By Bruce Nelson
This ones goin’ to be a classic
I have found over the years that anything that is “destined to be a classic” won’t be. At least that is the case in the automotive collectors market. Back in 1976, Cadillac announced the last of the American convertibles. It sold for about $17,000 new, although most dealers marked up this “sure classic” by a few thousand. A few years ago some of these started to surface with few, if any miles on them. Most were sold for between $12,000 and $17,000. To fetch this price, these had to have been stored indoors for 25 years. A great investment, considering inflation and all. Meanwhile during the 60s Ford decided to compete with the Corvette. They brought out the Cobra. A small sports car imported from the A.C. Company in England with a selection of ford V-8s. The final series with 427s. These cars were difficult to sell when new, nobody seemed to want them even for the price of aprox. $6,000. They have become the yardstick against which collector car prices are judged. Today they bring from $200,000 for a small motor, to close to $4,000,000 for a 427 coupe. I don’t think the salesman at the Ford dealer said they were destined to be a classic. Likewise, when I was younger, and in high school, my dad worked at a Chrysler/Plymouth dealer in Bellingham. I remember visiting him after school and looking at the 2 AAR cuda’s and 1 hemi cuda they couldn’t seem to give away. They ended getting less than they paid for all these now extremely valuable cars.
It seems that classic or collectable cars fall into 3 categories. 1: Rare. These are very limited production cars. Often they are so limited that they have been tracked for years as to their whereabouts. An example is a 1966 Cobra coupe that was missing. It surfaced a couple of years ago when the older woman owner died. The car sold for about $4,000,000 un-restored. The value of these is obvious due to supply and demand. 2: Milestone. These are often odd or the first of a new idea or series. An example of this is a 1966 Olds Toranado. It was the first modern design of a front wheel drive American car. 3: Desirable. This is a car that may not be rare, but most people would like to have one. A 1966 Mustang is an example of this. It is not rare, and was a re-bodied falcon. But how many red blooded Americans wouldn’t want one. Often these categories will be mixed. A 1964 GTO is both a milestone car as the first muscle car, and desirable.
Often a car that you may never think anyone would want becomes desirable. Both the Gremlin and the Pacer are sought after by collectors. One of the latest hot commodities is the station wagon. Nearly all pre 1973 wagons are beginning to be collected. Pre 1952 woodies (real wood) are extremely valuable today. The other type of car everyone seems to want is muscle cars. These cars made between 1964 and 1972 are the nostalgia cars that the baby boomers remember from their youth. The rule of thumb is that cars that didn’t sell well but were very good performing will go up in value. Also car styling is an interesting topic. It is a mystery why some styling works and some doesn’t. They all look good when they are new, but 10 years later, some look great, some just look old. Anyway, if I could tell all the cars that will go up in value, I’d be well to do, so I guess I don’t know everything. Look out for 1984-1986 Mustang SVO and 1988 Pontiac Fiero values in the future. Those are a couple of my picks that can be had cheaply now.
By Bruce Nelson
Last Update: 12/14/03