today and might just drive the collectibles market tomorrow. — ANDREW TILIN

MINI COOPER S MC40

The Mini is an econo-box like no other. It's fun to drive, has great lines, and comes in limited quantities. "I don't know when there's ever going to be as much supply as there is demand," Brauer says. Since most Minis will be treated like economy cars—and thus driven into the ground—Brauer expects well-preserved ones to escalate in value. One potential standout: the $26,500 S MC40, a limited edition with a paint job commemorating Mini's upset victory in the Monte Carlo Rally 40 years ago.

$26,500 Horsepower: 163 Availability: 1,000 cars

LOTUS ELISE

Brauer is big on the Elise's collector appeal because the car itself is so small. In an era dominated by SUVs, the $41,000 import weighs only 1,975 pounds and is as visceral as a go-cart. "More and more people will love the idea of a sophisticated, tossable, European-minded machine," he predicts. The 190-horsepower engine comes from Toyota, so the British-built car should prove durable, and the open-top body style and unadorned interior remind Brauer of the MGs and Austin-Healeys that became prized in America after World War II. Lotus plans to sell just 2,400 Elises a year on this side of the Atlantic.

$40,930 Horsepower: 190 Availability: 2,400 cars a year

FERRARI 360 CHALLENGE STRADALE

Though Ferrari tempered the race-ready Challenge Stradale just enough to make it legal on public roads (the name is Italian for "street"), this special-edition model nonetheless makes its bullet-quick siblings seem sluggish. Ferrari faithful go gaga about its 6 percent jump in power over standard 360s and lightweight parts that include titanium suspension bits. And while Ferraris are always rare, the Stradale ranks up there with the Star of Africa: Only 80 were brought to the United States this year. "The Ferrari supercars tend to be worth more than the others," Brauer says. "And some are out of control."

$187,000 Horsepower: 425 Availability: 80 cars