Long-Booming Collector-Car Market Really Starting To Sputter? We'll Soon Know

June 26, 2009
Classic Chevy muscle being rebuffed.

Classic Chevy muscle being rebuffed.

Even after banks crumbled last fall, interest in top-tier collector cars has remained surprisingly strong into this year. While sales at big-time sales like January's Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction have shown no indication of a downturn, the bottom has already been falling out over the past couple of years, with values of less-than-perfect classics taking a nosedive.

So, experts have predicted for some time, it won't be long before the market as a whole loses its luster, with a sagging general market taking its toll on the crème de la crème.

There are some indications that overall enthusiasm for collector cars is a bit muted this year. The annual Carlisle All-GM show, which opens this weekend, is one of ten large shows annually at Carlisle Fairgrounds in Central Pennsylvania, and according to the Patriot-News of nearby Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, citing show organizers, attendance of Carlisle events is down just a few percent, with a drop of 15 percent or more for other regional shows.

If you've been one of those holdouts and wanted an imperfect but enjoyable classic American car from the '60s or early '70s but were turned away by the inflated prices a few years ago, this is the time. However, the parts costs for these cars have dramatically risen, so it's largely offset any savings in the cost of the cars themselves.

Meanwhile Hagerty's Cars That Matter has reported that there are a number of conflicting signs regarding this year's high-end Monterey sales in August. RM has already added a third night to its sale, while Mecum, a new company to Monterey and traditionally very muscle-car focused, has added a second; yet the companies have had trouble earlier this year in lining up top-quality consignments. "These sales will truly be the acid test for the collector car market," CTM, headed by widely published values expert Dave Kinney, says in a release.

Cars That Matter reports that the average price of nine collectible Camaros from 1967-70, plus a 1992 Camaro Z28 IROC Convertible, has fallen most sharply in the past three-month period, with values now significantly lower than they were in fall 2006. All the '67-'70 cars have fallen in value over the past year and a half—with some of the priciest ones posting the most dramatic recent drops.

2010 Chevrolet Camaro

2010 Chevrolet Camaro

For instance, a 1967 Camaro Yenko 427 Coupe has fallen from $406,000 in late 2008 and early 2009 to a current valuation of $279,500, and a 1969 Camaro ZL1 Coupe has plummeted from $576,700 to $346,000 (each in excellent #2 condition).

Collector-car prices have posted some of their steepest climbs during times of strong inflation. March through May of this year we've been in a period of deflation.

For now there's no indication that the downtick of interest in classic muscle cars is having any effect on sales of the new 2010 Chevrolet Camaro. GM has actually boosted production of the Camaro at its Oshawa, Ontario assembly plant, and according to a recent Bloomberg report, dealers are getting about $500 over sticker.

Where do you think the collector-car market is headed, and will tomorrow's collector cars be today's reconceived muscle cars like the 2010 Chevy Camaro…or vehicles like the Tesla Roadster? While the experts are waiting for a proof in numbers, let us know what you think.

[Harrisburg Patriot-News]

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