Once unwanted, many ’70s and ’80s cars are on the rise

Once dismissed out of hand, there are plenty cars from the 1970s and ’80s that are now emerging onto the collector car radar as never before. Some of these cars weren’t even terribly desirable when new, but for whatever reason, nostalgia has kicked in after enough time and high-quality, low-mileage, or original examples are starting to put down roots in the market.

According to the most recent update to the Hagerty Price Guide, the ’70s and ’80s are the most active decades for growth. Thirty-eight percent of vehicles from the 1980s increased in price by a significant amount since the last update in January 2018, while 24 percent of 1970s cars experienced significant growth.

So which cars are hot? In general, limited-edition variants are the first to make the switch from unwanted to collectible. A good example is the eight-valve 1985–86 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk II, which is up 12.5 percent, but still very attainable at an average of $7400 for #2-condition (Excellent) examples. The 1985–88 Pontiac Fiero GT and Formula saw an increase of 11 percent since the start of the year, with #2-condition examples bringing an average of $10,500. The 1983–84 Oldsmobile Cutlass Hurst, which celebrated the 15th anniversary of the first Hurst/Olds, is up five percent to an average #2-condition value of $23,500. To scratch that small-block itch, you could also pony up an average of $15,300 for an excellent 1983–87 Chevy Monte Carlo SS (up 1.8 percent), but expect to pay more for T-top or Aerocoupe models. And if cushy cruising is your thing, there’s always the 1977–79 Lincoln Continental MK V, which is up 7.3 percent to an average of $17,700.

1986 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk II
1986 Volkswagen Golf GTI Mk II VW
1988 Pontiac Fiero GT
1988 Pontiac Fiero GT Mecum

In the world of 1974–78 Mustang IIs, the V-6-powered top-trim Mach 1 is up 2.2 percent, and you can pick up an excellent example for just $5900. It’ll run you a heftier $13,800 on average (up 5.1 percent) for an excellent example of a King Cobra, which was only offered in 1978, and which came only with a V-8. But if you want just the looks, there’s always the Cobra II appearance pack, which will run you $10,500 (up 3.5 percent).

1974 Ford Mustang II Mach I advertisement
1974 Ford Mustang II Mach I Ford Motor Company

The market is flat overall

Meanwhile, 1940s, ’50s, and even ’60s cars are barely moving at all. In fact, the market at large is washboard flat—82 percent of all vehicles in the HPG showed little to no activity—which is why this increase for ’70s and ’80s cars is so noteworthy. And the more upmarket you go, the less activity there is. Pickups are also still growing, but their rate of increase has calmed, and SUVs remain a hot-ticket segment.

It’s hard to say at this point whether that super-flat market means any well-bought car could let you break even, but there are great outlooks for muscle cars right now.

Muscle is still moving up

Ten percent of muscle cars went up in price by five percent or more, which is the best performance for the segment in four years. The 1969–70 Pontiac Grand Prix Model SJ is up a whopping 20 percent since January to an average of $33,500 in excellent condition, as demand for the 370-hp and high-output 390-hp 428 V-8 remains high. The GM goodness continues with the 1965 Chevy Chevelle Malibu SS 327 Sport Coupe, which you can get for an average of $50,900 in excellent condition (up 12.6 percent). And if you’ve got the cash to spare, plunk down $133,000 for a 1970 Buick GSX (up 3.1 percent). Over in Mopar land, a 1970 Dodge Charger (up 6.1 percent) in your garage would run an average of $52,000 in excellent condition, excluding Hemi models.

1970 Dodge Charger
1970 Dodge Charger Brandan Gillogly
1970 Buick GSX Stage 1
1970 Buick GSX Stage 1 Mecum

As always, do your homework to make sure you know what car you’re looking at is worth. And who knows, maybe that once-disposable limited-edition ’80s car is finally having its day, and you can be on the cutting edge.

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