It’s all about Utility



Whether they are more sporty than utilitarian or vice versa, sport utility vehicles aren’t defined by displacement, a fixed or removable top or the level of creature comforts. Two doors or four, eight cylinders or six, manual or automatic, Ford, Chevy, International or Jeep, it seems there is an SUV for every lifestyle, from mending fences in Montana to schlepping the kids to soccer practice in Scarsdale.

I like my Broncos old school, and at September’s Fall Auburn sale, Auctions America offered a 1966 with removable hardtop. This was the first production year for the Bronco, and they were really basic, though they were available in pickup, wagon and roadster form. Lot 3157, in red with a white top and a 289 underhood, showed very well. Selling at $32,450, this Bronco looked as ready to take on logging roads as it was suburban streets.

If you think International Harvester just makes trucker caps for bearded ironic hipsters, you’re reading the wrong magazine. IH also built SUVs, and the Scout was well respected as a workhorse and generally perceived as good looking despite its utilitarian roots.

While we were scouting around for great buys on an International, we found this 1979 Scout II Rallye at Mecum’s Austin sale. Lot F59 really stood out, and not just because of its orange and white livery. With a 348-cid V-8, air conditioning, power steering and power brakes, it brought a mere $9,900 and gets the gold star for not only individuality but also SUV personality.

There’s no way to talk about the utility aspect of SUVs without mentioning Jeep, and at Palm Beach, Barrett-Jackson sold lot 53, a 1988 Jeep Grand Wagoneer. The semi-official car of places like the Hamptons or Martha’s Vineyard, these big bruisers make you look as if you belong, even if you’re just lost. All of the late Grand Wagoneers like this one were equipped with vinyl “wood” sides and a leather and cloth interior. With the 5.9-liter V-8 and automatic transmission, this one was a solid bargain at $11,000.

Bet you can’t think of a nameplate still in use that predates Chevy’s Suburban. There are a lot of Suburbans out there, and we’re seeing more and more classic examples find their way to collector vehicle auctions. Back to Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach for a 1978 in two-tone bronze and tan with a tan interior. Equipped with a 350-cid V-8, three-speed automatic, air conditioning and cassette, this beast also included what could be the perfect period accessory — an-old school phone-style CB radio. Lot 608 sold for relative peanuts, at $6,050.

If you were looking for something more vintage, you could have purchased lot F106, a 1972 Suburban at Mecum Denver, in two-tone blue with a white top and black vinyl interior. A hard-to-find three-door model, it came with factory front and rear air conditioning and power steering. This one easily would have held all the Griswolds on their vacation, without having to strap Aunt Edna to the roof. It brought a fair price, too, at $20,900.

The definition of collector cars keeps changing, and it now encompasses all kinds of trucks. We’ve only scratched the surface here with what’s available, and if you’re not one for auctions, the good news is that most collector SUVs are not rare. Find one on Craigslist — or even on the bulletin board down at the laundromat. You won’t find a Duesenberg that way, but it’s a good bet you can get yourself a decent, classic SUV not too far from home.


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Upswing in demand for vintage SUVs


Once considered out of place at prominent classic vehicle auctions, vintage SUVs are rapidly gaining in popularity among collectors. During a series of collector car auctions in Scottsdale earlier this year, 11 vintage Toyota Land Cruisers sold, with the best example – a 1981 Mustard Yellow FJ-40 – selling for $88,000.

The recent public sales are not an outlier according to Hagerty Insurance, host to the largest database of classic cars in the world – this has been a growing trend for the past five years. Hagerty reports the niche segment of vintage SUVs has grown 65% since 2008, nearly twice the percentage rate of the company’s overall book of business, which has risen 37% during the same period.

While vintage Toyota Land Cruisers (202%) appear to be the fastest rising choice among vintage SUVs, other models showing significant movement include 1970s and ’80s Jeeps (93%), Ford Broncos (86%) and International Scouts (85%) from the 1960s and ’70s.

“With so many young collectors opting for modern SUVs as their daily drivers, we’re seeing a shift in perception of what makes a vehicle cool,” says McKeel Hagerty, President and CEO of Hagerty, the world’s leading provider of classic car insurance. “Broncos, Land Rovers and other similar vehicles from the ’60s and ’70s were, for the most part, once seen as utilitarian. But vintage SUVs are becoming more and more collectible, and it appears that trend will continue. This is a great time to get into this segment of the collector car market.”

In addition to growth in Hagerty’s database, sales analysis of more than 15 major auction houses, recently conducted by the Hagerty Institute, offers further evidence of a budding trend of increased SUV sales and values. Over the last five years, the number of vintage SUV’s offered at auction is up 150 percent, and the value of these vehicles has risen 31 percent.


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