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All Contents © 2020The Kiplinger Washington Editors
By David Muhlbaum, Senior Online Editor
| November 8, 2013
Courtesy RM Auctions
With eye-popping auction prices of late (would you believe $30 million for a Mercedes?), classic cars are getting a lot of attention these days as an investment opportunity.
Can you, too, own a piece of history (or of your youth), take it to shows and parades and on Sunday drives, and still come out ahead? Maybe. Realize that parking your cash in a classic car is far more complicated than investing in the stocks and funds we at Kiplinger recommend. Learn more in our article Making a Wise Investment in a Collectible Car.
Working with Hagerty, a Traverse City, Mich., firm that both insures vehicles and writes about the market in classic cars and boats, we’ve identified ten cars that have held their value well over the past five years. Most of them go for prices in the low five-figures. Please have a look, even if you’re just kicking the tires.
All price and insurance data is from Hagerty, and all prices are for cars judged “condition #2 — excellent.” Insurance quotes are based on pleasure use and with a zero deductible.
Courtesy Ford Motor Company
Original sticker price: $2,697 ($20,000 in today's dollars)
Current value: $36,300
5-year high: $36,300 (Sept. 2013)
5-year low: $33,800 (Sept. 2008)
Estimated annual insurance cost: $321
Mustangs have gleamed in collectors’ eyes for decades. The rollout of the first Mustang in 1964 endures as a symbol of youth for many baby-boomers. Steve McQueen drove a Mustang in the 1968 movie “Bullitt”; recent generations saw them in “The Fast and the Furious” films.
That sort of cross-generational appeal can bolster demand for a car as younger buyers enter the market. Five-year gains for this model are now slightly above 7%. You can spend a lot more if you want — Hagerty’s Blue Chip Index of noteworthy collectible cars includes the Mustang-based 1965 Shelby GT350 for more than $200,000.
Courtesy Porsche Cars North America
Original sticker price: $28,000 ($108,000 in today's dollars)
Current value: $60,600
5-year high: $60,600 (Sept. 2013)
5-year low: $41,200 (Jan. 2010)
Estimated annual insurance cost: $627
It’s hard to go wrong with a Porsche 911, which is celebrating its 50th year. Continuous production is one factor that can enhance a car’s collectible value, says McKeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty. Another, he says, is manufacturer support for (and success in) auto racing. Check both for the 911.
While valuations on Porsches overall have been on a dramatic upswing over the past five years, this car (also known by its in-house code of 930) has garnered attention only recently, with value gains of more than 30%. It still may have room to run over the long term.
Original sticker price: $4,445 ($34,000 in today's dollars)
Current value: $26,900
5-year high: $26,900 (Sept. 2013)
5-year low: $24,200 (Sept. 2008)
Estimated annual insurance cost: $270
You know how we just said that a manufacturer’s commitment to a model can give it enduring value? Well, there are exceptions, and the Avanti is one.
Studebaker birthed this model the year before it quit making cars in the U.S. Mechanically, the Avanti is nothing special, despite being one of the first American production cars fitted with disc brakes. But the body — made from fiberglass — is what makes collectors take notice. Made under the aegis of legendary designer Raymond Loewy, it looks like nothing else from its era.
Oddly, the Avanti survived its parent company's demise. A series of business ventures have revived production over the years, keeping the body design alive but using different chassis parts. That complicates valuations somewhat, but it’s still a real style-per-dollar value.
Copyright 2013 General Motors LLC. Used with permission, GM Media Archive.
Original sticker price: $2,493 ($18,500 in today's dollars)
Current value: $14,600
5-year high: $14,600 (Sept. 2013)
5-year low: $13,500 (Jan. 2011)
Estimated annual insurance cost: $191
With an air-cooled, aluminum flat-6 engine in the back, the Corvair broke with the conventions of domestic motor engineering when it first rolled off factory floors in 1959. It sold well at first. Then came Ralph Nader and his book Unsafe at Any Speed, which took aim at the car industry generally and the Corvair specifically, alleging dangerous handling.
This 1965 model was a redesign meant to address some of the safety concerns raised by Nader. But the changes weren’t enough to save the Corvair. Among the reasons for its demise: the introduction of the Ford Mustang.
As a collectible car, the relatively low production of models such as the convertible shown here helps stabilize its value. There were even pickup truck, van and station-wagon models made, most of which are quite rare.
The Corvair is worth only $800 more than it cost five years ago, but Hagerty's sees the market starting to show signs of life.
