3 March 2014

Boomer vs. Gen Xer cars

Gen Xers are poised to inherit the classic car hobby. It’s already starting to happen. As I mentioned in “For Sale by Boomer” in the March issue of Car and Driver, the market for 1950s Americana is already starting to fall flat as the oldest boomers (now pushing 70) start to cash out. Gen Xers (those born from 1965-85) are starting to gain some disposable income, and guess what? They don’t want the cars of their dads. They want the stuff that was on their bedroom wall posters as kids. That places the cars built between 1976 and 1996 squarely in the cross-hairs of impending serious collectability. The dirty secret? In some cases, the Gen Xer cars are better.  Here are five of our favorite Boomer vs. Gen Xer comparos:

1964 Pontiac GTO vs. 1976 Pontiac Trans Am: According to John Kraman, the consignment director for Mecum Auctions, “Smoky and the Bandit”-era black and gold T/As are white-hot — easier to move than the granddaddy of muscle cars, the 1964 Pontiac GTO. Makes sense; this being the 50th anniversary year of the GTO, the guys who bought them new that first year are all septuagenarians. Bandit T/As on the other hand are revered by Gen Xers who grew up watching Burt Reynolds’ toupee blowing in the T-top slip stream, humming “East Bound and Down.” To them, it matters little that most malaise-era T/As-- save for the 455-cubic-inch versions-- were toothless tigers compared to the GTO. They’re cool and that’s enough.

1965 VW Karmann Ghia vs. 1992 Volkswagen Corrado VR6: The Karmann Ghia is an extremely pretty car, but at the end of the day, it’s a Beetle in an Italian suit. The Corrado, on the other hand, is like a Scirocco that’s paid a visit to BALCO — it’s totally juiced. With a delicious narrow angle V-6 and very little torque steer, it may be one of the most desirable front-drivers ever built. Only the motorized-mouse passive restraint seatbelts detract. Unlike Barry Bonds, the VR6 enhancement of the Corrado won’t keep it out of the Hall of Fame of collectible cars. Find a good one now (if you can).

We believe that every classic car has a story. Tell us yours here.

1972 BMW 2002tii vs. 1988 BMW E30 M3: The BMW 2002 has deservedly acquired a big reputation as the seminal German sports sedan. The fuel-injected tii is nearly mythical. Fun cars, but they have non-existent ventilation and the phony wood dash appliqués are a bit chincy. In addition, the carbureted cars feel  a bit anemic today and 2002 4-speeds are unpleasant on the highway. The E30 M3, on the other hand, is more high-strung than a thorobred race horse and it only gets better the harder you thrash it. An E30 M3  with just 40,000 miles sold at the Russo and Steele auction in Monterey last year for $40,000. It seemed like a ton of money at the time. A half a year later, it sounds like a screaming deal.

1970 Datsun 240Z vs. 1992 Mazda RX-7: The 240Z was a phenomenal car when it came out in 1969 at a price of just over $3,500. It was well-built, reliable and did everything well. It was the comet that killed the dinosaurs for the Opel GTs and Triumph GT6s of the world. In actuality, though, its performance envelope wasn’t that astonishing: 0-60 in about 8.7 seconds and around 125 mph. Not that much better than an Austin-Healey 3000 MK III. By contrast, the third-generation RX-7 offered supercar performance and looks at a bargain price, much as the Jaguar E-Type had in 1961. Most have been thoroughly thrashed and run into the ground (like most 240Zs had). The kicker is that far fewer RX-7s made it to the U.S. A good one at under $20K is a steal.

1965 Toyota Land Cruiser vs. 1984 Toyota 4Runner: We love the FJ40 Land Cruiser and, in truth, with its near 30-year production life, it spans both the boomer and Gen-X eras. Insanely overrestored FJ40s are showing up at hoity-toity catalog auctions and bringing close to six figures. As a result, some of us are over the FJ40. Enter the first-generation Toyota 4Runner. Essentially just a Toyota Hilux pickup with a fiberglass shell, many came to the U.S. sans rear seats to skirt passenger-car import duties. There are probably fewer than 1,000 of these left with under 200,000 miles, no rust, and their original paint and tape stripes. We’ve already seen good ones break 20 grand.

