THREE CARS TO BUY, SELL OR HOLD RIGHT NOW
When it comes to the classic car market, studying the past performance of cars for sale — as well as similar models from the same manufacturer or even the same era — can allow us to see what’s coming, what’s going and what’s staying put. Based on historical market data gathered by Hagerty®, here are three cars to buy now, sell now or hold a while longer.
BUY: 1967–69 Chevrolet Camaro
If you’ve ever had a hankering for a first-generation Camaro, now might be a great time to get one. Sale prices for these handsome pony cars rose to a fever pitch during the muscle boom a decade ago, and many became unobtainable to average collectors. These days, order has been restored, and while the Camaro has been busy celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, prices have remained stable. The 33 rating means the first-gen cars aren’t gaining value at the same rate as the market at large, but they’re not depreciating, either, which makes them a bit of a bargain at the moment. The ’69s carry a bit of a premium, but as an example, you should be able to get into a good #3 driver-condition SS350 for about $26,000 – $34,000
SELL: 1968–83 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40
Remember that one time in 2014–15, when the market for FJ40s blew up before our eyes and average prices for #3 drivers just about doubled? Crazy. The ubiquitous Land Cruiser is still ahead of the market in its performance, as its 71 rating attests, but prices have been falling steadily (and dramatically) over the last year. This trend looks set to continue in the near future, so if you’ve got one and have been considering selling it, now’s the time. If you’ve owned it for a while, you may just make a decent return on it.
HOLD: 1985–96 Ferrari Testarossa/512TR
Arguably the most iconic car of the 1980s — yet still a product of the ’80s and thus somehow… “lesser” than its predecessors — the Testarossa held firm in the market for a good long time, with average prices unchanged from 2009 to late 2013. Then folks got wise to those deeply straked doors’ cool factor, and all hell broke loose. Or, more likely, blame it on the Gen Xers, who were finally able to buy the cars they lusted after throughout childhood. Even though auction cars still occasionally hit the jackpot, prices have generally leveled out. Best advice is to keep it in your garage, enjoy it, and keep an eye on the market. You may be setting yourself up for a nice gain down the road.
THE TOP FIVE ENTRY-LEVEL MUSCLE CARS
Muscle cars exist for one reason: To get down a straight two-lane blacktop as quickly as possible. But automakers have long paired performance options with convenience or luxury features, which invariably increase price and weight. And they’re easy to justify. After all, air conditioning and power switches are handy and only decrease speed marginally.
You could tick boxes for all sorts of power accessories, yet “adding lightness” improves every measure of a car’s performance. That’s why, usually, the most basic car with the biggest engine was the true racer’s choice. The classic car experts at Hagerty® have put together their top five choices for bare-bones muscle cars, listed chronologically.
1962 Plymouth Sport Fury Max Wedge: The Chrysler Corporation was struggling to find buyers in the early 1960s due to its “interesting” designs. Its solution was to cram bigger engines into the cars, which had been downsized from the previous generation, and take them racing. The 413-cid “Max Wedge” produced 410 horsepower in a car that weighed right around 3,000 lbs. The result was a sub-15-second quarter mile. It also turned up the heat on Ford and GM.
1967 Chevrolet Chevy II Nova SS: Take a bigger car’s engine and stuff it into a smaller, cheaper one. Boom – muscle car success. That’s what Chevy did when it dropped the Chevelle’s Turbo-Fire mill into the Chevy II. Displacing 327 cubic inches, it made 350 hp and turned the little Chevy II into a legitimate stoplight demon. While the 327 option debuted in 1965, the engine initially made 300 hp. We prefer the later, more powerful one.
1967 Ford Fairlane: In 1966 Ford revamped its Fairlane for the fifth time. The mid-level GT trim was equipped, standard, with the “FE” 390-cid V-8. It had a four-barrel carburetor and produced 335 horses. About halfway through the year, Ford offered an optional “R-code” 427-cubic-inch engine intended for racing but only built 57 of them. The following year, Ford’s Windsor (289-cid) became the standard V-8. However, the 427-cid V-8 was now optional on the entry-level Fairlane, the XL. For the most die-hard, two four-barrel carbs on the 427, combining to produce 425 horsepower, were the ultimate option.
