The Bad Economy is Good News For Car Collectors

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How has the bad economy been affecting the classic car hobby?

On the upside, certain classic cars – especially muscle cars from the ’60s and ’70s – have suddenly become more affordable.

Though we’ve seen some of these – such as Hemi-equipped ’60s and early ’70s-era Chryslers – top $200,000 at auctions, these cars have always fundamentally been working and and middle class cars. While the value of especially rare ones – the Hemi ‘Cudas and Chargers; 427 Super Yenko Camaros; Boss Mustangs, etc. – will always be high, the overall “price of entry” has been coming back to a more accessible level for many of these cars.

For example, you can buy a regional show winning example of something like an early ’70s Camaro or Chevelle right now for around $30,000. Even GTOs are becoming more reasonably priced – most of them, anyhow. (Convertible Judges and RA-IV models are still commanding Monopoly money prices.)

Overall, things are looking up.

A quick survey of Hemmings classifieds, online classic car stores and the local Old Car Trader turned up several late ’60s/early ’70s Goats for $25,000-$30,000 or so.

The number of ads in the $50,000 range and up seems to be declining.

This is bad news for the speculator class responsible for turning what used to be a hobby into an “investment opportunity” – but it’s very good news indeed for the rest of us, especially those of us who were too young to get in on muscle car ownership the last time these things were semi-affordable, back in the late ’80s/early ’90s.

Yes, $30,000 or so is still a lot of money – but it’s not out of sight. With financing (readily offered by many classic car stores) it’s a very doable thing.

And that’s for for the more desirable late ’60s/early ’70s stuff – and for better condition stuff, too.

Look around and you’ll see that solid “drivers” (cars with visual flaws that might not win a show but which are nonetheless presentable and can be easily fixed up to much better condition) are going for much less. $15,000 or so can buy you something very nice to play with, such as a mi-late-’70s Z28 with a 350 V-8 and 4-speed in solid “Number 2” condition.

The downside is that just as muscle cars are becoming more affordable for average people, average people are less and less in a position to buy one – or feed it.

Unless you’re very comfortably middle class – at the least – buying a classic car is hard to do. Especially if the wife gets wind of it. You want to spend $20,000 on …. what?*

There’s a mortgage to pay, bills coming in … the kids’ college fund. Not many of us have twenty or thirty grand in discretionary cash laying around – or can afford to fill up the 21 gallon (and premium unleaded only) tank of the typical V-8 muscle car.

Still, the financial pendulum is swinging back toward affordability; you might not be able to drive it much – but you might be able to buy the thing.

So, if you’ve long wanted to own something cool from the classic era, you ought to be looking around now – and scraping together whatever available cash you can. Be ready – and jump on the opportunity when it presents itself. Because a gimpy economy notwithstanding, the dip in muscle car prices is probably temporary. They’re not building any more of them, for one – and when the “investor class” recovers its nerves (and figures out a new way to fleece the rest of us) they’ll be back.

And when they are, it’ll be harder for average hobbyists to get closer to one of these greats than a glossy calendar posted in the garage… .

Throw it in the Woods?

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