40 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Todd Dallas March 5, 2014 at 13:57
    Just for the record, I'm 45 and you couldn't freakin' GIVE me a disco TA, or Camaro, or any of those flash rather than dash trash cans of the mid to late 1970's. How could anyone be are more taken with a 1976--fill in the blank--than a 1960's Muscle Car? God help us all. BAM! That just happened!
  • 2
    Andy Stahl Las Vegas, NV March 5, 2014 at 14:01
    I agree wholeheartedly about the Corrado. While I don't consider my birth year of 1978 to be GenX... I've owned my Corrado since 2003, and I've watched the values plummet to $2500-3000 for one in average condition. But, just like the Rabbit GTI and Scirocco, the once commonplace junkyard parts dried up, and now a pristine example commands much closer to $10K. And the "mouse belts" can be replaced with the euro-style standard-buckle belts (and the dim US spec headlights replaced with E-Codes/H4 bulbs). If you admit this is a "future classic", why doesn't Hagerty accept any more Corrado's to insure? Apparently my policy is grandfathered in, since I've had it since the mid aughts.
  • 3
    dave Willoughby, Ohio March 5, 2014 at 14:02
    Not! Kind of ridiculous to compare fairly rare and very special 55-70 era collectable cars to dime a dozen later models. Few American cars/trucks after '72 are even noteworthy much less collectable. Just my opinion.
  • 4
    Mike Seattle March 5, 2014 at 14:03
    The problems associated with restorations of 1976 to 1996 model cars is twofold: plastic and electronic fuel injection. The injection scares the unfamiliar away, although a lot of the younger crowd is savvy enough to deal with it. The plastic is another animal altogether. Sun and age takes a toll and once the supply of old parts runs out it may be difficult to find plastic bits for the more obscure models. Old cars with metal parts and carburetors were definitely simpler for restorers. As the article highlights, reliability and handling dramatically improved after the 50's and 60's cars. Whether styling or straight line performance did is another question in some cases... Whatever the opinions, it's good to see people becoming involved in the collector hobby.
  • 5
    Dean G Michigan March 5, 2014 at 14:53
    I'd be willing to bet that the caption on the picture of the black T/A is wrong. I strongly suspect that the car is a '78 with the milled 8" honeycomb wheels which were not available on until mid-year '78.
  • 6
    Joel M PA March 5, 2014 at 15:11
    Hah, spot on. I'm 30 and I have an 89' 4Runner with the removable top (and it comes off every summer), and an 87' Supra Turbo. The Supra is still a baby, but yeah, the 4Runner has 250K on it. I just finished stripping, blasting, and coating the frame and welding all new quarters in though so it should see another 250K. I guess they reinstalled the rear seats after customs though, cause mine has them in there.
  • 7
    Alan MS March 5, 2014 at 15:41
    Apparently I'm a GenXer, born in 1984, but I don't fit the description of this article. I had an Iroc-Z poster on my wall as a kid. I still think they're cool cars, but I'll keep my 68 Chevelle and take just about anything from the mid 60s and older over an Iroc-Z or anything else from 1976 to 1996. And seriously, 1996? I don't forsee a time when I'll ever consider a car from around 1996 to be a classic.
  • 8
    Frank Irvine, CA March 5, 2014 at 15:54
    My near mint 1973 Alfa Romeo 2000 Spider with its 5 speed manual transmission is a joy to drive at freeway speeds especially when set to breath to European specs. So some Gen X cars are still worthy buys.
  • 9
    Bobby Bluegrass March 5, 2014 at 15:58
    Gen X guy here. (silly term, GenX). I love 50s and 60s cars. That being said, I think it's insane to pay the prices being asked for most of them when you can have an awesome 70s or 80s car for a fraction of the price. Chances are good that later model has power everything, AC, fuel injection, disc brakes and a lot of other conveniences and safety features you would spend a fortune on to add to older cars. Besides, these were the cars we drooled over at 16. I still remember the first time I saw a new 87 Mustang GT or an IROC Z-28 As far as the horsepower, I've seen many a high HP older car sitting under a tree in the shade, or cruising along at 25 mph making a lot of noise going nowhere. What's the point of 500 horses if all your going to do is cruise anyway? And, if you do want high HP, plenty of changes can be made to later model cars to remedy that. The hardest part is waiting on the aftermarket to catch up.
  • 10
    Scott Binghamton, NY March 5, 2014 at 16:21
    I am an early Gen Xer and much prefer the many 1960s cars I've owned. I had many second-gen Camaros back in my late teens and 20s, but I quickly outgrew them in favor of the bigger grocery-getters that I remember on the road when I was younger than ten. Even back then they were becoming scarce, many with their rusty quarter panels flexing with the wind as they went down the road! Most that have passed through my hands in the last decade have been older than I am!
