Spotlight on the ’70s: 6 vehicles to buy, sell, or hold

Truth be told, the Malaise Era wasn’t all bad. Cars from the 1970s are still being driven, still being treasured, and still trading hands. Based on Hagerty Price Guide values and insurance quoting activity, we came up with a list of six ’70s cars to buy, sell, or hold right now.

For all the crappy stuff that happened in the 1970s—Vietnam, Watergate, Elvis’ death, Marcia Brady getting hit in the nose with a football—you have to admit there was a lot of cool stuff too. Like Star Wars. And Pop Rocks. And America’s Bicentennial. And muscle cars… at least until oil prices and government regulation put an end to all the fun. Let’s not wallow in what might have been, here are six Malaise cars we are keeping our eyes on.

BUY: 1973–77 Chevrolet El Camino 59

1974 Chevrolet El Camino Front 3/4
1974 Chevrolet El Camino Mecum

Demand metrics are on the rise for the fourth-generation El Camino. According to Hagerty Valuation Auction Editor Andrew Newton, insurance quotes are up 8 percent over the last year, and the values of those 1973–77 El Caminos that our clients are adding to their policies have increased by 13 percent on average. Newton says that although Hagerty Price Guide #3 (Good) condition values have increased only 2 percent over the past year, “they may soon catch up to the demand that we’ve been seeing.” Looks like it’s time to buy a solid example.

BUY: 1971–78 Cadillac Eldorado 35

1973 Cadillac Eldorado low 3/4
1973 Cadillac Eldorado Mecum

Newton says values for 1971–78 Cadillac Eldorado has been steadily increasing (up 30 percent) over the last 10 years, but more recently they’ve taken a step back (down 8 percent), which presents a buying opportunity. We’ve seen strong performance at auctions recently for good low-mileage cars. The number of these cars offered at auction is up 11 percent, the average sale price is up 16 percent, and the sell-through rate is currently 87 percent. Demand metrics are still down slightly over the last year, but signs point to a rebound.

SELL: 1970–81 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 59

1970 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 rear 3/4
1970 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28 Mecum

Hagerty Price Guide values for 1970–81 Camaro Z/28s in #3 condition have increased just 2 percent in the last 12 years (that’s right, 12 years), which is a pretty good sample size. Newton says demand metrics had been increasing over the last six months, “but that didn’t translate to increased values, and more recently the demand metrics have taken a dive.” With so little change in values, along with the recent dip in interest, a second-gen Z/28 doesn’t appear to be a great place to put your money, at least from a financial perspective.

SELL: 1972–76 Ford Thunderbird 41

1973 Ford Thunderbird Front 3/4
1973 Ford Thunderbird Mecum

Similar to the Camaro Z/28 above, the sixth-generation Thunderbird hasn’t done much during the last decade, with just a 0.4-percent increase in value. Demand metrics have been on the slide for a while, with the number of cars added to Hagerty policies falling 21 percent over the last 12 months. “Thunderbirds of just about any age don’t seem to resonate with younger buyers,” Newton says. “The 1955–57 cars have some of the lowest insurance-quote percentages among Gen X and Millennials at 16 percent. And 1972–76 T-birds are only marginally better at 39 percent.” As Baby Boomers start to exit the market in the next five years, these cars will struggle to find new homes at their current values, so it may be best to sell now.

HOLD: 1971–73 Buick Riviera 50

1972 Buick Riviera Side Profile
1972 Buick Riviera Mecum

Values for 1971–73 Rivieras jumped 40 percent in the last two years, and Hagerty’s demand metrics have started to climb as well. Quotes are up 11 percent, cars added to Hagerty policies has increased 15 percent, and average value of cars added to a Hagerty policy has increased 9 percent. Newton says, “Although it seems a little risky, there’s still some room for growth, so owners may want to hold out until the price gets a little larger.”

HOLD: 1971–76 Cadillac DeVille 29

1971–76 Cadillac DeVille
1975 Cadillac DeVille Mecum

Hagerty Price Guide values have increased 19 percent over the last 10 years, but more recently values have fallen 6 percent for the 1971-76 DeVille. Along with the dip in HPG values, we’ve seen interest start to fall off as well. Quotes are down 16 percent over the last 12 months, and the average value of a car added to a Hagerty policy has fallen 18 percent. “With that said, compared to the 1972-76 Thunderbird the DeVille has caught the eye of younger collectors, with over 55% percent of quotes coming from Gen X and Millennials,” Newton says. “A Cadillac badge just has more cachet.” The recent drop in interest and HPG values suggest that this isn’t the best time to sell. But the long-term upside is there, so it makes sense to wait until selling conditions improve in the next 6–12 months.

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