Threatened, endangered, or extinct: A Maserati, a Renault, and a Checker
Albert Einstein may have said that “the dividing line between past, present, and future is an illusion,” but for those of us in the collector car hobby, time is very, very real. Through collisions, rust, or natural disaster, the constant march of time has a way of thinning a large herd of automobiles.
Using Hagerty’s insured data and buyer interest measured by insurance quote activity, we are able to identify vehicles that qualify as threatened, endangered, or extinct. Cars with fewer than 50 examples insured with Hagerty qualify as threatened. Cars with fewer than 20 insured are endangered. Cars with one or no insured examples are considered extinct—unless more come out of hiding.
THREATENED: 1979–90 Maserati Quattroporte III
The latest Quattroporte is a fairly popular choice these days for someone who wants something a little more daring than the typical BMW or Merc, but the earlier QP III is a much-scarcer sight. Styled by Italdesign and introduced in 1979, it was a Maserati for the businessman, and more than 2000 left the factory. The car’s venerable 4.9-liter V-8 was fed by four Webers, and the interior was opulent enough to warrant the nickname “Italian Rolls-Royce.” As 1980s-Maseratis go, the Quattroporte is more reliable and easier to live with than the old Biturbo, but that’s sort of like being the fanciest shirt at the thrift store—the bar is pretty low. Deferred maintenance appears to have taken its toll, because fewer than two-dozen Quattroporte IIIs are currently insured with Hagerty.
ENDANGERED: 1958–68 Renault Caravelle
The Caravelle (called the Floride in other markets) came about because Renault, jealous of Volkswagen’s success with the Beetle-based Karmann-Ghia, decided to make its own flashy and sporty-ish model based on an economy car. In the late 1950s, VW wasn’t yet the juggernaut in the U.S. market that it is today, and Renault was seriously competing for our then-limited market for affordable imports. The Caravelle was the car meant to jazz up the company’s image.
Like the Karmann-Ghia, it had relatively humble rear-engine underpinnings. It was based on the Dauphine, and also featured a handsome Ghia-designed body that made the car look a whole lot quicker than it really was. Despite looks, performance, and price competitive with the Karmann-Ghia, one car is essentially a household name while the other is a rare enough to be considered endangered. Quality control issues at the time hampered Renaults, including the Caravelle, and later improvements weren’t enough to fix the car’s reputation. Sales fell sharply and Renaults haven’t been sold here for many years. Several thousand Caravelles were sold in the States, but rust and difficulty finding parts (especially compared to the equivalent Volkswagen) have taken their toll. Fewer than five Caravelles are currently insured with Hagerty, and we’ve received less than two dozen quotes in the past decade.
EXTINCT: 1960–63 Checker Superba
Anyone who has ever seen a movie set in New York City has seen a Checker Marathon/Taxi, the ubiquitous yellow cab that operated in the Big Apple all the way up until 1999. Checker also built passenger cars, officially beginning in 1959. The ample room and rugged simplicity that made them good taxis didn’t exactly make for a sexy passenger car, plus Checker was an independent that didn’t have a dream of competing in the sales race with the Big Three. One of Checker’s passenger offerings from 1961–63 was called the Superba, which was available as either a sedan or wagon and was even less well-equipped than the already basic Marathon introduced the same year. The Superba was never a big seller, and it predated Checker’s switch to GM-sourced engines in 1965, making the hunt for parts a lot trickier. Add the fact that these were mostly used as simple commuter cars that no one pampered or collected, and it is hardy a surprise that there are seemingly none left. During the past decade, Hagerty has been asked to quote two Superbas, and none are currently insured with us.