What we’d do with $50K to burn at the 2023 January auctions
The biggest month on the auction calendar is now over. We’ve gone over the results, the trends, and the surprises. Of course, there’s more to the January auctions than the headline-grabbing sales and what the numbers mean for the market. Affordable cars (and even screaming bargains!) were out there for the taking.
Because good deals deserve attention (and besides, we love window shopping), we polled Hagerty staffers to see which cars, trucks, or bikes they would have snatched up if they had a fat $50,000 stack laying around. The limit was supposed to be two vehicles for our hypothetical funds, but you’ll see that there are always those who don’t follow directions.
As is standard for this car-crazy bunch, we came up with some wacky results. Some editors were practical and modest with their choices. A few threw caution to the wind. Somehow, only one nabbed a Miata. (Wiley is checking the math on this.) And out of over 5000 vehicles up for auction last month, two of us went with the exact same Chevy Blazer. Here are our selections.
1961 Pontiac Catalina Bubble Top and 1961 Chevrolet Brookwood
1961 Pontiac Catalina sold at Mecum for $46,200
First up is this Catalina bubble-top. Thin A-pillars, tons of glass, double four-barrels and a V-8. What could be bad? Four-speed manual with a Hurst shifter—don’t hate that, either! I think these are much prettier cars than the later GTOs or LeMans, and this one’s mix of elegance and aggression looks special.
1959 Chevrolet Brookwood sold at MAG for $3564
OK, with only $3800 to go, all that’s grabbing me is this funky two-door wagon. Other than the wheels, which I would definitely swap out, I kind of love how wacky it is. Load up the whole family and tour America’s bizarre roadside attractions: balls of twine, enormous pieces of fruit, houses haunted by dead farmsteaders, you name it. –Eric Weiner, Executive Editor
1969 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe 427/390hp and 2000 Jeep Wrangler Sahara
1969 Chevrolet Corvette sold at Mecum for $40,700
Before I share my choices, I’ll point out that Eric is wrong about his Catalina being prettier than a GTO. He still picked a Pontiac, though, so I’ll let it slide.
My first pick eats up a big chunk of budget, but it’s worth it: a red 1969 Corvette with a 427 and a four-speed! There were a lot of beautiful, chrome-bumper C3s to choose from in January, but this is the one I kept coming back to.
2000 Jeep Wrangler Sahara sold at Mecum for $7150
I also love TJ-generation Wranglers. This 4.0-liter, five-speed Jeep sports a perfect green over tan color combo. Unlike most affordable TJs, this one hasn’t been hacked up and turned into a rock crawler…which kind of makes me want to hack it up and turn it into a rock crawler. That said, I have managed to keep my XJ stock for several years, so maybe I would be able to resist the temptation. –Brandan Gillogly, Senior Editor
1978 Chevrolet Blazer and 1973 Triumph TR6
1978 Chevrolet Blazer sold at Mecum for $24,750
I picked this Blazer in memory of my Uncle Gary, who fostered my early love of cars. At four or five, I dubbed him “Uncle Gearshift.” He plowed snow with one of these on Cleveland’s east side, and as a tot who was used to my mom’s Malibu, I felt like I was climbing into a monster truck whenever I got in it.
1973 Triumph TR6 sold at Mecum for $24,750
As for the Triumph, I like the idea of another small convertible in my life. This TR6 is visually clean, and I’m a sucker for a dark exterior with caramel seats. I don’t care about the specter of electrical gremlins, there needs to be a British convertible in my barn for at least a little while. –Eddy Eckart, Senior Editor
A cornucopia of fourth-gen F-Bodies
The Jewish Talmud states, “Who is rich? One who is happy with his portion.” My portion in life happens to be fourth-gen F-Bodies. I grew up riding in and driving them and, thanks to the qualities that caused General Motors to hemorrhage market share in the 1990s and early 2000s, they have remained utterly immune to appreciation. In January I could have—and but for my desire to remain married would have—bought four V-8 powered Camaros and Firebirds at auction without crossing the $50,000 threshold.
2000 Chevrolet Camaro SS sold at Mecum for $15,400
1993 Z28 Pace Car sold at Mecum for $11,000
First, the 1993 Firebird Formula with an LT1, a six-speed manual, and 88,000 miles. Then it’s Camaro time, with a 2002 Z28 with an LS1 and T-tops, a 2000 SS, again with an LS1 and, finally, a ’93 Z28 Pace Car Edition(!!).
All in, that’s $46,090, meaning I’d still have four grand left, which I’d obviously spend on tires. –David Zenlea, Hagerty Insider Managing Editor
2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca and 1990 Cadillac Brougham D’Elegance
As I always do when I’m the proud inheritor of a thick brick of daydream bucks, I made a digital beeline for the Porsches. Though, I shouldn’t have been so excited—the sub-$50,000 Porsche market is lookin’ somewhat rough these days. A “GTS?” Oh, just another Cayenne. Wow — a 996 Turbo! Ah, it’s Tiptronic.
