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


I have a carbureted car with a points and condenser ignition as a daily driver. Yes, the points need to be set occasionally. At most every 2 years. I have let them go a lot longer. And carbureted cars, while previously almost completely trouble free, have some issues now in the days of ethanol fuel. I’ve had to clean mine twice in 3 years. It took about an hour. But I’m 59, a mechanic, and grew up working on these older cars, carburetors in particular. It still amazes me how such a simple device can do a better job than the several times more complicated (and expensive) EFI systems. Or maybe I should look at it the other way around, at how they have taken such a simple, basic, inexpensive, and proven method of providing an engine with the correct air/fuel mixture, and made it 10 times more complicated than it needs to be. I put 128,000 miles on a bought new motorcycle over 16 years, and never had the carburetors off.

I don’t buy cars as an investment, and don’t care much for those who do.Those are not true car people, they are speculators. Money is all they really care about. I bought a 1970 Challenger because it was my first car back in 1975. I have a 1976 Corvette because I fell in love with them, believe it or not, from watching the TV series “The Magician” I had to have a white one. I would only buy cars that have personal meaning to me. And no car with a computer means anything to me.


I guess growing up in the late 60’s in a family with 5 kids, one mom and one dad who was the only bread winner till me and two of my sisters were old enough to watch the otter two…then I think we know what a MUSCLE CAR meant in those times…with the past few decades with our up and down economy ( no matter who is in office) the muscle car market now is just taking a “TIME OUT” (something else that meant something totally different in the 60’s as apposed to these days)…With the invention of the internet and the easy to finance anythings these days, just about everyone can buy themselves any muscle car of their choosing… most of us remember the ones that mattered and knew back then that if we blow them up one weekend we’d try like heck to get them fixed by next weekend…can’t do that now…buying anything as an investment is a good idea, some car have had everything going right for them because they had a large impact on lots generations…If you’re looking for a muscle car now…then you have a chance of getting one at a reduced price because the market is just so overwhelmed these days… I really see this as a fad, its just whats hot now verses just whats hotter tomorrow…and everyone seems to let the market direct them…if its something that takes time to appreciate…I get it…but is that time and effort and additional cost going to be worth it to most of us…I think not!!! All the more reason to put your money somewhere else…to better use!!! Remember when IRA"S and CD’S were hot??? What happened to that market!!!


I don’t think it’s demand that has declined as much as the number of younger people who can afford classic muscle is declining. Plenty of people want them, they just can’t justify the expenditure. I and many of my friends in and recently out of college would love to own muscle cars (I actually do own one, a 67 Cougar). We want them, but even those that are simply drivably decent are above affordability. Many of the more desirable cars are simply too far out of reach. I love first gen Camaros, but I don’t see myself being able to afford one any time soon. You could buy a recent year, used SS for the same or less than a late 60s model (some are more expensive than a ZL1). And, it’ll perform better, provide modern amenities, and likely return better gas mileage. I have yet to see a Challenger that could be in any way described as affordable. We have to decide between having (and likely overpaying for) something like classic muscle or something that actually has a decent level of practicality and economy (that may still be under warranty). When you can only afford one car, it is very hard to justify owning a classic muscle car.

I was fortunate in that I came to like a car that isn’t as well known or sought after, the Mercury Cougar. I was able to pick one up for a decent price. It was my only car. After a year I couldn’t daily it any longer. With no AC, no cruise control, a hatred of winter cold, and a gas mileage of about 12, it just wasn’t practical in any way. I wouldn’t want it to be my only car as I set off into a career. I wound up “selling” it to my dad on the cheap so I could keep it in the family and get something with some modernity to it for a daily. Hopefully, I can buy it back when I graduate.


I believe with all the increased “Auctions” being held, that the sheer number of cars far out number buyers with large pockets. And with many restorers out there, once “Junk” cars are being resurrected to incredible results. The fields has lots to choose from, with prices seemingly lowering every year.


Let’s face it people are getting tired of seeing the same old 60’/70’s cars at shows. Or 55/57 chevys . I’ve owned a ton of collectible cars over the past 30 years. Now more focused on the 05/09 mustangs. You have the Shelby models with a lot more performance and yes air bags. You have the 2010/2012 camaro . The resto mods bore me just like the other old cars . So I’m out of the old car market and switched over to the modern classics.


What about air bags ? 10 years later and all that money you spent … it just a modified old car now and has less appeal. As you can tell I don’t care for resto mods. People spend $100K on a modified piece of steel only to see them get lest then 50% back in 5 years and less in 10.