1968 Dodge Dart GTS: Debuting late in 1967, the Dart GTS was arguably the model’s hottest trim level. In 1968, it came standard with a high-output 340-cid V-8. But for some this wasn’t enough, which is why Dodge offered an optional 383-cid monster. Still not enough? Well, Dodge was eyeing the Class B Super Stock drag racing championship and also offered 60 426-cid Hemi equipped Darts. These cars weigh about 3,000 lbs. and Dodge bragged that they were capable of “over 130 mph in less than 11 seconds” over a quarter mile. That they weren’t street legal and were only offered to well-known racers are minor details.
1970 Pontiac GT-37: “There’s a little GTO in every GT-37,” the advertising read. Pontiac’s sales share was rapidly slipping in 1970, so it offered a stripped Tempest, known as the T-37 to compete with other OEMs’ cheaper offerings. Soon enough, however, someone at Pontiac had the idea to liven up the model by stuffing larger motors under the hood. Indeed, that “little GTO” was the drivetrain – beginning with a 350-cid V-8 that made 255 hp. But if you were serious about cheap horsepower, the best option was the Ram Air III. Its 400 cubes produce 345 hp, and best of all it was insured as a Tempest, not a GTO.
CARS TO WATCH – FIVE “UNDER THE RADAR” CLASSIC CARS
Our friends at Hagerty® have put together their list of five classics that you probably haven’t given much thought to, but are quietly gaining a following:
1981-91 Isuzu Trooper II - Boxy, utilitarian early SUVs have an undeniable appeal as anyone who has lusted after a Land Rover Defender 110 or an early Range Rover can attest. A first-gen Trooper ticks some of those boxes – square, upright and simple, with decent off-road prowess, manual locking hubs and a manual transmission added appeal, as did an optional turbo diesel. Early Troopers are almost extinct in rust-belt states, but still turn up with some regularity on the West Coast. Nice ones can bring north of seven grand.
1986-95 Suzuki Samurai - Believe it or not, these capable little off-roaders are in demand. Asking prices are surprisingly steep – rust-free but ratty tin tops start at $3,500 for decent runners. Asking prices over ten grand for low mileage examples that haven’t been trashed by mudders, are not uncommon. You can’t make this stuff up.
1989-94 Nissan 240SX – Anyone not into drifting has likely either forgotten this car, or never knew it in the first place. A shame, it’s the Gen-X/Millennial 240Z. While not related in any way to the classic S30 Z car, it followed the same formula. Light weight, rear wheel-drive and a decent multi-link independent rear suspension made the 240SX genuinely entertaining to drive. The hatchback is what you want, although there was also a notchback and a rare ASC-built convertible. Good luck finding one that hasn’t been amateurishly modded or isn’t running on a salvage title.
1987-92 VW Golf GTI MK 2 – If you’re talking collectible GTIs, you’re almost invariably referring to the MK 1. Whether it’s the vastly superior German-built, round headlight GTI or the Pennsylvania-built U.S. version, it’s what gets all the love. But the MK 2 is a vastly superior driver’s car, and quietly, among the younger enthusiasts who cut their teeth on these cars, or wanted to, the MK 2 GTI is becoming a genuinely desirable, if elusive car. Volkswagen fan-boy site VW Vortex named it the best Golf of all time. Like most of the cars on the list, the survival rate is low. If you’re expecting to snap a good one up for under five grand, good luck. That ship has sailed.
Long roof BMWs with manual transmissions – This trend is in danger of popping above the radar. BMW wagons are hot. They’re call “Touring” in BMW-speak, never a “shooting brake.” E30 3-Series wagons from the 1980s and 1990s (which were never sold in the US) are now importable under the 25-year rule and they’re adding another option in the already frothy E30 market. The cooler still E36 3-Series wagons will soon be legal too. U.S. market E39 5 Series wagons offer a bit more space but are every bit as sporting at the 3 Series cars. All were available with manual transmissions. They’re not quite unicorns, but manual wagons are scarce and they positively fly off of Craigslist or Bring a Trailer when they appear and they sell for large premiums over the more common two-pedal wagons.