We all like to make money. All of you like cars (me included!). Ten cars could (theoretically) allow you to make a cool $1,000,000 – most of them NOT by themselves. Anybody who has been buying/selling old cars knows that the classic car market has been taking a crash course on Wall Street. It’s either boom or bust. Bust happened in 1990 when a hyper-inflated Ferrari market crashed in the time frame of a year. In 2007-2008, the market for Mopars with Hemi engines crashed, with many cars losing 2/3 of their value within 18 months. The basic premise of this blog post is to tell you what cars you can buy for not too much money, and sell for a hefty profit. Well, there are a few exceptions to that rule, but I think you’ll agree with my decisions for those cars.
However, that’s not to say that the market is dead. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The market is globalized in a way it couldn’t have been just 10 years ago. Only 20% of Russia had internet access in 2007, but now almost 80% have access. Now that Russians have more money to spend, they are looking for ways other than cheap economy cars or an old Mercedes-Benz with 300,000 miles on the odometer to get around. Cars continue to be more accepted as investments among those who wouldn’t care about them otherwise. Sure, one could consider it a bubble, but until then, here are some cars, erm, investments, that I would buy with my tiny fortune.
- 1962-1965 Shelby Cobra. The original Shelby Cobras are what I am referring to (Shelby makes continuation Cobras). It’s quite possible that prices for the Cobra have already priced, as prices for these things are literally enough to make a Wall Street investor empty their bank account in a few short minutes. The MkI and MkII (260 and 289 cubic-inch V8 Cobras) will run you about $800,000. Forget buying a 427 Cobra – those are at least $1 million! For the small-block Cobras, prices are up from $500,000 just five years ago, and that was up from $150,000 in 2003. Yikes.
- 1970-1973 Datsun 240Z. Remember when you could buy a Datsun 240Z for $4,000 in 2004? Well, the average sale for 2013 was $19,000. People who wanted one when they were young now (hopefully) have the discretionary income to buy one. Plus, the Z looks timeless. It’s like a more mature, cheaper Toyota 2000GT. It’s great, easy and cheap to own, and a hoot to drive. That won’t change. What will likely change are the prices. If the Datsun 240Z is any indication of the rising market demand for 1970s Japanese sports cars, expect prices to rise dramatically in the next few years. If you want one, get it NOW!
- 1970-1971 Mercedes-Benz 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolet. Nobody really thought that any regular-production, post-300SL Mercedes-Benz would be worth anything. I didn’t for a while. Nobody thought much of them because they were designed to last forever. How can a car become more valuable when it never changes? Then, three 280 SE 3.5 Cabriolets sold last August at the RM Monterey Auctions for a whopping average price of – brace yourselves – $265,833. In 2010, the average transaction price was a still-high $94,000. It’s hard to think that this extreme inflation will continue for much longer. But, it’s not showing any signs of stopping. Time to re-mortgage the house if you want one of these!
- 1976-1981 Ferrari 512BB. Most of the male readers of this blog likely had posters of this car on their bedroom walls. Combining absolutely timeless bedroom-wall-poster looks with the exotic, screaming power of the Berlinetta Boxer’s six-carburetor, vee-crank flat V12, you can’t go wrong. Prices haven’t changed much since 2007, with prices staying right about $140,000. However, you can still find one for under six digits. For about $95,000, you can buy one for the price of what a grey market car would have cost you 35 years ago. If that’s not a deal, I don’t know what else is. Buy two and wait patiently. Time to sell the house!
- 2009 Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione. Alfa Romeo is back into the U.S. with the 4C. It’s a great car. It’s better looking than any new Ferrari, it’s faster than anything from Japan or America on a race track, and I want one. The 8C was an amazing one-year blip in Alfa Romeo’s 19-year absence from the American car market. The price now? Hard to tell, as they were about $250,000 new, and only 84 were ever sold in the U.S. Nobody is letting go of them, either, so yeah, good luck finding one. Most are being held in private collections, but it’s going to be a challenge to start a market for them if nobody sells them.