Original sticker price: $3,082 ($22,000 in today's dollars)
Current value: $64,300
5-year high: $69,500 (Sept. 2008)
5-year low: $62,100 (May 2011)
Estimated annual insurance cost: $546
Little GTO, you sure are looking fine … still. Boomers venerate this car’s nameplate. But the GTO also illuminates a risk in collecting classic cars. Prices can go down, too.
Hagerty’s muscle-car index of some of the most sought-after 1960s domestics is down 30% since its high-water mark in September 2007. Over that same period, this 1966 “Goat” fell only 12%, a relative stability it shares with other GTOs, which many historians consider to be the original muscle car (bigger, more powerful engine in a midsize body).
Original sticker price: $7,295 ($61,000 in today's dollars)
Current value: $1,100,000
5-year high: $1,100,000 (Sept. 2013)
5-year low: $629,000 (Sept. 2010)
Estimated annual insurance cost: $6,003*
Perhaps Mercedes’s most iconic car, known for its racing heritage and the unusual doors that swing up, the Gullwing is a collector’s car all around the world. Expensive when new, its value languished for decades, but in the last three years has risen 75%, according to Hagerty's.
The Mercedes SLS AMG, in production since 2011, is a modern-day homage to the Gullwing, with its two-seat configuration and doors that move the same way. That will set you back about $200,000, but it’s a good example of a current-day car that could appreciate in value.
*Hagerty's notes that this value could come down considerably if the car is part of a larger collection rather than a single car garaged at home.
Original sticker price: $3,596 ($21,000 in today's dollars)
Current value: $21,200
5-year high: $22,000 (Sept. 2013)
5-year low: $20,000 (Jan. 2011)
Estimated annual insurance cost: $246
Most Japanese cars haven’t enjoyed the same collector status in the U.S. as European and domestic products. Among the reasons: The first imports tended to be low-priced cars (and they rusted faster than steel wool left on a fisherman’s wharf).
But interest is increasing due to demographic shifts. Younger collectors are looking to models such as the Datsun pictured here, which was a huge seller when it debuted in the U.S. in 1970. Its Ferrari-inspired lines and powerful and smooth straight-six engine were a sports-car home run.
Right-hand-drive Japanese cars such as the Nissan Skyline, imported from Japan decades after production, are also gaining popularity, particularly on the West Coast.
Original sticker price: $2,495 ($19,000 in today's dollars)
Current value: $21,500
5-year high: $23,700 (Sept. 2008)
5-year low: $20,400 (Jan. 2012)
Estimated annual insurance cost: $240
What’s in a name? Volkswagen built the chassis. German specialty builder Karmann made the body, which was designed by Italian design firm Ghia.
So yes, underneath it all, just a VW Beetle, pretty much, but a whole lot nicer-looking. Despite high production numbers (nearly half a million units built over a 20-year run), the Ghia is gaining in value, Hagerty's says, in part by riding the coattails of other German convertibles of the era that are becoming ever more expensive (think of the mechanically similar early Porsche 356). As with the Porsches, you'll struggle to find rust-free examples.
Photo by Fluid Images
Original sticker price: $87,000 ($190,000 in today's dollars)
Current value: $49,900
5-year high: $59,500 (Sept. 2008)
5-year low: $47,000 (Jan. 2011)
Estimated annual insurance cost: $835
As Generation X moves into prime collectible-car-buying age, what will satisfy their nostalgic urges? How about a wall poster special, such as the Ferrari Testarossa (yes, as featured in Miami Vice)? Who can forget those massive side-mounted, uh, cheese graters? They feed air to the 12-cylinder engine mounted behind the driver and passenger.
The car has seen some price volatility over the past six years (less so than its exotic peers), but the three-year picture shows a gain of 6%. Low-mileage, high-quality Testarossas have sold for more than $100,000 at top-tier auctions.
Original sticker price: $3,082 ($25,700 in today's dollars)
Current value: $22,800
5-year high: $23,900 (Sept. 2008)
5-year low: $22,800 (Sept. 2013)
Estimated annual insurance cost: $242
How about tail fins and a way back for the kids to enjoy on an ice cream run? Station wagons from the 1950s have fared reasonably well as collectibles. Hagerty's sees the Golden Rocket wagon as an undervalued pick, as the visually and mechanically similar 1957 Buick Caballero station wagon is currently worth three times as much. Maybe you could profit from a market anomaly.