The Market

Vintage pickups, 4x4s and the ’69 Dodge Charger surge in interest


Pickup trucks and vintage 4x4s were very popular among those looking for collector vehicles in generic searches on the ClassicCars.com Marketplace in December. But they were not alone. The 1969 Dodge Charger regained the top spot on the year-make-model search list, where interest in the 1964 Chevrolet Impala and the 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 simply zoomed.

The ’69 Charger topped the most-searched-for list for four of the first five months of 2019, but then was overtaken by the 1967 Ford Mustang until charging back to the top in December. 

The December search list had the ’67 Mustang second and the ’69 Chevrolet Camaro third. The ’69 Mustang retained fourth place and the ’67 Chevrolet Impala held fifth.

But next came some surprises: The ’64 Impala soared from outside the top 10 to sixth, the ’57 Chevy Bel Air went from 10th to seventh and the ’67 Shelby GT500 Mustang accelerated from outside the top 10 to eighth.

“A 1964 Chevrolet Impala lowrider known as ‘Gypsy Rose’ has become well known since being included on the National Historic Vehicle Register as well as being featured in the ‘Cars at the Capital’ display and at the Petersen Automotive Museum,” said Roger Falcione, founder and chief executive of ClassicCars.com

“That attention may be the reason the ’67 Impala has become popular with those searching for a classic of their own from that era.”

Chevy C-10 pickup trucks, such as this 1962 model, are popular with those doing resto-mod updates

Meanwhile, among searches for vehicles without specifying year or model, Chevrolet and Ford remained 1-2 in December, but the vintage Chevy C-10 pickup truck bumped the Mustang out of the top 3, while the C-10 moved up one spot, the Willys/Jeep climbed to fifth, right behind the Mustang.

“Vintage pickup trucks and 4x4s have been climbing in popularity, and not just in our search lists,” Falcione said. “They also are gaining momentum with bidders at collector car auctions, and they aren’t the only ones in their respective categories showing such interest. 

“Vintage pickups from various domestic and import brands are popular, and the same goes for vintage utility vehicles, such as the Ford Bronco, Toyota Land Cruiser.”

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The Market

Laws of supply and demand impact collector car prices


During 2019, we saw many changes in the collector car market. Prices have been fluctuating quite a bit, and prices on cars that were once thought of as recession proof (think 7-figure, Monterey-style cars) have been down most significantly. 

Some of this is due to the large number of cars on offer combined with a few missteps by big auction companies with star lots.  Also, the fact that the interests of newer and younger buyers are different from those of collectors in the past; many of the newcomers have little or no connection with the cars that the older generation coveted.

For example, cars that were the bread and butter of the lower end of the market, think Tri-Five Chevys, Detroit muscle cars and the like, also have been the subject of falling prices, often by as much as 30 percent. Again, this is likely due to the new generation of collectors having no connection with those cars. These collectors have never seen American Graffiti and are not likely to do so anytime soon. 

All of this has meant that the traditional auctions were no longer the sure thing in delivering strong prices, and especially with consignors setting reserves based on prices being paid 2 or 3 years ago. In the past, if you were selling a collector car and wanted top value, your best choice was to sell it at a live auction venue. This is no longer the near-certain success it used to be. 

A row of Corvettes from which bidders might choose

Another growing problem is that there are too many auctions and too many new auction companies. This has made for a situation with more and more inventory of classic and collector cars available at any  auction, practically every week. In essence, there are too many of the same types of cars available, so if you don’t buy that Mustang or Camaro you are looking for this week, you can simply wait until next week and find another you like.

Another factor that represents a change are the increasing number of online classic car auction sites. This adds to the number of cars on offer and is flooding the market with similar merchandise.

Finally, there are a number of collectors who are simply aging out of the hobby. The cars they collected, and which they rode on the wave of increased values for so many years, are now both falling in demand while at the same time, there are too many of them on the market.

All of these factors are driving prices down. In a nutshell, there is just too much of the same inventory for sale at the same time.

One place in the auction space that has been going quite well is the sale of single collections.”

Some consider online auctions as a savior, but this may not be the case. Yes, cars are selling, but the sell-through rates are not much better than at traditional auctions, and from a seller’s point of view there is risk with an online sale as well. 

Also the cars listed on some sites are much the same as that being offered by traditional live auction companies. When these like cars are offered for sale online, they do not tend to demand any more money than they would at a traditional live auction. 

There is another thing happening with the online auctions. They tend to list multiple numbers of the same marque and model rather than limiting the volume of similar cars, something the traditional auctions do as a way to enhance values.

One place in the auction space that has been going quite well is the sale of single collections. The best example recently was the Taj Ma Garaj auction by RM Sotheby’s. This auction featured scores of air-cooled Porsche and VW cars, and they sold for absolute top value. 

Such events differ from standard auctions in that they bring like-minded collectors to a venue to bid on the cars they love most. 

With more and more boomer-generation collectors divesting themselves of their collections, look to see many more of these types of sales in the future. One potential drawback is that the cars offered at such sales are likely to be the same cars that are at best maintaining flat values in today’s market, which again points to the issue of too much inventory at the same time.

So, what does the future hold for collector cars? I would say that the blue-chip cars of the past are likely to continue to drop a bit in value as the number of these cars offered continues to increase.  A positive note for the buyer is that this could make cars that were unaffordable to many are coming down in price and becoming more attainable to more collectors.

