Should you buy, sell, or hold these classic Mopars?
For a lot of folks, it’s Mopar or no car. They wouldn’t even leave a Ford in their driveway if you paid them to put it there. That said, not everybody thinks that way. Tastes change. So does demand and, as a result, so do prices. To see what’s what in the classic Mopar market, we scoured our valuation data to pick three classic Chrysler favorites to buy, sell or hold right now.
|BUY: 1978-79 Dodge Lil’ Red Express||87|
Dodge drove the Lil’ Red Express straight through an emissions loophole and onto the market in 1978, and with a tuned 360 cid V-8 and no catalytic converters, it was actually the fastest American vehicle to 100 mph at the time, according to a Car and Driver test. But while it’s surprisingly fast for a pickup, it’s no sleeper, with the cartoonish exhaust stacks and Canyon Red paint with gold graphics. The D150-based truck had an MSRP just over $7400 (about $30,250 in 2019 dollars) and a little over 2000 were built the first year. The Lil’ Red Express returned for 1979 and over 5000 were sold, but they were saddled with performance-robbing cats and as a result are worth a couple grand less than the ’78 in any condition.
Given the popularity of vintage trucks over the past few years and the outrageous, impossible-to-ignore nature of the Lil’ Red Express (not to mention its performance and rarity), we’ve been surprised at their relatively low prices. They’ve gone up steadily since about 2015, but the gains were modest.
Until late last year, that is. Values are up eight to nine percent over the past year and 2.7 percent over the past four months. And after a flat period starting in 2017, buyer interest (measured by quoting activity) started to jump in late 2018 and is up nearly five percent, well ahead of most other vehicles we track on the collector market. More are being added to insurance policies as well, so the numbers suggest people are coming around to these funky pickups, and given wider trends in the vintage pickup market, the Lil’ Red Express has room to grow.
We also haven’t seen a super-clean, super-low-mile example make a splash on the market yet. Most of the ones we’ve seen have been in the condition #3+ or #2- range. When the perfect one does come along and bring an outrageous price, it will likely drive prices even higher.
|SELL: 1970 Plymouth Road Runner 440||53|
The year 1970 was a high point for muscle cars, and that includes the mid-size Road Runner introduced by Plymouth in 1968. Even the base 383-cubic-inch V-8 made 335 horsepower, and with the 390-horse 440 Six Pack available, you didn’t even have to pony up for a Hemi to get more serious performance. While not quite as popular or as good-looking as the smaller 1970 ‘Cuda, the ’70 Road Runner is nevertheless a Mopar standard bearer.
Road Runner prices haven’t done all that much over the past couple of years. They’ve gradually recovered from the serious post-Recession tanking of muscle car values, but gains were small and most models are actually still worth less now than they were pre-2008. But being worth less doesn’t mean they’re cheap. The least valuable first gen (1968-70) model is a ’68 Road Runner coupe, and it carries a #2 (Excellent condition) value of over $39,000. A 440-powered Road Runner, regardless of body style, is a six-figure car in #2 condition.
It also looks like the post-Recession gains made by the Road Runner are reversing course. The last increase we recorded for non-Hemi Road Runners was the beginning of last year, and with the latest pricing update in May, most average values were down between 1.5 and 2.5 percent, while 1970 440 Six Pack cars fared the worst with a 3.2 percent drop. Buyer interest has also been steadily dropping for the past two years, insurance activity is essentially flat, and sales on the private market have been weak. Yes, the Road Runner is a perennial Mopar muscle favorite and it will always be popular, but the numbers right now aren’t favorable and it doesn’t look to be getting more valuable any time soon.
|HOLD: 1971 Dodge Dart Demon||70|
Following the sales success of the compact Dart of the mid-1960s, Dodge upsized the model for the second generation 1967-76 and the Dart could now take in bigger V-8 engines, which it did. High-performance Darts included the GTS, Swinger and the Demon. Essentially a Plymouth Duster, the Dart Demon was not quite the over-the-top tire-shredding machine that is the new Dodge Demon, but who needs 840 horsepower, anyway? The original Demon packed a 318 or 340 V-8 into a compact platform and came with all the scoops, stripes, and loud colors you could want in a muscle car.
For 1971 Demons, prices are up five to six percent since the beginning of 2019, but neither one is all that expensive. A HiPo 340/275-hp car is worth nearly three times as much as the 318/230-hp car, but neither condition #2 value is outrageous at $31,600 and $10,800, respectively. Our data doesn’t point any other big surge up in the near future, but these cars also don’t look likely to get cheaper. It’s probably best to just drive and enjoy. And at the end of the day, the same can also be said of our other two choices above.