Our story on a 1978 Chevrolet Corvette for sale with just 4.1 miles resurrects a perpetual question: Which cars available today would be worth putting into extended storage, banking on a time when the original sale price would seem like a bargain?
The short answer: It’s difficult to tell, and chances are good that you’d be much better off just buying a car that you like, without trying to predict an incredible volatile market.
Take the 1976 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible, for example. At the time the car hit the market, NHTSA was considering some pretty serious rulemaking on roof strength standards that would protect Americans in the event of a rollover. Those standards would’ve made convertibles verboten here in the United States. Quickly, manufacturers came up with workarounds like Targa roofs, T-Tops and moonroofs, and it looked like the convertible was down for the count.
Cadillac jumped on it as a one-time marketing cash cow, billing its 1976 Cadillac Eldorado as “The last of a magnificent breed” on a brochure titled “Today a classic, tomorrow a collectible.”
(Image Courtesy: Left Coast Classics)
That year, Cadillac sold 14,000, and the number would’ve been higher if Cadillac’s supplier could’ve turned out more of the mechanisms that made the top work. They literally couldn’t build them fast enough.
A fair percentage of those 14,000 went immediately into storage, as buyers counted the future profits on the Last American Convertible. Even 40 years later, it’s not surprising to see one at auction that’s been lovingly preserved with barely any mileage.
Quickly, though, the bottom dropped out for speculators. By 1979 the convertible panic subsided. NHTSA’s standards never banned convertibles outright, and quickly, Chrysler launched the Le Baron convertible. Ford quickly followed suit with the Mustang convertible in 1983, and after that, it was game on.
Buyers of the “instant collectible” 1976 Cadillac Eldorado were incensed, and left holding bag on extremely expensive cars ($11,049 plus destination charge, in an era when a house only cost $45,000) that were now plentiful on the open market. In a bid to recoup some of their investment, buyers sued General Motors, alleging that the assurance of collectibility in Cadillac’s advertising was fraudulent.
In our story on the 4.1-mile Silver Anniversary 1978 Chevrolet Corvette auctioned on eBay, McKeel Hagerty — CEO of Hagerty—the worlds largest provider of c
ollector car insurance and publisher of the Hagerty Price Guide — referenced the 1976 Eldorado as a cautionary tale for speculators hoping to cash in on new cars that have a whiff of collectibility. “Many of the Silver Anniversary cars were put away when new as they were among the first of the ‘Instant collectible’ car craze that started in earnest with the 1976 Cadillac Eldorado Convertible. There was a time where it would be unusual to attend a few collector car auctions and NOT see an under 100 miles example.”
If there’s anything that does bode well for future collectibles, though, it’s performance. “Overall, performance is a key factor to appreciation for cars that are kept as time capsules,” says Hagerty, adding “Unfortunately, 1978 was not a highlight year for performance for most American vehicles.”
The 1976 Eldorado suffered a double-whammy for collectibility: They might have had 500-cu.in. V-8 engines, but at the base level only delivered 190hp, and with 14,000 available, the supply side far outstripped the demand.
Yes, there are the Bugattis and Ferraris and Lamborghinis that have built-in collectibility right out of the gate, but what about the manufacturers of cars you may see from time to time? If there’s anything that indicates future collectibility of cars like that, it’s the magic combination of performance and rarity:
Cars like the 993-era Porsche 911 Turbo had performance (408 horsepower, zero to 60 in 3.9 seconds) and rarity (only 1,297 911 Turbo models made in here in 1996. The next year, only 176 Turbo S models). But they also add the “last of the line” mystique that Cadillac hoped the 1976 Eldorado offered. they were the last air-cooled Porsches, ever.
Increasingly strict clean air standards made air-cooled cars dinosaurs, along with two-stroke engines in the dirt bike market. They’re gone for good, and they’re not coming back.
Porsche’s water-cooled cars are faster, but it’s hard to envision a current Porsche 911 being anywhere near as valuable as the air-cooled cars. Add in the fact that Porsche sells more sedans and SUVs than it sells sports cars, and it sells many more automatic transmissions (no matter how good they are) than they do manual transmissions, and the future value picture is a bit grim for future collectible Porsches.
There are some unique Porsche cars that might have a shot at future collectibility, though: Cars like the 2016 Porsche 911 R are built for track duty, and as a consequence, are also uniquely appealing to collectors. It’s counterintuitive, but cars like this that strip out radios and air conditioners are more interesting to collectors than cars that are loaded to the gills with every conceivable option.
When we reviewed the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat in 2015, we listed the following as one of our “Cons”: “The future of 54.5 mpg corporate fuel economy might rule out such a magnificent automobile.” As manufacturers creep ever closer to the EPA’s fuel economy mandate of a 54.5 mile per gallon average, a car that quaffs fuel at a rate of one gallon for every 13 miles doesn’t have much of a future.
It’s also got rarity on its side. In 2015, Patrick Rall at TorqueNews.com reported that Dodge had only produced 7,168 Hellcats by that point. What was more interesting was the product mix. Only 3,240 had the six-speed manual transmission.
Then factor in some of the configurations that make a fairly plentiful car (the Dodge Challenger) “one-of-Enter Number Here” (the Dodge Challenger SRT Hellcat with specific options, in specific colors). For example, only 243 were painted Jazz Blue, and only a 114 of those cars had the manual.
Start doing that math and you can begin to work out the equation that results in a car that may well be valuable in the future. It’s the same rationale that makes a 1970 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda worth $2.675 million: Plymouth may have built a ton of ‘Cudas in 1970, but this one is one of five convertibles with a 426 Hemi mated to an A833 4-speed manual transmission.
There has been wild speculation about the sixth-generation Camaro Z/28. The 2015 edition delivered 505hp and truly returned the car to its Trans Am-era racing roots, shedding its nearly 40-year legacy as a tape-stripe and tire package. For 2017, prognosticators have suggested that the car might have a turbocharged V-6, A detuned LT4 V-8 or any number of other engines in Chevy’s arsenals this side of a diesel.
What is guaranteed, though, is that it’ll be fast, and it’ll be rare.
At $73,000, the fifth generation Z/28 wasn’t something your average recent high school grad would be able to afford, like an IROC version in 1986.
Z/28 production wasn’t “limited” per se, but it was limited by the number of people willing to spend as much for a Camaro as you would for a Corvette with a fair number of options.
Like the ultra-performance cars from Chevrolet and Dodge, future collectibles from Ford are the cars that have been breathed on by skunkworks operations deep inside the same company that builds Fusions. In the 1960s, those cars came from Shelby in California. These days, they come with the same name, but they’re licensed by Carroll Shelby International, rather than being wholly prepped outside of Ford Motor Company property.
The GT350R is the latest in a line of Ford-Shelby collaborations, and it’s a beast of a car with a lot of potential as a collectible. It’s got all the hallmarks of something that will outpace NASDAQ, the Dow Jones 500 and your 401k for years to come. Even at its starting price of $61,295, it’s no more outrageously priced than the Hellcat, and it’s significantly cheaper than the last Z/28, making it something of a bargain in this class.
Ford won’t build a lot of Shelby Mustangs at all, and just a tiny sliver of those will be GT350Rs. In total, the production for 2016 Shelby GT350s will be capped at 2,519 worldwide (most of which will be sold in North America), making any GT350 a rare enough car. But of that, Ford will build just 49 GT350Rs, making them almost a guaranteed collectible in the very near future.
Searching for your own future collectible? Start your search at BestRide.com.