3 Up, 3 Down: Do These Muscle Cars Point to an Emerging Trend?

GM/John Hollansworth, Jr

Among the many segments in the collector car hobby, muscle cars are one of the most solidly established. Their market is more mature than the emerging collector SUV and Japanese segments, and demand remains broad and deep, in contrast to the more limited audience for cars from the ’50s and earlier. Lately, however, the trend for these cars as a group is also one of the hardest to pin down.

The Hagerty Muscle Car Index, a stock-market-style grouping of cars that represent a broad spectrum of the segment, is down 5 percent in the last quarter, and 8 percent over the last year. That said, 2024 has still featured standout muscle car sales, like this ’70 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda and this ’70 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 W30. As a result of these somewhat mixed messages, Hagerty Price Guide editor Greg Ingold has characterized the muscle market as “softening but nuanced.”

One theme we are seeing lately is top-line cars—like the Plymouth Superbird we highlighted in a recent Price Guide update—slipping while some less powerful, less ostentatious, or less mainstream models are seeing a slight uptick. To wit, here are a few examples of muscle car values that show some bright spots in the middle of the muscle car market as well as some of the recent weaknesses at the pointy end.

1968-69 Mercury Cyclone: +15 percent

Mercury Cyclone front three-quarter
Ford

Starting out in 1964 as a trim level on Mercury’s Comet, the Cyclone became its own, more luxurious take on the muscle car in 1968. The model offered a range of solid-performing engines and handsome, sporty looks, but never took off in an era where wild exterior visuals were beginning to match the increasing power under Detroit’s hoods. While not as rare as some of the other cars on this list, the entire run of ’68-69 Cyclones didn’t cross 23,000 units, so if you’ve got one or are thinking about picking up this upscale muscle alternative, it’s a near lock that you’ll be the only Cyclone at the next local car show.

The Cyclone and its close relative, the Ford Fairlane (below), are the two on this list with the broadest spread of options and drivetrains, so there’s a fair amount of variance in terms of value and percentage of increase within each of these two models (the percentage increase in the heading is for the model overall). For instance, a #2 (“excellent”) condition ’69 Cyclone Spoiler II with its burly 428 Cobra Jet is up 26 percent to $89K, while a ’69 Cyclone GT with a 302-cubic inch V-8 in the same condition is up a still-significant 16 percent to $28,500. Our valuation team does not always note increases across the board within a specific model—sometimes in a slow market, a top configuration will move while lesser versions hold steady—so this market behavior bodes well for the Cyclone.

1971-74 AMC Javelin AMX: +10 percent

1971-AMC-AMX-Javelin-poster-1000
AMC

Though the AMX started life as a two-seater, AMC pivoted for 1971 and made AMX the top trim level at in the Javelin lineup. A spruced-up interior, revised fiberglass hood, and spoilers front and rear visually distinguished the AMX from the rest of the Javelin trims, while between the fenders sat a 285-horse 360-cubic inch V-8 or a 330-hp 401-cubic inch V-8. Even if it wasn’t the most powerful car out there, the Javelin/AMX was stylish if slightly offbeat competition for the Big Three’s pony cars, and it proved to have a healthy following.

We picked the original ’68-70 AMX for our 2023 Bull Market List, and since then values of that generation are up just shy of 5 percent. The AMX-trim Javelins of ’71-74, however, are up a more impressive 10 percent. The good news is that even #2 (“excellent”) condition 360-powered cars come in at $36,600, and driver-quality cars can be had for about $20K. Budget a few grand more for the larger engine.

1966-67 Ford Fairlane: +8 percent

1966 Ford Fairlane GT 427 2-door Hardtop
Ford

As with most mid-sized cars of the era, you could get your fifth-generation Ford Fairlane in decidedly non-muscular station wagon and sedan form (though you could get some powerful engines in those body styles). For the purposes of this exercise, though, we’re only considering the two-door models. Still, there was plenty of variety in both trim and engine—from mild 289 V-8 to the much wilder (and rarer) dual-quad-equipped 427. What’s more, in contrast to the Mercury Cyclone, Fairlanes were produced in healthy numbers.

Values for the more muscle-oriented Fairlanes are up 8 percent overall in the latest edition of the Hagerty Price Guide. A 320-horse 390-cubic inch ’67 Fairlane 500 convertible tips the scales at $30,900 in #2 (“excellent”) condition, a 10.4 percent increase. Up 16 percent (to $35K) is the ’66 Fairlane 500XL coupe with the 265-horse 390. Meanwhile, the crown jewel of the model, the 427-powered ’66 Fairlane 500, is up 16.4 percent in the same condition, and is valued at $255K. Prior to this past quarter’s strong performance, Fairlanes were increasing slightly through 2023’s slowing market. If there’s a poster child for a solid ’60s muscle cruiser that’s not flashy but gets the job done, the Fairlane might be it—and it seems the market’s taken notice.

