Any mutual fund that racks up decent performance will eventually earn investors' attention. Its inflows will increase, and managers may soon find themselves swamped with assets. Sometimes, management may close the fund to new investors to keep net assets from weighing down the investment process. There are several excellent closed funds out there, and investors who bought in before they shut their doors should consider themselves lucky.

If you weren't so fortunate, don't despair. Check your 401(k) menu of fund options. Closed funds often remain open to current shareholders; if your retirement plan offers the fund, it's likely you can still get into it. This three-part series will examine some of the best of these closed funds, starting with large-cap contenders.

Dodge & Cox Stock (DODGX)
This fund, with more than four decades on the market, is run by a team of portfolio managers at value shop Dodge & Cox. Funds like this, which employ a true team process rather than assigning each manager a single portfolio, should earn extra points with investors. Management looks for undervalued stocks whose three- to five-year potential is not currently reflected in their price. Right now, the fund favors positions in Hewlett-Packard (NYSE:HPQ), Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA), and Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT).

Performance here has been excellent -- in the past decade, the fund lost money only in 2002. It did lag the broader market in the late 1990s, but that's no surprise, given its value orientation. With remarkable consistency, the fund has landed in the top quartile of its peer group in seven of the past 10 years. Low annual turnover of 14% and an impressive 0.52% expense ratio add to this fund's appeal. Dodge & Cox Stock, which closed in early 2004, is truly one of the best large-cap funds on the market today. I only wish I'd gotten in before the doors shut.

Vanguard Primecap (VMPCX)
Vanguard Primecap is sub-advised by Pasadena, California-based Primecap Management. Six portfolio managers each run a sleeve of the portfolio, though all maintain a similar focus and investment process. Primecap utilizes a contrarian growth strategy to find stocks with good long-term growth potential. Currently, the fund appears to bet biggest on health care, which composes more than 22% of fund assets. Its top 10 holdings include Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) and Novartis (NYSE:NVS).

Primecap has achieved the holy grail of investing for growth funds -- beating both a growth benchmark and the broader S&P 500 Index during the past decade. That's no small feat, considering the beating growth stocks have taken since 2000. The fund had a more lackluster 2006, hurt by some of its technology and health-care calls, but still returned a respectable 12%. Primecap fans should note that a newer, smaller version of the fund, Vanguard Primecap Core (VPCCX), debuted in 2004 and is currently open to new investment.

Fidelity Contrafund (FCNTX)                                                                          
Fidelity Contrafund has also recently topped the broader market. Manager William Danoff has run the fund since late 1990. Under his watch, Contrafund looks for fast-growing companies with potential for meaningful profit growth, such as top holdings Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE:BRK-A), and Genentech (NYSE:DNA). Although Contrafund closed to new investment last year, the fund's asset base totals more than $70 billion, which could make Danoff's job more difficult going forward.

Despite a less-than-impressive showing in 2006, Contrafund's performance has been terrific. This fund more closely matches its typical growth-oriented peers, posting its largest gains in the late 1990s, and losing money during the bear market of 2000-2002. Its recent results were probably helped by its international investments -- right now, Contrafund invests roughly 20% of its portfolio abroad. Its current 23% allocation to financial services has also likely boosted returns. Slightly high turnover, at 76%, doesn't diminish the fund's overall attractiveness.

That's it from the large-cap equity world. In Part 2, we'll focus on top-notch small-cap funds closed to new business.

Further always-open Foolishness:

Shannon Zimmerman's Motley Fool Champion Funds can help you find the best mutual funds for your portfolio. Start your free 30-day trial today.

Fool contributor Amanda Kish lives in Rochester, N.Y., and does not own shares of any of the companies or funds mentioned herein. Berkshire Hathaway and Wal-Mart are Inside Value recommendations, while Eli Lilly is an Income Investor pick. The Fool's disclosure policy never closes.