The “t” means a tie for that position in the ranking.


80 & still going strong, hope theres a few more years left


First of all, cars a meant to be driven. A great restored car in a garage for 40 years is such a waist. My wife and I have 5 antique cars and 1 truck. Trucks are the hottest thing going now. People actually drive them. I have a '70 F-100 that I drive almost every day. My son, who is probably what they call a millennial owns a '64 F-100. both of these trucks are drivers, but cool rides, Lowing a truck automatically makes people pay attention to it. People talk about generation gap, My son and I like the very same things. We started a F-100 club last spring and have nearly 60 members.


I think Hagerty is doing a good job of balancing the readers interest in classic muscle cars with more modern (post 1970) emerging classics. I’m 50 years old, loved muscle cars in my HS years, but to be honest, I’ve grown bored of them. I’m tired in seeing the same cars from the mid to late 60’s cross the auction block with the same old baby boomers bidding on them time after time. I can’t watch Barrett Jackson auctions anymore because there’s almost no variety. The vast majority of cars are all late 60’s muscle. Enough of that - the market has grown. If we all want our love of cars to embraced by the next generation, we need to share an appreciation for the entire car market, not just muscle. Consider the early 90’s Mazda RX-7 Turbo, the 300 ZX turbo, the Porsche 928, the Honda S 2000, etc. all great cars, all on their way to being the next classics along with many others. Of course Muscle cars are flat. I suspect prices will continue to drop until that market reaches a new equilibrium. It’s inevitable, with such a growing and diverse car enthusiast market, muscle cars are becoming and will continue to become less and less relevant.


I’m at the tail end of the baby boom generation and bought my first muscle car in 1983 when I was 21 years old. Although there was budding collector interest in these cars at the time, for many people they were just old used cars with poor gas millage and lots of repair and maintenance requirements. I was drawn to the 1st generation Cougars and cobbled together enough cash and credit to buy a '70 Boss 302 Cougar Eliminator. Like many of these cars that were actually used on the street, my Cougar was a classic Day-Two car with aftermarket speed parts and stripped of emission controls and other stuff deemed non-essential like the original rev-limiter, power steering and closed air cleaner assembly. When we rebuilt the engine we stuck with the Day-Two recipe because that was what we knew and how most of these cars were setup for street use back then. I was fortunate to hang onto the Cougar and it’s still in my garage. Taking a Day-Two car, even a low production desirable model like an Eliminator to many car shows is a similar experience to what others have described. The “original condition” police (usually older guys) descend upon you and point out every non-original “defect” on the car, real or imagined. I stopped going to car shows for many years because of this, and since the car is still the way we rebuild it in the 1980’s, I still get the same treatment today even though many of the shows have migrated to a people’s choice format instead of originality/condition judging.

As to the future popularity of these cars just step back and compare the Gen 1 muscle car styling, wild colors and performance to everything that came before and tell me they are not special. Grand dad’s Model T is still collectible but lacking the wow factor of a muscle car. I have no doubt the younger generations will become interested in early muscle cars when they have the time and money. I can’t tell you how many kids have complimented me on the Cougar even though they have no idea what it is. “Wow that’s a nice car!! What is it?” I hear with regularity from some young person with a Gen 2 muscle car or tuned import. Also, with modern aftermarket technology there is no reason these cars cannot be reliable and easier to maintain (If you can get over your originality mindset). My kids are no different than others from their generation with an inclination toward smart phones and being green, but they are also angling over who gets which car when dads gone. I hope they do hold on to them and enjoy them as I have, but that won’t be up to me.


The 1965 Shelby GT350… I don’t consider it a muscle car with a 289ci, but it is one of my favorites… Why isn’t it gaining? I don’t understand how the author can go there… Hagerty’s valuation tool chart shows a #2 value at $350,000 (Jan '16) to $450,000 (present)… $100,000 increase! The valuation tool shows a #3 value at approximately $275,000 (Jan '16) to $375,000 (present)… $100,000 increase! Granted both valuation curves have been flat since May 2017, but come on!


@vulcanrider - I would disagree that the carburetor does a better job than fuel injection. It’s been proven time after time that even the basic $700 self learning fuel injection beats a well tuned carb (a good 600CFM Holly double pumper is $600 from Holley) in drivability, power output, and ease of maintenance. When fuel injection kits were cutting edge (think 7-8 years ago) you were right, but times have changed.

I agree with you on buying cars you love though. I find myself making financially questionable decisions to put cars I like in the garage at home. I haven’t regret it yet though.


So nice to read more than words.


