Why muscle cars aren’t gaining in the collector car market


Hello all,

Gen X-er here…

I, too, remember car shows excluding cars after 1968 in the 80s… Also, growing up in the Midwest, foreign cars, like my 74 bug, were the target of derision and worse. All 4 tires got slashed one time.

Nowadays, I have 2 classic vehicles, the boy has a classic chevy (non-muscle car) and take one or two of them to the car show down the street in the fall usually. However, I feel like the pendulum has swung too far the other way with car shows… Too many 21st century cars are being allowed in and come home with the trophies.

Sure, supply and demand laws do apply. The generations with supposed (disposable) income usually dictate the demand, usually cars from the vintage of their early driving years. Believe it or not, that now means cars from the 80s and 90s,

I never really cared for the muscle cars, not because of their engineering, or because of their looks, but moreso of the crowd that drove them when I was younger. Nowadays, though, I would put to you that people who drive classic cars, (at least 20th century ones) are a more refined, inclusive, and sensible group, even the muscle car owners and drivers.

As far as the market getting flooded with pre 70s cars, heck, I wouldn’t say no to a decent Chevy Bel Air, or an older Ford with big fenders, or even something American with tailfins for cheap, if it could be had, but usually, around these parts, you don’t see that side of it.


I work on 80s and 90s and 2000s cars all the time with simple tools, and I find their fuel injection systems reliable and easy to diagnose and fix. Don’t need to be able to fix them by the side of the road because I never have to!

I also disagree that newer cars will never appreciate like old ones did. Nice Supras, NSXs, M3s, and Integras are fast appreciating in value. At the same time GM quality was scraping bottom in the 80s and 90s, there was a golden era of German and especially Japanese sports cars happening. Those vehicles will be the “classic muscle car” for the next generation of collectors.


For me, and I realize statistically I am an outlier, I buy what I love. I have had 6 collector cars in my life. I have had my share of muscle cars but my love is the the old stuff, 30’s,40’s and 50’s. My current car, a 1957 Chevy may be one of the most iconic cars of all time but you would be surprised how many under 30’s don’t know what it is. Due to Fast and Furious, most under 30’s know chevelle’s and chargers. I find myself educating them on American Graffiti and tri-fives. One more note - I have never lost more than $3000 and made more than $1000 on any car. How many hobbies bring you joy and you can break even?


Unfortunately, there will always be car “snobs” at any show, no matter the make or model. I got the same feeling when I learned that a local “Billetproof” meet would NOT allow anything newer than a 1964 model!
Even at a local Corvette meet, my C4 was promptly ushered to the back row around the corner so that the premium spots could be reserved for the “new” model cars.
The point is that if you own your car for social reasons, you’re going to run into this. If you own your car for your own reasons, these aggravations don’t really matter. If it’s YOUR car and YOU enjoy it the way it is, you don’t need to please any body else but yourself.


The numbers on the right are the score, and the left side numbers are the rank. Note there are two 11 rated cars, three 12 rated, etc. two-way tie for first, 3-way tie for second, two-way tie for 7th, etc.


Your list of “Muscle Cars” is not very TRUE to the concept, having grown up through that era ((I am now 69-- my first car was a 69 GTO and yes I still have one) Muscle cars as everyone knows were strong and popular from 1960 thru 1971 when suddenly all compression ratios and mileage went for a dump!! As far as car lovers and car shows go (even tho I am a GM fan) any true car lover can appreciate all brands and models of automobile. Look after those old babes because there will always be someone out there that will want after you are done with it. Just don’t be in a hurry when it is time to sell. (I have 4 toys that my kids will get and they will probably cash them in after I am gone):smiley:


I’m adding to what ajakeski says because I took my 69 Skylark to a car club meeting (female gearhead in my 50s) and I was never treated so rudely in a public setting by strangers in my life. A bunch of mean old farts that couldn’t crack a smile and welcome a newbie to save their lives. So my two cents is that if these old collectors want their cars to be worth more, maybe they should be kinder to the people who might end up wanting to buy them. No stuffing ballot boxes at car shows, cutting someone from the local parade, exclusive or petty rules, etc. I had visions of car shows and picnics with like-minded new friends and instead I had buyer’s regret.


I watch the Camaro market for the Hagerty Price Guide and I haven’t seen much activity in general for 1st gen Camaros. Of course there are more on the market than you can shake a stick at, but on average they all seem to sell in line with the price guide. The only ones we have seen consistent activity for are 1969 Z/28s. They have been trending downwards in value as really good cars with documents and desirable equipment have been selling poorly. I don’t think they’ll drop forever, but there has definitely been a correction on Z/28s. Not a bad time to buy if you are in the market. With the exception of rare cars like L89s, COPOs, etc, which are more easily influenced by market shifts, I don’t think 1st gen Camaros are going anywhere on value. They’re too abundant and there’s still healthy demand.


