According to You: Which classics were underappreciated when new?
We asked and you answered! Last Friday was Collector Car Appreciation Day, so we wanted examples of the breed that people don’t necessarily consider. We can all appreciate a hot Corvette, a plucky Porsche, or one of the many muscular American icons that had an instant following that only grew as time progressed. My initial suggestion of the Chevrolet Nova was well received by members of the Hagerty Community, as the compact was forced to play second fiddle to other Chevrolets in the same showroom. Your feedback went above and beyond my sample answer and covered all the bases.
Well, perhaps not every single base—but the submissions represent a good smattering of vehicles that will inspire you to think about underappreciated classics. So have a look!
1980–81 Buick Skylark Sport
Now this will get the ball rolling! Hagerty Community member @Gerald knows that GM snuck some gold into them there X-body hills, and not just in the form of the Citation X-11.
The 1980–81 Buick Skylark Sport Sedan looked like a Mercedes sedan of the period (sort of, if you squinted), and it had no hood ornament (rare for a Buick), a front air dam, the 2.8 liter (same as Mercedes-Benz’ I-6) V-6, and a four-speed transmission. I’d take it in for service and they’d have to find someone who knew how to drive a stick. Actually, not bad-looking for the period but, like all cars back then, it rusted like crazy.
The interior was bulletproof—luckily, because I discovered the passenger side floor was gone, held up only by the thick vinyl backing of the carpet. Patched it with fiberglass. Drove and handled nice for the period. Very few sold; people just didn’t associate “sport sedan” with Buick. Mine looked just like the picture except it was a four-door and wore no stripe.
1994–1998 (SN-95) Ford Mustang
@MarveH: People thought the 1994–98 SN95 Mustangs looked soft or something; I don’t know, because looks aren’t the number one thing for me. Many didn’t like the weight increase but that was from the reinforced structure over the Fox-body Mustang. (If you want any power from a Fox you have to do those reinforcements on your own anyway.) Another complaint was the 4.6 V-8—Ford left a lot of power on the table with its measly 210 hp. It doesn’t take much, however, to get even a two-valve mod motor up to some serious power.
We couldn’t agree with @Frank more: It’s taken way too long for collectors to appreciate the Olds Cutlass Jetfire, which, he writes, “flat out flew, but like the Fuelie Corvettes, they were hard to work on as the ‘new technology’ was foreign to the average person.”
Lincoln Mark VII LSC
Perhaps the first production hot-rod Lincoln always had a following, but it was never as popular as the song that mirrored its mission. But @John couldn’t afford the most luxuriously aggressive Fox-body Ford product until now:
I finally acquired a car that I liked when new but couldn’t afford. I worked at a dealership where I was able to “test drive” a Lincoln Mark VII LSC. Fast forward to last January and I bought a black-on-black ’92 with 38,000 miles. It is not a race car, but a nice road-trip car that both corners and drives well. They have a small but strong following, but not mainstream by any means. To drive one is to understand, and you will become a fan.
BMW M Coupe
@Randy: Are we talking about just American cars, GM cars (with a concession to 5.0 Mustangs)? Because on a much—much—smaller scale, I’ll mention the 1999–2002 BMW M Coupe and 2.8/3.0 non-M coupes.
Admittedly a polarizing style, built by enthusiasts for enthusiasts! The dealerships hated them for lingering so long, and many were traded to among dealerships as an add-on with a car another dealership wanted to have; they’d trade you the one you want as long as you take the second-place coupe too! Nowadays, and particularly with the 2001–02 (S54 engine) versions, clean low-mile cars are going for 150 percent of their MSRP! The 1999–2000s aren’t doing too badly either, especially compared to their more numerous open versions (the Z3 and M Roadsters).
Ford Mustang II King Cobra
While the Mustang II sold like hotcakes, it just never got the respect it deserved from Mustang purists. @Hooch speaks up for the black-sheep Stang: “I love a hot-hatch compact car with a V-8.”
AMC Hornet Hatchback
While I am not sure that @Mitch is correct about the Hornet being the first hatchback on the market (1971 Vega?), there’s no doubt that this car doesn’t get enough recognition.
Underappreciated then, underappreciated now: 1973 AMC Hornet Hatchback. The very first of the hatchback trend, and the six-cylinder drivetrain was bulletproof. I drove mine 174,000+ miles with the original clutch. It finally “gave up the ghost” after the front suspension became too rusted to weld on, so my cousin pulled the engine and tranny and drove it in his Gremlin for several more years. Until that unibody rusted out. I bet that engine is probably still running somewhere!
