Collector Car Values: Clunkers and Others—A Sampler

Collector Car Values: Clunkers and Others—A Sampler

Classic car values: A Jay Leno story

For 30 years I’ve writ­ten the bimonth­ly Val­ues Guide for Col­lectible Auto­mo­bile, which for 40 years has con­sis­tent­ly turned out qual­i­ty arti­cles and fine pho­tog­ra­phy on col­lec­tor cars. (To sub­scribe, click here.) I write this col­umn with­out a byline, hop­ing to avoid being denounced by own­ers who think their car is worth a lot more than the mar­ket says it is.

Mon­tever­di Hai 450 GTS. (Matthias v.d. Elbe, Cre­ative Commons)

My most amus­ing gaffe was when I bad­ly under­es­ti­mat­ed val­ues for the Mon­tever­di Hai, a 1970s Swiss exot­ic with a 7-liter Chrysler Hemi mount­ed right behind its twin buck­et seats. The irate own­er protest­ed, say­ing he had it from his friend Jay Leno that his car was worth three times as much.

Now I hap­pened to know a life­long friend of Mr. Leno, who vis­it­ed him fre­quent­ly. “We’ll see if this guy real­ly knows Jay Leno,” I told my edi­tor. I phoned my friend and asked him to ask Jay.

That night the phone rang, and it was Jay Leno him­self. Couldn’t have been nicer. “Yes,” he laughed, “I know the own­er, and he’s right—you did low-ball the val­ue of his car. But do you know what real­ly upset him? It was when I phoned him offer­ing to buy it for what you said it was worth!”

Values: clunkers and others

For August 2022, Col­lectible Auto­mo­bile made me research a mixed bag. Not all of them were clunk­ers: The 1957-59 Chrysler 300 and ’53 Buick Sky­lark are prized clas­sics. But I had so much fun writ­ing these com­men­taries that I thought read­ers might enjoy them. (If you sub­scribe to the mag­a­zine, don’t share the secret byline.)

1980-84 Lincoln

Val­ues: Restorable….Good….Excellent

1980: $4,000-7,500….$7,500-11,000….$11,000-15,000

1981-82: $3,000-6,000….$6,000-8,000….$8,000-13,000

1983-84: $2,000-5,000….$5,000-7,000….$7,000-11,000

1984 Lin­coln Town Car. (That Hart­ford Guy, Cre­ative Commons)

None of these behe­moths are worth a lot of mon­ey. In real­i­ty, only a thou­sand or so dol­lars sep­a­rate the trim vari­a­tions. Among 1980 (non-Mark) Con­ti­nen­tals, the “Col­lec­tor” trim is most desir­able, fol­lowed by the “Town Car.” In 1981 the Con­ti­nen­tal name applied to coupes in Town or Sig­na­ture trim, while the sedan became the “Town Car” or “Sig­na­ture” trim. And so on. (If you’re con­fused by all this, you should be.) A hand­ful are on the mar­ket (they were con­sid­ered “down­sized” from the mon­sters that had gone before). Does any­one want a 40-year-old Lin­coln in the age of $7 gas (maybe $10 by the time this is in print)? Good ques­tion. Any­way, the gauges are down by your knees, where you won’t have to look at them.

1968-73 Datsun 510

Val­ues: Restorable….Good….Excellent

2dr sedan $5,000-10,000….$10,000-15,000….$15,000-23,000

4dr sedan & wag­on $4,000-7,500….$7,500-11,500….$11,500-15,000

1970 Dat­sun 510 (Jere­my, Syd­ney, Aus­tralia, Cre­ative Commons)

The 510’s ral­ly her­itage marks it as a cut above aver­age among cheap econobox­es, and good ones can com­mand hand­some prices. At the moment a sharp two-door paint­ed Resale Red and show­ing under 25,000 miles is on offer by a Ten­nessee deal­er for just under $23,000. That’s the top of our val­ues range. If it’s as good mechan­i­cal­ly as it looks phys­i­cal­ly, well, maybe. There’s a web­site spe­cial­iz­ing in 510s, which you should book­mark if you are in the mar­ket: There you’ll find mod­i­fied exam­ples run­ning upwards of $50,000. Which is a lot to pay for a Datsun.

1957-59 Chrysler 300

Val­ues: Restorable….Good….Excellent

1957-58 300C/D con­vert­ible: $30,000-70,000….$70,000-100,000….$100,000-135,000

1957-58 300C/D hard­top: $20,000-40,000….$40,000-60,000….$60,000-75,000

1959 300E con­vert­ible: $25,000-60,000….$60,000-90,000….$90,000-120,000

1959 300E hard­top: $18,000-35,000….$35,000-55,000….$55,000-65,000

1959 Chrysler 300E (sv1ambo, Cre­ative Commons)

Long con­sid­ered a blue-chip col­lec­table, the 1957-59 let­ter series seems to have lev­eled off. Not accord­ing to the val­ue guides: Col­lec­tor Car Mar­ket Review still has con­vert­ibles around $150,000. The Old Cars Report Price Guide is even more opti­mistic, reach­ing $188,000 for the 300E. Hager­ty is rough­ly in between. All three peg the best hard­tops around $90,000.