@brian4 - The '65 GT350s are valuable and desirable, no doubt about that, but based on our data we are seeing they are not growing at the same rate as the rest of the market. Likely that explains the flat valuation curve for the last 18 months too, as new buyers might not be entering the GT350 market as quickly as the truck/suv market, which has models that regularly fill spots in our top 25 lists.


I think it’s all good. We need to preserve originals so that we have something to represent how cars came off the line. That said us tinkerers have been modding cars since the beginning. When I’m at a show I appreciate everything from original survivors to resto-mods to hot rods to rat rods and even what I’ve heard referred to as “modern classics.” Took me a while to warm up to the tuners and the like but if that’s what your passion is then more power to you.

Regarding muscle cars, whether the segment is declining or will decline in interest, the fact that there are shows like Barrett Jackson and Mecum, not to mention the plethora of reality car shows on TV, is testament that people are watching. One question I have is this… will interest shift once electric and autonomous become mainstream?


We are actually exploring air bags for these retromods. Your comment that it costs a ton of money is probably true for those that have to farm out the work because they do not have the space, time, or expertise to undertake such projects. We farm out about 20% of our work and that usually relates to intricate metal work that is beyond my ability. I can only speak for myself and not others on this subject. But for any car I have sold I made money and I rarely sell any car. The most I have spent on any restromod is just under 22K and that was on a 68 Charger RT all matching number, #1 off the line of the new models. It is never what you sell it for. It is what your pay for.

I have bought so many cars in which someone bought and thought they would make a ton of money because they watched these stupid car shows on television. Only to realize they had no idea what or how to do it. These are the people that lose lots of money unless they find another fool that will pay them for their stupidity.


and @vulcanrider

I’m always surprised when people are quick to downplay the traditional carburetor…

Just one example, from May 17, 2017 (SuperChevy.com), “On the dual-plane intake manifold test, both the carburetor and the FiTech performed equally.”

The aluminum Holley 600DP is presently $428.36 on sale (from $528.95) on Holley’s web-site for the Holidays. With upgraded ethanol friendly diaphragms installed they require very little maintenance over a long period of time.

FiTech is $795 and Holley Sniper is $999… then add the electronic fuel pump setup.

How many present day EFI units are we going to see running in 50 years? Autolite 4100’s and Holley’s from the 60’s are still commonly in use today.

On maintenance / reliability… Traditional carburetors are very easy to work on. The EFI units generally need to be replaced/repaired at a high cost if they fail outside of the 1-year warranty. A standard carburetor is a bucket of cleaner and rebuild kit.

On fuel economy (MPG)… I’m reading some very surprising results that make me have no regrets sticking with a traditional carburetor!


Replying because this is monitored (Kyle?) !!! As a member, user and interested party (from events and lectures by McKeel) I think we are at a point where “submodels” within a model need to be called out for what they are. Or stated a different way certain cars have their own value within the broader appeal of the model range. Only some cars get that distinction within the Hagerty Valuation Tool. While the Porsche 911 in tracked down to the submodels and even the RSR (lightweight) the 1965 Shelby GT350 doesn’t allow for the “R model” and hence some of the higher sales that happen (in private). The happens with a Arnolt-Bristol (no listing for the 11 V8 cars) or even the modern SVO Mustang. (where the less than 100 Comp Prep cars are included in the 10000 street cars values) SKEWING the results!
It’s kind of like the tools for the stock market. While the Dow Jones served us for years…the need for a Russel 2000 or Wilshire 5000 made sense so you can look at other information. The thing with car values that seems steady is “production number valuation” When production is low (Under 200 seems to be the number) then tracking can be done in relationship to production. It’s a simple metric that could be added. No different than “square footage” for homes or PE ratio for stocks!


I appreciate my carburetor, and even then I’m an outlier because I adore the Quadrajet when tuned properly. They’re easy to work on if you know how to work on them, but given that the average car hasn’t had a carburetor in over 30 years, it is a dying skill. That said, I think EFI has a lot of staying power. Chevrolet has had some sort of EFI option for their cars since the early 80s in the Corvette and Camaro. Before that, the Mercedes 300SL was direct mechanical fuel injected back in 1954 and is perhaps more complicated than EFI to get right. I’d agree that older EFI systems are outdated and inefficient, but the newer stuff is REALLY well.

I’m not going to argue anyone who wants to keep their carb, because I have no intentions of ditching mine. That said I think that EFI is something that is going to keep the hobby alive, especially if older cars end up being emission restricted down the line. It is unlikely, but it could very well be something that enthusiasts have to adapt to in the future.