5 collector vehicles starting strong in 2023


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The busiest month of auctions in the collector-vehicle calendar is finally behind us. Over the course of January, we watched to see whether the slowdown we observed at the end of 2022 would impact the thousands of cars crossing the auction blocks of Kissimmee and Scottsdale in 2023.

Despite magnificent auction totals from Barrett-Jackson and Mecum auctions, figures bolstered by the enormous sum of cars on offer, the underlying trend is that the collector car market has reached a peak and has begun to taper, although there is no indication of a crash in sight.

Regardless of the overarching theme, some sales still smashed our price guide estimates. Before digging into those specific transactions, it is important to point out that there are two ways a big sale can go: It may be an outlier (a single sale, unlikely to be repeated due to provenance, originality, or simply the conditions in the auction room) or it may be consistent with trends in a fluid market.

In this article we are focusing on the latter: big sales supported by repeat results which point to a moving market. Outliers may make for crazy headlines, but sales that beat our price guide and are part of a bigger trend tell a broader, longer-term story.

Not sure what a “Concours” condition car is, or how a #2 car is different than a #3 one? Here’s a breakdown of our 1-to-4 vehicle-condition rating scale. 

2011 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 Carbon Edition

Carbon Z06 Barrett Jackson auction scottsdale front three quarter

Sold for $161,700 (Barrett-Jackson)

Hagerty Price Guide #1 condition (Concours) value: $83,900

Talk about the ultimate version of the already good C6 Z06. The one-year-only Carbon Edition bridges the gap between the well-balanced Z06 with the best parts of the bonkers ZR1. Adding to the Z06’s myriad performance upgrades, the Carbon Edition received a set of 15-inch carbon-ceramic brakes, carbon-fiber front splitter, rocker extensions from the ZR1 as well as a carbon-fiber hood.

With just 535 examples produced, a Carbon Edition is a very uncommon find. However, two ultra-low mile examples popped up for sale in January: A 15-mile car finished in Inferno Orange at Mecum that sold for $110,000 and this 61-mile Supersonic Blue car at Barrett-Jackson that sold for an astonishing $161,700. This is a substantial increase over previous sales and a likely indicator that ultra-special C6 Corvettes have transitioned from being simply collectible to seriously sought after.

2004 Subaru Impreza WRX STI

2004 Subaru Impreza WRX STI

Sold for $77,000 (Mecum)

HPG #1 condition (Concours) value: $55,800

It’s a seemingly curious case that a Japanese car would bring such a huge price amongst the litany of muscle cars that traditionally come up for sale in January. This Subaru STI was not missed by keen-eyed enthusiasts, and having turned only 6800 miles, it was quite a find indeed. Low-mile, unmodified GD-series STIs are nearly impossible to find, and this one had a lot going for it.

World Rally Blue with gold BBS wheels is the iconic Subaru color combination, and 2004 is the first year for the U.S.-spec STI—meaning that it has features (or a lack thereof) that subsequent years didn’t. For example, the 2004 models came standard without a radio, a feature that many owners would remedy themselves. The fact that this car is untouched is a big deal to STI collectors.

This wasn’t the only big STI sale in January of 2023, either. Just before Kissimmee, a 7000-mile 2007 STI had a hammer price of $63,000. Compared to other, sought-after Japanese models, Subaru STI values have been sleepy, and we expect these models to begin moving up in value. Although exceptional examples are exceedingly rare, after these two sales, we wouldn’t be surprised to see more unmodified, low-mile STIs hit the market throughout the year.

1989 Chevrolet V1500 Blazer

1989 Chevrolet V1500 Blazer

Sold for $93,500 (Mecum)

HPG #1 condition (Concours) value: $43,100

Keen observers of the auctions last month would’ve noticed that trucks did extremely well, especially at Barrett-Jackson, which was loaded with restomodded examples. In their shadow were a number of stock, low-mile trucks, especially Squarebody Blazers, that impressed with their sale prices.

The most notable Squarebody was this 13000-mile example, which brought an eye-watering $93,500. This isn’t the only low-mile Blazer to do well: a 3000-mile one from 1988 brought $83,600. While these are the obvious sales, most stock Squarebody Blazers sold above their condition-appropriate value.

Simply put: No, your really nice Blazer didn’t just double in value, but it is safe to say that on the whole, the model is worth more after January.