  • 11
    Scott Binghamton, NY March 5, 2014 at 16:23
    I am an early Gen Xer and much prefer the many 1960s cars I've owned. I had many second-gen Camaros back in my late teens and 20s, but I quickly outgrew them in favor of the bigger grocery-getters that I remember on the road when I was younger than ten. Even back then they were becoming scarce, many with their rusty quarter panels flexing with the wind as they went down the road! Most that have passed through my hands in the last decade have been older than I am!
  • 12
    DMcG Fresno, CA March 5, 2014 at 16:35
    Another would be '65 Mustang versus Fox or SN95 Mustang. My son, who is 26, has had a '94 GT since he was 18. He truly can't be bothered by any Mustang older than an '87, but he loves his car and has thousands of dollars in modifications. He'll keep it as long as he can.
  • 13
    William Seaton South Carolina March 5, 2014 at 16:43
    Wondering what this will do to values of older cars.
  • 14
    Denny roseburg OR March 5, 2014 at 16:48
    PLEASE STOP using the word "delicious" when referring to cars (See VW article above). Thank you.
  • 15
    BRIAN TEXAS March 5, 2014 at 17:53
    Not this Gen Xer. Fortunately I can tell the difference between a nice car and a POS.
  • 16
    noneya nowhere, usa March 5, 2014 at 18:12
    This article is garbage.
  • 17
    Mr.Mopar North Central Idaho March 5, 2014 at 18:29
    Any idea that something from the 70s is in any way superior to the 60s muscle cars is just goofy. There is a certain following to the "Smokey and the Bandit" cars, but name another. One other mid seventies car bringing important money. Anyone? Like the '77 Corvette? Big horsepower, right? Can you find a 60s 'Vette for eight grand? Lots of '77s for that number. Same for Mustangs. Oh, yeah, the Mustang II. Big demand. I'm a Mopar guy, but let's not visit Chrysler's successes in the mid seventies. Not much better in the eighties. Things started improving in the nineties, but the seventies were pretty much a dead loss for gearheads.
  • 18
    Samer Jupiter, FL March 5, 2014 at 19:09
    I'm a generation Xer and I happen to own a 1969 Karmann Ghia. My older brother owned a Corrado when we were in high school. It's a nice car, but I never loved it. I was on a business trip in Switzerland a few years ago and I saw a Karmann Ghia parked on a street in Zurich. I took a photo of it and promised myself I'd buy one. I love the Beetle mechanics. Simple and cheap to do your own maintenance and all of the engine parts are readily available.
  • 19
    Chris Florida March 5, 2014 at 19:30
    the C4 Corvette, 1984-1996 needs to be a part of this group. They are under valued at the present time and are also a great car to drive and enjoy. All years are 150 MPH or better, nothing wrong with that.
  • 20
    John San Jose March 5, 2014 at 12:34
    I'm pretty sure there weren't any 1992 RX-7's. At least not in the US.
  • 21
    Billbo Grosse Ile, MI March 6, 2014 at 15:03
    Born in 1971, I love the '80's cars, mostly Ford. I have an '88 Turbo Coupe, '87 Mercury Cougar 20th Anniversary and have owned 2 Fox Mustang convertibles. Next I'm looking to pick up a Fox body Mercury Capri. I do have a '75 Pontiac Grandville Convertible as well due to sentimental reasons. I probably wouldn't get anything older than '70's cars. I like creature comforts in my cars as well as just knowing what I know about the cars when I was growing up, familiarity.
  • 22
    Matt Kempton PA March 6, 2014 at 17:17
    According to the years I'm a baby boomer(I hate these labels) But I love and had owned a Delorean for five years. An Iconic car from the 80s. These some what exotic cars are reasonably priced $18,000-$35,000 for good examples and very easy to maintain. Easy, because underneath they use simple mechanicals as John had intended. No $3000.00 tune up for this car. You can take it to any Mechanic and spend as much for a chevy for a tune up. They use The PRV V6 engine in the Delorean, these were used in Peugot's Renault's and Volvo's. There are thousands of parts available and yes the stainless steel can be fixed or you just replace it. A very fun and cool collectible.
  • 23
    Brent Lomita, CA. March 6, 2014 at 19:49
    I was born in 1980, and I will take my dad's cars anytime. Emissions controls, miles of vacuum hoses, and plastic-- it doesn't make for a fun car.
  • 24
    Steve Battle Creek, MI March 6, 2014 at 10:05
    Ho hum! While it might be 'cool' to cruise around a what I term a modern old car what's the point? Why not spring for a real vintage old car and join in the fun?
  • 25
    jason fell tracy ca. March 6, 2014 at 11:26
