Swade’s 7 ‘Investment’ Cars For Less Than $30,000


I recently featured 7 classic car investments for rich people here on site with the promise that Gavin and I could come up with lists of our own.

The terms and conditions:

  • The budget is for a maximum of A$30,000
  • You must be able to show an example of the car for sale somewhere in the world under that price (at a current rate of exchange).
  • The car has to be interesting.
  • The writer should be able to provide some short theory as to why it’s a possible long-term proposition for making a little money (or, at the very least, not losing you (much) money if you look after it properly).

Gavin’s already published his list. Now it’s my turn.

Here we go. Investment cars, a-la Swado.


Porsche 911

Predictable, I know. But there’s a reason for that.

Want evidence that a classic 1980’s 911 is holding it’s price? I can’t find one under $30K to show you that’s a) Australian delivered, and b) unmodified. Those are the two basic criteria for buying a 911 here in Oz and a year ago, I would have had a bunch to show you. Now, not so much.

The 911 is always in demand but as with all older cars, the good ones are getting harder to find as time passes and climbing in price as a result. Get a good one and you’ll do well. Get a dud and the bills will be like an anchor around your neck.

This UK-spec 911SC Coupe was imported into Australia and looks neat for $28K, but you’d want to check underneath for rust. Imports will always be worth a little less than Australian delivered models, but you shouldn’t lose anything if the car’s in good shape.

Porsche 911SC

For the best chance at appreciation, buy one delivered in your local market, especially if you live in a relatively dry climate. There’ll be less hassle with specifications meeting local standards, no poor steering conversions to worry about and if you’re in a country like Australia, very little concern about rust.

For you US types, a 1971 911T recently showed up on Craigslist for $25K. I didn’t see what price it ended up selling for, but after it was featured on Bring A Trailer the owner received more than 400 enquiries. I have a feeling the price went up after that. But it just goes to show that they DO become available at good prices sometimes.

Lancia Fulvia

How could I not have a Fulvia on this list? It’s not just here because I like it, though. This is a real value-holder and in the right spec (and at the right price), a genuine investment.

The Fulvia is an acquired taste but in the 12 months or so that I’ve been interested in them, I’ve noted that there’s a definite audience interested in this beautifully engineered Italian. They generally sell for less than $30K. You’re more likely to pay in the region of $15K for a good basic car and $20K-upwards for one in really good condition.

I can’t find a current ad to show from Australia, but the 1600HF Lusso I shared here last month proves that if you’re patient enough, even a 1600 HF Lusso (series 2) can become available for under $30K.


The early 1600 HF’s are the real collector cars but the value pick is probably the 1300 Rallye S from the first series, which have the alloy hood, doors and boot lid. They’re good buying, great driving, they look absolutely beautiful and definitely hold their value.

Mercedes Benz 380SL

Mercedes SL’s can be hot property, but most of the real investment-grade cars are already well over our $30K ceiling. A good R107 should provide some wonderful motoring without hurting your hip pocket, however, and they can be found in outstanding condition at this money.

I’ve picked a 380SL for my sample because if I was to buy a car like this, I’d want the V8. One of the real money spinners is the 280SL from around 10 years earlier. The gullwing’s in another class all together, of course.

Mercedes Benz 380SL

Consider this beauty, for sale in Canberra for $25,000 right now. It looks magnificent in red with a cream leather interior and woodgrain. It’s old enough to look absolutely classic but young enough to have electric everything and ABS, too. Soft-top and hard-top, naturally.

Maserati Ghibli GT

Here’s one for sale for $32K (the lowest priced Ghibli GT available in Oz), which is a little over budget but a skilled negotiator could pick it up in the high-20’s, I’m sure. You’d want to change the wheels to something a little more age-appropriate, but other than the wheels it’s a pretty nice looking piece of machinery.


This is a risky pick because Maseratis of this era tend to make your average punter run a mile in the other direction. Prices can go low for the BiTurbo but they’re pretty stable for the Ghibli, and the 100th birthday of Maserati, along with current desirability associated with the brand, means they could be poised for some reassessment by the motoring fraternity.

The second iteration of the Ghibli, built from the early 90’s to the late 90’s suffered from being related to the un-revered BiTurbo of the previous decade. Like many cars of similar tainted origin, however, the Ghibli is the type of car that addressed the problems of its forebear and can actually represent really good performance value thanks to it’s poor lineage acting like a boat anchor on its price. They’re reputed to be very reliable, but scheduled maintenance has to be done and the costs can be high.

Now, that’s not necessarily a recipe for value appreciation, but given the exotic nature of the Maserati name, the brand’s recent success and the generous performance and luxury levels of the Ghibli, it might just be one to be recognised. One of the problems, however, is that you’re looking at a very niche vehicle. In order to sell you have to have a buyer and there aren’t a lot of those for 90’s Maseratis.