1969 Ford Mustang Boss 429

Boss 429 Barrett Jackson auction scottsdale front three quarter

Sold for $605,500 (Barrett-Jackson)

HPG #1 condition (Concours) $380,000

A grand total of 10 Boss 429 Mustangs were on offer last month, far more than we normally see at any one time. These beasts were developed to homologate the reportedly massively underrated Boss 429-cubic-inch engine for NASCAR use by having Kar Kraft modify the Mustang chassis and stuff the absolutely massive engine between its frame rails. To Ford enthusiasts, these would be the equivalent in performance and rarity to a Hemi Mopar.

With so many for sale, the results were understandably mixed. A couple unrestored examples like this one from Barrett-Jackson sold for huge money, but a number of cars at Barrett-Jackson and Mecum sold for over condition-appropriate value. As a result, values for Boss 429s are likely creeping up a bit.

1967 Shelby GT500

1967 Shelby GT500 front three quarter
Bring a Trailer

Sold for $346,500 (Barrett-Jackson)

HPG #1 condition (Concours) $274,000

Among the best known of the Shelby Mustangs, the 1967 GT500 is one of the most desired cars of the muscle-car era. 1967 was the first year of these big-block monsters, but it would also be the last year that Shelby American was really involved in the actual production of these cars. That factor has made this year particularly sought after.

Throughout 2022, these cars saw little market movement, and at the end of the year they actually appeared to be creeping down in value. January had something to say about that, however, as two early-production examples offered at both Barrett-Jackson and Mecum showed that the ’67 GT500 may have turned things around. The Mecum car’s $330,000 transaction backed up the above Barrett-Jackson car’s impressive sale price. Talk about consistency!

It seems that the Shelby Mustang market in general continues to have life in it, and the ’67 GT500 market appears to be the biggest one to buck previous losses.

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    I have a ‘91 Mustang convertible. Pearl white with everything original on it. It has 67000 original miles. Never driven in winter.

    Sir: you have obviously not been watching the pickup trucks and Blazer/Bronco/Ramcharger market lately, and these “square bodies” in particular. Some are bringing crazy money. There are huge meets just for the truck enthusiasts that are rivaling the Rod runs.

    What ever happened to vehicle valued for originality? Most vehicles I see on these auction sites are restorations…

    In the quest for “originality”, many (most?) take it too far. They make it all about changing the vehicle instead of preserving the original vehicle or making changes that can easily be reversed. The collector market is attracted to the pedigree and preservation of the vehicle in the form it rolled off the production line in.

    I long for the days when you could get a really nice 60’s car for $10,000 (not all that long ago), and that seemed like a lot when you figured that most cost only $3500-$4500 new. Six figures is way out of line. Yes, when you figure a Model T cost less than $400 new and they go for at least $10k now, values have gone up, but people think their Bondo-bucket barn junk is worth big $ now.

    Completely agree with you. The prices people are asking for projects and rust buckets have gotten crazy. It is making hard for average guys with a mortgage and kids in college (Me!) to be able to enter the hobby. I guess I should be glad I have something to mess around with. I’ll never again be able to do what my dad and I did with 60’s Mustangs in the 1970’s-90’s.

    Hey Bryan. I happen to have a 66 Mustang coupe, 289 V-8 automatic, that I enjoy driving from time to time. Body, interior, transmission, engine all seem to be in pretty good shape. had headers installed at some point and the car has been repainted. Since you and your Dad had some fun tinkering with them in the past, any suggestions or tricks that I could use to improve mine? So far other modifications include an AM/FM radio (I still have the original A/M radio), speakers in the door panels and a booster added to the drum brakes. I’ve had it for about 4 years, had some typical updates such as spark plugs, water pump and timing belt, brakes, tires, radiator, etc. I average about 1,000 miles per year. No A/C (though tempted by Vintage Air), no power steering. drum brakes. Any thoughts would be appreciated…thanks!

    The Trick is to not set ones sight to high there are plenti of beautiful old originals aroud at very reasenable Prices : be Happy with something you can afford enjoyment does not nessesarily come from a hundred thousand dollar Car example: I am happier now with My 48 Dodge Coupe then I was with a 308 Ferrary

    Oh man, well said Bryan!! Nothing but a rusted shell and they want thousands, and when you politely question the selling party they get all defensive and offended.

    IMHO, since these are mostly nostalgic emotional purchases, All we have to do is wait for the Boomers to be too old to drive, the prices will be bargain basement. 😉 (that is, if you are not a Boomer yourself)

    When you create currency out of thin air, loan it to the government and they spend it, these outrageous prices are the result. Currency is theft…

    If you go to an inflation calculator, you will find that a lot of the cars are selling for less than the original sticker even though the prices appear high. Dollars are worth way less today than in the 60’s.