We could not, how­ev­er, find recent sales or auc­tion prices any­where near these val­ues. For exam­ple, in 2019, a con­di­tion 1 hard­top sold for $22,000. At Scotts­dale in 2017, a like-new restored con­vert­ible was all done at $104,500. Check­ing cur­rent for sale ads, the high­est 300C rag­top we found was priced at $95,000, the high­est 300E at $50,000. The top 300D does bet­ter ($125,000), but rar­i­ty is a fac­tor since only 191 were built in that reces­sion year. Clear­ly the val­ue guides are not reflect­ing cur­rent mar­ket trends, which may be show­ing the effect of ever-increas­ing gas prices and/or, a dimin­ish­ing num­ber of col­lec­tors who remem­ber these potent beasts when they were new. Our own val­ues above reflect these con­sid­er­a­tions. Evi­dent­ly it’s a buyer’s mar­ket for let­ter series Chryslers.

1967 Chevrolet Camaro RS convertible

Val­ues: Restorable….Good….Excellent

All: $15,000-25,000….$25,000-40,000….$40,000-65,000

Engine options add: 15% (275hp 327; 295hp 350); 40% (325hp 396); 60% (375hp 396).

Indy Pace Car Repli­cas (about 350 built): Triple the above prices.

1967 Camaro RS (Christo­pher Ziem­now­icz, Cre­ative Commons)

This is an easy car to shop for, so a-shop­ping we went. Start­ing us off at $38,900 was an RS/SS 350, ful­ly restored but paint­ed non-fac­to­ry Harley David­son Blush. At just short of $60,000 were two four-speeds: a sweet red RS/SS 350; and a metal­lic blue RS-only with under 28,000 orig­i­nal miles. $62,000 buys a most­ly orig­i­nal auto­mat­ic RS. $75,000 nets a strik­ing red restora­tion with per­for­mance mod­i­fi­ca­tions. We found no RS con­vert­ibles under those prices, sug­gest­ing that quite a lot have already been restored or, if orig­i­nal, are not wide­ly mar­ket­ed. These strike us as pret­ty high prices for a late Six­ties (non-Z/28) pony­car. But think of the thou­sands of col­lec­tors who pined for one as a kid! For­tu­nate­ly we were grown up by then.

1953 Buick Skylark

Val­ues: Restorable….Good….Excellent

Con­vert­ible: $40,000-70,000….$70,000-90,000….$90,000-130,000

Hard­top (pro­to­type): …. ….$126,500*

1953 Buick Sky­lark (BuickGuy2, Cre­ative Commons)

High­est val­ue guide price for a con­di­tion 1 Sky­lark is $180,000, but most guides set­tle around $130-140,000. Recent auc­tion sales haven’t made that, but some came close. There’s always an excep­tion, how­ev­er. One sold for $73,700 just four years ago, and it cer­tain­ly looked to be in fine con­di­tion. No few­er than six are offered in the cur­rent Hem­mings Motor News, and five are bunched between $91,000 and $110,000. (The sixth is $139,000.) It seems safe to say a top qual­i­ty Sky­lark will prob­a­bly cost you under six fig­ures, if you shop around.

*About that sec­ond entry: Buick built one Sky­lark hardtop—rather ungain­ly in our eyes—as a con­cept car in 1953, but it nev­er entered pro­duc­tion. After a full restora­tion in 2010, it won an Amelia Island Con­cours in the “Cars You Nev­er Knew Exist­ed” Class. It was auc­tioned by Bar­rett-Jack­son at Scotts­dale the fol­low­ing year, mak­ing $126,500.

1965 Mercury Comet Caliente convertible

Val­ues: Restorable….Good….Excellent

Six: $5,000-10,000….$10,000-19,000….$19,000-27,500

V8, 200 hp: $6,000-11,000….$11,000-23,000….$23,000-30,000

V8, 271 hp: $10,000-20,000….$20,000-37,500….$37,500-50,000

1965 Mer­cury Comet Caliente (John Lloyd, Cre­ative Commons)

The best one we could find (Resale Red, nat­u­ral­ly) was a flaw­less C-code 289 V8 auto­mat­ic with under 30,000 miles. It  looked fac­to­ry new and should be at “$39,000 nego­tiable.” Yes, let’s nego­ti­ate. That’s a pile of loot for a glo­ri­fied Fal­con (and we thought Camaros were pricey). You might do bet­ter at auc­tions. A looka­like ’66 (also red with the 289) auc­tioned in 2017 for $20,900. If you don’t mind a white one and like to shift gears, there’s a beau­ti­ful four-speed for $19,800 in the cur­rent Hem­mings. (We told you $39,000 was a bun­dle.) By the way, the Old Cars Report says not to pay over $25,000.

