Why are these desirable collector cars cooling down?


mainlyart, good points. One interesting outlier that I have noticed is the 240z. My son loves all the cars you mentioned and more, like RX7, Subaru RS2.5, and Lexus IS300 5speed. But the 240z age is more in line with the cars in the baby boomers, late 60’s early 70’s cars, not the millennial “when I was a kid range”. I have a 240z, and am a Baby boomer and my son who’s 21 has a 260z, and all his buddies love the Z’s. When driving my 240z, I get as many thumbs up from young kids and old alike. So I am wondering why the much older Z? Any Ideas out there?


Speculation…unlike us really old folks, the millennials grew up with imports. It was never just “The Big Three” for them. So they’re much more accepting of imports to begin with… particularly those from Japan. And while the production date might have been a couple of decades before they were born, they’re savvy enough of the Japanese models to know that your Datsun 240z eventually morphed into the Nissan 370z of today. And that’s cool to a gear-head even if their hair ISN’T gray.


My mother had an antique book store in suburban Chicago for 35 years. At age 90, six years ago, she had cancer and wanted to sell the once-successful business. The young people weren’t spending money on leather sets and first editions. They’d rather text and tweet, and see a modern remake of a classic film based on one of those antique books. She sold her books piecemeal at auction which was OK, but the business died with her. By the same token, I don’t think young people are interested in Model T’s or any car without computer screens on the dash. Nor do most young drivers care to shift, as they need both hands to snack, drink Starbucks and talk on their cellphone at the same time while driving. Also, here in pricey Seattle people under 30 or 40, and over 70, are buying condos with one designated parking spot-if that. My sister just moved to trendy Austin, Texas, and says many older houses are being torn down in favor of larger modern homes on these small lots WITH NO GARAGES.


I note the inclusion of the ubiquitous MG TD with a huge smile and not just a little self inflicted irony. I am in my 60s and had wanted a T Type MG since junior high school. After retirement, I found a restored TD that I could actually afford (this was before the values started to tank) in a neighboring state and took the plunge. Never again a British car for me… I have had four of these bizarrely engineered automotive ‘gems’ and that’s enough for one lifetime. Sometimes a certain model of car gets a reputation - and well deserved at that - for being difficult to maintain and for having a less than stellar build quality. And MGs certainly fit that bill. Fun when they run…that is when they run. Snapped axle half shafts, weak and strange Lucas electrics, weak synchros in weak gearboxes, perpetually leaking shocks, etc., etc., etc… Word is out on the vintage British sports car - They are a Royal Pain, pun intended. And that I’m sure has to effect value. As the old expression so aptly states, ‘Be careful of what you wish for, you may get it!’ I now drive a second generation ‘NB’ Miata which is everything no MG could ever be - Cheap, Cheerful, and most of all, Reliable! Took me 3.5 years to sell the TD after I had rebuilt 80% of the mechanics which had already been done in a previous restoration. The prewar low end cars cars such as the Model A Ford cannot be given away now. Millennials such as my oldest son want nothing to do with them. In fact, my son as told me right to my face my cars are money pits. Any one interested in a '29 Model A Phaeton? That one has been on the market for over a year now. No real takers, only scammers and low ballers. Only the Wayne Carinis of the world make money or even break even. I am done and getting out of what used to be a hobby but is now an investment medium and cottage industry…


@edwardhenryharriman - While your son might not appreciate your Model A, there are millennials who appreciate and collect the affordable pre-war cars like your Ford.

I would say that many of the younger enthusiasts don’t have the means to have multiple cars and prefer to purchase a vehicle that has more usability on modern roads than a car like the A. Once we have moved up to be able to afford more, the market may reflect it. Hard to say, that’s just my perspective.


