If spring turns a young man's fancy
to thoughts of love, summer's the time for convertible tops
down, radio up and a heavy foot on the throttle ... of a 30-year-old
The collector-car bug is biting
more and more people who finally have the financial wherewithal
to afford cars they coveted in their youth -- primarily Baby
Boomers who came of driving age in the 1960s and early 1970s.
"This thing has really been growing,''
says Terry Lobzun, of RM Auctions, which runs two of the most
prestigious collector-car auctions -- in Monterey, Calif.,
and Amelia Island, Fla. "There's just more interest in collector
cars. In times of conflict, like the war in Iraq, people look
for outlets. They also look to these cars because they remind
them of better, simpler days."
Buyers of collector cars may also
enjoy a benefit they cannot get when they buy a 2004 model:
increasing value. While there's never a guarantee of profit
with any investment, prices of collector cars -- loosely defined
as certain cars and trucks built more than 30 years ago --
are rising between 5 percent and 15 percent annually.
Compared to what the Dow has been
doing lately, that sort of return can look very attractive.
And that's not counting the added psychological value that
investors can't get from shares of AT&T: The thrill of
stepping on the gas pedal of a '68 Pontiac GTO convertible.
Choosing your collectible dream Even if you've got the collector-car bug, you may be
uncertain about what to buy. Of course, there are the cars
considered the gold standard of the collector-car industry:
most Ferraris built before 1973; certain 1965-1970 Corvettes
with big V8 engines; 1963-1967 Shelby Cobras; and of course
the truly classic cars such as the Duesenbergs, Auburns, Cords
and pre-World War II Rolls-Royces.
But those cars carry price tags
starting in the low six figures to well above $1 million.
A 1963 Ferrari GTO will set you back a cool $7 million or
more, so we'll confine this discussion to more realistic numbers,
under $30,000. That ceiling pretty much rules out European
cars, such as Austin-Healeys, Jaguars and Porsches, as well
as American cars from the 1950s, such as the 1957 Chevy Bel
Air. A '57 convertible, for example, recently sold for $90,000.
The only Japanese cars with any real collector value are the
1966-1969 Datsun 1600-2000 roadster and the 1970 Datsun 240Z,
but their appreciation has not been as significant as the
American cars and so they don't rank among today's best investments.
If you're still interested in taking
the plunge into the world of collector cars, here are the
10 best models with current values below $30,000 in pristine
condition. There's no guarantee one of these cars will put
your kids through college, but they should bring significantly
more money five to 10 years down the road, along with very
enjoyable driving experiences.
Terry Jackson is an automotive
expert, journalist and author based in Florida. He is the
former editor-in-chief of AMI Auto World Magazine and has
written for dozens of publications, including Automobile,
Road & Track and AutoWeek. He has penned six automotive
books and evaluates more than 100 new cars each year.