9 May 2014

Five “Undesirable” Collector Cars That Have Skyrocketed In Value

The classic car world is possibly one of the most opinionated collecting pursuits known to man, and nearly everyone seems to have an opinion on relative values and desirability. Each car on this list has at one time or another been deemed by “experts” to be hopeless as a collectible and each has one thing in common—they’ve skyrocketed in value.

  1. 1956-58 Studebaker Golden Hawk: Poor Studebaker, the cars of the ill-fated favorite son of South Bend, Ind., never seemed to get the same love from collectors as the cars of the Big Three. But they may be getting the last laugh. At a time when the prices of most American cars of the 1950s have been flat, the Golden Hawk has been red-hot. With great looks and some of the best and sportiest interiors of American cars of the era, even European collectors have taken a new look at Hawks, where the car’s small by American standards proportions make more sense.  Ten years ago, these were $25,000 cars. This past January, a not terribly well optioned car sold at an auction in Scottsdale, Ariz., for more than $100,000. Let’s hear it for the underdog.

  2. 1965-69 Corvair convertible: The air-cooled rear-engine Corvair is perhaps the ultimate automotive underdog. The hatchet job that Ralph Nader did on the first generation of the car tainted even the vastly improved second-generation Corvair. In truth, it was a fantastic car, with great looks and even an optional turbocharger. Jay Leno loves his. Yet, historically, they’ve appealed to a narrow market—fans of front-engine Chevy muscle shun the car as do import snobs, to whom the car’s size, looks and handling should appeal. Collectors were fond of saying that Corvairs would always be cheap. How wrong they were. Nice convertibles struggled to break $15,000 less than 10 years ago; they’ve since doubled in value.

  3. 1979-80 BMW M1: The M1 was BMW’s first foray into the mid-engine exotic world. Just over 450 were built. With a little development help early on from Lamborghini and some inspiration from an earlier Paul Braq-designed concept car, BMW produced a credible supercar and the first officially badged M-car that spawned a long line of special Motorsports BMWs.  Back in the flamboyant 1970s, though, the car was deemed to be too low-key inside and out.  But its subtle good looks have aged extremely well.  As recently as 2003 an M1 sold for just $49,000 at an auction in the UK. Three years later, they were still going for well under $100,000. This past March, one sold at an auction in Florida for $379,000.

  4. 1976 Porsche 912E: Porsche has always struggled with the entry-level stuff. They know that they should have an entry-level car, but they’ve often either fumbled the execution and/or suffered a backlash from the Porsche snobs. The 912E was a one-year-only stop-gap effort that held down the down-market fort after the end of 914 while the front-engine, water-cooled 924 was readied for the U.S. It was essentially a stripper 911 with a VW Transporter-derived 2.0-liter Type IV air-cooled four-cylinder engine. On the surface, a sports car with a bus engine sounds like a bad idea, but it was actually the same engine from the outgoing 914, and if you could get past the sound, it was quite pleasant with tons of low-end torque. Just under 2,100 were made (all were sold in the U.S.), and while in the past it has been derided by supposed Porsche experts as “perennially undesirable,” the 912E’s mid-’70s vintage 911 looks and easy serviceability have made them quite desirable today. I personally paid $6,500 for a nice one in 2005. The same car would be worth $20,000 today. A New York dealer has recently advertised one for just under $40,000.

  5. 1955-63 Mercedes-Benz 190SL: The 190SL has lived forever in the shadow of its bigger, sportier and more powerful sibling the 300SL. And while they’re outwardly a bit similar, they’re in a whole different league performance-wise. The 190SL used to be dismissed as “a German Thunderbird,” or a car whose looks wrote a check that its performance couldn’t cash. But as 300SLs rose to over $1 million, collectors began to accept the 190SL for what is was—a very well-built and pretty sunny day cruiser. Cars that traded for under $50,000 just a few years ago can now bring a quarter of a million dollars.

9 Reader Comments

  • 1
    Brian Savannah, GA May 14, 2014 at 14:43
    In Studebaker circles, the Golden Hawk has always been a desirable car! It just took the rest of the hobby this long to catch up!
  • 2
    Hugh F Olean, NY May 14, 2014 at 14:53
    Gm called the Corvair the car of the future. I guess the future has finally arrived.
  • 3
    Scott Thomas Branford, CT May 14, 2014 at 16:37
    I see you mention the 76 912.... you ignore (as most do) the 66-69 912s. I have a lovely 66 912 and I get dis'ed at every carshow that I go to, because it is not a muscle car, nor a high horsepowered 911. I promise you, my 110 HP at Limerock was probably as much fun as anyone else's!!
  • 4
    Sherman Brown Walnut Creek CA May 14, 2014 at 19:05
    Are the Mopars next? Will the Hemi-engine early fifties and the sixties become valuable? Maybe not.
  • 5
    gerald texas May 14, 2014 at 21:37
    I have a 1972 Maverick Grabber, and cant find any discussions! why??
  • 6
    Robin Connor Hamilton Ontario Canada May 15, 2014 at 09:44
    I always loved the Golden Hawk. Maybe because the last of the Studebakers were built here in town, but I always liked it's lines.
  • 7
    Scott Jones Indiana May 15, 2014 at 11:08
    Most of the Studebaker Hawks are readily available an whatever condition an old car nut can afford. However, just try to find a decent 53/54 coupe or hardtop in fair to excellent condition; they are scarce. Note: Little known fact among non-Studebaker folks; the body shell that Studebaker used was the same from 1953-1964. The fins were tacked on, hood, trunk, & grill changed, and roof changed from '62-'64.
  • 8
    Bill Tri state May 25, 2014 at 15:41
    Considering there were only 2100 912e's made I wonder how many have survived? 1500? Scarcity helps car value I guess, the fact that all 911 body cars has risen doesn't hurt the 912e value either.....
  • 9
    Bob Kay Logan Twp, NJ May 26, 2014 at 17:45
    My Dad always had a Stude while we grew up from his 53 Starliner to his 57 Silver Hawk and a couple more in between. There always seemed to be one in the pictures with us as kids. I sometimes wonder which he liked more :-). They all ended with him adding duals and and nice sounding mufflers. Everyone I see, brings back great memories of my Dad.

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