Mustang Boss

This is certainly what a Boss Mustang from Ford is all about. Courtesy of Mecum Auctions.

Hagerty calls them “Bandit-era” cars, popularized by the old road-trip comedy Smokey and the Bandit — starring Burt Reynolds, Sally Field and of course, the Pontiac Trans Am — coincided with and added to resurgent interest in performance cars.

Sales of classic cars seems to get its boost from a very unlikely underdog of the pack – the American muscle cars from the 1970s and 1980s are now showing unexpected gains so far in auctions, according to the president of the largest insurer of collectible cars and boats.“That was when Detroit and other automakers got back to building great cars, after a brief Dark Ages that coincided with the first oil crisis and the advent of emissions controls,” says McKeel Hagerty, president of Hagerty Insurance.

1977 Trans Am

A Trans Am that was used to promote the 1977 classic movie Smokey and the Bandit.

The January auctions include major sales in Scottsdale, Ariz., and Kissimmee, Fla. Sales were slightly down in Scottsdale, but Hagerty calls Kissimmee “a barn burner,” up about 30% from 2015. Analysts had expected sales to fall due to global currency fluctuations, falling oil prices and unease about the Chinese economy. “That kept many collectors on the conservative side, making them careful from hastily offering their cars for sale, thinking that they’ll get better prices in a year or two,” Hagerty said.

1971 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28

1971 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 at Barrett-Jackson sold for $55,000. Courtesy of Matthew Lewis, Hagerty

“They are driving the low and mid-market now,” he continued. “Good, solid muscle cars are selling at rational prices that are determined by the rarity of the vehicle.” In the case of muscle cars that were built in the tens of thousands, that means cars with bona fide records of when and where they were built.

“Prices for cars from the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s are showing the most growth,” added Hagerty, “particularly limited edition performance cars. Cars from the 1950s and pre-World War II eras are down.”

Part of the reason for that is that each generation tends to have a different mindset when it comes to collecting cars. The generation of buyers today wanted cars that were considered cool during their younger years, including used cars that young people could afford to buy, customize and dress up.

1967 Volkswagen Type 2

1967 Volkswagen Type 2 ’21 Window’ Deluxe Microbus at RM Sotheby¹s sold for $82,500.   Photo courtesy of Matthew Lewis, Hagerty

“Generation X is finally coming into some money,” Hagerty said. They’re interested in cars that were relevant to their youth.” In addition to muscle cars, that means cars featured in TV shows like Miami ViceMagnum, P.I. and The Rockford Files are hot.

1986 Ferrari Tesstarossa

The 1986 Ferrari Tesstarossa used in the 80s hit series Miami Vice.

There’s also a trend to higher prices for early sporty imports. Demand for the Nissan 240Z and early Mazda Miatas is strong, along with 1980s sporty compacts like theVW GTI, Audi Quattro and Toyota Supra. “Porsches of all eras are selling well, because the brand has always done a great job of managing production and connecting its road cars to the success of its racing programs,” Hagerty said. “The brand has been on the rise for the last 24 months.”


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