Back to the safety of Ford, where I immediately latched onto this (relatively) rare 2012 Ford Mustang Boss 302 Laguna Seca Edition that sold for $42,500. This is a serious car with incredible on-track capability, at the time setting a new standard for how a circuit-capable muscle car should drive. It’s extremely loud, immensely fun, and with just around 1500 Laguna Secas built over two model years, it should appreciate nicely—as long as I can keep it out of the gravel traps.
Now, the Laguna Seca was infamous for its rather, ah, hardcore approach to simple transportation, and my ass, spine, and kidneys are going to need a palatial place to park when I just need to motor on down to the local co-op. It looks like my amended $7100 budget is enough to nab this $6600 1990 Cadillac Brougham d’Elegance. Button-tufted upholstery! Vanity lighting for the rear seats! Power everything! And my goodness, that gold paint—if only my garage was long enough. –Conner Golden, Features Editor
1994 Toyota Land Cruiser FJ80 and 2001 Mazda Miata
1994 Toyota Land Cruiser sold at Mecum for $18,700
2001 Mazda Miata sold at Mecum for $9350
A trusty Japanese 4×4 (with new tires!) for Michigan’s nasty winters, and the best little convertible of all time? A two-car garage doesn’t get any better. I’d have 12 grand left over to absorb any unexpected maintenance issues … or buy a two-wheel trailer for the Miata and a roof rack for the ’Cruiser, and camp my way across the U.S. like the millennial/Gen–Z tweener I am. A third option: Swap the Land Cruiser for this auto-gearbox Isuzu VehiCROSS. It would be quieter on the highway, more brainless about town, and I could thumb my nose at all those mainstream Land Cruiser fans. Aren’t they kinda predictable? –Grace Houghton, Associate Managing Editor
1963 Land Rover Series IIA
I’ve always wanted a Land Rover Series II/III because 1: I’m British, 2: Land Rovers are cool, and 3: I want to live out my dream of driving around a farm with my dog in the passenger seat, waving out the window at my neighbors.
I feel these always look best in old ratty paint and patina, but restored ones do feel a little more professional. So why not buy one that’s been fixed up and has a leather interior, all for a decent price of $24K? Of course, I’d tone down that bright color scheme for something more Land Rover-appropriate, like a nice sea green. New paintwork for around $6K puts me all-in for $30K.
One of the problems with these trucks is how slow they are on the highway or hills. The gearbox design precedes World War II, after all. So I am in the truck for $30K and have a $50K budget … you know what’s next. That engine is getting swapped out for a 2.8-liter Cummins turbodiesel crate engine. I’ll worry about the brakes and steering later. –James Hewitt, Senior Information Analyst
1997 Chevrolet Camaro SS LT4
1996 Camaro SS LT4 Sold at Mecum for $41,800
This is one of the pinnacle fourth-generation F-Bodies and still doesn’t get the appreciation it should. It’s the power plant that makes this car particularly special: SLP only produced 106 SS Camaros and 29 Firebird-based Firehawks with the top-dog LT4 available on C4 Corvettes. Allegedly, these engines were even torn down at SLP and balanced before installation. I’ve always had a soft spot for SLP’s work, and it doesn’t get much better than an LT4 Camaro SS. With 16,000 miles on the clock, it isn’t such low mileage that I’d feel guilty driving it farther than around the block. Even though these will eventually become more sought after, I wouldn’t let it be a garage queen.
What would I do with the rest of the $50,000? Why, what any 4th generation Camaro owner stereotype would, of course: spend the rest on PBR and pork rinds. (Can confirm—he would.—EE). –Greg Ingold, Hagerty Price Guide Editor
1978 Chevrolet Blazer and 1980 Chevrolet Malibu
1978 Chevrolet Blazer sold at Mecum for $24,750
If I’d had $50,000 to spend on a car or two in January, I’d be thrilled with this pair of sharp-edged Chevys from Mecum Kissimmee. Square-body Blazers, like the cosmetically-restored 1978 K5 that sold for $24,750, have a brutish charm that is hard to ignore. I love the blue-over-white color scheme here, and the functional vinyl interior is perfectly utilitarian for people who actually want to use their 4x4s. Riding on black steelies and beefy all-terrain tires, this would easily slot into the go-anywhere weekender spot in my garage.
1980 Chevrolet Malibu sold at Mecum for $24,200
And it would perfectly complement the clean 1980 Malibu that brought $24,200. Menacing in black with dark tinted windows, and rare (1 of 124) with its V-8 and 4-speed manual powertrain, the crisp A-body cuts a mean, clean profile. If anemic early-’80s muscle is your thing, you could do a lot worse. –Stefan Lombard, Managing Editor of Hagerty Drivers Club Magazine
1984 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce
While the 105K indicated miles are a little high for a Spider, the car looks clean outside and under the hood. Described as being repainted in 2015 and with a newer-looking top, the car looks good, aside from the poorly fitting carpets inside. This Alfa presumably had basic maintenance and upkeep done correctly as part of a larger collection comprised of some 45 vehicles. However, at $1650 below the condition #4 value for this model, there’s a lot of room for fixing any needs while still being above water. Hopefully, the repaint isn’t hiding lots of filler.
