13 Cool Cars From the '80s and '90s Are Absolutely Worthless Collectibles

When you think of an '80s or '90s car, what comes to mind?

Is it the DeLorean from "Back to the Future"? Is it Tom Selleck's Ferrari (RACE) from "Magnum P.I."? Is it Steve Sanders's Corvette in Beverly Hills 90210? Your parents' Chrysler (FCAU) K car or minivan?

Unfortunately for would-be collectors, the '80s and '90s meant a lot of molded plastic wrapped around underpowered engines. "Cool" cars of the era like the Mitsubishi Eclipse, Lotus Milan, mid-engine GM (GM) Pontiac Fiero (ahead of its time in that regard) underperformed. Unique ideas like the compact SUV didn't pan out or, in the case of the Suzuki Samurai, just flipped over.

Meanwhile, many of the midsize vehicles of the era -- with the exception of perhaps the Honda Accord and its hidden headlights -- looked and performed as if they should be dropped off by the truckload at retirement villages across the county. We don't even want to get into what subcompacts looked like at the time? Forget Bluetooth, modular seating, moonroofs and some of the other modern small-car perks: In cars like the Hyundai Excel, Geo Metro and Yugo 45, you were fortunate if you got a radio, climate control or an engine that could get you up to highway speeds.

As a result, there aren't all that many vehicles that made it out of the era as bona fide "classics": cars that you could easily resell for more than you paid for it, regardless of trim. The average cost of a new car today is $34,721, according to Kelley Blue Book. However, there are iconic cars of the '80s and early '90s that not only struggle to reach that mark today, but would make a lousy trade-in for any new vehicle.

We had the folks at vehicle valuation site Black Book go through its records and find vehicles from the 1980s and '90s that didn't retain all that much of their value. The models on this list are going to come as somewhat of a surprise to '80s kids who wanted to owner a car like Kitt from Knight Rider, but not to those who understand why that vehicle didn't exactly dominate the streets during that simpler time:

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13. 1984-96 Chevrolet Corvette
13. 1984-96 Chevrolet Corvette

Current value: $8,000 to $10,000

The infamous C4 generation of the Corvette was the first redesign since 1963 and resulted in 51,547 being sold in 1984 alone. The Corvette hasn't sold anywhere near that briskly since, and the underpowered C4 didn't help its case. Even with a 5.7-liter V8, base models only managed 205 horsepower in their first year and less than 250 hp until the 300-horsepower LT1 engines debuted in 1992. Meanwhile, features like glass hatchbacks, LCD displays, flip-up headlights and molded plastic didn't age well. Enthusiasts still love the more musclebound ZR-1 models and the B2K Callaway Twin Turbo (which doubled the price of a Corvette), but maximum horsepower never rose above 405 as General Motors struggled with fuel efficiency standards and innovation. Could Steve Sanders back up his "I8A 4RE" license plate?" Only if his Vette was a more rare model going against a base Testarossa or 328. This is how cars that were selling for a minimum of $21,800 at the beginning of their run in 1984 and $37,225 by the end 1996 lost more than half of their value.

12. 1982-92 Chevrolet Camaro
12. 1982-92 Chevrolet Camaro

Current value: $3,500 to $5,000

So, let's talk about the "Iron Duke." Back in the early '80s, Pontiac put an in-line, four-cylinder engine made of iron into the base models of certain vehicles. This is how the Camaro -- one of the stereotypical '80s pony cars favored by folks who knew nothing about cars other than body type -- ended up with a 110-horsepower engine. That's less horsepower than the Nissan Versa, the most stripped-down subcompact being sold today. That garbage engine was retired from the Camaro in 1985, but the damage was done: The "underpowered" label stuck. With the vaunted IROC-Z managing just 215 horsepower and this entire generation of Camaro managing a maximum of 245 horsepower (or less than that of a Honda Odyssey minivan), this car took on vulgar nicknames and was ridiculed as a poser's supercar.

11. 1982-93 Ford Mustang
11. 1982-93 Ford Mustang

Current value: $2,000 to $3,000

The Ford (F) Mustang brand is an icon, but the generations of Mustangs can sow discord between the most fervent fans. Aside from Lee Iacocca's Mustang II of the late '70s, perhaps no form of the Mustang divides allegiances as much as the long, Fox-body platform of the '80s and '90s. The four-cylinder base model produced just 88 horsepower, roughly on par with a SmartFortwo. The latter decade, in particular, was an incredibly tough time for the vehicle. Though that four-cylinder was bumped up to 110 horsepower, the last of the original Fox-body generation drew attention from Vanilla Ice, who name-dropped his 5.0-liter dream machine in both "Ice, Ice, Baby" and over a Steve Miller sample in the less-subtle "Rollin' In My 5.0." That 5-liter engine maxed out at about 200 horsepower, so anyone who wasn't up for modifying these Mustangs was getting a divisive, not all-that-pretty pony to play with.

10. 1982-93 Ford Mustang GT
10. 1982-93 Ford Mustang GT

Current value: $4,000 to $5,000

More powerful than the 5.0, but not by all that much, the Mustang GT was basically a clutch, a slung-back body style and some perks (fog lamps, 15-inch rims). However, that's just the kind of thing that an obsessive Mustang fan pays attention to, which is why it still fetches more than twice the price of 5.0 Mustangs and others of this era.

