By William La Jeunesse
Published January 22, 2020
The event each year in Scottsdale attracts some 300,000 enthusiasts of classic and collectible cars. Some are affordable, many are not, but buyers don’t have to be a millionaire to get involved.
“This year I am looking for a ’55, ’56 or ’57 Chevy Nomad wagon,” Montana car dealer Bill Rundle said.
Lisa Vecchi of Minneapolis found her dream car just inside the front door. “Right over here, this is the one I want,” she said. “The white Corvette with the red interior. It is a cool, classic design you don’t see anymore.”
Every collector starts somewhere – and like any investment, price is a function of supply and demand. Fox News asked owner Craig Jackson where the market has been going and how the average car lover could get in for $10,000 to $30,000.
“You have to look at what people who are now coming into disposable income grew up wanting and grew up around,” Jackson said. “And, it doesn’t have to be a two-seat roadster. It can be what they wanted or couldn’t afford. Look at the demographics, then look at what car was hot when they were growing up. Usually within that group, there are sleeper cars that haven’t been picked up yet.”
So, the market for pre-1960 cars may be peaking. Baby boomers, once flush with disposable income from their prime earning years, are now entering retirement, with many getting stingy with savings and worried about health care.
By contrast, many younger buyers, raised on movies like “Fast & Furious,” have been seeking out the cars of their youth, suggesting a stronger, growing market for 1980s and early-1990s vehicles.
Without naming individual models, Jackson pointed to two groups he’s expecting to appreciate: the Japanese cars in the 1970s and 1980s, and cars with manual transmissions, or stick shifts. Another rule of thumb for collectors: Try to find rare cars within a model group – the first or last in a product line – and cars with manufacturer enhancements, such as a more powerful engine or specialty trim available only on a handful of cars.
Some sleeper cars that could be headed higher may include Toyota MR2s; Pontiac Fieros; Nissan 280 and 300 Z-cars; and AMC Gremlins and Pacers. The Barrett-Jackson auction recently sold a 1997 Toyota Supra Anniversary Edition for $176,000 and a 21-year-old, four-cylinder Acura Integra R for $63,800.
Unlike 1960 and 1970 muscle cars, which may be impossible to find at reasonable prices, some early SUVs are starting to appreciate – including Ford Broncos and Chevy Blazers, Jackson said.
While boomers looked for Chevy Chevelle Super Sports and 427 ’Vettes, younger buyers may want Honda VTECs and their 7,000 rpm redlines.
At Barrett-Jackson, cars auctioned early in the week carried lower prices and often presented clues as to where a market might be going. This year’s group included a 1985 Chevy K5 Blazer for $20,350, a 1970 International Harvester Travelall, a ’67 VW Beetle for $20,900 and a 1988 Toyota SR5 pickup for $21,450.
Collecting cars isn’t cheap. First of all comes garage space, then there’s restoration costs and upkeep. And, while one can’t drive stocks and bonds, the lower the miles, the higher the value. So, there’s always a balance between the joy of ownership and the depreciation coming with it.
“The first rule is – love what you buy,” Jackson said. “Don’t just buy what you think is going to go up in value. Buy what touches your heart.”
Investing in cars that become collectibles can be wise, but there are no guarantees they’ll appreciate. It’s like picking stocks – who knew in 1980 that Google or the DeLorean would make investors rich. Yet, that didn’t stop buyers in last week’s auction in Scottsdale from trying to pick the next ’67 Camaro.
Here are some expert predictions for those hoping to get in for less than a fortune. Let’s start with the last three years’ recommendations from Hagerty’s, the high-end auto insurance underwriter.
2000–2006 BMW M3
1976–1986 Jeep CJ-7
1989–2001 Mercedes-Benz SL
1994–1998 Toyota Supra Turbo
2001–2005 Porsche 911 Turbo
1993–2002 Pontiac Firebird Firehawk
1969–1972 Chevrolet Blazer
1972-73 BMW 3.0
1997-2004 Porsche Boxter
1984-93 Saleen Mustang
1996 Corvette Grand Sport
2004-07 Subaru Impreza WRX STI
1970-95 Land Rover Range Rover
1970-76 Porsche 914
1998-2002 BMW M Roadster
1984-2001 Jeep Cherokee
1997-2001 Acura Integra Type R
1988-91 Honda CRX SI
1971-80 International Harvester Scout
1999-2005 Ferrari 360
1990–95 Volkswagen Corrado
A panel of experts hosted by American Car Collector magazine at the Barrett auction last week offered this list:
1997 Dodge Viper
1969 Dodge Charger, Buick Riviera, Buick Grand National
1990-95 Corvette ZR1, Dodge Ramcharger SUV
1983-86 Ford F150
1965 Chevrolet C-10 Pickup, Dodge Viper, Jeep Wagoneer
1960-63 Chevrolet C-10
Cadillac CTS-V, Pontiac G8 GT
In 2015, Road and Track magazine included these models:
Cadillac CTS-V Wagon
Audi TT RS
Subaru WRX STI
Pontiac Solstice coupe
Dodger SRT Viper
Porsche Boxster Spyder / Cayman R
Chevrolet SS/Pontiac G8 GXP