2022 Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing: future collectible?

2022 Cadil­lac CT5-V Black­wing (Cadil­lac Cars)

Wow, it’s sure not grandpa’s Eldorado—whoever thought there’d be Cadil­lacs like this? The Black­wing is only the grown-up, long-pants ver­sion of the much-admired CTS-V, but with new, swoopy styling and inte­ri­or, aimed square­ly at com­pe­ti­tion like the BMW M3 and Mer­cedes C63. Car and Dri­ver says it “def­i­nite­ly lives up to the hype and roars to the top of this seg­ment of hot four-doors, claim­ing a 10-Best title and an Editor’s Choice nod on its way up.” Okay, and low pro­duc­tion will make it col­lectible in the future, if there are still gas pumps in 2072.

1970 Dodge D100 Adventurer pickup

Val­ues: Restorable….Good….Excellent

All: $5,000-10,000….$10,000-17,500….$17,500-32,000

1970 Dodge D100 Adven­tur­er. (Pho­to by Jesse Mortensen, whose Barn Find essay is at

“Adven­tur­er” was too good a name to die with DeS­o­to. So Dodge used it for a pre­mi­um trim pack­age with com­fort and appear­ance upgrades in their light trucks. One col­lec­tor writes: “The ‘D’ stood for duct tape, because that’s all you need to fix one when on the road. They were stiff and boun­cy and the 4×4 had one of the worst turn­ing radius­es around, but they still keep chug­ging along.” We found a ’68 “con­di­tion 2 1/2” at $16,000 in the clas­si­fieds. Restored D100 Adven­tur­ers bring hand­some prices—up to $40,000. If you don’t want to be both­ered with a fix­er-upper, a Phoenix deal­er has a sharp ’68 with a cus­tom blue and sil­ver paint job that they describe as “stout and stun­ning.” It should be, at $39,000.

1984-87 Audi 5000

Val­ues: Good….Excellent (Restor­able: don’t even think about it)

1984-87 sedan &wagon:  $3,000-5,000….$5,000-7,500

1986-87 Quat­tro sedan & wag­on: $5,000-7,000 $7,000-11,500

1985 Audi 5000 (Frank Dean­r­do, Cre­ative Commons)

Cheap wheels indeed: Audi 5000 val­ues nev­er quite recov­ered from the “unin­tend­ed accel­er­a­tion” fra­cas that brack­et­ed these mod­el years. Some law­suits are still unset­tled, though a good case has been made for dri­ver error—stomping the wrong ped­al. (Of course it’s Audi’s fault. Humans nev­er make mis­takes.) These cars are expen­sive to ser­vice and parts may be non-exis­tent or priced in the stratos­phere. So if a 5000 appeals to you, look for the low­est mileage, clean­est exam­ple you can find. Pay­ing a top price for the best one around will save you mon­ey in the long run.

P.S.: Jay Leno, autoholic

I actu­al­ly had two calls from Jay that night. He’s a charm­ing gent, a dyed-in-the-wool auto­holic. (Check out his pod­casts.) In the first call he waxed elo­quent about the joys of dri­ving a Mon­tever­di with 426 cubic inch­es of Chrysler Hemi roar­ing behind your right ear. In the next he went on about his lat­est acqui­si­tion, a Stan­ley steam car. (One of these set the Land Speed Record of 127.66 mph in 1906.) Then he asked what I owned (a 1936 Packard at the time.) He bent my ear extolling Packard virtues I didn’t even know exist­ed. By then it was 11:30 pm East­ern Time. I was fas­ci­nat­ed, but also tired out.”If Jay calls again,” I told my wife, “tell him I’ve gone to bed.”

One thought on “Collector Car Values: Clunkers and Others—A Sampler

  1. Ah, the beloved Tri­umph 2000 on the cov­er of your book! Great­est Tri­umph of all time! You could dri­ve one of these right through a house. A front end that reminds one of Spiro Agnew’s fore­head. I had a twelve cylin­der ver­sion for a few months- the usu­al six cylin­ders in the front, plus Dick Stockton’s ral­ly 2000 block, with teflon-but­toned pis­tons, in the trunk.

    Sounds like a win­ner to me, Jeff. -RML

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