8. 1982-90 Jaguar XJS Coupe
8. 1982-90 Jaguar XJS Coupe

Current value: $5,000 to $8,000

We've knocked cars on this list for being neither sporty nor sexy enough and for not being all that rare. However, this two-seater was incredibly curvy, produced more than 200 horsepower from its inline six-cylinder (and nearly 300 from an available V12) and sold fewer than 56,000 models worldwide. So why the price drop? Well, those who've had to maintain a Jaguar of this era before know that you'll need every spare penny just to keep it roadworthy. Consider that current value a starting point.

7. 1987-90 Jeep Wrangler
7. 1987-90 Jeep Wrangler

Current value: $4,000 to $5,000

There wasn't always a Jeep Wrangler. When American Motors began making civilian versions of the U.S. military's Willys Jeeps after World War II, they were simply that: Civilian Jeeps, or CJs. When Chrysler bought American Motors in 1986, it renamed the CJ the Wrangler and gave it a bigger frame similar to that of its Cherokee. It looked similar, but its headlights were now square instead of round and the windshield wipers just sat in the middle of the window because Chrysler didn't have time to adjust for their arc after upsizing the windshield. These are the Jeeps you see in "Jurassic Park," but the fact that the YJ looks vastly different than any Jeep that came after it (and the fact that there were nearly 700,000 produced) has diminished it value a bit.

6. 1985-92 Mazda RX-7
6. 1985-92 Mazda RX-7

Current value: $4,000 to $5,000

Yes, it looks like a fake Porsche 924, but that was the point. It was a hot 146-horsepower sports car with sleek lines and available turbo packages that bumped it up to more than 210 horsepower. That this little car produced that much power at this time was nothing shy of a miracle, since insurers were penalizing drivers for their turbocharged engines at the time. It might have been more well-received today if Mazda didn't completely improve on its design and make the next (and final) generation of RX-7 a well-balanced, well-handling tuner's dream of a vehicle. The 1992 to 2002 RX-7s are some of the most revered sports cars in the world. That's no knock on the older RX-7s, but it explains why they and their pokier engines and archaic technology come at a discount.

5. 1990-97 Mazda MX-5 Miata
5. 1990-97 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Current value: $4,000 to $5,000

What did retirees drive before this car existed? Were they all in Cadillacs and Corvettes? Were cheap convertibles like the Chrysler LeBaron just more widely available?

There are more convertibles now, but the Miata rekindled this country's love for the drop top after bringing it back to the masses in a sporty package. The Volkswagen Cabrios of this era? Cute, we guess, but not as reliable and beloved as this vehicle. Sold new, it provides Porsche Boxster performance at roughly half the price. In fact, this little roadster got a big boost from Consumer Reports a few years back for not only matching the Boxster's performance, but doing so with fewer repair bills. The original models still make the rounds in sunnier climates, but the fact that more than 410,000 of them have sold in the U.S. since 1990 means there are plenty out there to choose from without going two decades back in time.

4. 1990-93 Mercedes-Benz 300SL
4. 1990-93 Mercedes-Benz 300SL

Current value: $7,000 to $8,000

From 1954 to 1963, Mercedes made an iconic coupe with gullwing doors and gave it this name. Boy, are the SL class roadsters of the '90s not that car. A fairly plasticized, bulbous vehicle that aped the Ford Mustang down to its 5.0-liter V8, this low tier of the SL class became a music-video fixture during its era, but this two-seater couldn't maintain its presence. Its 228-horsepower engine was dwarfed by the 500SL's 322-horsepower V8. Considering that the $43,000 people paid for the 500SL comes out to $96,000 today, the 300SL has no business taking that name at that discount price. Owners of the far pricier gullwing SLS have far more claim to the 300SL legacy than this byproduct of a bad era.

2. 1982-92 Pontiac Firebird
2. 1982-92 Pontiac Firebird

Current value: $3,500 to $5,000

After the "Smokey and the Bandit" models of the late '70s, Pontiac decided to overhaul Camaro clone by giving it a sleeker, more plastic body, pop-up headlights and a glass hatchback. This was the Knight Rider Firebird, but it turned out that Firebird was fairly lame without the LED lights in front, the British talking computer and turbo boost. The base model had the absolute rubbish four-cylinder "Iron Duke" engine at all its 90 horsepower. Even the V6 upgrade only took it to 102 horsepower. If you wanted a Corvette engine without the benefit of actually owning a Corvette, that bumped you up to165 horsepower. Though horsepower would eventually exceed 200 (with modified versions exceeding 350) and a Corvette suspension would make it more fun to drive the Firebird continued to feel like the poor man's muscle car.

1. 1983-92 Volkswagen Golf GTI
1. 1983-92 Volkswagen Golf GTI

Current value: $2,000 to $3,000

So, coming out of a decade of oil crisis, you say nobody wanted a 1.8-liter, four-cylinder, 110-horsepower hatchback -- despite it being more powerful than most of the four-cylinder ponies on this list? Yeah, even the sporty-looking GTI version was still a boxy two-door compact with no space. It sold so poorly that it forced the closure of an assembly plant in Pennsylvania. Motor Trend named the GTI its Car of the Year in 1985, but buyers still liked the Jetta better (trunks were a big deal at the time). The Jetta went on to become a '90s icon and Volkswagen's most successful U.S. vehicle. The GTI would fare better years later.

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