An unfortunate byproduct of rising collector car values (and in most places, besides the muscle car world, the market is higher than where it was five years ago) is the fact that a large number of us tend to get priced out of the market for certain cars. For example, five years ago, a lot of people who were patiently saving and waiting for just the right time to buy a 289 Cobra. Most of us will now be saving for a lot longer; 289 Cobras tripled in value from 2004-2006.
All isn’t lost though. With a little research, most collectors can identify an affordable alternative that scratches the same itch as the out-of-reach dream car. Hagerty’s Cars That Matter Publisher Dave Kinney calls it “The Principle of Substitution.”
“We’re not talking about replicars or clones here, but cars that are similar in spirit and style to the megabuck cars that have gotten out of reach for the average hobbyist,” says Kinney.
Very often, if you choose wisely, the cheaper alternative will also rise in value as it rides on the coattails of the more expensive car. Here are five of our favorite “big-name” cars, along with five less expensive substitutes:
1. 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle LS5: The 454/365 Chevelle LS5 was the poster child for rapid muscle car appreciation. Even though they’re down quite a bit from historic highs, they’re still not cheap at $45,400 for a coupe.
Substitute: 1970 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS 454/360. You’ll find the same big-block power and performance in a slightly more up-market package for about $20,000 less.
2. Austin-Healey 3000 MK III: Big Healeys (especially the 3000 MK III) exploded in value around 2005. Although the market’s cooled a bit, great ones done by big-name restorers can still break $100,000.
Substitute: 1968 Triumph TR250. Great vintage 1960s styling courtesy of Giovanni Michellotti and a smooth 2.5 liter straight six make it a near match for the Healey in performance for about a third of the price.
3. 1966 Ford Mustang K-Code Fastback Coupe: 271 hp K-Code Mustang fastback coupes have gotten expensive and stayed that way. It still takes around $50,000 to put one in your garage.
Substitute: 1968 AMC Javelin SST 343/280. Similar good looks, a bit more power, half the price.
4. 1963 Shelby Cobra 289: The winner of the “you snooze, you lose” award for the first decade of the 21st century, these were $125,000 to $150,000 cars for a long time until they doubled, tripled and nearly quadrupled in value before backing off a bit next year.
Substitute: 1965-67 Sunbeam Tiger. Sure it’s a bit frumpy looking, but what isn’t compared to the swoopy Cobra. This car was built to exactly the same formula as the Cobra. Carroll Shelby was involved in the development and Tigers were powered by the same 260/289 cubic-inch Ford small-block V8s. The MK II Tiger is the rarest on the list, but at $74,000 compared to $520,000 for the Cobra, it just might be the sweetest deal.
5. 1973 Porsche Carrera 2.7 RS: Perhaps the most charismatic 911 derivative, the RS has outrageous looks (think wild bright colors, loud Carrera graphics and a duck tail rear spoiler) and sizzling performance. Five years ago, around $75,000 was the price of an RS. Recently, we’ve seen them go for up to $300,000.
Substitute: 1976-79 Porsche 930 Turbo Carrera. Admittedly, the 930 isn’t as rare as the RS, but from a standpoint of looks, performance and swagger, they’re quite evenly matched. And early 930s have a pretty significant potential upside to boot.