Five classics you’d never guess were great investments

The classic car market has been doing quite well since recovering in 2011 from its Great Recession-induced correction. So, it’s not surprising that certain cars have increased in value in the last year. But the identity of some of the cars that did especially well can be somewhat confounding. Here are five that were surprisingly great investments:

  1. 1972 Volkswagen Thing: The VW Type 181 (known in the U.S. at The Thing) was a modestly updated version of the WWII-era Volkswagen Kübelwagen, the German army’s version of the Jeep. VW figured that if AMC was doing well with a civilian version of the Jeep, why not give it a shot? With its simple top, side curtains and removable doors, The Thing made a decent beach car. Every model year is up, the 1972 model increased in value by 48 percent this year.
  2. 1984 Pontiac Fiero Indy Pace Car: The Fiero, as is widely known at this point, was sold to gullible GM brass not as a sports car, but as a two-seat “commuter” car. The bean counters had their revenge in making the engineers use suspension bits from dubious GM cars of the time (like the infamous X-car), none of which did wonders for the car’s handling. But the ’84 pace car replica at least looked great. It represents the first year of Fiero production and as such, it’s noteworthy. Fiero pace cars handily outperformed the stock market at 11 percent this year.
  3. 1960 Peugeot 403 Cabriolet: This one’s a head scratcher. Maybe call it the “Columbo” effect, as this car happens to be the car that Peter Falk’s legendarily rumpled detective drove in the TV series of the same name. This particular Pug is up a whopping 74 percent.
  4. 1963 Volkswagen Karmann-Ghia coupe: KGs are hot. If you’ve always liked one of these fancy Beetles (Road & Track famously called it “a Beetle in an Italian suit”), you might be too late. Every year is up in both coupe and convertible, but the 1963 coupe is especially hot, rising an impressive 87 percent year-over-year.
  5. 1979 Cadillac Seville: Cars of the Malaise Era are finally getting their due but up to now, it had mainly been limited to Z/28s and Trans Ams of the mid-1970s. The first Seville was a very handsome European-sized sedan built on the Chevy Nova platform.  While small for a Caddy, the Seville carried the biggest price tag of the era, almost $16,000 in 1979. For that, the buyer got a 350 V-8 with electronic fuel injection and an optional trip computer. The Seville is up 40 percent from last year.
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