1969 Chevrolet Chevelle COPO: -13 percent

1969 Copo Chevelle Front
Mecum

In 1969, GM’s corporate edict keeping engines larger than 400 cubic inches out of any car that wasn’t either full-sized or named Corvette was still very much in effect. Creative minds find solutions, however, and the Central Office Production Order (COPO)—a program designed to enable the special order of specific option combinations for police, municipal, and other fleet use—got leveraged to bring big power to a few savvy people. That year, 323 Chevelles were ordered with the 425-horse L72 427-cubic inch engine through COPO. Don Yenko’s S/C conversions were the most famous Chevelles to go through this process—99 were made—though Berger Chevrolet in Michigan also utilized the COPO side door. The remainder trickled out to other dealers across the U.S. and Canada.

Despite the fact that these Chevelles are among the most rare and sought-after Chevy muscle cars, our valuation team has observed a downward trend in prices. Across all conditions, non-Yenko COPO Chevelle values are down 13 percent. Yenko S/C Chevelles have performed a little better, losing 10 percent over the last quarter. That doesn’t mean any are cheap, however. A #2 (“excellent”) condition COPO Chevelle is still valued at $156K (a Yenko in the same condition will garner $165K), and either car in #4 (Fair) condition will still command six figures.

1967-69 Camaro SS: -8 percent

1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS Coupe Front
GM

From the factory, a set of SS badges on a first-gen Camaro meant at least a 350-cubic inch V-8 under the hood. Buyers who wanted more grunt could option a big-block 396 with up to 375 horses. If you pulled up to a stoplight next to a Camaro SS, it helped to scope out the front fender to see what flavor V-8 you were up against. That said, plenty of savvy owners subbed out the chrome “396” for a more modest 350 badge to fool would-be opponents.

Today, regardless of the horsepower count, first-generation Camaro Super Sports of all stripes are down a significant eight percent as a whole. Of course, this translates to different values across the spectrum—For instance, a 300-horse ’69 L48 350-powered Camaro SS in #2 (“excellent”) condition is now valued at a little more than 61 grand, and $127,000 will fetch a ’68 SS convertible with the 375-hp 396 in the same condition. While these Camaros aren’t top-dog Chevys like the COPO Chevelles, they are coveted A-list cars from the muscle era, and our valuation team takes notice when their values move.

1968 Shelby GT500 KR: -4 percent

1968 Shelby GT500 KR blue rear
Ford

It’s not the most pricey Shelby Mustang (that honor goes to the ’65 GT350R) and it isn’t set up to be as nimble as other Shelby creations, but the ’68 Shelby GT500 KR has a lot going for it. 428 Cobra Jet Power, the Shelby name, and some seriously good looks have put the GT500 KR at the top of the list for many a Mustang fan. After a stable 2023, prices are down 4 percent for convertibles (to $204K for a #2 example) and 3.7 percent (to $155K) for fastbacks in the first quarter of 2024. Though Ford muscle has generally trended positive over this period, this particular Blue Oval tracks the broader segment’s recent cooling.

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Comments

    Only the Camaro is one in great numbers. So no surprise.

    The Shelby and COPO cars generally seldom drop.

    The Fairlane of late have been popping up as prices on other cars are topped out. The Cyclone is still a white buffalo.

    The Javelin has kind of always been under the radar.

    Nothing surprising here in an over priced market.

    Now if the economy continues to slip and if it begins to upset a Wall St that is when the real action starts.

    The subtley of inflation is that it eats into one’s buying power, and nowhere has the American public been deceived more matter of factly than with this oval office interloper. In July 2022 inflation was at 8.5% and we’re still in nothing less than 5%. Smaller packages, bigger prices, and you know it. Jobs have seldom met expectations, but the “economy is wonderful”, say the propagandists. Interest rates have been ast a 23 year high since 2022, and what do you get at your bank for savings, money market? And what about the usurious rates on credit cards? By every metric, Bidenomics has miserably failed Americans; prices are now up an average 20% over Inauguration Day 2021.

    I disagree and see you also deceived, but politics aren’t for here, and my response might appear that way like yours does as inflation was better in 2016 than 2020.

    Thank You for saying Politics is not for this topic. Money talks. How fast do you want to go? $$$

    Don’t throw political bombs. They may start landing in your backyard. This forum is one of the few places I go to escape politics.

