5 Cars That Went From Sales Flops to Fortunes

There are some supercars in the market that are popular right out of the gate and hold their value. As CarScoops noted, the McLaren P1 and Ferrari Enzo are prime examples. Then, there are other specialty cars that completely flopped when they were released in the market, but are now worth a fortune. Here are five examples of cars that could barely be sold when new but now command an astronomical price tag.

1. BMW Z8

2003 - 2008 BMW Z8.
2003 – 2008 BMW Z8 | Paul Severn/ALLSPORT

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BMW only manufactured the Z8 from 2000 to 2003 and in limited quantities. According to Hot Cars, only 5,700 units were ever produced, so you can see why it’s worth a pretty penny in today’s market. It also helps that the BMW Z8 had a supporting role in a James Bond movie. Fame and rarity aside, what makes the BMW Z8 so cool is its sleek retro styling and surprisingly comfortable ride.

Under the hood was a 395-hp V8 engine from the M5, which was mated to a six-speed manual transmission. However, you could get an automatic transmission if you opted for the Alpina version with a 4.8-liter V8. When it was new, the Z8 carried a price tag of around $128,000 but now you find them closer to $200,000.

2. McLaren F1

1995 McLaren F1 road car
1995 McLaren F1 road car | Getty Images

If you’re looking for one supercar to rule them all, then the McLaren F1 is it. The F1 featured a center-positioned driver’s seat with two seats on either side, so in some sense, it was practical. Of course, it was very fast too. Its power came from a BMW-sourced 6.1-liter V12 engine that pumped out 618 hp and 470 lb-ft of torque. The F1 could also go from 0-100-0 in just 11.4 seconds, reports Supercars.net.

Performance aside, what makes the McLaren F1 even more special is that the automaker built only 106. Of those, only 64 were road cars, so sales were scant back in 1992 when it came out. In today’s market, you can find pristine models valued at around $17 million, although one model recently sold for $20.5 million.

3. Lexus LFA

2012 LEXUS LFA
2012 LEXUS LFA in yellow. | Getty Images

As CarScoops puts it, “it’s hard to call the Lexus LFA a flop.” It truly considering Lexus did sell the 500 units it allotted during its production run. However, it took almost a decade to sell all of those LFAs. The car was produced in 2010 and priced at $375,000, but customers were still taking ownership as of 2019. Maybe it was the high price that frightened any prospective buyers. But one thing’s for sure, it wasn’t the car’s performance.

The Lexus LFA is powered by a naturally aspirated 552-hp V10 that sounds like nothing else on the road. Its front-mid-engine layout also means that it handles extremely well. In today’s market, the LFA is valued anywhere from $750,000 to $1 million, so it’s definitely worth a fortune.

4. BMW M1

1980 BMW M1 in red
1980 BMW M1 in red. | Getty Images

Before the BMW M3 came the M1, which has an interesting past. As the story goes, Jochen Neerpasch founded BMW’s M division in 1972 and planned to race in the Group 4 and Group 5 divisions of the European Touring Car Championship. Since BMW didn’t have a mid-engine sports car to race in the series, it commissioned Lamborghini to build it. But Lamborghini ended up getting behind schedule when it came time to deliver the cars.

BMW terminated the contract with Lambo and had Bauer build the cars instead. However, it now needed to build 400 cars before the M1 could race in the series. Neerspach ended up convincing the Formula 1 Constructor’s Association to let the M1 race in a one-make series instead. So the automaker ended up having to sell the cars that it produced, albeit for a low price at the time. However, in today’s market, the fabled BMW M1 is now worth around $440,000.

5. Chevrolet Camaro ZL1

A of 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1s
A group of 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1s | Unsplash

The original 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 was a homologation car that was built so that the American automaker could race in the NHRA super stock drag racing class. Back then, the ZL1 package was a $4,160 option that included an all-aluminum V8 that generated 430 hp. It’s too bad no one really opted for it. Only 50 Camaro ZL1s were sold at the time, which means that you can expect a clean example to sell for anywhere from $600,000 to $1 million in today’s market.

Car sales flops to fortunes

This short list of cars shows that striking while the iron is hot if you can afford it, is always a good idea. Of course, no one has a crystal ball to know what any car will be worth in the future, but the lesson here is that if a car seems too rare to live at the time, it’ll be even rarer in the future.

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