How the ’87 Mustang GT and Camaro IROC-Z Take on Inflation

James Morrison

Usually, when the Mustang and Camaro find themselves in a story together, they’re duking it out in a head-to-head comparo. This time, though, we don’t plan to spend too much time pitting them against one another. Instead, we’ll explore how their trajectories—from when they were hot new pony cars, to affordable used performance cars, to emerging classics—provide context for how we think about collector cars and their values.

Back in 1987, the Camaro IROC-Z rolled out an optional 5.7-liter, 225-horse L98 V-8 to combat the top-dog Mustang GT, which featured the same horsepower figure from its 5.0-liter V-8. The Chevy’s MSRP came in around 18 grand, depending on how many boxes you ticked, while the Ford dealer asked you to fork over a more frugal $15,000 for its GT pony. Those numbers may sound cheap, but in today’s dollars, they equate to nearly $50K for the Camaro and just over $41K for the Mustang.

Then, of course, came depreciation. Both models sold well, meaning rarity wasn’t a factor in their values on the secondary market. Also, people flogged them as intended, and a market heavy with well-used examples drove overall values down. What’s more, while all that stoplight tomfoolery was taking place, inflation silently marched on. The IROC and GT got cheap—seriously cheap, when compared to their original MSRP.

That brings us to the first point: Inflation doesn’t sleep. Collector cars can be a good investment from the right point in time, but that point is rarely ever when they’re new. This is especially true for cars that were produced in significant numbers, like the Mustang and the Camaro. (It’s not a universal truth, but even the Ferrari 250 GTO was comparatively “cheap” at one point.)

As we all know, if you wait long enough, factors can conspire to bring values back up: Time winnows the number of excellent-condition vehicles on the road, and buyers who lusted after the car that ruled their high-school parking lot get to the point where they can afford a pristine example. As the above chart shows, though, the value boost doesn’t typically happen overnight—even for two shining examples of storied nameplates.

With that in mind, the inflation-adjusted MSRP gives us another metric to assess current market value. Is $25K for a ’93 Mustang considered expensive? Or is it actually a good value? People will answer those questions differently, but if that $40K+ itch you wanted to scratch 37 years ago is available at a discount, even a shrinking one, that car for that price is still an appealing proposition.

And now for a little bit of comparison: Against inflation, the two cars have fared similarly over the last four years. Back in January 2020, the Camaro was worth 55 percent of its inflation-adjusted MSRP; today it sits at 88 percent of that number, an increase of 33 percentage points. The Mustang moved 30 points, having sat at 28 percent of adjusted MSRP four years ago compared to 58 percent now. Measure from a decade ago, though, and the IROC has gained considerably more than the GT.

The IROC’s stronger trajectory, and the fact that it’s close to crossing over its adjusted MSRP value, suggest that between these two, it was the first to cross from used car to collector car. (The pace of that transition speaks to the car’s appeal, but its unfortunate effect is that a good one is getting tougher to afford.) The Mustang, on the other hand, still represents better value in real dollars, and relative to its initial cost.

Regardless of which side you’re on, comparing against inflation-adjusted MSRP does provide a solid visual for how these ’80s warriors are maturing into revered classics.

1987 Ford Mustang GT mountains


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    Most cars never come close to being of MSRP Value of their sticker let alone adjusted.

    Anything that can be sold for more than the sticker is often a win and anything more is a bonus.

    The Mustang to me is a bargain, I see many in the low to mid 20K range. I am glad the Camaro is doing well but I would never pay that much for one and I am a GM guy.

    Better off with a 4th gen TA. Better car and better engine. Even better a later LS GTO or G6.

    GT Mustangs are a bargain.
    Notchback, 5.0, 5-speed cars are far more rare and difficult to find than a heavy GT car, and thusly net a premium price.
    Unless I wanted a cars and coffee Mustang, I wouldn’t entertain any automatic 5.0 Mustang.

    I agree on 3rd Gens, save the TA and a genuine 1LE AC delete car.
    GM really missed the boat by making all 350 cars automatics and using the oddball Aussie 9bolt instead of developing a new housing casting for the 850 (8.5” 10 bolt) which was significantly more robust with little added weight and drag. These issues and the 305 TBI cars made the third gen somewhat of a joke.

    I’ve had 2- 3rd Gens and a notchback Mustang. The Mustang was just more enjoyable.

    I still have my 2002 Camaro ss limited addition 25k miles on it. Every time i drive it i shake my head & say not for sale.

    You mean the G8. The Pontiac G6 was the successor to the Pontiac Grand Am.
    Future value is hard to predict. Who in 1971 would’ve correctly predicted in a Chrysler-Plymouth showroom, that the ‘Cuda 440 on one side, would be worth more in 2001, than the Imperial in the center of the floor?

    I owned an 87 Mustang GT, complete with the cheese grater tailight covers. If I was making the choice today, I’d select a 5.0 LX. Exposed dual exhaust tailpipes and no cheese grater tail lamps. The problem that I’m having now is that I’d like to find either an 80’s Z28 or IROC but there are so few available with a manual. Manual Fox body Mustangs are much easier to find.

    Ditto! I had an 88 GT, and in hindsight, I would have gotten the lighter, faster LX. But of course, back in my 20s, it was all about the ‘cool factor’.

    While this is a head to head value comparison between the IROC and GT, trying to stay in the same realm, I’d much rather have a 5.0 LX. The 87 and GTs… are less attractive to me. The aero body mods are of dubious value to say the least and I’ve heard weigh quite a bit more than one would suspect. Louvered tail light covers? Kind of silly. That’s like people putting peel and stick hood scoops on new cars. The IROC (gulp) has a cleaner better integrated design. Sure for many it’s about finally getting the car they wanted in high school but somethings seem a bit adolescent even for a later adolescent. Still to each his own.