    This is so true. I have noticed this when I take my Shelby gt 500 to car shows the younger crowd wants to know all about Bullet and Boss stangs. Look what happened to the market for model A's. Good news is with the gov mandating all cars get over 30 mpg by 2019 the pre-1970 muscle car market will yur only chance to get a hypo V-8 machine.
  • 26
    Michael N San Jose March 6, 2014 at 12:02
    I am in the middle of the Gen X group at 42. I have grown up as a car fanatic, loving just about every thing built from the 20's on. However I believe that this article is about car collecting and what is happening to the cars from the 50's and their values. I no longer attend the Good Guys car shows with all of the 50's hot rods etc. I become too numb at these events as there are just soooo many nice cars there from this era that after a while you get tired at looking at all of them. I can appreciate the amount of time, money, and talent that it takes to bring these cars to this level, however when there are so many together it just doesn't seem like they are special. If I saw any one of these cars in the parking lot at the grocery store I would take the time to go over and check it out and speak to the owner if they were around. There are just so many nice cars from this era. Owning one and driving one as a Gen Xer would feel like you inherited one from an estate rather than building one yourself. Many of the local cruises were shut down by the time Gen Xers came of driving age. I can remember as a kid driving the local cruise with my much older brother. By the time I was able to drive cruising was dead as a weekly event and only held once a year in specific locations like Modesto and Reno. I grew up driving and enjoying the car rather than cruising. Many of the car events I attend have spirited drives on the back roads attached to the event. This is where a more modern classic car is appealing. I currently own an Porsche 914-6 but would not also mind picking up a E30 M3. Cars that are smaller, not as common and still offer good performance for the era they were built interest me. I totally agree with the author with the exception of the Bandit Trans Am. I would take the GTO all day long. Values on the Gen X cars are moving up as well. Gone are the days of a $10k - $15K driver 914-6 or E30 M3. Get that car that you've been dreaming of before they are priced out of reach.
  • 27
    Peter Merritt Island, Fl March 6, 2014 at 12:57
    92 RX7 vs a 70 240Z? Apples to oranges. Not fair to compare..But I will add the Z is just now starting to realize its collectible status, very easy to customize, plenty of fun to drive, and in its element(auto cross) it can hold its own if not go around most 92 models... Nevermind GenX- the young kids today recognize and appreciate the Z / not because of movies and posters but bec the Z is an icon in the modern day gaming world.
  • 28
    Wayne Halladay Sun City West Az March 7, 2014 at 13:23
    When is someone going to write a song about one of these late 70's collectibles?
  • 29
    Ryan Suwanee, GA March 7, 2014 at 13:26
    Can't beat an FJ40. I have a 67 awaiting restoration. In the meantime I'm enjoying my 85 4Runner - last year of solid front axle, first year of EFI - the thing is a tank off road. As for cars- I will take my 67 Mustang over any newer Mustang. I must admit, I do love 87-93 Fox body GTs- those were the cat's a$$ when I was in high school. I'm a huge fan of old skool muscle with EFI - best of both worlds.
  • 30
    Be Bob By the gas pump March 7, 2014 at 16:04
    being from the 60's and the hype of the cars and watching the Horse Power race,I throughly enjoy building and working on these "Hot Rods".I just don't like driving them,two reasons,they attract too much attention(everyone wants to race you)and they reallly drive poorly.At my advanced age I prefer the comforts of a newer vehicle.I still like to grab a gear from time to time.
  • 31
    Denys Pittsburgh March 9, 2014 at 11:30
    My thanks to the comments that were constructive, such as Chris adding C4 Corvettes, Matt writing about Deloreans, Michael writing about the current state of car shows, and Peter adding some thoughtfulness about 240Zs, to name a few. To those who can only pooh-pooh someone else's choice of what "older" car they want to own -- be it from 1965 or 1985 -- then please keep your thoughts to yourself, it's this kind of elitism that gives people a sour taste in their mouth about the hobby.
  • 32
    mike SW Ohio March 10, 2014 at 13:29
    A much better BMW to BMW comparison would be a 2002 and an E30 318is. These days prices are similar between the two, while a really nice, unmolested E30 M3 will bring close to 2002 Turbo prices. And even BMW marketed the only E30 with the M42 motor as a "modern 2002" back when they were new in 1991. As a long time owner of both models, I can say that they both have their own charm. Yeah, the newer car is quicker and handles better (and the A/C really works!) but the 2002 simply feels more connected--no power steering, sophisticated multi-link suspension, ABS, 4 wheel disks...probably the last of the unadorned, fun to drive sport sedans that demands the driver's undivided attention. And neither model has cup holders!