Bonus: When we did this in 2020 I picked a, shall we say, “cosmetically unique” BMW 2002. It sold again last month for $19,800, a 63 percent gain. The Hagerty Automotive Intelligence team does make the right call once in a while. –John Wiley, Manager of Valuation Analytics
1977 Citroën CX 2400, 2000 Isuzu VehiCROSS, 1975 Porsche 914, 1966 Volkswagen Dune Buggy, 1977 Fiat Spider, 2020 Honda Ruckus
An important assumption with my fantasy buying spree is that I own a barn, otherwise there is no place to store this eccentric collection. A $50,000 budget goes a long way when the buyer favors strange, sometimes terrible cars. For instance, a 1977 Citroën CX 2400 for $11,200 is hard to pass up.
1977 Citroën CX 2400 sold at Bonhams for $11,200
Please find a more odd car for the money. As the CX is often considered the last “real Citroën”, it of course has a single-spoke steering wheel and hydropneumatic suspension. But the CX gets even weirder, with a ribbon tach and speedo, a concave rear window. To top it off, this one is set up to run on either gasoline or liquified petroleum gas.
2000 Isuzu VehiCROSS sold at Mecum for $12,100
When I saw that a 2000 Isuzu VehiCROSS sold at $12,100, I couldn’t pass it up. Japanese SUVs have been hot in recent years, but the VehiCROSS has been left out in the cold. I don’t get it. Even if you hate the design, you can’t deny the VehiCROSS is one of the most capable SUVs from the era as a result of its high departure angles, Torque on Demand 4×4 system, and factory-installed racing shocks with external reservoirs. Plus, it’s rare: Isuzu made less than 6000 during the entire run. If this Isuzu had a Toyota badge, it would have sold for many times the price. I love a bargain, especially one that can go anywhere. I’ll stop my VehiCROSS rant here, as there is substantial budget left.
1975 Porsche 914 sold at Mecum for $13,750
While we’re on the topic of air-cooled, brightly-colored cars, I might as well pick up an orange 1966 Volkswagen Dune Buggy for $7700.
1977 Fiat Spider sold at Mecum for $1650
My final car selection is probably a terrible decision, but this $1650 1977 Fiat Spider is too tempting to pass up. The handwritten startup instructions on the dash don’t inspire confidence, but it looks to be in great condition for the price.
With the remaining $3600, I’ll forgo starting a Fiat repair fund and buy a 2020 Honda Ruckus for $3520. With 114 mpg, the $80 left over will buy me 2500 miles on the Ruckus. –Adam Wilcox, Information Analyst
1979 Puma GTE and 1969 Daimler DS420 Limousine
As someone who prefers his motoring cheap and cheerful, $50K and a 2700-vehicle shopping list is like a shot of nitrous to the brain. So many choices! Three sports cars, a station wagon, and a motorcycle sound nice. But unlike some (looking at you, David and Adam!), I remember we’re going with a two car limit. Here it goes …
I’m tempted by a $36,300 Allard, but I’m not in love. Same with a two-tone $30,800 1957 Rambler station wagon. What a cool, quirky family hauler. I don’t know, maybe I can do better. Then there’s a $33,000 Mosler Consulier. Fun? Definitely. Ugly? Also definitely.
1979 Puma GTE sold at Barrett-Jackson for $23,650
OK, time to focus and make a decision. My first one looks part Porsche, part Lotus, part Alpine A110. But it’s not German, British, or French Well, it is kind of German, but really, this Puma GTE hails from the world’s fifth largest country—Brazil! Pumas were built in São Paulo on VW underpinnings, mostly from the Karmann-Ghia and Brazilia, under a rather attractive fiberglass body. Don’t call it a chintzy ‘70s kit car, though: They were sold in kit form for export, but home-market Pumas sold as complete cars. For the kit, all you had to do was install drivetrain and front suspension, bolt on wheels, and pop in a battery.
1969 Daimler DS 420 sold at Mecum for $25,300
That leaves me $26,350. Once I get tired of giving people this Brazilian beauty’s whole backstory, I can move on to explaining this funky-looking limousine to them. This stately, Jaguar-powered bit of rolling English elegance wafts along in standout fashion that can’t help but bring a smile to my face. Plus, it has tons of room for the friends and family who would inevitably ask for a ride. Speaking of rides, DS420s like this one were a top choice among royals not just in Britain, but across Europe and in the Middle East. If it’s good enough for the Queen, it’s good enough for me. Especially at 25 grand. –Andrew Newton, Senior Auction Editor