    Well said. It’s insanity some of the asking prices pepper put out there for vehicles that need MAJOR work. I just smoke and move on.

    It looks like most of these vehicles garnered near double what they are considered to be worth in #1 Concours condition… a fool and his money…

    The early Shelby Mustangs from 1965 to 1970 are doing well if they are in the Shelby registry and have supporting documentation. At Barret-Jackson I saw plenty of fake GT350s and GT500s that are nothing more than tribute cars for the ignorant and uninformed.

    Time and time I try to tell my kid to keep his cars/trucks/bikes as close to original as possible. Unrestored or properly restored vehicles (other than “some” modern updates), are going to wear better in the future than a modification that changes the original character. Things like cutting out the exhaust baffle to make it louder or decals that will eventually take off the paint. Love the Blazer (have an ’87 Comanche) but am also a wagon guy.

    I think for each person it is different. Some like original some like modified. I like something that I can take to the drag strip, or a car show, or a cruse. But I didn’t buy my current hot rod to make money.

    The prices do seem high, but a true collector will pay big money for a low milage car. I personally can’t see paying a premium price for a re built car. It seems to me the regular guy can no longer afford these auctions. I can remember buying a decent car for 14 to 15 k now you can’t buy a decent pick up for this kind of money. I just don’t get it.

    I have a 1963 GMC Carryall (suburban) 305 v6 3 on the tree with 1585 miles for sale. Needs a fuel tank. For sale

    Those auction results are not the norm, but every WRX and Blazer seller will use them to try to command a high price.

    Overall for the hobby, what was a decent $6,000 project car 4 years ago is now $12,000-15,000.

    I think that the high prices are more of a reflection on how the value of the dollar has dropped, not the appreciation of these cars in real terms. Also, I think a lot of high income people are buying hard assets like collectible cars in the hope of protecting against excessive monetary policy. Most people are not seeing their incomes keep up, which means that (as others have pointed out) it is hard to see the hobby expanding to younger people. That is a shame. I hope the buyers do get some joy out of driving these cars, and, interacting with other owners.

    Cars are meant to be driven. These will not. What value does a garage queen really have?
    I guess if these buyers really want to just stare at them, that’s their business. Problem is that the price of lesser examples-cars that can still be driven without losing half their value-rises with the tide created by these cars, pricing even more enthusiasts out of the market.
    I kind of understand the art market-the objects involved were always meant only to be gazed upon. I just don’t get it with cars.

    I think you are absolutely correct. Motion is Lotion, Rest is Rust. All my vehicles (5 of them) have over 100,000 miles on them and two (84 Mustang 20th Anniversary Model, 2001 Acura CL-Type S both bought new) are well over 200,000 miles. I can understand from an Art perspective the looks of a one off Bugatti or Ferrari or even an original GT40. But somebody reads about an 80’s Blazer that is all rusted out and sitting in a barn is worth $50,000 is getting a little carried away. However, all it takes is a seller and a buyer. Have fun.

    My sentiments exactly. The blue collar enthusiasts is priced right out of the market. I made a statement some time ago and was chastised for it, I said, just because you can afford to buy a car does not necessarily mean you deserve to own one. Every time a millionaire/billionaire spends an outrageous amount of money for a vehicle it makes it that much harder for the rest of us who do not have an unlimited supply of money.

    I agree 100%. I just bought my 68 Camaro 8 months ago, probably have taken it to about 10 car shows, and have heard that at least 2 cars were hit (2 died in 1) in transit to car show. I have a very noticeable car from back or front, it seems like people R pulling out more in front of me, following me closer, think they want me to step on it. About a month ago, driving out on rural road, my hood blew open at about 55, could only get hood down to about 1 ft above fenders, had to drive 2 miles to home. On straight away only could go 15, had turn signal on but cars wouldn’t pass me, with broken line and 50mph speed limit. But now I’m a believer in big hood pins !!

    I remember back in ’74 when I was working at a service station in Atlanta, one of the part time gas pumpers drove in in a white ’69 429 Mustang. His dad had just bought it for him for high school graduation present and he was pissed it wasn’t a new one. What a beast it was!

    In 1980 I ran across a red 69 Boss mustang a local farm kid was trying to sell. He was asking 5000.00 and it only had 36,000 miles on it. That was a lot of money for me back then, but had I purchased it, cha Ching today.

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