- 1972-1974 BMW 2002 tii. The BMW 2002 was a great car. All of the automotive magazines said it was better than any muscle car out there. It was nimble, light, and deceivingly fast. The most desirable 2002 is the fuel injected version, called the 2002tii. It was light, potent, reliable, and it favored fun over everything else. Like the Datsun 240Z, they weren’t worth much of anything for a very long time due to their abundance. In 2004, a nice 2002tii was carrying about $10,000. Now, prices have blown past $20,000, and people are really only beginning to appreciate them. Yeah, BMW only made 38,000 of the 2002tii, but an awful lot of them were used up. Even if you buy one and it doesn’t go up in prices, you’ve still got one helluva car. It’s a win-win situation. Basically, for the price of a smallish shapeless blob painted silver, you can get a reliable daily driver that will get you thumbs up all over the place, and a tidy look. Why not buy one?
- 1944-1986 Willys CJ. The Willys CJ is one of the record holding cars for being in production. It remained in production basically unchanged for 42 years. The older models are pretty cool. Parts are abundant for them, and there is a thriving after market for them. They look cool, can go literally anywhere, and are so reliable that it makes any Honda or Toyota’s reliability look like a joke. Plus, any old Willys CJ will be a barrel of fun. It may not make you a million bucks, but you can buy one for a relative song right now. Prices for these cool little vehicles that helped win WWII are cheap. You can buy a really nice one for about $15,000, but where’s the fun in something that’s been restored by somebody other than you? Get one that needs some work for about $7,500. If you want to get even more on the cool factor, get a genuine Willys military Jeep. That’s about $7,500.
- 1970-1974 Dodge Challenger: The Dodge Challenger was one of the cars that lost 2/3rds of its value in 2007-2008, but prices are once more on the rise. The R/T models with the 426 Hemi “Elephant” engine are the most desirable. If you can’t swing one with the 426, get one with the massive 440 cubic-inch V8 (that’s 7.2 liters!) Six Pack. That has six carburetor throats feeding gas and air into those wonderful sounding 440 cubic inches. Even the models with the 383 cubic-inch V8 are fun.
- 1955-1957 Chevrolet Bel Air: The Tri-Five Chevy’s are great cars. They are fun, beautiful, reliable, and the prices are always climbing. Now is the time to get one. My personal favorite is the 1957 Bel Air convertible. It looks like a Cadillac. If you want one to be a pro-touring car, a drag car, or a show queen, there is no shortage of parts availability for these cars. The 1956 models are the cheapest of the three years, but they are still pretty expensive. If you get one now, enjoy it, show it, do burnouts, and have fun with a priceless piece of Americana.
- 1970-1972 Chevrolet Chevelle SS454 LS6: This is probably one of the most iconic Chevrolet’s ever. It’s got a massive Chevrolet 454 cubic-inch V8 (7.4 liters) with the legendary LS6 code name. It makes a thundering 450 horsepower in LS6 form. In the lesser LS5 form, it makes a still-impressive 360 horsepower. If you can’t swing the climbing prices of the LS6 Chevelle, go for a still-mighty Chevelle SS396. It’s still going to be a lot of fun, and it will handle better, thanks to less weight on the front of the car. Plus, you can yank out the 396 and put a crate 454 underneath. If you want more power, you can put a 468 cubic-inch V8, a 489 cubic-inch V8, a 572 cubic-inch V8, a 598 cubic-inch V8, or a 632 cubic-inch V8. I would go for the 468 stroker motor, as it doesn’t add too much weight to the front, but it adds far more power. Nelson Racing Engines (nelsonracingengines.com) makes a 600-horsepower 468 that sounds just about right for a Chevelle…
That’s all that I have to offer you, but I’m sure that you have your own suggestions. Let me know in the comments section.