The collector car market is a lot like the real estate market: it’s always seeking growth in that next new, hot neighborhood. And just like real estate, new areas appreciate while others plateau or depreciate.
With collector cars, there are a number of intangibles that go into predicting The Next Big Thing. It’s a complicated algorithm that considers rarity of remaining examples, affordability relative to comparable models, design, performance, desirability and everyday usability.
This is set against a backdrop of an increasingly younger enthusiast demographic, which values the cars from their childhood memories, not necessarily ours. No coincidence then that the new growth is occurring in the ‘70s-era cars.
Here are a few overripe apples that are ready for harvest. I have identified six entry-level collector cars that could pay dividends in the next 12 to 24 months.
1975-79 Alfa Romeo Alfetta GT Just as the Alfa Romeo Giulietta Sprint begat the Giulia GTV (and their subsequent rise in values) so too does the next of kin, the Alfetta GTV, appear poised for a run-up. A much-modernized car compared with its predecessors, the Alfetta utilized racecar technology in its chassis, driveline and suspension while retaining Alfa’s legendary DOHC, all-aluminum, inline-four-cylinder engines. Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, the wedge-ish space-shuttle shape appeals to a generation weaned on “Space 1999” sci-fi television, with a bathtub-like driving position in seats that evoke Scandinavian furniture. An investment-grade car would be rust-free (no small feat) and highly original, retaining its SPICA fuel injection. Look for $6,000-$8,000 cars to double in value during the next two years.
1966-1973 Lancia Fulvia coupe A contemporary to the Alfa GTV, this front-wheel-drive coupe put Lancia’s engineering mastery in one small package. Built to a standard and not cost, this European-only market car makes up for smaller engine displacement with refinement and precision. That quality is most evident in the first series 1.3-liter coupes, before Fiat’s corporate acquisition imposed cost-saving measures on the Turin-based automaker. It’s the Italian car that feels like it was built by Germans; its light and airy greenhouse has more than a passing resemblance to early BMW 2002 and CS coupes. Notably, it is one of the few old cars you still see as daily drivers on the streets of Italy, a testament to its durability and practicality. In a global marketplace with inexpensive overseas shipping, expect to see more of these cars on our shores. Plentiful Euro-market $15,000 cars will be popular in the U.S. at $25-30k within the year.
1969-1979 Ford Maverick A stylish stablemate to the Mustang, the V8-powered Grabber Maverick (and Mercury’s Comet GT) arrived too late in the horsepower wars of the late 1960s to make an impact. Designed as an import-fighting, bare-bones economy car (they didn’t even have glove boxes until 1973), they were simple, basic transportation. A new generation has discovered the potential of stuffing exotic powerplants between the shock towers of the 2,900-pound coupe, as evidenced by a recent build for SEMA by Fast and Furious star Sung Kang. Expect solid V8 cars to go to $12,000-$15,000 from the current $5,000-$7,000 within the year.
1970-1976 Plymouth Duster Chrysler’s answer to the low-budget Maverick was the updated Valiant fastback, the Duster. Though ubiquitous with their Slant-Six motors, the A-body coupes also came with Mopar’s sweet 340 cid small block V8. Perhaps no other car wore as many badges and trim packages as the Duster, known alternately as the Valiant, Demon, Twister, Gold Duster, Feather Duster, Dart Sport GT, Hang Ten, and many others. Bold graphics and a long list of eccentric available options (plaid interior, anyone?) give these cars an interesting aesthetic, and a four-speed, V8 car with Rally options makes for a nice performer. Top retail has hovered around the mid-to-upper teens for such a car; look for Dusters to break the $20k-$25k ceiling during 2017.
1975-1981 Chevrolet Camaro The second-generation Camaros had a restyle in 1975 that introduced a wrap-around rear window and federally mandated larger bumpers, making them the least collectible of the mid-‘70s GM F-bodies. Despite record production numbers, eviscerated engines relegated many of these cars to daily driver status unbecoming of their pony-car pedigree. A liberal application of stripes, spoilers and hood scoops perpetuated the illusion of performance in a decade of automotive mediocrity. Viewed today there is more to like than dislike, with many of the anemic drivetrains supplanted by performance upgrades. Look for 4-speed equipped Z-28 models to fall in line behind rising values of Pontiac Trans Ams. Pay $10k-$15k now for cars that will fetch $18-23k within a year.
1973-1975 Pontiac Grand Am It might take every day of two years for the 1973-75 Pontiac Grand Am to turn the investment corner, but it makes a strong case as a long-term investment. As the name suggests, the Grand Am attempted to straddle the luxurious Grand Prix and the sporty Trans-Am in Pontiacs line-up. It’s the sleekest of the GM “Colonnade”-style intermediates (an architectural term indicating a row of columns) and it shares the drivetrain and body of the one-year only ’73 GTO. Unfortunately, the legendary Goat was straddled with big, ugly chrome bumpers while the Grand Am had a color-keyed bumper, streamlined Endura nose and aggressive grille, making it one of the few highlights of 1970s American automotive design. Pay $10-12k now for a good one, which should be $18-20k in 24 months.