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2019’s biggest winners and losers
Tastes, trends, and demographics are always changing in the collector car world. So are prices, which is why we update the Hagerty Price Guide three times a year and are constantly adding new vehicles. There are always ups and downs, and 2019 was no different. This year was kind to Ford F-Series and German cars—particularly VWs and 1980s Mercedes-Benzes and BMWs—but things didn’t look so good for postwar American cars and many previously-red-hot vintage Ferraris.
Now that the year is over, we dug deeper to see which vehicles gained the most traction and which took the hardest hits in 2019. Measured by their condition #2 (Excellent) values, here are the eight that moved the most for the past year.
1990–94 Volkswagen Corrado: winner (+46%)
Average value in #2 (Excellent) condition: $13,900
The Corrado had the ingredients of a future classic right from the get-go when it came out in 1990. There were interesting engines (both the supercharged 1.8-liter G60 four-cylinder and the narrow-angle 2.8-liter VR6 V-6) and a whiz-bang active rear spoiler. Plus, production numbers were low and performance was high—VW’s best performance to date, in fact, and touted by the company as its “first full-blooded sports car.” Sure, the driving wheels were up front and there were two passenger seats in the back, but whatever. Good looks, updated from the old Scirocco, certainly didn’t hurt either.
In the collector car market, it all came good for the Corrado in 2019. This was a solid year for VW in general (every single Volkswagen in the Hagerty Price Guide got more valuable) but the Corrado jumped the highest, especially the faster and more desirable VR6-powered cars. Corrados have always commanded respect among the VW faithful, but their appeal is spreading and several big results on Bring a Trailer this year (including this $22,000 VR6 sold in September) caught our attention. Current values are still well off their original MSRP (about $37,0000–$44,300 in 2019 dollars) and Corrados are disproportionately more popular among younger enthusiasts, so they still have room to grow.
1999–02 BMW M Coupe: winner (+36%)
Average value in #2 (Excellent) condition: $52,300
Testing an S54-powered M Coupe in 2001, Car and Driver called the funky-looking hot hatch on steroids “more powerful proof that it’s okay to be ugly.” Beauty, of course, is in the eye of the beholder. There are in fact plenty of people (myself included) who like the M Coupe’s beefy rear haunches and long hood; but, hey, we call it the “clown shoe” for a reason. No matter. The performance is stellar, even in less powerful S52 versions, and it quickly became an enthusiast favorite. With a big 3.2-liter straight-six from the M3 stuffed into this lightweight two-seater hatchback, how could it not?
Since enthusiast favorites tend to become collectible cars eventually, we weren’t too surprised to see M Coupe prices start marching up. What did surprise us, however, was just how much of a wild ride they took this year (up 30 percent for the 240-horsepower S54, up 40 percent for the 315-hp S54), and how much pricier they’ve become than the more conventional M Roadster. Adjusted for inflation, the base price of an M Coupe in 2001 was about 67 grand, but several pampered, low-mile cream puffs sold for well over that this year. Three sold for over 80 grand on Bring a Trailer in 2019, including a 7-mile 2002 example for $93,554. Before this year, we hadn’t seen one go for much more than 50 grand.
1985–91 Honda CRX Si: winner (+24%)
Average value in #2 (Excellent) condition: $16,820
Like the BMW M Coupe, the CRX is another two-seater hot hatch that had a breakout year in 2019. We didn’t think there were any clean, un-rusted, un-modified, un-crashed CRXs left anywhere, but they’ve started coming out of hiding and we only added them to the Hagerty Price Guide this spring. And as they’ve emerged from the shadows, they’ve sold for staggering prices, including this one for $27,500 and another for $33,600. Adjusted for inflation, the original price of a 1991 CRX Si was about 20 grand; so over 30 grand for this 105-hp front-driver is eye-popping. We’re talking the kind of prices that would buy you a brand-spanking-new Civic Si, a low-mile C6 Corvette, or a really nice 996 Porsche.
That said, low-mile C6s and nice 996s are a dime a dozen. An immaculate CRX is a unicorn, and even a halfway-decent one is a rare sight. The folks who were in their 20s when CRXs first started sailing around the autocross cones are in their 50s now, often with some extra cash and an extra spot in the garage. Don’t be surprised if they keep looking at CRXs and other vintage hot hatches to fill that spot in 2020.
1969–72 Chevrolet C/K Blazer: winner (+24%)
Average value in #2 (Excellent) condition: $40,200
As we’ve noted many times over the past year, vintage trucks and SUVs are appreciating much faster than their lower-to-the-ground car counterparts, at least in general. The first-gen Ford Bronco became the poster child for that trend—it essentially doubled in value over the past five years—but the Blazer is another one of the most famous names in the vintage truck world. Although the first-gen Blazers have been rising for a while now (#2 values are up 89 percent over the past five years), the increase got even sharper in 2019. After several breakout sales in Scottsdale this past January, we called out K5 Blazers as the new hot classic SUV, and they kept up that momentum for the following 11 months.