    Exactly 100% there’s usually one that has to drag politics into every facet of our lives….cars is usually one place were supposed to escape from that.

    So, Biden is responsible for your low interest savings account, high interest credit card, and smaller Snickers bar? Please explain. Biden is smarter than you think…he drives a 1967 Corvette…value is up 35% over the last year.

    And don’t forget the longest stretch of unemployment below 4% in 50 years, and the best stock market returns in decades.

    Oh ya, the SandP is up higher than ever but that’s only because the money is more worthless due to all the printing.
    It just a big house of cards. Collect nice things like automobiles 😄

    Biden Definitely Has a Good Eye when it comes to C2 Corvettes With Both Balance and Power. ‘1967 L79, ‘327/350 H.P. CAR & DRIVER Magazine ‘1965 L79 (ROAD TEST) ”Best Vette Yet”.

    I agree with you , this administration caused the inflation with non sensical energy policies that hampered the economy .

    Inflation is a problem all over the world, not just in the U,S. Boy, Biden sure is powerful if he can do that. (In fact, it’s lower in the US than most of the industrial world. ) Facts are a b****, eh?

    And this has what to do with the collector car market, exactly? Take your political commentary to a more appropriate forum.

    You are politicizing a car forum? Where do you get your inflation facts…Fox News ? I continue to be amazed that folks like you seem to live in an atlernate reality. I know you feel like the 2020 election was stolen and that the trial of the former President is a complete sham, even when he is found guilty by a jury of 12. Your inflation numbers are lamentable and hilarious.
    I have 9 collector cars. They are fun and interesting.
    Also you do not have the backbone to use your real name. Mine is Jon Fink

    Inflation just came in at 3.4% and looks to be lower by the end of the year. Biden cleaned up the mess while creating stellar job and growth numbers. Added bonus is that he’s not a traitor.

    You are not deceived. You speak the truth. If you can’t see the problem, you are part of the problem.

    Actually, the economy is booming. Jobs are plentiful, everyone who wants a job has one, and everyone who wants a better job can find one. Inflation is at 3.4%, the lowest rate in the world. The pandemic was worldwide, but was exacerbated by the incompetence and corruption of the Drumpf administration. Thankfully, under Biden, the nation has recovered with the stock market at record highs and wages finally going up despite the RepubliKKKans’ best efforts.

    Sounds like a trumpet or a Trunper
    What about cars??
    The infection has gotten in to Hagerty.
    UCK!

    Agree; and what’s new about inflation? We had a century of it to ‘warm us up’, after all! Minimum wage — when I got my work permit and drivers license in 1961 was $1.25, after all — and a new compact car under $2000. C’mon, guys!

    Lets state things simply — there is a limited buyers pool for expensive cars and the broader pool of buyers with less money to spend is looking at more affordable alternatives. Agree with Rifon14, by most measures the economy is doing good, BUT one exception is wages have not kept up FOR DECADES. The economy is fine, the problem is a lowering standard of living. Decades ago I drove past a GM manufacturing plant and noticed the large number of IMPORT cars in the employee parking lot. Basically well paid workers putting themselves out of work. Yes that plant is closed now!!!! Most of the children of those workers are in low paying jobs! They won’t be buying expensive muscle cars. Yes I’m a boomer and go look at our wealth stats. When we are gone I wonder who will buy these muscle cars.

    Correct. A lot of people living in fairy land. Worst economy in at least 4+ decades going from recession into depression. Past 3.5 years 89% of Americans living paycheck to paycheck. Some of my good friends have big money and buy what they want. I was just at Barrett Jackson on Bidder Stage and cars did not go for nearly what they had in past years. Most down 30%+.

    I have been collecting since 1980, Model T’s and Model A’s were everywhere and many still cared. We know what happened. That group died…so to speak. I saw 7000 mile COPO Camaro’s turn down 300,000. Each generation ages out. You want what you grew up with and relate to. I believe that is the dominant factor. Hershey these last couple of years have been strange. Yes, covid. However it is “different” The vendors know. It’s all about “aging out” and what does the generation jus behind you want. Have you seen the price for a 90 something Accura type R ? Amen

    Seems reasonable enough. As certain cars get hot and jump up a bit of a cooling down period isn’t unlikely to follow. So then you have people looking at lesser known or somewhat forgotten models. The 68-69 Cyclone may be one of these. Even with its lower production numbers being best known for its use in Nascar ( Cyclone Spoiler II ) you’d think people would remember that the Wood Brothers ran Mercurys at that time. While the earlier Comet Cyclones / Ford Fairlanes became well known commodities at the dragstrip. With room for a big block, a good choice for those racing on a budget who would rather put more in the motor than pay more for a Mustang. They look really cool in that guise too, a bit of ‘Dyno Don’ magic. The Javelin AMX is a bit of an oddball. I personally find the earlier versions more attractive than this extreme coke bottle shape but AMC was intentionally going way out in its styling. You can see that approach reflected down the the line. Seems their fans revel in being different than the rest much to their credit. And the very much other ponycar did win the Trans-Am championship didn’t it.