Volvo 140/240 Series
@snailish: In North America, I vote for Volvos. I’m talking about the bricks from the late 1960s to ’80s. Sure, they had their niche cult following, yet wider appreciation wasn’t in the cards. But now you have all sorts of flavors of in the Volvo fanbase: original, LS-swapped, etc.
@Dennis: I know I loved mine, @snailish! I had a 1970 Volvo 142 in dark blue (rather than white, red, or black). I think it was just me and Corvettes that had four-wheel disc brakes as standard equipment (of the non-exotics in that era). And it even had a mechanical system to provide some antilock brake protection. I swear it saved me from rear-ending someone. I could go on . . . but as the advertisement of the time predicted, I had mine for 11 years.
Fox-body Mercury Capri
@Scott: I wanted a Mustang GT for my first car, however, I was responsible for insurance and fuel. Insurance made it a no-go and I was disappointed until I discovered a most unappreciated alternative—the Fox-bodied Mercury Capri with the 5.0 engine and automatic transmission. OK, the last part wasn’t great but it dropped the insurance cost down to a level I could afford. We spent many weekends searching for one between Chattanooga and Atlanta only to find a copper-colored example with TRX wheels and tires within a half mile of my parents house. Man, those TRX tires gripped the road.
My dad bought the car about a week before he told me as he was waiting on a new set of Michelins he’d ordered. I’d fill the tank with Amoco Gold (white gas as my dad called it) and add a can of 104+ octane boost. The exhaust fumes would bring tears to your eyes but good Lord, that car would fly. I wore those tires out in 24,000 miles and had to buy the next set ($400). They must have changed rubber compounds as the second set lasted much longer.
1955–57 Chevy Task Force
This truck brought about an interesting thread about the rise in popularity of all work trucks in recent history. Tri-Five Chevy automobiles have been in the spotlight since 1955, but when did you really see the trucks going for big bucks? More to the point:
@DUB6: Sajeev, I agree 100 percent with you on the Nova but my vote is really for a truck rather than a car. The 1955–57 Chevy 1/2 pickup was just looked upon as a work vehicle (business or home or farm) when introduced. It lived in the shadow of the Tri-Five cars for years. Still does to some extent, but due to the surging popularity of light pickups in general, they certainly qualify as “classic” and “collectible” these days. I learned how to drive in a green ’55 long-bed Stepside and thus fell for them early in life, but I don’t think they were appreciated by the masses as much when new as they are now. I see them restored and shown all the time.
@Jeff: I would say that the Cameo version was always somewhat special.
“Bullnose” Ford F-Series
@Jeepcj5: My 1985 F-250 and 1986 F-150 were underappreciated. Even though Fords are usually the best-selling truck, older/classic Ford trucks still live in the shadow of Chevy trucks. Also, my 1968 Chevelle Malibu, because it’s a four-door post sedan. When I got the car years ago, most people turned their nose up to a four-door. It seems that a lot of people are coming around to the notion that any old car is neat in its own way.
@TG: Allanté, anyone? I love mine . . . take all of the lingering 1990s-era complaints off the table, and it is a great car. It’s 30 years old and the styling is not terribly far off the mark of Cadillac’s current offerings. Plenty of power, handling is a little soft but as to be expected for a luxury-oriented car. Fun to drive and turns heads everywhere I go—particularly heads of people not involved in car collecting who don’t know they are supposed to hate it.
@David: TG, I’m adding another Cadillac . . . the XLR.
@audiobycarmine: The XLR is/was always a wow car. It’s the “Waldorf-Astoria” of Corvettes.
All of them!
@Justin: This is an easy answer: ALL of them! Remember, every high-dollar collector car was once a worn-out rusty junker that no one wanted. Most of them only become collector cars because they get expensive.
Most people want them because everyone else wants them, this is certainly the case with my early Broncos. Ten years ago I tried selling my ’73 Bronco, which had a 1990 EFI Mustang engine, a five-speed from a Dodge Dakota, power steering, and disc brakes, all for $5500. Only one person came to look, and they complained about the dings, dents, and faded paint.
Now that Broncos are expensive, I have random strangers stopping and wanting to buy mine. They don’t want it because they “have always wanted one,” rather because they think they can quickly flip it for a fast buck or use for a status symbol now that Broncos are expensive. Remember, some Dodge dealers converted the Super Birds and Daytona back to Chargers with the normal front end so they could sell them. And some of the Cobra race cars were given away because they couldn’t sell them. You never know what car is going to be the next one to shoot up in value.
@77GL: All of them. Cars have always been built to be disposable and that destiny came true for almost all of them.