The collector car market was split in 2017; our list of the highest auction sale prices for American cars is evenly divided between massive, open-top prewar machines and lithe postwar sports cars. What it lacks is Mopar muscle; low-production Hemi cars have been known to reach the seven-digit mark, but no such luck in 2017. It should be no surprise, however, that the list is chock full of Shelby Cobras. The Cobra is the poster child of investment-grade American(ish) iron, and after two years of static values, 289 Cobras are finally on their way back up.
Here are the 14 American cars that broke the million-dollar barrier last year:
The iconic styling of the Auburn “boattail” makes them instantly recognizable, and their supercharged, aluminum-head, straight-eight engine gives them the power to cruise at freeway speeds and then some. Rare even among Speedsters, this 852 was fresh from a complete restoration.
The story of Carroll Shelby bringing AC’s lightweight sports car together with Ford’s potent but compact small-block V-8 is well known. CSX2328 was a late-production 289, giving it the desirable Stewart Warner gauges, side vents, and rack-and-pinion steering. After many owners and many paint jobs, the original body once again wore bright red, just as it did when it was first delivered in 1964.
With the beautiful pairing of Italian bodies and Chrysler Hemi V-8s, Cunningham C3 models feature coachwork from Carrozzeria Vignale in Turin atop the Cunningham C2’s capable chassis. Hagerty spent some time photographing a trio of Cunninghams in 2014, including this one, Briggs Cunningham’s personal car.
8t. 1930 Cadillac Series 452 Fleetwood Roadster, RM Sotheby’s Arizona
Cadillac blindsided the automotive world when it launched its first V-16-powered cars in 1930. The new engine, the first scratch-built V-16, was as powerful as it was beautiful. This sleek roadster was the perfect match for such a spirited powerplant.
Time takes its toll on all cars. That’s especially true of sports cars that were actually put through their paces, and Cobras certainly saw more than their fair share of racing. This particular 1964 model, known as the “Lindauer Cobra” after its original owner, did see some racing, but it was meticulously cared for and remains one of the most complete, original Cobras in existence. The upholstery, keys, purchase documents, tool kit, and even the fuel pump were all original.
Another late-production 289 Cobra, chassis CSX2411 was also equipped with rack-and-pinion steering. Restored to its original Princess Blue-over-black color scheme, it included the desirable Weber carburetor option with quad two-barrels.
Currently built to 427 S/C specifications, this 1966 Cobra was originally equipped with a less desirable 428-cu-in V-8. It did, however, have its original body and chassis, as well as the original color combo.
7. 1933 Chrysler Custom Imperial Phaeton, RM Sotheby’s Arizona
The last dual-windshield Imperial Phaeton by LeBaron was custom-built by designer Ralph Roberts as his personal vehicle. With fender skirts and its spare tires relocated to the rear, its design hinted at the coming Airflow models from Chrysler and DeSoto.
6. 1960 Chevrolet CERV-1, Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale
This is where the rumors of a mid-engine Corvette began. Originally equipped with a 283-cu-in small-block in 1959, the first Chevrolet Engineering Research Vehicle evolved in 1960 with new bodywork and the Rochester mechanical fuel-injected 377 small-block that currently provides power. It’s the same displacement that Chevrolet used when the Grand Sport Corvettes began racing just three years later.
With a focus on safety and efficiency, Preston Tucker’s quirky three-eyed creation was ahead of its time. The fact that only 51 Tucker 48s were built makes them rare, but the constant production changes during that short one-year run mean each Tucker 48 is unique. This was the 44th car built and showed fewer than 8,000 original miles.
4. 1929 Duesenberg Model J Convertible Coupe, RM Sotheby’s Monterey
This lovely, roadworthy J benefited from a concours-winning restoration in 2007. The desirable coachwork was once fitted to the Model J owned by chewing gum magnate Philip K. Wrigley, before he and this car’s original owner—who coveted the coachwork of Wrigley’s J—traded bodies.
3. 1935 Duesenberg Model J Cabriolet, RM Sotheby’s Hershey
Belgian coachbuilders d’Ieteren built the elegant, athletic bodywork atop this Model J’s chassis, marking the last standard Model J to be shipped to Europe for a bespoke body. The latest restoration included new paint for the original frame, engine, firewall, and body as well as Marchal headlamps, which are correct for European-delivery Duesenbergs.
The 427-cid L88 V-8 offered aluminum heads, 12.5:1 compression, and a raucous solid-lifter cam for a notoriously underrated 430 hp. Just 10 L88 convertibles were built for 1967, and only one in Silver Pearl. Combine what is arguably the most beautiful Corvette generation with the most potent engine available at the time, and you’ve got a recipe for a valuable Bowtie.
1. 1933 Duesenberg Model SJ LaGrande Phaeton, RM Sotheby’s Auburn Fall
Truly one of a kind, this long-wheelbase model has a folding windshield on its second cowl that gives rear-seat occupants the choice of adding a bit of wind protection, a feature absent on the rest of the “sweep panel” phaetons built by Duesenberg’s in-house coachbuilder. After spending decades naturally aspirated, the engine was returned to its original supercharged configuration in 1979.