16 October 2013

Classic Car Killings: Three of the greatest collector car investments of all time

When discussing killings made in the market, the classic story seems to be that hypothetical person who invested $10,000 and bought 5,000 shares of Apple stock in 1985 for $2.00 a share, and held it for nearly 30 years, and watched that initial investment balloon to $6 million today.  Some people have done nearly as well in the classic car world. Here are some of our favorite killings in the classic car market:

  1. 1964 Ferrari 250 GTO: In the February 1981 issue of Hemmings Motor News, a small ad appeared for a 1964 Ferrari 250 GTO, serial number 4091, from a dealer in Joliet, Ill. The asking price was $285,000 (about $733,000 in today’s money). Admittedly, it was not a small sum for a very pretty but obsolete race car. But had you taken the plunge on this rare classic Ferrari (fewer than 40 were made), your investment would be worth around $50 million today. A similar car was reportedly sold for that sum a few weeks ago. That’s about an 18% annualized return.
  2. Bugatti collection for a pittance: In 1963, fishing equipment heir John Shakespeare dumped his collection of 30 classic Bugattis to a predatory French collector for a reported price of less than $250,000. The collection might today be worth close to $100 million, and included one of six Bugatti Royales, one of the most expensive cars on the planet. Shakespeare himself had scooped that one up for just $9,000 in 1956.
  3. A pair of Cobras for less than 100 grand: In the same issue of Hemmings Motor News referenced above, you could have purchased a pair of real Shelby Cobras for under $100,000 — just $30,000 for a small-block 289 Cobra and $60,000 for a big-block 427. Today, they’d be worth about $900,000 and $1.3 million, respectively.