    AMC was also out to win the SCCA championship with Penske/Donohue with this model and did it in ’71.

    Although interesting, there are so many other factors that gauge selling prices that make it difficult to assess.
    Eg, dealer or private, online or brick & mortar auctions.
    Taking auctions deeper, day of sale, upcoming holidays, time of year, run numbers at B&M auctions, other similar cars for auction at the same time, attention to detail of selling vehicle, correctness and colours, number of people bidding in attendance, how deep the two main bidders pockets are, and that’s off the top of my head..
    But a clean car with acceptable types of flaws, reputable drivetrain inspections and professional presentations on the right day ups ones chances of best selling prices, while the opposite will hesitate potential bidders, as an auction doesn’t allow you to test drive and pay attention to possible hidden issues that in some cases are unsolvable and ruin the whole ownership/driving experience. Even a test drive may not point to all issues, as there may be an intermittent stalling or no start issues you may not discover until later.

    Interesting bit about Mercury Cyclones. A point of clarification that I wouldn’t mention if it was just a glitch in this story, however I notice you have the same mistake in you price guide. 1969 Mercury Cyclones Spoiler IIs were not available with the 428CJ, Ford’s top musclecar engine for Ford and LM intermediates in 1969. Spoiler IIs were only built with the 351 Windsor. I think you’re mistaking the Cyclone Spoiler with the Cyclone Spoiler II. The Spoiler was a trim package for the Cyclone, and was available with all engines to include the 428CJ. The Spoiler II was a low production homologation effort to legalize an aero package for NASCAR, and included unique front sheetmetal and bumper akin to what was done for the Talledaga Torino model. For some reason, all Spoiler IIs were 351s, while all Talladegas were 428CJs.

    Eric .Since you seem to have some expertise on these do you know if you could get a 429 in the notchback body style and did they call it a Cyclone? Thanks Ken K.

    Ken, The 429 wasn’t available in the Cyclone until 1970. The prior discussion was related to the ‘69 Cyclone Spoilers and Spoiler IIs, which as another commenter mentioned, were both available in the Dan Gurney blue and white trimmed version, or the Cale Yarborough red and white trimmed version. Of these two, only the Spoiler was available with any of the V8s including the 428CJ, whereas the very limited production Spoiler II homologation effort was only available with the 351. The 428 and 429s were completely different engine families, with the 428’s last year in Cyclone/Torino being ‘69, and first year for the 429 being 1970. As for the formal roof two-door body you mention, there was a formal roof Cyclone availabie in ‘69 that you could opt with the 428, but the large majority of ‘69 Cyclones were of the more aero Sportsroof variety. The Spoiler and Spoiler II packages were Sportsroof only.

    Yea Eric, the numbers on Talladegas and Spoiler II’s are a bit of a mess depending on who you talk too.- Like all Talladegas were ” for some reason ” all column shifted C-6 automatics. As far as I know you are correct and all Spoiler II’s were 351-W cars. But then some will say all the Dan Gurney / Cale Yarborough Specials were 351 equipped. While apparently that option was available on both the Spoiler and Spoiler II there were some non-aero (Spoiler period) Gurney/ Yarborough 428 CJs produced. When you get to the King Cobra Talladegas and Spoiler IIs the numbers are even more varied. Kevin Marty where are you?

    Seeing that a COPO is down yet still goes for $150k, doesn’t really change anything for me.

    I can definitely say seeing a Mercury Cyclone is a rare thing.

    Speaking of Cyclones …… check out the green ‘66 on Rod’s Hot Rods website – along with many nice rides he has for sale in Canadian dollars which are about 1/3 lower than the greenback.

    It’s no surprise to me. I attend many car shows. How many camaros and mustangs can you look at? They don’t attract any attention because there are so many. To put it bluntly, they are BORING. The oddballs,and rarely seen cars cars get all the attention, smiles and great conversations. What’s the point of owning a collector car if all you get are yawns?

