The 1990s saw the resurgence of the sports car, in the wake of the Mazda MX-5. We’ve picked out three of our favourite late-90s performance roadsters, to assess the market as it stands.
Porsche Boxster (1996-2004)
The Porsche Boxster was the result of some serious marketing sense. By using the same front end as the 911 on a new, mid engined small sports car, Porsche could not only save on production tooling but sell the 911 dream to a whole new audience. While mid engined and convertible, the project had some of the feel of the 912 about it – as well as evoking that car’s 914 successor. It became a firm favourite, and Boxster based models make up a significant chunk of the Porsche range to this day.
Broadly speaking, there are three first-generation Boxsters. The early cars used a 2.5-litre flat six, which while powerful wasn’t blessed with much in the way of torque. This was remedied by the fitment of a larger 2.7-litre variant in 1999, which received a further power increase for 2003. Concurrent with this upgrade was the launch of a 3.2-litre Boxster S, which effectively halved the power jump between the Boxster and the 911. This car soon became popular with driving enthusiasts, and retains a loyal following.
The last five years have seen a slow but steady upward trend in Boxster values, averaging approximately 5-10% per year. While it’s not set for a meteoric rise, it’s certainly a car which has a good investment potential and shouldn’t lose you money if you buy well.
Mercedes SLK (1996-2003)
Mercedes could see the way the market was going – and needed a small roadster of its own to combat what it felt was the near certainty of rivals form Audi and BMW. And it had a jewel in the crown in the shape of the surprisingly good 190E chassis – compact, with multilink rear suspension, fitted with a powerful enough engine it would be ideal. The plan was to use the M104 straight six, but weight distribution ruled this out. Instead, the M111 four was supercharged to produce exactly the same power as the 2.8-litre six.
It was a hit, too – with waiting lists stretching several months from launch, the SLK was that rare thing – a car which attracted a premium used for several months, as the waiting list was too long for many to want to wait.
SLK values have been uneven, largely owing to changes in the quality of cars being offered. At present they appear to be depreciating, which means that the next few months could be a clever time to buy as prices drop ahead of another rise.
Honda S2000 (1999-2009)
In 1999, Honda launched the S2000 – a fortieth birthday present to itself to celebrate the launch of its first passenger car in 1959. That car, the S500, was a tiny little sportscar – and Honda’s S2000 was a Boxster rivalling roadster ready for the 21st century. VTEC technology meant that it could rev its way to a demented 8800rpm, and its up to the minute styling meant it proved popular.
And the S2000 never really got cheap – not like so many of its contemporaries. A strong enthusiast following has always meant that S2000 values have stayed buoyant, making it a sensible investment for those looking to have fun with their savings.
The S2000 market has been climbing, though interestingly the very nicest cars have seen little movement in the last five years. All the movement has been at the bottom of the market, bringing up average values we suspect by dint of there being better examples for sale and a wider audience. However, £15,000 as a ceiling is still realistic, with it being possible to get something decent and usable for around £10,000.