Since the last installment of this story in May, nobody has collected the outstanding reward…
Threatened, endangered, or extinct: A Mercury, Plymouth, and an… Allstate?
It’s crazy to think about how cars can be built with tons of passion, time, energy and money, and then only a few decades later there are only a handful of examples left as evidence. In some cases, there isn’t a single example remaining.
Using Hagerty’s insured data and buyer interest—measured by insurance quote activity—we can 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 examples insured qualify as endangered. Cars with zero or just one qualify as extinct—unless more come out of hiding, that is.
THREATENED: 1957–58 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser
Average value in #2 (excellent) condition: $46,000
Shortly after President Eisenhower signed the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act in 1956, Mercury introduced the aptly named Turnpike Cruiser to traverse America’s sprawling new roadways. The Turnpike Cruiser was a premium model, looked great, and had tons of interesting features. There was a power-operated “breezeway” rear window, Seat-O-Matic power-operated seat with memory settings, and a Merc-O-Matic push-button transmission. Hardtop models had “twin jet” air intakes that took in air at the top of each A-pillar. Quad headlights were big news, and there were also safety features like a padded dash and deep-dish steering wheel.
It was all neat stuff for the 1950s, and a convertible Turnpike Cruiser was even chosen as the pace car for the 1957 Indy 500, but none of it turned the Turnkpike Cruiser into a big seller. Only about 23,000 were built in 1957 and ’58, but that number seems like a million compared to how many are still with us today. Over the last decade, Hagerty has quoted fewer than 60 Turnpike Cruisers, and less than 40 are insured with us today.
ENDANGERED: 1974–80 Plymouth Trail Duster
Average value in #2 (excellent) condition: $16,300
International had the Scout, Ford had the Bronco, GM had the Blazer/Jimmy twins. What was Chrysler to do? Seeing how the full-size Blazer was taking sales away from the smaller Bronco, Chrysler shortened the Dodge D-Series pickup, turned it into an SUV, and called it the Ramcharger. For some reason, a version with Plymouth badges called the Trail Duster was also sold. It was the first Plymouth truck since the ‘40s and, foreshadowing the fascination with SUVs 20 years later, a period ad claimed that “its bullish size gives you a certain unspoken right-of-way over lesser automobiles.”
These days, Ramchargers are much scarcer than Blazers and Broncos, and Trail Dusters are an even rarer sight, to the point of being endangered. Currently, less than 10 are insured with Hagerty. And if you ever come across a one-year-only second-gen Trail Duster from 1981, that would be a serious find.
EXTINCT: 1951–54 Allstate Series 6
Average value in #2 (excellent) condition: $19,000
Before Walmart and Costco, and before it became that store you forgot was still in business (barely), you could get absolutely everything at Sears. From guitars and amps to guns and ammo, and from medicine and clothes to entire houses (yes, houses), Sears had it all.
Ever seen commercials for Allstate Insurance? Of course you have. Sears even started that company (it broke off in the 1990s). Allstate was also the name for Sears’ brand of tires, and in the early 1950s Kaiser struck a deal with Sears to sell a rebadged version of the compact Henry J, called the Allstate. It featured a better interior, different engine color, and a unique grille arrangement designed by Alex Tremulis of Tucker fame.
Available with either a 68-horsepower, 134-cubic-inch four or an 80-hp, 161-cu-in six (both from Willys), it cost just $1300 (about $12,800 today). After a short production run, only a couple thousand examples were sold, and the arrangement quietly stopped.
Despite being called Allstates, most of these cars have not, in fact, been in good hands. They were handsome but cheap economy cars, and there don’t seem to be any six-cylinder cars left at all. With only a handful of quotes over the past decade and a grand total of zero currently insured with Hagerty, it looks like it’s time to pay our respects to the Allstate Series 6.