    Amen to that. Belly buttons, e’rrybody’s got’em. Boring. Give me a slick, low-option, plain-jane sleeper that will blow the doors off most anything sitting next to it at a car show, and I’m all aflutter….

    Not sure if that’s the best analogy – belly buttons, I mean. I have seen some of the most UNboring belly buttons of all time at the beach!

    But I do have a 1963 Ford Country Squire 9 Pax with factory bucket seats and center consul. One of 321 made.

    I own a 1967 Camaro RS/SS, have had it for many, many years but I could not agree more, very well put.

    I kinda have to agree too. I’ve had a ton of both and after a while they even made me yawn.

    I do notice now my 71 Riviera and truck both seems to get way more questions and attention at the shows than I had with my Stangs and Camaros, and my 83 C-10 step side lowrider pro stocker with a bad ass straight 6 both seem to draw more attention than many other rigs that are by all rights , much nicer cars in there own right .

    But then again how many mid 11 second 6 cylinder ,3 on the tree trucks that have an upholstered engine compartments and beds do you ever see ? My truck “Lowdown” is a bit of an anomaly and folks don’t believe it till they see the timing slips or see my wheel stands to back it up but little do they realize it’s got to be pushing 300 HP or better and I spent well >25 years tuning the suspension and everything else to get it to perform that way.

    Most folks are mostly blown away by all the upholstery and Birdseye Maple and Rosewood accents in such unexpected places though. It’s not just fast , but wicked pretty too ! I’m now seeing more and more folks feeding off some of my influences and have seen many of my type of modifications being done on many other local rigs now .
    Even though it’s more competition I’m still glad people like what I’m doing so much , there copying some of my mods.
    I’m glad to be a good influence and inspiration to some of the younger folks though and hopefully it will keep this sport alive for years & years more to come.

    That has always been my goal though , to have something just a bit different that you just don’t see every day and to be an inspiration to others more new to the sport and judging by all the trophy’s I bring home each year , it seems to be a good call as I usually have a line of folks coming around taking a ton of pictures of my mods and asking a hundred questions about both my rigs .

    With 18 1st place’s out of 20 shows last year along with 2 second places , that says it all . Sometimes the odd balls just rule over something that may a bit be nicer overall !

    INDEED! I brought my near mint, unaltered survivor ’97 SHO (which I have owned 25 years now) to a MUSTANG themed car show. It was amazing the attention my odd looking Taurus received in a sea of ‘stangs! (O:

    I think muscle cars in general are a little less popular these days than a lot of more “out-of-the-ordinary” cars. Those of us who lived through the era enjoy the nostalgia of them, and some younger folks will oogle them, but there are a lot of people in their late 30s to around 50 who a) don’t really “get” what the muscle era was all about, and b) kind of look at them as gas-guzzling giants that ought to be melted down to make Teslas out of. Weirdly, about a third of the guys in that bracket drive jacked up pick-ups that weigh 5000 pounds and roll coal when they leave every stop light.
    Quite a bit of what I just said is tongue-in-cheek B.S., but there is an undercurrent of truth in there too! 😜

    Hi William,
    Unfortunately we can’t tackle all examples in one brief story, but based on the Latest Hagerty Price Guide update, Ram Air Goats are down about eight percent, and regular GTO models are down about five percent. This tracks with the notion that values of cars that have long been at the forefront of the muscle car segment are a bit soft these days, while lesser-known cars are seeing an uptick.

    I venture to say that this has a lot to do with rising interest rates. I can’t imagine how many 6 figure cars were purchased with home equity loans. It’s a lot more palatable to pay cash, or take out a smaller loan for a 30k cyclone. When ( if) interest go back down a tick we will see if I am right.

    I’m on my second ‘98 SVT Contour which are becoming hard to find due to the very low production numbers Ford put out from ‘98 to ‘00. Not without their quirks they are fun to drive but knuckle busters under the hood lol.

    Interesting on the Fairlane increase in interest/value. I’ve bought my first 66 GT in 1976 and still have it. Just a note for clarification – the 390s available in 1967 in non-GT/GTA cars were either 270hp 2V (H or Y) or 315hp 4V (Z). The 320 rating was only for the 390GT engine (S) that was only offered in the GT/GTA cars. Also, the photo is of what appears to be a 1966 GT, but with the addition of a 427 ram-air hood and 427 emblems. While it looks good, no Fairlane GT/GTAs left the plant with that hood or 427 engine in 1966 or 1967.

    I’ve never seen a Camaro spoiler on a Chevelle. A Yenko Chevelle at that and I don’t ever want to see one again. It looks awful. Thumbs down Hagerty for using that photo as click bait.

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