You may be right. Maybe it’s my area - SW Idaho. But when I used to attend the local car clubs before quitting around 3 years ago, as a 60 plus year old, I was almost always the youngest there. When I was starting out in the car culture 40 plus years ago, I and other young 20 somethings attended the car club meetings regularly to learn and to see even though we often did not own a classic machine. Now, I just do not see that. Recently I had my '29 Ford parked in front of an auto parts store while I was inside making a purchase. A millennial was admiring my car when I came out of the store and asked if the car was from the late '50s. Another time a young male in his late teens was looking the '29 Phaeton over while I was getting fuel at a local gas station. He asked me if I had bought the car new, and no, he wasn’t being a smart ass. Now I admit I look old but after informing him I was born in the mid '50s while the car was from the late '20s he looked baffled. At a car show, another young male noticed my modern antique plate with the number 1896 and asked if that was the year of manufacture. Again, a little education was given but these incidents show me the millennials often have no sense of history. There is almost no passion for cars. Cars are an appliance - that is particularly true of my son. The few that are interested are into modified Hondas or Subarus. I do not see the passion for the old cars among the young here in the semi rural inter-mountain west. This is particularly true regarding anything pre-war. Perhaps things are different where you live. But here, the old car hobby is dying.

@edwardhenryharriman - While your son might not appreciate your Model A, there are millennials who appreciate and collect the affordable pre-war cars like your Ford.

I would say that many of the younger enthusiasts don’t have the means to have multiple cars and prefer to purchase a vehicle that has more usability on modern roads than a car like the A. Once we have moved up to be able to afford more, the market may reflect it. Hard to say, that’s just my perspective.


I agree. I have had two, both bought used at around 12-15k; but they can be found now at 8-12k all day long. My current CLK55 is highly modified with an m113k, upgraded suspension, and some tuning. And insured with Hagerty as a classic. My first stock CLK 55 was relatively problem free for the 3 years I owned it. …one good thing about these is no ABC suspension to replace.


@mmcd7276 - When you get tired of that “worthless” Polara, let me know! I’ll give you a decent price for it. I LOVE older Mopars and used to drive a forest green 4 door version of your car as a daily driver back in the early 90’s. My friends called it the “forest ranger car” so we took off the full wheel covers and put on the police car dog dish hubcaps and 2 or 3 magnet mount CB antennas on the trunklid (connected to nothing, of course). I always wanted to letter the name of a ficticious state park on the door (“Morningwood State Park” comes to mind…)
I do have to agree with the shift in the “desirability focus” that the younger crowd has lately. When you can drive a 400 hp computer controlled modern car back and forth to work for thousands of trouble free miles, who wants a 400 hp carbureted muscle car that you have to re-jet the carb every week and to compensate for the alcohol infused fuels that wreak havoc on the fuel system, while jiggling over train tracks in your buggy sprung car that won’t corner any better than your living room sofa…??? Don’t get me wrong, there’s NOTHING like the sound of a big cubic inch V-8 through a set of Flowmasters but I’d bet you $100 that my very car-guy nephew wouldn’t trade me his cool little tricked out FRS even up for my 71 Road Runner with the 440, Hemi Torqueflite, and Edelbrock carb in it!
I’ve heard it said that you should only “invest” in cars that you had better be prepared to own for the rest of your life and that “it’s only ‘worth’ what someone is willing to pay you for it before the sun goes down”. I have bought “flip” cars, but usually only parts cars or good rollers for other people’s projects. I was in & out and made a little pocket money and I was perfectly happy with that. I’m pretty confident that you can’t finance your kid’s college education on the expected appreciation value of a collector car any more!


I have been thinking a lot about this topic over the last while. Somehow I dont see blue chip classics becoming worthless. C1 and C2 Corvettes, nice European cars (that were exceptional in their time) and the classic Japanese cars of the 70s/80s. I was born in the 60s. To me I never wanted a Model T because I thought they were slow and unsafe and impractical. My interest in cars pre 1960 is pretty minimal. So I would imagine that this trend will continue. Technology has changed society so much that I fear we have a generation of people who have no interest in repairing anything. A 65 Corvette or Etype might be worth 100k now, but 40 years from now, there will be no one alive who remembers their introduction.


Yes, I agree, the collector car market for “non-exotics” is definitely on the decline. I was astonished to see at a recent Mecum auction how many cars went “off the block” not meeting reserve. I can sum up the 50K market with an example: If you have limited garage space (and a “fun” budget of 50 K), why would you buy a 1969-70 Z-28 or Boss 302 when for the same amount, you can purchase a new, modern Camaro or Mustang that can run on readily available pump gas, has a bumper to bumper warranty, power everything, handles, rides, accelerates better than the originals, can be parked at places without you not being able to enjoy your outing, and if wrecked, well, you simply go out and by another…a shame, but if you can have only one or the other.


