In this Market Trends we take a look at three 1990’s coupés; the Ford Probe, Vauxhall Calibra and VW Corrado…
Ford Probe (1993-1997)
The 1990s follow-up to the long-lived Capri was cast in the shadow of doubt over the entire sports car market at the time. All signs seemed to point to SUVs on the aspirational end and economical compact cars on the other. The era of sports cars appeared to be drawing to an end, but as it turned out it wouldn’t go down easy. Following Mazda’s hugely popular MX-5, not to mention its experience in challenging the transaxle Porsches with the RX-7, Ford could be seen as lucky to have had its new Probe based on the MX-6 platform. For a long time, many enthusiasts didn’t see it this way. Unlike its iconic predecessor, values of the Probe have languished at the bottom of the market despite their relative rarity.
Today, there are suggestions of value appreciation, with the very best examples starting to distance themselves from the general £500-£1000 market. This is only to be expected as numbers left on the road fall. Of those registered with the DVLA in 2009, only 10% remain, and in this light of dramatic scarcity, the Probe’s quality of drive and distinctive style is beginning to capture enough enthusiasts’ attention. Finding a good one today is tricky, and you can pay as much as £3000 for a particularly nice example – and even a bit more for the 2.5 V6 models. Even five years ago, it really wasn’t the case to have to spend so much on any Ford Probe, and the classifieds offered far more options for the interested buyer. On the up, but still only slowly.
Vauxhall Calibra (1989-1997)
The Calibra made an impact as soon as it was introduced, not least for its claim of most aerodynamic production car – even if that were only the low-output 8-valve 110bhp model. It almost didn’t matter that its dynamic repertoire was lifted from the relatively staid Cavalier. Its sleek bodyshell attracted plenty of admiration from the buying public nonetheless. A confirmed folk classic, it’s just reaching its vintage and is strikingly 1990s.
Vauxhall’s marketing of the Turbo 4×4 models, just as for its Cavalier, was a clever move to stir continued interest in the range at the time and has continued into the classic market. These 204bhp rockets can command way above £4000-£5000, but it’s telling that good condition 16-valve and 2.5 V6 models from the mainstream range can now be commonly seen up at £2000, £3000, and even more if the condition, mileage, provenance is right. In fact, the prospect of a Calibra under £2000 has been a rarity for over 5 years, and there is an undeniable shift in the market towards well-kept cars asking for – and getting – higher numbers. Only project cars now roam £500-£1500 region, but that these are able to take such amounts even when requiring welding or mechanical work shows that there is good demand for Vauxhall’s 1990s coupe. Gone are the days of letting these cars disappear.
VW Corrado (1998-1995)
The one that all the motoring press loved was the Volkswagen Corrado. Towards the least dramatic end of the 1990s coupe styling range, the relatively austere wedge-shaped Corrado was perhaps too serious for its own good. But with so few sold and a cult following for VW icons, the dynamic talents of this car weren’t to be ignored. The classic Volkswagen balance of light but feel-some controls was arguably perfected in this refined sporting platform. Its handling was finely damped, responsive, predictable, and packaged together with some great engines. The usual four-cylinders were available, also in applauded G60 form with supercharger, as well as what is heralded as the gem of the range – the 2.9 litre, 190bhp VR6. This top engine offers convincing performance, sharp responses, and a noise to remember, but today it will cost you.
Base Corrados aren’t cheap, but a VR6 can be double the price. That means a £2000 car becomes £4000, but the best examples can be £5000 and £10,000, showing quite a range for collectors’ condition cars against the scruffier ones. Those with the G60 specification engine are also quite desirable and were, with the VR6, the first to have shot up in value at the beginning of the 2010s. From average values of £3500 in 2014, the Corrado range now hinges around £7000, making it a considerable purchase for the enthusiast – a top purchase for a VW fan, even above Scirocco money. Room for more? Good question.