I wouldn’t put a blanket statement on newer cars not being as collectible. Obviously you’re passionate about muscle cars. No, 3rd gen Camaros are not really in the same league as a 1st gen. I’d argue your point of fuel injected cars being too hard to work on. One just has to adapt. I’d argue the special tools point too (unless a 10mm socket is a special tool). I won’t argue that not many American cars since the early 70s have appreciated at a rapid rate, but if that if your only view of the collectible market, it is easy to miss the European and Japanese cars from the late 80s and newer absolutely killing it in the market.


I find it hard to believe that cars from the EPA computer generation (the last generation of the GTO was mentioned) with all their govt. mandated emissions and safety crap, could be considered collectible at all. I do not mean to offend anyone, but these cars, or “computers on wheels” as I call them, are absolutely disgusting to me. I dislike them so much that I won’t even own one, let alone collect one. I have one main criteria for deciding if I want it or not, even for a daily driver. If it has a computer, I don’t want it. I realize this may seem somewhat harsh to many, especially younger people who grew up with these “cars” It leaves out several generations of Corvettes, Camaros, Mustangs, the new Challenger (I have a 1970 Challenger) But IMO these are not “pure” cars. They are loaded down with stuff that should not be on a car. I grew up in the '70s, and therefore late '60s and '70s cars mean the most to me. But I also love everything from there back, all the way to the Model T.


The issue I have with the “decline” is the fact that the demand that drove these prices up in the first place was a bubble that popped and should have. These aren’t Ferrari’s, they are mass produced cars from a decade in time with horrible build quality. Stay with me here, because if I’m honest I probably love these cars more then you who’s currently scowling at that last comment. But frankly it’s true. The auction scene combined with nostalgia and the market crash drove people to invest in muscle cars for those reasons. It drove the price up to obscene levels causing everyone who owned any Mopar EBody to think they were sitting on a pot of gold. In 2001 I bought a driver quality 1971 340 Challenger clone for $4000. Try finding that car for under $25k now. Hell, five years later I tried to buy a basket case but original non RT 71 340 Challenger from its original owner and she wanted over $20k. Hadn’t run in facades and needed a $40k restoration just to be roadworthy. “Don’t try to screw me ive seen what these cars go for on barret Jackson.”

Personally I think “investment grade” muscle cars destroyed the hobby for the next generation because now the entry level muscle car was $40,000 and up. Just the term “investment grade” itself is a bad thing for the hobby level enthusiasts. I hope that after the investment jerks go back to playing with stocks the prices come down even further for true enthusiasts. The worst thing about some of the best muscle and performance cars is that the people who really covet them can’t afford them.


I am not sure this article takes in all the factors on many muscle cars or other classics that are out there. I have seen in my 40 years in the marketplace of availability dramatically increase when many experts keep shrieking of a decline. While some have become extremely rare those are the exceptions and not the rule. I have run into my share of purists for sure that scoff at cars from a certain time period or a restro they abhor because it’s not “original.” Those people are the ones generally that do not understands today’s buyer of muscle or classic cars.

Of every muscle car or classic I have in my collection I have yet to hear one complain of what I have done. I have modified every muscle are I have. All are EFI, upgraded electronic suspension, power seats, power windows, ac, advanced braking systems, GPS, cameras, remote ignition, heated and cooled seats and a bunch of other upgrades. With that being said it is what the buyers want. They want the power, handling, with the bells, whistles and amenities which means comfort. They will and have paid extra for it because they now have a classic that they can daily drive, cruise or show.


I actually own a mix including a '50 Packard and a '64 F100. (straight 8 and 6) Love those in-lines. Yes, some of the newer cars will be very collectible. EVEN Japanese cars. But relative to all the cars from early 70s back in time; not near as many. Easy to work on for me refers to such things as a gas tank swap. A newer car requires far more plumbing and overall systems consideration than a couple straps and 2 lines. Same with brakes, ignition, electrical and fuel delivery. I’m strictly a hobbyist…