Call it a very speculative pick.

The Ghibli GT had a 2.8 V6 with a twin-turbo setup that produced around 284hp. It moves. And I could live with a sound like this, too 🙂


The Shark’s already a popular BMW classic and can be had for around $20K in pretty good condition. The smart money’s on the M model, however, with its extra grunt and M badge appeal that helps to hold the car’s value.

The M635CSi has the hi-po version of BMW’s creamy straight-six making just over 280hp. That’s nice rather than nefarious by today’s standards, but it was extremely competitive in the early-mid 1980’s and a big step up from the 215hp offered in the non-M version.

The styling is superb and the interior is well equipped and comfortable.


The 6-series is already a favourite amongst classic BMW fans. To have a genuine M version of the car only makes it more popular and that means demand = price retention or even appreciation over time.

The car shown here is for sale in Australia but is of UK origin so you’d want to make sure it’s cancer-free. At $29,900 the price is right if the car checks out. Other M6’s are selling for up to $10K more.

Alfa 105 Coupe 1750

As with the 911 and Fulvia, I’ve been watching Alfa 105 Coupe sales for some times now. And as with the 911 (less so with the Fulvia as they’re not so readily available) the prices for a decent one seem to be going up. Especially for the sweet-spot 1750 engine models.

It wasn’t so long ago that I could show you a number of 105’s around the $10-$15K mark and they would have all been decent, turn-key classics that you could happily take to your Alfa club meeting or on a nice Sunday drive. 1750’s are in shorter supply, however, and the good ones are all starting around $20K now and go up from there.

Alfa 1750

This one’s for sale right now for $21,000 and the only 1750 selling for less is a $6500 project that you wouldn’t touch unless you had a bunch of time and money to pour into it.

The market says they’re going up right now, but I’d be a little nervous as those $15K cars might hit the sales pages again once their new owners have had their fun. But a properly sorted 1750 (if that’s what this is – buyer beware) is at that point where the good ones are rare enough to be very desirable and unlike the Ghibli, above, you’re selling into a much bigger potential ownership base.

Volvo P1800 S

I’m not sure that a Volvo will ever be considered as a real investment, but if there was ever a Volvo that might, it’d be the P1800.

It’s the most beautiful Volvo ever made, with timeless exterior styling and a beautiful interior to match, especially the early interiors like the one on this 1966 car, for sale right now in Queensland for $26,000.

Volvo P1800S

Some people like the shooting-brake ES model but I much prefer the coupe styling of the S. The P1800 is no race car with it’s 4-cyl 1780cc engine but it’ll get down the road nicely and if you want to know about reliability, just ask Irv Gordon, who’s passed the 3-million mile mark in his P1800 S since that video was made.

As I said, it’s not likely to go up, but if it’s looked after properly, a good P1800 S is very unlikely to go down.


So there they are: my 7 classic investment cars for under $30,000 – cars that I reckon have some potential to make you a little bit of money (or at least prevent you losing much money). Do your homework, though, as this isn’t investment advice. It’s just my opinion.

If you source them wisely and look after them properly then I think you’ll pay very little in rent over your ownership period and have a very enjoyable time driving them, too.

Over to you….

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  1. Strong list. All of these, save perhaps the Ghibili, will be solid investments for the next handful of years. As you noted, the Maserati is certainly not your easiest sale and that’s the rub.

    I particularly like the P1800, always have. The Bimmer 6-series wouldn’t have occurred to me, but it’s a solid pick.

  2. It’s definitely a good list. The Ghibli is the outlier, of course. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one in person. I’ve seen a few Biturbos, almost always with “for sale” signs.

    Every once in a while I will see a 2004+ Quattroporte around $30k. They are stunning cars, much better looking than the contemporary GranSport and competing German saloons, but I have to wonder if they would be financial quagmires.

    1. Maintance costs seems to be the big issue for these, especially the manumatic version. Was playing with the thought for a while though…

  3. You wouldn’t have considered an E9 3.0CS? They are getting really rare and will only go up. M6 is an awesome car. Don’t ask what they cost when new…BIG money in their day.

  4. I’d have to have the mid-late 1980’s Audi Quattro on my list. May not appreciate like many on this list, but I’d also have no problem driving in on a regular basis. I’d never buy a car that sat in the garage only to be driven to the occasional car show.

  5. Hi there,
    Last year, I actually bought that BMW M635CSi. I hadn’t come across your article beforehand but was surprised to see my car listed.

    Just bought the car off a gut feel that 80s euro and classic jap cars are under appreciated. Especially Ms and AMGs.

    I’ve had people making me offers, truth be told, I thought I was going to buy to flip it however after driving the car, I enjoy it too much to let it go, it’s a pretty special car and it’s given me great appreciation for the German engineering that’s gone into the car.

    Enough of my dribble just thought I’d share.


    Got it for lot less but after fixing a couple of things