Highlights From the 2012 Collectible Car Season

Pristine Collectible Cars

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The 2012 collector car auction season is about to kick off, as some of the major collector auction companies are setting up shop in the Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona area for some serious wheeling and dealing: Barrett-Jackson (Jan. 15-22), Gooding and Company (Jan. 20-21), Russo and Steele (Jan. 18-22). Elsewhere, Mecum Auctions kicks of its season with more than 2,000 vehicles in Kissimmee, FL (Jan. 24-29).But is collecting classic cars a good alternative investment right now? According to McKeel
Photo: Maciej Noskowski | Vetta | Getty Images

The 2012 collector car auction season is in high gear, with some of the biggest players like Barrett-Jackson, Gooding and Company, RM Auctions, Russo and Steele and Mecum Auctions unveiling their wares.

But is collecting classic cars a good alternative investment right now? According to McKeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty Insurance, the largest provider of insurance for classic and vintage cars in the United States, “The past few years for the classic car market has had its volatility in certain segments. With very few exceptions, classic car values were on the rise until 2008.” But then the classic car market, like the rest of the economy, really put on the brakes.

Hagerty says cars that saw the most appreciation up to 2008 have lost some value, “especially American Muscle cars and Corvettes.” Now, however, prices are on the upswing again, with the upper edges of the classic car market equaling or exceeding records set in 2008.

Hagerty’s “Blue Chip” Index, which averages the values of 25 of the most sought-after collectible automobiles of the post-war era, has substantially outperformed the Dow Jones Industrial Average and home prices over the past five years, with a nearly 100-percent return.

Another barometer — the "Affordable Classics” Index, which consists of 12 cars priced under $30,000, has returned about 10 percent over the same time period.

For those looking for the next hot area, McKeel Hagerty expects classic pickups — from the 1950s and 1960s — to really pick up in value.

Just like traditional investments, you will incur operating expenses such as maintenance, repairs, insurance, registration and storage. But classic cars provide something very special that you don’t get from stocks, bonds or other paper investments. And that’s the ability to turn the key, step on the gas and go, go, go.

Click through for a look at the interesting (and quirky) cars crossing the auction block for a wide-range of investors. You'll find the estimated selling price and the actual ones at auction.

By Robert Melstein
Updated 29 February 2012

1933 Pierce Arrow “Silver Arrow”

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Auction House: Barrett-Jackson
Photo: Barrett-Jackson Auction Company

Auction house: Barrett-Jackson

Got at least $250,000 hanging around? Well, maybe you can plunk it down on this 1933 Pierce-Arrow Silver Arrow. Pierce-Arrow was a car manufacturer based in Buffalo, NY and operated from 1901-1938. The Silver-Arrow cost an incredible $10,000 when it was first introduced in 1933. Only five were built and only three are thought to still exist.

This beauty – from the Barrett-Jackson 5000 Series “Salon Collection” at Scottsdale – sold for $2,200,000 (including commission) at auction Jan. 22.

1981 DeLorean DMC- 12

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Auction House:Barrett-Jackson Great Scott! Here’s one that will take you “Back to the Future” at 88 mph. This 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 features a stainless steel body and gullwing doors, DeLoreans (only about 8,000 were made between 1981-1983) can command anywhere from $20,000 - $35,000, in “very good” and above condition. This one has no minimum selling price.
Photo: Barrett-Jackson Auction Company

Auction house:Barrett-Jackson

Great Scott! Here’s one that will take you “Back to the Future” at 88 mph. This 1981 DeLorean DMC-12 features a stainless steel body and gullwing doors, DeLoreans (only about 8,000 were made between 1981-1983) can command anywhere from $20,000 - $35,000, in “very good” and above condition. This one sold for $39,600 (including commission) at auction on Jan. 18.

1975 AMC Pacer X

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Auction House: Barrett-Jackson
Photo: Barrett-Jackson Auction Company

Auction house: Barrett-Jackson

Sticking with the movie theme here, you can get your “Wayne’s World” on in this no minimum bid 1975 AMC Pacer X. Don’t laugh. These wide fish-bowls on wheels are starting to creep up in value, with this rare-optioned X model hovering in the still-relatively-reasonable $5,000 - $8,000 range in very good condition. This car sold for $11,550 (including commission) at auction on Jan. 17.

1977 Lincoln Continental Mark V

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Auction House: Barrett-JacksonThis 1977 Lincoln Mark V is being offered unrestored original with no minimum bid. This land yacht features the optional Ford 460 7.5L V8 – and a very long hood to fit it under. These Mark Vs won’t set you back too much – they’re valued around $7,000 - $10,000. (Eight-track tapes sold separately.)
Photo: Barrett-Jackson Auction Company

Auction house: Barrett-Jackson

This 1977 Lincoln Mark V is being offered unrestored original with no minimum bid. This land yacht features the optional Ford 460 7.5L V8 – and a very long hood to fit it under. These Mark Vs won’t set you back too much – they’re valued around $7,000 - $10,000. (Eight-track tapes sold separately.)This car sold for $7,700 (including commission) at auction on Jan. 18.

1967 Chevrolet Camaro Convertible

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Auction House: Russo and SteeleThis good ol’ fashioned ‘60s era muscle car American has the original 396 375hp, big-block V8 engine. Style and power doesn’t come cheap, though. This factory SS could set you back $50,000 - $80,000; you pay a pretty big premium for that highly desirable big block.
Photo: Russo and Steele Collector Automobile Auctions

Auction house: Russo and Steele

This good ol’ fashioned ‘60s era muscle car American has the original 396 375hp, big-block V8 engine. Style and power doesn’t come cheap, though. A factory SS could set you back $50,000 - $80,000; you pay a pretty big premium for that highly desirable big block. This car sold for $32,200 (including commission) on Jan. 19.

