How to spot the collectable luxury cars of the future

Earlier this year a 1967 Ferrari 330 GTC Speciale sold for US$3.4 million ($4.7 million).

The car was among the last of the great coach-built Ferraris and the third of only four ever made of this specific model. Plus, it had a 300-horsepower V12 engine and thrilling 5- speed manual transmission. It looked like your wildest dream embodied in rubber and steel.

It's no surprise, then, that such a gem sold for so much money: it was rare, it was beautiful, and it was special. Which may make you wonder: What cars being made today will eventually be just as collectable?

What is 'collectable'?

In its simplest form, a car is considered collectable when it is "the fun car you don't have to have," says Hagerty President McKeel Hagerty. From a valuation standpoint, a car becomes recognised as collectable once it is fully depreciated and has started increasing in value. It is fully collectable once it has appreciated past its original purchase price.

If enough time passes, almost anything is collectable, and that includes cars.

Karl Brauer

"The general rule of thumb is it takes 25 years for a vehicle to fully depreciate and start climbing in value," Hagerty said. But in the past few years he has seen enthusiast- oriented vehicles (think 2000s-era Pontiac GTO) fully depreciate in 10-15 years before they start their climb. That's when it becomes interesting – if you're smart about it, you can find some pleasantly undervalued automotive gems that, given a few years, will retain and even increase in value.

Scroll through the gallery above to see the most collectable new cars on the market.

What pushes the pricing? The usual things: How many of them were made, how well they fared on the racetrack, how beautiful they are, and the veritable prestige of their mother brand. It explains why, say, a Honda Accord is not collectable and a Ferrari 488 is.

"Most modern cars drop in value immediately and keep going down and never come back," said Karl Brauer, the senior editor of Kelley Blue Book. "But if something is truly collectable, after some time, they will eventually swing back up and keep going. It just takes more than a year or two."

How to spot a gem

Hagerty recently assembled a team of analysts to produce a list of the new cars most likely to do just that. Stipulations included that the car must be produced within the 2016 model year and must have an MSRP of less than $100,000.

Such models as the $65,900 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider and the $51,700 BMW M2 took top billing. They are likely to appreciate by double-digit percentage points because of their pureness of design, their superior performance among their competitors, and the strength of their brands.

The 4C captures Alfa's famous race-track finesse in a skin akin to the much more expensive old Ferrari 360 Modena; the M2 showcases BMW's rich heritage-it echoes the 2002tii and the Z3 M coupe-and it is being replaced by a new model this year, which means that it falls at a great point in the spectrum of BMW's historical lineup.

Others, such as the $37,295 Chevrolet Camaro SS, $89,090 Dodge Viper SRT Coupe, and the $60,465 Cadillac ATS-V, embody American tradition. The new Camaro SS follows last year's debut of the new Mustang, so it had to be good. And it is great, bringing a 455-horsepower V8 engine with its brawny body and wide-open grille.

Meanwhile, that Cadillac was created to dominate similar cars from BMW (the M3) and Mercedes (the MG C63). It has a smaller V6 engine but gets 464 horsepower and even comes with an (increasingly rare on sports cars) six-speed manual transmission. So it stands out in its category.

Anything becomes collectable

The other vehicles on the list are mostly mass produced or limited versions of a mass-produced vehicle. They include the $62,195 Ford Mustang GT350R and the $84,600 Porsche Cayman GT4. Their manageable pricing doesn't necessarily hurt their allure: desirability is often driven by rarity and enhanced performance or trim packages. A Ford Focus even made the list. Thirty years from now, the RS model of that line will have a much greater following that a standard-production Focus hatchback in similar condition. It's the Alfa-Romeo Giulia Super of the future, say.

"If enough time passes, almost anything is collectable, and that includes cars," Brauer said. "Any sort of special car with an enthusiast following, including Camaros and Mustangs, if you stick it away for 30 years and don't drive it much, it's going to be collectable."

In today's market, and because of platform sharing (what automakers do to save money-they create one version of an underbody, as it were, for a model they can sell globally rather than many different versions tailored to specific regions), the sub-$100,000 luxury car is not that much different from a brand's nonluxury counterparts. They're all pretty good; the differentiation relies mostly on options and branding.

What's more, plenty of contemporary mainstream models-the Mazda MX-5 Miata, for instance-have stronger enthusiast followings than those of similar luxury examples. That means they'll be highly valued three decades from now. It'll just take some time to get there.

"If you have a car-at any price that is extremely beautiful, it helps a lot," Brauer said. "But you really have to think about how long you're willing to wait."

Big ticket items

Of course, to really reach the highest echelon of collecting, you have to go exotic. Most Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins, Bugattis, McLarens, and the like will be highly collectable, so it's interesting to consider the lesser-known versions of these brands.

Following the same philosophy as before-that limited- edition and higher-trim levels will retain their allure better-consider such cars as the Aston Martin Vantage V12 GT3 Special Edition, the Dodge Viper ACR Extreme, and the Jaguar F- Type SVR Coupe.

Elsewhere, the $400,000 Ford GT-Ford's Ferrari-fighting throwback halo car that recently raced in the Rolex 24-Hour Daytona raceLINK-and Porsche-fighting $130,000 Mercedes AMG GT SL are also locks for collectability. They're loud, aggressive, and rare drivers. Perfect to be treasured for a long time.

What to watch for

Thinking of making a purchase? In today's market, the fastest-growing trend is the affinity for "poster cars" of the 1980s. The kids who grew up with those cars on their bedroom walls and in popular TV shows are now at a point in life to start collecting cars.

With newer items, avoid anything too utilitarian. Or at least be prepared for it to take twice as long to appreciate-a vehicle that is valued for practicality will take much longer to become collectable than a vehicle sought after for its performance and drivability appeal.

"Vintage station wagons now have a cult-like following and do show up at car shows," Hagerty said. "But it took more than double the amount of time than the performance vehicles of the same era."

The thing to remember is that cars should be enjoyed. Virtually any well-preserved auto example that is 30 years old will find a willing buyer who will appreciate it for more than just a basic form of transportation. So buy something you will have fun using. Cars must be driven to fully appreciate their mechanics and beauty-the investment value will follow naturally, if you're patient (and gentle on that stick).

"It's safe to say the majority of vehicles purchased for the fun factor will become collectable sooner," Hagerty said. "But you should give 100 percent consideration to it being a fun car that you want to own and be less concerned about how the masses will view it in the future."

In short, lean back, relax, and drive. And give it 30 years.

BLOOMBERG