Twelve grand for a Hemi Cuda?! Hindsight is 20/20, as these automotive classified ads from the 1980s demonstrate with painful clarity. These listings for a Corvette L88, a Buick GNX and the aforementioned Cuda will have car buffs wishing they’d picked up the phone 30 years ago (and the former owners regretting what were likely the biggest mistakes of their lives).

1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88 Coupe

From: Hemmings Motor News

Date: December 1983

Price then: $37,500 ($90,000 adjusted for inflation, about the cost of a new 2015 Corvette Z06, 3LZ today)

Price now: $2,100,000 - $3,650,000

Approximate dollar difference: $3,560,000 (assuming No. 1 condition)

Approximate annual rate of return: 12.2%

1967 Corvette L-88 Coupe: One of 21 built, car built June 1967. 11,000 original miles, black, black interior, dual factory exhaust, steel wheels, redline tires, original gas tank sticker with car. This is the finest L-88 Corvette in the USA. This is the last Corvette from our extensive Corvette collection to be sold. $37,500.

New for 1967, the Corvette came with the race-ready 427 using the RPO code L88. Rated (or severely underrated according to most) at 430 hp, this engine option alone cost about as much as the base Corvette. That’s why only 20 (not the stated 21 in the ad) were ordered for 1967, making it the rarest and most sought after year for this option. To find a low-mileage car in a desirable black-on-black color combination is a once-in-a-lifetime find for someone in 1983 with the extra money to pick it up. The real question here is would you cash in today for the  millions or just enjoy the car?

1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda

From: Hemmings Motor News

Date: December 1983

Price then: $12,000 ($28,800 adjusted for inflation, about the cost of a new 2015 Dodge Grand Caravan today)

Price now: $160,000 - $358,000

Approximate dollar difference: $329,200 (assuming No. 1 condition)

Approximate annual rate of return: 8.1%

CUDA: 1971 hemi 4-speed, 383 miles original, black with white interior, $12,000.

It is hard to argue against the fact that the 1971 Plymouth Hemi Cuda is probably the most sought after muscle car of them all. It has everything going for it: rarity (only 59 hardtops were ordered with a Hemi and 4-speed), looks and power. Granted, the convertible is the rarest and most desired, but we'd be willing to bet that the hardtop is a good enough alternative for most people. This low-mileage example is a collector’s dream, especially when you consider that a 1970 Hemi Cuda with 81 miles was bid up to $450,000 at auction just a few months ago. This 1971 is most certainly an investment grade car that you don’t often see come to market.

1987 Buick GNX

From: Hemmings Motor News

Date: March 1989

Price then: $35,000 ($67,300 adjusted for inflation, about the cost of a new 2015 Chevrolet Corvette Z51 today)

Price now: $54,400 - $122,000

Approximate dollar difference: $54,700 (assuming No. 1 condition)

Annual rate of return: 2.3%

Buick: GNX, #304, perfect car, 90 miles. $35,000

The Buick GNX is probably one of the most sinister looking American cars to come out of the 1980s and also happens to be one of the most collectible. The turbocharged V-6 and McLaren-developed suspension proved to everyone that despite emission and fuel economy regulations, you could still buy a fun and fast car. With only 547 produced, these cars became instant collectibles. Many were driven just enough to give the owner a power fix before they were shoved into a garage to sit. Luckily these cars have appreciated over time, but when you consider the cost to store and maintain the car, the modest return on investment doesn’t put you very far into the black.

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