20 Reader Comments

  • 1
    bob siino brooksville fl October 23, 2013 at 17:45
    i guess i should have kept my 1974 pinto!
  • 2
    RONALD NEWMAN United States October 23, 2013 at 20:43
    Interesting stories--hindsight is 20/20. Back in the day we were raising a family, trying to buy a decent house to live in and still have enough money at the end of the month to purchase groceries. In most cases it would seem that you need some money to make more money! Nice article.
  • 3
    Robert Phillips Santa Fe, NM October 23, 2013 at 21:19
    Dear Rob, $2,225 in 1960 for my car wasn't too bad. Google "Phillips 500 Mondial"
  • 4
    Ken Waller Novi, Michigan October 23, 2013 at 22:58
    In 1966, when I purchased my 1966 Shelby GT 350 for $ 4250, I could have bought a 1966 Shelby Cobra for $ 6250! Who knew?
  • 5
    Filippo Switzerland October 24, 2013 at 05:46
    The Classic Car Fund, a passion investment - designed with the enthusiast in mind, to diversify any investors portfolio.
  • 6
    Bruce L. Pearson New Mexico October 24, 2013 at 19:29
    This article makes me wonder. Which "ordinary" used cars for sale today might appreciate to a similar extent over the next 30 or 40 years? I won't be around then to find out, but I still wonder . . . . .
  • 7
    Chuck West Palm Beach October 24, 2013 at 08:27
    I bought a 1936 Horsch limo for $440 from the original owner. It had a 90 hp aluminum v8 motor. The car was in perfect shape. Rebuilt one carb and replaced one battery. What's that car worth today?
  • 8
    Oscar Michigan October 24, 2013 at 09:28
    1972, I just finished school. Just got married and Ford Motor Co Steel Division hired me. AT 23 and just married I did not have much. My 1967 Mustang fast back was worn out with over 200,000 miles. I needed a new car. First mistake, sold my mustang for $350.00. Second mistake, went to the Ford B Lot where used exec cars were sold to lowly schmucks like me looking for a deal..... I ended up buying a 1972 Torino loaded for about $2700. The deal I missed was that had 4 or five 1967 Shelby 350 Hertz mustangs and 3 1967 427 Cobras from engeneering covered with tarps that they could not sell. They wanted about $1500 for the stangs and about $1,000 for the 2 seater Cobras. All excited, I went and told my new wife, and she said. "are you out of your mind? We have to save for a house!!!!!" 42 years of marriage later, very little has changed.... We bought the Torino........
  • 9
    Bruce Poconos, PA October 24, 2013 at 09:37
    In 1972 I bought a 1964 1/2 Mustang coupe for $200 from my sister-in-law. I believe she bought the car new for $600 and change. I kept it for four years and sold it for $2000. It was falling apart when I got rid of it with a new head gasket.
  • 10
    Brad Nashville, TN. October 24, 2013 at 09:55
    Guess I should have kept my 1969 Mercury Cougar Eliminator that I sold for about 7K two decades ago. They are selling for around 45+ now, and going up.
  • 11
    Rodney Shands United States October 24, 2013 at 11:15
    In 1965, I left Mississippi and was in Los Angeles and went to Otto Zipper Car lot. There was a blood red Mercedes Benz 300 SL gullwing with black leather interior for $5,000. and a Solo Cup yellow Ferrari GTB with black leather interior for the same money. $5,000. for each, looked fantastic and on the used car lot. I didn't have 5K but I knew if somehow I could buy both, they would be worth more in the future. I didn't know how much more or course. But living in Mississippi, air conditioning was a must and neither car had it and neither would be a good everyday driver as well as no one here could fix them. Still hurts.
  • 12
    MIke Seattle October 24, 2013 at 00:09
    Quite a few folks made out big with the Ferrari 246 Dino. These beautiful little mid engine cars were selling from $18,000 to about $22,000 in the early 1970's and today are selling for over ten times that. Not a bad investment and lots of smiles along the way.
  • 13
    Kaki Lexington KY October 24, 2013 at 12:38
    When I (first) got out of college in early 1964, I wanted -- really badly -- a new car that I'd read about that a Texan named Shelby was building (see above). I didn't have the $6500, so I settled for a used MGB at $2400. In the summer of 1966 I moved to Texas to take a job in the Dallas area. That Christmas, my wife and I walked into a 'little store' nearby that she'd found -- Nieman Marcus -- and there, in the middle of the sales floor, was a Ford GT-40, and it could be mine for $18,000. I didn't have $18,000 -- still knocking around in that old MGB. In 1969 we moved home to Kentucky, and I looked up a hometown friend who was dabbling in interesting cars. At the time, he had a Lusso and a 275 GTB/4 alloy. He let the GTB go for $10,000. I didn't have $10,000 ... although I had managed to update the MGB to an MGB/GT by then. All three are today, of course, seven figure cars. Sigh.
  • 14
    Bob Leonard Lexington, NC October 25, 2013 at 08:17
    In 1967 a local businessman purchased a Ferrari convertible. His name was Eddie Smith. As a young boy and interested in cars, it was the first Ferrari I ever saw. WOW was it something !!! He drove it most all the time and I got to see it often. There were a lot of great cars in 1967 but his car was really something SPECIAL! It was thrilling to hear it go by, 12 cylinders at full song. ROAD & TRACK magazine did an article on the model and stated it cost $14500. In contrast, my Dad purchased a new LTD Ford in 1967 and it cost $4500. I still have the LTD. The Ferrari? It was a NART Spyder. It recently sold at auction for $25 MILLION by Mr. Smith's family with all proceeds going to charity.
  • 15
    Paul Haynes goose creek sc October 25, 2013 at 11:45
    I have a real horror story, got a 67 vette, 427, 435 hp, 2 years old, got married in 71, and the rest is history (sad history) sold it for a 70 dodge charger r/t, then a few years later got a 70 mercury marauder all are gone, now I have 2 Honda's and a nice 60,00 mile 86 mustang vert GT. Wow what I could have gotten for those cars now.
  • 16
    doug burdick cameron,SC October 26, 2013 at 21:58
    What's sad to me is not the rolling gold mines I've missed out on over the years. What's sad is that beautiful fun cars are so scarce that they become gold mines! In a world full of ugly,soulless people movers, only the handful of beautiful cars, built all to infrequently, have gained value. Is it really that hard to bend sheet metal into a pleasing shape? These high prices are a sad reflection on the state of design of most cars over the years.
  • 17
    Alan K Schwarz Lake Elsinore California October 26, 2013 at 00:32
    I remember pedaling my Schwinn Stingray up to Theo Robbins Ford in Costa Mesa where the salespeople would actually let me, a 7th grader sit in a brand new 1970 BOSS 302 Mustang and shift the Hurst shifter in the showroom.I pestered my Dad to trade in our '65 Mustang convertible for the yellow & black $4950 fastback BOSS 302 with the Shaker Hood Scoop & bitchen louvres .The bad news ....He never got the BOSS. The good news is he held onto the '65 and left it to me when he passed away. With a build date of April 17, 1964, the Dynasty Green on white 'stang is going to turn 50 next year which is the official birthday of the Mustang. I doubt I'm selling it any time soon though.Too many memories
  • 18
    Rich Baines Stevensville, MD October 28, 2013 at 04:03
    Cobras In 65, I purchased a new dark blue 65 Mustang. I stopped by a dealer selling this aluminum two seater british car with side curtains. I thought "Why would anyone want this small car....it doesn't even have rollup windows". My father sold the mustang while I was in the Navy for a loss at a Ford dealer.....In 69, while stationed in Portsmouth NH, a used car dealer had two 427 Cobras on the lot. They were selling them for $10,000 and surprised when the both sold. Where s that time machine ??
  • 19
    russ somewhere here in cal November 7, 2013 at 12:02
    i went to buy a 1972 cougar in 1975 the cost was 4275.00 I went back to my bank but they said it was to much money for me to spend ( I was 17) the bank gave me a budget of 1950. i went back and they had a 1969 convertible cougar. Being from New York and never seeing a convertible , i thought "way cool" so i got them to sell me the car for 1600. With payments of 69.50 a month. It is now 2013 and i just had it painted with new upholstery i might add that when i got divorced in 1982 the car was the only thing i kept :) keep on driving!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • 20
    Michael Small town Ca December 9, 2015 at 23:04
    In 1975 I bought a '70 HemiCuda coupe for $2000. I was the second owner. Original purchaser was a personal friend and I knew the car's history from day one. In 1978 I bought a second MATCHING (what are the odds ?) '70 HemiCuda coupe for $2500. Now -- eat your little hearts out : I still got 'em ! BOTH of 'em ! Tho neither has been cranked in 20 years. And if you factor in storage costs I have probably lost money.

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