    All day long on the LX over the GT. Such a clean look, and I loved the way the exhaust pipes sat beneath the bumper. The two top-line models made the most sense for valuation comparison’s sake.

    This generation IROC is the best looking car. It looks just as good today and arguably better than the cars that came after it. Mustang wise I want an LX 5.0. I never liked the GT’s added body cladding or spoiler. Now peak Mustang of this era is a Cobra but good luck on that one.

    I sold mine and kept the GM muscle car.
    I regret selling the notch because it was, IMO, the last true Hot Rod car. It was stupid easy to run 13s in one.

    I like both but the IROC is not in the same league as the Ford then or now. Good luck finding either in good shape. 225hp from a smaller 5.0 moved circles around the Chevy and had better gas milage. This was the start of the Camaro death in my opinion.

    ’98 4th gen Z28 base was the performance bargain of that time. LS1, 6speed, 3.42posi, 4wheel disc 13.8 1/4 (Car&Driver)
    A/C & tilt were standard on all 4th gen Camaro’s as was plastic, mouse fur and more plastic. Do not go T-top! Tubular suspension and frame re-enforcement, even rr IRS kits.
    SS/ZR1 style wheels are available 17x9frt 275/40 tire 17x11rr 315/35 tire. LS power upgrades never end.
    Low cost streetable track day daily driver.

    Had an 87 GT back in the day when new and drove for 7 years. As sold (115K+ miles), it was definitely one of the “rode hard and put up wet” variety that served to keep prices down all these years. Lots of great memories and wins (on the street and the track). Any version of the Camaro was never a contest. Except for the Buick GN, there was nothing quicker new on the street from the USA. Just putting on slicks at the track did wonders. Miss that car and glad to see they are starting to appreciate. Agree with the comments, the LX notch was an even better bargain and was a tad quicker as well.

    Yes! then you do an LS drive-line conversion, and make it drive and handle like it “should” have, now you have something, pure joy!

    A friend had a 93 LX 5.0 5-speed hatchback. He added 2-chamber Flowmaster mufflers with downward dumps after the mufflers. He liked the look of the original exhaust pipes in the back so he kept the pipes on even though they were no longer connected.

    I’m an original 1989 GT Hatchback owner and was told at the time no modern car would ever be collectible and not to waste my time thinking they ever would be, when I factory ordered mine. Only the real muscle cars from the 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s were going to be wanted, or valuable, in years to come, so I was expertly informed. Glad I never worried too much about the future values. Hindsight and armchair comments be damned, I still enjoy what I bought and why. Regardless of LX, GT, or the GM cars and how much I’ll be able to sell any for, I still get plenty of nice comments from cops (yeah, one even stopped me on his beat once), teens, and even people at stoplights. Might be the condition, but many just enjoy their own memories of being in one when they see it. They can care less about how much it’s worth, but it is nice to know I proved the ones who told me I had purchased a muscle car dud wrong by keeping mine in good condition all these years, and these posts just add to it. As for the time, in my area, Mustang’s and Camaros were both scarce, but Mustang’s ruled and were considered the street winner, by all. For all others who read this, opinions over time made made these memories change when a new kid in town arrived at the dealer. Nuff said.

    I don’t know what it was like outside of Western Canada back when these cars were new but in my 80s world the Z cars were purchased by guys who wore sweaters tied around their necks and got manicures. They were perceived to have purchased the cars with daddy money. My crowd wouldn’t have been caught dead in one. I knew a few who owned the 5.0L Mustangs. Only one was a GT because the LX was the cool sleeper. One was a convertible. I also drove a lot of the 5.0s as I worked for a Ford dealer at the time. Later in my simplified existence of a black and white world a good friend bought a Z28. I almost disowned him. I couldn’t believe his disloyalty. He said that in the superficial 80s chicks only went for money and he just got asked too many times if he drove a Camaro. After a few months of making my friend park out of sight when visiting he finally convinced us that he was driving into the city on the next Saturday night outing. Principals can be altered to save on gas money so away we went. At the end of the evening my friend had consumed a tad too much of the drink so he handed me the keys as I was on the wagon that night and I was the only friend he trusted. So I drove his Z car the 30 miles home. Black and white became a spectrum of colour, Confusion followed. Questioning my own loyalty to my fraternity (not to mention my employer) I drove that car like it was meant to be driven. That was the night I learned that Mustangs won drag races and Camaros ran circles around Mustangs. The next day a purchased a long sleeve sweater and Sperry shoes and threw away my socks. Just kidding. But I did drive that Camaro more than once.

    To this day, I’ll never understand what people see in Fox body Mustangs. Imo, they are THE UGLYEST Mustang ever made. Sure, they probably were faster than an Iroc or maybe a (Formula/Trans Am/gta) which would be my preference being a former Pontiac guy. I just couldn’t do it, faster or not, they are ugly. Yeah, they were lighter or whatever, I personally wouldn’t want one, I know that’s sacrilege to some people but that’s how I feel.

    One information point not discussed here is what the total sales numbers were for both vehicles originally and what affect that may have upon rarity in the current marketplace. I don’t know for sure, but if I had to guess, I guess the that the Mustang outsold the Camaro initially probably based upon price, good for the manufacturer, maybe not so much for the vintage collector.

    Have a 1999 Z28 I special ordered. Automatic with all the performance options, no T-roofs. Has around 4000 miles on it, been garage kept its whole life, 100 percent completely stock. Take it out once in a while for a short ride, after every ride I say to myself no way I’m selling this car.

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