1989–91 Chrysler TC by Maserati: loser (-27%)
Average value in #2 (Excellent) condition: $7200
Chrysler lost a lot of money on the TC by Maserati. If you owned one of these oddball ’80s two-seaters in 2019, we have some bad news: so did you.
While it looks like a LeBaron with a fancy interior and trident badges, the TC by Maserati was actually a highly ambitious project. The joint venture between struggling Chrysler and struggling Maserati was built in Italy with one of three different powertrains and cost over twice as much as a LeBaron. However, it was a sales flop, with barely 7000 sold over four short model years. The biggest issue was the combination of high price and bland looks. Lee Iacocca said the collaboration between Chrysler and Maserati would produce “the prettiest Italian to arrive stateside since his mother immigrated.” I’m sure she was a lovely woman, but the finished product did not live up to expectations.
When it came out in 1989, the TC by Maserati carried a $33,000 MSRP. That’s about 70 grand in today’s dollars. And speaking of today’s dollars, it only takes about $10,000 of them to buy you an immaculate low-mile TC at the end of 2019. Prices dropped more sharply for these cars in 2019 than we’ve seen before, and they’re cheaper now than they’ve ever been in the history of the Hagerty Price Guide. We only saw three at auction in 2019, and the most expensive one brought $4950. If it’s any consolation to the TC, its main competitors from back in the day—the Buick Reatta and the Cadillac Allante—both dipped in 2019 as well. Apparently, front-wheel drive American two-seaters just aren’t in style.
1950–53 MG TD: loser (-20%)
Average value in #3 (Good) condition: $14,600
Anybody familiar with the history of sports cars can tell you how significant the T-Series MG is. More than any other car, it sparked America’s postwar love affair with the roadster with thrilling handling, wind-in-your-hair motoring, and a tunable little four-banger. It became one of the most common sights on tracks across the country, and it launched countless racing careers. Think of it as the Miata of the early ’50s.
And, like Miatas, not all T-Series cars are created (or valued) equally. If the T-Series is a family, the 1950–53 TD is the underappreciated middle child cropped out of the family photos. The 1946–50 TC is the do-no-wrong oldest child, the one that gets all the credit for starting the sports car craze, and the 1953–55 TF is the fresh-faced good-looking youngest kid. The TD, meanwhile, is arguably the worst-looking of the three, plus it’s the most common, so it’s always been the cheapest.
It’s only getting cheaper. TCs and TFs have dropped as well, but not by nearly as much or as often. TD prices have been slipping for about three years. Only a handful of TDs commanded prices anywhere near their #2 values at live auction this year, and Bring a Trailer has never sold one for more than 20 grand.
1953–56 Packard Caribbean: loser (-28%)
Average value in #3 (Good) condition: $41,820
This is not a list you want to make two years in a row, but the Packard Caribbean just did. After a 9-percent drop over the course of 2018, the Caribbean had an even rockier go of it this year. When it was new, this car was a marvel. It was more expensive than a Cadillac, came with power everything, and glided down the road on self-leveling suspension. The Caribbean looks fantastic in either the 1953–54 or 1956 body style, and it was the swansong of one of this country’s great carmakers.
These days, though, Packard isn’t the household name it used to be, and pricey cars from defunct brands like Packard and Studebaker (especially ones that need work) just aren’t commanding the same money they were a few years ago. That is partly because they just aren’t attracting new buyers. Restoring a Caribbean also costs a fortune, and that’s if you can even find the parts you need. We noted last year that we expected the Caribbean to keep slipping in 2019, and we were right. It may be a similar story in 2020.
2014–15 LaFerrari: loser (-22%)
Average value in #2 (Excellent) condition: $2,900,000
The LaFerrari was a big deal when it came out, like any Ferrari hypercar would be, and it’s still one of the quickest things on four wheels. The hybrid hypercar triumvirate completed by the McLaren P1 and Porsche 918 became collectible as soon as it left the factory. Then, as these cars hit the auction market in 2017, pent-up demand resulted in huge prices. People who didn’t get the invitation to buy a LaFerrari when it was new suddenly had the chance to grab one—so long as they cut a fat enough check.
In 2019, though, the LaFerrari is no longer the latest and greatest thing, and the initial excitement of being able to buy one of these ultra-exclusive hypercars has worn off a bit. In 2017 and for much of 2018, the low- to mid-$3-million range was the going rate for a LaFerrari. In 2019, the average price at auction was less than $2.7M. Both the P1 and the 918 have seen similar drops in interest this year, though in the longer term all three are surefire collectibles.
Which winner or loser in 2019 surprises you most? Let us know in the comments below.