If the question is “why are these collectible cars cooling down” the short answer is simply because they’re not as collectible. The reason for that is demographics.
And geese, what sanctimony some have for those younger “car guys” preference for fuel injection and computers. Sounds like intellectual laziness or jealousy…or both. As an aging boomer, it reminds me of what my elders were saying about the advent of electronic ignition, disc brakes and radial tires back in the day.


The trend of the cooling of on American muscle cars is being offset by the up swing in the Japanese cars…I have been converted by my 17yr old son to start getting into Datsuns. It wasn’t hard for me to do so since I learned to drive on a new 1971 Datsun 510, my sister had a Datsun 1200 ( I performed my first head gasket change on it) and my second or maybe third car I owned was a 1970 silver Datsun 240Z which I bought not running for $1700, original owner attempted to put electronic ignition on it and had wiring backwards. My first car was $100 1965 Fastback Mustang… 6cyl. automatic, but for a $100 I was happy. Then a VW, 1970 Bug then the Z. Sold the Z after a year of driving the wheels off of it and bought an 1960 Austin Healey 3000 after the first winter I sold it due to getting tired of the wet carpets and foggy windows. Bought a $1200 beautiful 68 Firebird 400 convertible… hit a pole at 80mph going sideways… sold it for $500 to a guy who was going to race it on the dirt tracks. Ok I digressed a bit.

My son and I now have a collection of about 22-25 Datsuns. Starting with a low vin series 1 Zs, 240Z, 260Z, 280Z, 810 wagon, B210 5 speed and going up to 1983 280zx Turbo. Wish we had a 510 but just haven’t found the right one. Many of the cars were bought right. Not running, flat tires etc. We sell a few every few months and put the money back into a couple of the more collectable ones. The people interested in buying fall into a few categories. European buyers, young guys who are quite often in the military and want to modify them and then the collector who wants to restore them back to original. Every time I put one for sale its gone within a day or so. I know, maybe I’m selling them too cheap, but its nice not to sit on them for a long time.

The Japanese market is on fire in my opinion and will remain so for a while. The price is still right on many 240zs yet they can sell for $45,000+ when fully restored. Huge range $2000-$50,000 makes entry easy and upside huge.


It’s 2070: Imagine a millennial yearning for an early edition Smart car or slobbering over the top prize, a painstaking, $450,000 restoration of a stunning, battleship gray Prius model 1?

Top auction cars? The red-hot Pontiac Aztec; the last 2018 Mex-built Beetles; and any of the 5 remaining Alfa Romeo Stelvio Quadrifoglio SUVs from before the collosal 2020 FCA Bankruptcy. Best “Barn-find”? A 200-mile, 2019 Lambo Urus.


Let’s pick this back up between 2025-2035. Male life expectancy is 78 years. The first baby boomers hit that just about 2025 and then the decline will start in earnest. Between 2025-2040 a ton of cars are going to hit the market being sold by the aging owner or the owner’s widow. Main collector years tend to happen after the age of 50 since one needs to establish their life of wife, house, children and college.

So for example one is 50 in 2035, was born in 1985 and started driving in 2001. What do you think would interest them? Granted some outliers will like the older cars, provided their wife goes along, but most won’t and the baby boomer numbers are huge. Oh, and it won’t matter if American, European or Japanese prior to 1985 at a minimum.


Just a thought as to why current generations view a car as an appliance. Look on the road…silver eggs everywhere. No excitement, no daring style, wild colors, no NASCAR win on Sunday buy on Monday cars…too many other distractions more interest in latest Apple phone color…no interest in a car other than safety features and reliability. There will always be a collector car market…but smaller and as cool rich guys oddities. It takes interest, money, space and knowledge of the past to justify owning one in the future.


I recommend reading this article. I believe it gives some insights to what younger enthusiasts are leaning towards. The results might be a little surprising.


I have a 1967 Plymouth Barracuda Formula S, I cannot believe it is not in the Top 25. They only made 7000 of them.