One important caveat is that no matter what car you are looking to buy, you should work hard to find the finest example you can afford. The reason for this is that in our current market, the trend is that only the very top-condition cars are likely to increase in value.

As always, only buy a car you really want to own. If that car is over a price you can afford, you might want to wait and see what the market does during the upcoming Arizona Auction Week. If the market drops a bit more, you might soon be able to afford that car you have always wanted, but thought was out of reach.

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The Market

There’s a youth movement taking place in the collector car hobby


If you have been following the collector car market in the past year or two, you likely have seen the term “youngtimer” thrown around when referring to both cars and collectors of a certain age. 

The idea of a youngtimer car is one that is in some ways too modern to be considered a true classic, but neither could it be considered as merely a used car. For the most part, these are not just run-of-the-mill models but cars that when new were highly anticipated and well-received, or expensive, and many times all three. 

Some examples: The front- engined Porsche 924/944/928/968, the Acura NSX, 1980s and ’90s Ferraris, both generations of the Nissan 300ZX, the Mazda RX-7, BMW E30 thru E46 M3s, you get the idea. What they have in common is that they were all a new generation of enthusiast-focused cars. 

RM Sotheby’s offered a consignment of more than 140 ‘Youngtimer’ cars that crossed the block at several of its 2019 auctions | RM Sotheby’s photo

For a definition of a youngtimer collector, I would say that he or she is likely between 30-45 years old and somewhat new to the hobby, especially at its higher levels. They are buying at auctions, often paying considerable sums of money for more modern cars that just a few years ago might have been considered merely used cars and certainly not collectible.

Before you discount the whole youngtimer movement, you should know that these cars and their younger buyers are the biggest growth point in the collector car market right now. 

Why is this happening? The reasons are the same as when older collectors entered the market. The younger buyers are chasing the cars of which they had posters on their bedroom walls when they were teenagers. Adding to that is that they spent hours “behind the wheel” of these cars while playing such video games as Forza. 

Now that they are earning more money, they are buying the cars they dreamed about, just like we did. Compared with the Boomer and Gen Xers in the hobby, there are starting to be more of these new buyers, especially as boomers start to exit the market. And while the Gen X generation is certainly significant, there are simply so many more Millennials in terms of sheer numbers.

But youngtimer applies not only to the collectors but to the cars as well. By the way, youngtimers is what such cars and collectors are called in Europe; Americans have yet to settle on a name. Some call them future classics or future collector cars, while others call them modern or young classics.

As vehicles, this next generation of collector cars are considerably more usable than, for instance, a Jaguar E-type or a 1957 Chevy. This is important because these younger collectors tend to be much more drivers than show-and-shine collectors, and usability is at the top of many of their lists of requirements.

There is another factor driving the interest in these newer collector cars. While some have sold for more than $100,000, there are still plenty that can be obtained in the $10,000 range, making them more attainable than, say, a 1967 Austin Healey 3000, which has current owners still think are worth north of $100,000. Price plus drivability make a youngtimer an easy purchase decision to many.

Head Judge Andy Reid (second from left) chats with a participant.Head Judge Andy Reid (second from left) chats with a participant.
Andy Reid (second from left) is head judge for the Future Collectors Car Show. Here he chats with a participant at the 2019 event

Another factor is that owners of such cars have somewhere to go. For many years, youngtimer cars have been ineligible for anything besides marque-specific events or local shows. They were considered too new to be eligible for a concours d’elegance or even a collector car auction.  

What happened to change this was the creation of events such as ClassicCars.com’s own Future Collector Car Show – the fifth annual event is scheduled for January 12 in Scottsdale during Arizona Auction week – and Radwood, which is not only a celebration of 1980s and ‘90s cars but an immersive event dedicated to the lifestyle, music and fashion of that period. 

The enthusiasm for Radwood was immediate and there are now Radwood events all over the country (and even in Japan and England), where young collectors and their cars not only are welcome but often are the only participants, although Boomers who bring the right cars, and who can still fit into their ’80s and ’90s fashions, are welcome.

At the sharp (read expensive) end of the collector car hobby, the modern collectibles are the cars that are driving the market upward. Supercars such as the Jaguar XJ220, Porsche Carrera GT and Ford GT, as well as high-end examples of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and McLarens, are being bought by the younger buyers, and for lots of money. 

They love these supercars for what they represent and are not bogged down by the sort of modern-era baggage that many older collectors placed on them when they were introduced.

So, do I see this trend continuing into 2020? Looking at the preliminary listing of cars being offered by the auction companies during Arizona Auction Week 2020, I count more than 60 such vehicles, and that’s just in the RM Sotheby’s, Gooding & Company and Bonhams catalogs. 

Add in the other auction venues and there likely are more than 200 such cars that will cross the auction blocks next month in Arizona. This tells me these cars are here to stay and will continue to be strong sellers in the future.

I do have advice about this more youthful market. I can tell you that I have started to search for some of these cars myself, specifically a Porsche 924 or 944 Turbo and non-sunroof 928. If I were you, I would head over to the ClassicCars.com marketplace, where there are a number of youngtimer-era cars offered for sale at prices that in a few years will be considered absolute bargains. 

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