Frank J. DiSanzo, MBA
cell: 917-647-0369


I agree with the guy earlier I hate that term & always have ( The Market ) Oho Who… like its some big deal ! Sound like a bunch of dorks ! They are just cars and for the most part the only reason they have increased in value from new is called inflation ! Just like our homes. Other then some rarer cars like Hemi Cuda’s and Boss mustangs Shelby’s etc etc. Stuff like that has outpaced inflation. Most other desirable run of the mill muscle cars and classic cars have just simple kept pace with inflation. They haven’t made you any money really. History shows you would have been much better off in the stock market. For example buying that brand new 69 SS Chevelle back then was about $ 3500.00 Today a nice one if someone actually wants to get it sold will run you about 35000.00 plus or minus a thousand or two. If you do the math you will see that 3500 hundred in 69 was about the same as 35 thousand is today. It was just as hard to come up with 3500 back then if not harder than it is to come up with 35 thousand today. I think the thing that cracks me up the most is this mind set that everyone has that they just refuse to loose a nickle on there classic car investment . But they all have brand new cars trucks suv’s in the drive way that the day they drove it off the lot they lost at least 30% of the value ! I say if you have a classic car and you have enjoyed it and now your done with it sell it . Who care’s if you lose 5 or 10 k from what you paid for it. No different than that new car in your drive way . One more thing if you really want to know the true value of any muscle car or classic car etc . List it on Ebay for 10 days no reserve . I promise it will sell for exzactly what the world says its worth. Why because when you have millions of people watching nobody’s gonna sit back and watch some one get too good of a deal. I have sold many of my classic cars this way over that past few years and they always sell for what their worth . I hate when I see these guys and dealers just keep relisting over and over and some times for year or more trying to get stupid money for their cars. One other thing please quit buying and selling cars thru these auction guys and dealers you know who they are. All this does is artificially inflate the true value of these cars and make those auction guys rich. list your car on ebay and sell it yourself. I’m telling you if you buy your car from one of these auctions or dealers and a month later your relisted it on ebay you would take at least a 10 k hit or more I’ve seen it.That’s how much your over paying. If everyone would stick together on this and just quit buying. In two years everyone of them would be out of business and all the cars would come back down to their true value and we all could start enjoying and owning them again at a more realistic price ! Something to think about !


Definitely a valid opinion, but I think a lot of younger collectors feel the opposite way. That’s why prices have stalled.

Sure, American manufacturers struggled with awful emissions systems and terrible computer issues for years, but by the 1980s, the Germans and Japanese had it pretty well figured out. I’d take a rock-solid Bosch or Japanese EFI system any day over futzing endlessly with carbs and points and timing.


I’m 52 & I fully appreciate the classic muscle cars, but no desire to own one. I prefer modern muscle. Bought a 2018 GT350. Sadly, I don’t have the time to devote to keeping a classic running. I have a buddy who’s classic muscle car collection has become his second full-time job due to the amount of effort required to keep the cars able to run.

As for the younger generation, we’re already seeing the decline of Harley Davidson due to lack of interest. Same with traditional hobbies. Kids these days are brainwashed into thinking they are hurting the environment if they buy a car w/ a V8. They’ll buy a classic VW Bus, Land Cruiser, or Land Rover for the purpose of Instagram, but not the classic muscle cars.


Looking solely at the US as the market for American muscle cars ignores the evolutionary changes in the international collector car market. While cars like the Nissan Skyline are in great demand from Millenials, and are now eligible for import into the US due to their age (over 25 years old), classic Mustangs, Camaros, Challengers and Vettes show promise offshore. Over the years, collectors in New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Europe and the Middle East have been traditional muscle car buyers. Today, appreciation for American muscle is in its infancy in markets like China and SE Asia. With 1.4 billion people, China represents a huge potential market. Currently, only brand new cars can be imported into mainland China, but that is slowly changing. Hong Kong, which is governed by China, has reasonable restrictions on the import of classic cars. In summary, they have to be over 20 years old and powered by the original engine, run on unleaded fuel, and pass a roadworthiness test. An emissions exemption is issued and “First Registration Tax” collected. That’s it. Mainland Chinese collectors (primarily on the East Coast of China) are finding they can purchase blue chip muscle cars, currently illegal to import into mainland China, and store them in Hong Kong. Eventually, mainland China will follow Hong Kong and allow them to be imported. As that trend continues, and collectors in prosperous and highly populated cities like Shanghai and Ningbo add to their collections, the softening of muscle car prices in the US will be offset by offshore markets. Remember, things are never as good, or as bad, as they seem to be.


My dad collected cars for over 40 years and focused on 1930s and 40s sedans from Rolls Royce, Cadillac, and Buick. I always struggled as a young boy/man why he didn’t buy cars that had a better chance of increasing in value like convertibles. He always told me buying cars for an investment is a method but he focused on the enjoyment of reliving memories of his youth which was more valuable than dollars. I am in my 50s and lost my dad a few years ago and your comment reminded me how ignorant I was to car collecting. Your words are so true and if people follow their passion then car values will ebb and flow correctly just like any other market. Buy what you love, spend time making it better, enjoy the memories, and then pass it along. I am now doing the same by not focusing on the dollars but enjoying the memories. Just wish I learned the lesson years ago.


I’m a gen Xer and it’s pretty simple for me. I don’t have the money to go out and buy a muscle car. Would I love to own one? Sure! I’d really love to own something pre 1960’s because well to me those cars are the coolest. What I do own is a 1972 beetle. Why? Is it a “classic”? Yes is it a muscle car? No but it’s affordable parts are readily available and the VW community is the best. A lot of people my age are into them and prices are going up. Remember 20 years ago you could get a split window bus for $1000 in decent shape? Try that now. You want something that’s going up in value look at air cooled vws