Remember earlier this year when Trans Ams, Corvettes, Mustangs and Mopars were selling on television for stupid amounts of money? If you don’t, here’s a quick refresher from January’s big Barrett-Jackson auction in Arizona. Classic American muscle has been selling like that for the better part of a decade now, and as the years pass they seem to be priced further and further from everyday petrolheads like us. I’d love a vintage Challenger, but if I had $100,000 to spend on just one car, I’d look elsewhere.
That’s why I thought I’d take a good look through eBay’s classic muscle section. Sure, there are plenty of cars listed with buy-it-now prices near the six-figure mark but none of them have any bids. Well isn’t that interesting? And the cars which do have bids seem to fall short of their reserves when all is said and done. What’s the moral of this story? Big-time auction houses on television do not set the trends and establish market prices for cars. Amazingly enough, buyers still set the market! And the good news for all of us is that there are plenty of nice, mainstream vintage muscle car options available for the average Joe. And here are three examples you can buy right now to prove it.
I’ll start with an American classic. This red 1966 Mustang convertible is so ‘Murican it may as well come with apple pie and baseball gloves in the back seat. For the purists who want something original, this car is listed to be just that - right down to the 289 cubic-inch V8 under the bonnet.
It’s not one of the hot Shelby Mustangs, nor is it a massive big-block tyre scorcher. But it’s red and in great shape, and it’s all burbly sounding with that small V8. It’s also currently bid to just $5400, with no reserve.
As I type this there are still several days on the auction, and I can guarantee that price will go up. But right now is a good time to go after classic Mustangs that aren’t high-profile Shelby or Boss models - they’re thick on the market and most are selling for under $20,000. As for this particular car, expect it to sell between $10,000 and $15,000, with a nod to the $10,000 figure. That’s cheap for an original first-generation V8 Mustang convertible in this condition.
I can’t leave out the Chevy guys, and it might interest you to know that Camaros seem to be a bit hotter on the market than Mustangs. Even finding average 1967-1969s Camaro under $20,000 is tough, but patience will reward you with examples like this 1969 Camaro, resto-modded with a 496 cubic inch monster V8 making a “conservatively estimated” 550hp. It’s listed with a buy-it-now price of $25,000, but when you look at all the work done, I’m fairly certain you couldn’t build the car for that much. Not even close.
This Camaro obviously isn’t a car for the purist seeking an all-original, numbers-matching machine. But for those who want a taste of vintage muscle, this car costs less than a new base-model V6 Camaro. For $25,000 you get a positively gorgeous machine, glowing in Electric Blue with American Racing wheels, and a huge thumping V8 that eats small children and wants to sleep with your wife. And it’s so good, you’ll let it.
And so you Mopar fans don’t feel left out, I dug up a Plum Crazy 1970 Barracuda that’s currently selling for a reserve-not-met price of $17,000. The mainstream Mopars are going for more than the Camaros, with most good condition cars at least fetching $30,000. That’s not to say occasional good buys don’t come along, and this mild resto-mod just might be one of them.
I suspect it will struggle to reach $25,000; granted it doesn’t have a radio and the turn signals don’t work, but that’s okay. It makes V8 music, and without signals people will just assume your other car is a BMW. That makes you a well-rounded enthusiast.
It’s running a bored 340 cubic inch V8 with a 727 three-speed automatic. Not necessarily a choice combo but still all kinds of awesome. This car also has front disc brakes (that’s a big deal for these old muscle cars) and some seriously large wheels that I’d sell for something smaller, then put the money into fixing the minor issues.
It also has all kinds of new stuff including the interior, rear end, front suspension and fuel tank. It makes no mention of being a numbers matching car so again, purists seeking an all-original Mopar need to look elsewhere. For the rest of us who just want a badass Barracuda without selling the house to get one, here’s your car.
So don’t believe the hype when you see people with more ego than brains dropping cash bombs on the TV for cars they’ll probably never drive. There are still plenty of properly classic muscle cars for the world’s petrolheads to enjoy.