  • 33
    TBola DFW March 10, 2014 at 11:37
    I don't care what it is ... if you love it ... have at it. This love for koo cars and trucks is as old as Ford's first production run. I was born in 1950 and raised in Indianapolis. I got the bug at the ripe old age of 12. I took off the rear view mirror and never looked back. MORE was the battle cry! More horsepower; more torque; more tire smoke. I can't say I've owned one of everything just yet; but I'm still young and still trying. (And that '62 Ferrari 250 GTO [at $53 million] is still out of my grasp). So I'll just have to settle for my BRE-clone 240Z vintage race car. Let's face it; these new cars are faster, with more horsepower, better handling and brakes etc. than the old Goats ever had. But that's not the point, is it? The point is, "they don't make 'em like that anymore". One day these "new" supercars will be the cars that my grand sons will be saying to their grand sons: "they don't make 'em like that anymore". Right? BTW ... who decided that the K Ghia and Corrado V-6 are comparable poster-cars for their era? I've never seen a wall poster featuring the K Ghia. Next time, ask me please. I'll write that article for you. I was there during '60's ... and in the '90's. No one I knew wanted a VW. The Corrado one the other hand ...
  • 34
    DBrown Chesapeake Virginia March 11, 2014 at 11:36
    Hi, I am a 50 year old Toyota tech. I am also an adjunct auto instructor. I see young students with 50, 60, 70, 80, 90,00's and new cars. I have 3 cars from the 60's several from the seventies and quite a few Toyota sports cars from the 80's and 90's MR2, supra, celica, rx7 I do believe the newer cars are better. I would love to own a new challenger, mustang or Camaro the best of old and new. I think it all comes down to what you like really. I have young people the hot rod the compact cars, muscle cars, 4x4's and lots of them would love to own an old 50's or 60's car they just can't afford them. It's good to see that they just like working on cars instead of drinking or doing drugs.
  • 35
    Chuck Minn. March 11, 2014 at 12:27
    Born in 1950. I like the pre 1970 models. Much better looking and much easier to fix. Fuel injection? I've sat on the side of the road dead from that junk more times than the old carb. and points cars. Reliability doesn't do a thing for you when you can 't even adjust much less fix a fuel injection car WHEN it breaks. Too bad these newer vehicles look like cars Darth Vader's punk kid would drive.
  • 36
    Kevin Hooper Houston April 29, 2014 at 07:41
    I fit both bills GenX and own (2) classic GTOs. I can appreciate the article because I grew up with Burt Reynolds and the Iroc-Z and have looked at purchasing cars from my high school days. Other popular choices IMO, Fox Body Mustang GT, the Silverado/GMC (Fall Guy), Custom Vans (A-Team) and of course the Grand National!
  • 37
    Steve New York October 14, 2014 at 21:19
    Got 87 4 runner 300000miles still going clean frame lady ran into pass side insurance wants total had previous dents but very little rust I drove away she had get tow her car shattered because plastic junk I'm and airbag deployed lol
  • 38
    RPerk Venice, FL December 30, 2015 at 15:06
    Well I'm not an Xer, missed it by 5 years I guess. Anyway, had lots of first gen Camaros, Chevy IIs, Whatever about the Xer cars, some are cool, I guess. But, the car that all generations still love, even young kids, VW beetle. Sorry but it will never go out. Oh, and they don't have to be slow, either.
  • 39
    Joe Central VA December 30, 2015 at 16:59
    I passed on my dream car--a '67 GTO at a great price and with all the mechanicals sorted--because I'd end up around a tree, dead, in modern traffic. Instead I got a Gen-X special: a '74 Buick X-Body (remember the Apollo??) with a newer Chevy 350 and four-barrel carb. I owned a wimpier example as my first car. It handles well and has power brakes, discs up front, and power steering. It is fast enough. Yeah, as an early Xer, I worshipped the the Muscle Cars I just missed driving new. But I like owning a classic, despite the cheap build-quality--I can drive around without worrying all the time. The poster who mentioned the plastic parts is correct. You have to fabricate or do without.
  • 40
    Eric Oregon December 30, 2015 at 17:22
    Some have have questioned this article. From a business standpoint, if the newer cars aren't made attractive as collectibles, then businesses like Hagerty will die over the next generation as the old cars and collectors die off.

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