Five near-classics from the Malaise Era that will be heating up the market

There’s a nearly forgotten generation of cars, known as the Malaise Era, where collectors rarely spend their money. Some people wish the cars would just go away. General consensus says the era lasts from the end of the Muscle Car heyday until the early ’80s, although plenty of buyers are put off by the hodge-podge of fuel injection and emission controls used in vehicles up until the introduction of OBD II that came much later. Still, some of those often-avoided cars are creeping into the consciousness of collectors and we’ve taken notice.

Auction performance, new insurance policies written, and insurance quote activity for various models are good indicators for how popular that model is with current buyers. The Hagerty Vehicle Rating takes all these factors into account when determining which models are tracking with the general classic car market (score of 50), which ones are lagging (below 50), or in this case, which are moving up through the ranks. The higher the number, the more positive activity we are seeing for that model. Several of these up-and-comers make sense, based on the trends for trucks and SUVs we’ve noted for more than a year. But some come as a bit of a surprise.

Vehicle
1978–88 Chevrolet Monte Carlo 87
1981 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
Mecum
1981 Chevrolet Monte Carlo

Average Hagerty value in #3 (good) condition: $11,500

Chevrolet’s long-lived G-body has moved up seven spots in the Hagerty Vehicle Rating, trending well above the industry average with a score of 87. Monte Carlos and their G-body brethren are popular amongst drag racers and, lately, the Pro-Touring crowd, as their simple chassis can easily be built to fit one's desires, whether it is straight line or twisty roads. The same can be said for its small-block Chevy V-8 powerplant.

1971–77 Chevrolet Vega 83
1974 Chevrolet Vega
Mecum
1974 Chevrolet Vega

Average Hagerty value in #3 (good) condition: $8900

Although it did win Motor Trend’s Car of the Year award in 1971, subsequent years of Vega production suffered from poor rustproofing and quality control. Still, the styling isn’t bad and the lightweight, rear-wheel-drive platform can be fun with the right options. The Cosworth model, whose price we’ve quoted above, is the most collectible, but any small-block V-8 powered model would be easier to restore and just as rewarding to drive.

1978–93 Subaru Brat 76
1985 Subaru Brat
1985 Subaru Brat

Average Hagerty value in #3 (Good) condition: $5500

If an El Camino was too much muscle car for your tastes, you’re in luck, because Subaru has the Ute for you. The Brat came to the U.S. with rear-facing jump seats, presumably to avoid the chicken tax on imported trucks, and a 68-horsepower 1.6-liter flat four, presumably to avoid attaining highway speeds. Its meager power aside, the Brat’s quirks have brought a cult following, and it would definitely be a conversation piece at just about any car show.

1973–79 Bitter CD 76
Bitter CD
Bitter
Bitter CD

Average Hagerty value in #3 (Good) condition: $14,800

Low production numbers, V-8 power, and fantastic styling have all lead the Bitter CD to be worth more than the pedestrian Opel that shares its underpinnings, yet a lot less than a difficult-to-maintain exotic. The CD (for Coupe Diplomat) has seen a swell in value over the past year after stagnating for the previous four. Now might be the time to grab one, but with fewer than 400 built it will be tough to find.

1971–80 International Scout II 75
1978 International Scout II
Mecum
1978 International Scout II

Average Hagerty value in #3 (Good) condition: $15,600

Trucks and SUVs seem to be immune from the Malaise Era stigma. While performance was choked with much of the same emissions equipment, the utilitarian nature wasn’t hampered as Scout IIs represent some of the most utilitarian of SUVs. They have rugged solid axles, heavy-duty cast iron V-8s known for lasting a lifetime, and styling from a studio that never saw a French curve. Scouts IIs will probably never go out of style because they were never really in style. We’re OK with that.