1970 Dodge Hemi Challenger R/T SE

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Auction House: Russo and SteeleThis late ‘60s/early ‘70s muscle car is super rare and professionally restored. This 1970 Dodge Hemi Challenger R/T SE can burn some serious rubber with this 425hp engine, but will also burn a hole in your wallet. It can top out around $200,000, which is off the high of a few years ago when it was near $250,000.
Photo: Russo and Steele Collector Automobile Auctions

Auction house: Russo and Steele

This late ‘60s/early ‘70s muscle car is super rare and professionally restored. This 1970 Dodge Hemi Challenger R/T SE can burn some serious rubber with this 425hp engine, but will also burn a hole in your wallet. Prices can top out around $200,000, which is off the high of a few years ago when it was near $250,000. This car sold for $198,000 (including commission) on Jan. 21.

1965 Ford Mustang

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Auction house: Russo and SteeleYou can’t talk about the ‘60s without mentioning the original Pony car – the Ford Mustang. A bunch of these are for sale at the Russo and Steele Scottsdale auction. Here’s a pretty basic 1965 Mustang Hardtop that you can use a weekend cruiser, which should sell for an affordable-for-a-Mustang $12,000-$18,000 range.
Photo: Russo and Steele Collector Automobile Auctions

Auction house: Russo and Steele

You can’t talk about the ‘60s without mentioning the original Pony car – the Ford Mustang. A bunch of these are for sale at the Russo and Steele Scottsdale auction. Here’s a pretty basic 1965 Mustang Hardtop that you can use a weekend cruiser, which should sell for an affordable-for-a-Mustang $12,000-$18,000 range. The auction sale price on Jan. 22 — $9,625 (including commission) turned out to be far less.

1959 Ferrari 250 GT LWB California Spider

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Auction house: Gooding & CompanyThis rare Ferrari is one of just 50 ever built. It’s stunning. Not many Ferraris are white. So it definitely stands out. It’s estimated to sell for $3.4-$3.8 million.
Photo: Gooding & Company/Pawel Litwinski

Auction house: Gooding & Company

This rare Ferrari is one of just 50 ever built. It’s stunning. Not many Ferraris are white. So it definitely stands out. It was estimated to sell for $3.4-$3.8 million.

This car sold for $3,905,000 (including commission) at auction Jan. 22.

1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Alloy Gullwing

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Auction house: Gooding & CompanyThis Mercedes is in show-quality condition and, unlike most of the Gullwing cars, was never used in a race. Gooding claims this will be the first time in nearly five years that an Alloy Gullwing has surfaced for public auction. The company estimates it will go for $2.5 - $3.0 million. Fun fact: It has a plaid interior.
Photo: Gooding & Company/Pawel Litwinski

Auction house: Gooding & Company

This Mercedes is in show-quality condition and, unlike most of the Gullwing cars, was never used in a race. Gooding claims this will be the first time in nearly five years that an Alloy Gullwing has surfaced for public auction. The company estimated it would sell for $2.5 - $3.0 million. Fun fact: It has a plaid interior.

This car sold for $4.62 million (including commission) Jan. 21. Gooding claims it’s a world record for this model.

1963 Volkswagen Beetle Sunroof Sedan “Herbie the Love Bug”

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Auction house: Gooding & Company
Photo: Gooding & Company/Pawel Litwinski

Auction house: Gooding & Company

This movie star is wearing its famous number 53. One of Disney’s original film cars used in the “Herbie” movies, this one was featured in “Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo.” The Love Bug estimated sales price was $75,000 - $125,000.

This car sold for $66,000 (including commission) Jan. 22.

1989 Porsche 911 Carrera Speedster

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Auction house: RM AuctionsRM Auctions says this Porsche is only one of 824 cars that made it to the U.S. (a total of 2,065 were built in ’89). Of course, it’s red. Its original, brand-new price was $65,000. Here the hammer is expected to fall somewhere in the $100,000 - $130,000 range.
Photo: RM Auctions

Auction house: RM Auctions

RM Auctions says this Porsche is only one of 824 cars that made it to the U.S. (a total of 2,065 were built in ’89). Of course, it’s red. Its original, brand-new price was $65,000. Here the hammer was expected to fall somewhere in the $100,000-$130,000 range. The sale price was $110,000 (including commission) on Jan. 20.

1956 BMW Isetta 300

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Auction house: RM AuctionsWho says bigger is better? Designed in Italy, the Isetta was built by under license in many different countries. With only 13 horsepower, this vehicle may take a while to get where you are going, but when you do arrive all eyes will be on you. Expected selling price: $25,000 - $35,000.
Photo: RM Auctions

Auction house: RM Auctions

Who says bigger is better? Designed in Italy, the Isetta was built by under license in many different countries. With only 13 horsepower, this vehicle may take a while to get where you are going, but when you do arrive all eyes will be on you. The expected sales price — $25,000-$35,000 — was surpassed at the Jan. 20 auction, moving at  $35,750 (including commission).

1951 Buick Super Riviera

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Auciton house: Mecum AuctionsSedans don’t have quite the following as other classes, even if many people have great memories from riding around in their family’s four-door. However, sedans can be a good value. For example, this ‘50s era Buick offered by Mecum Auctions has super-low mileage -- Mecum says 9,500. Experts say quality Super sedans from this year could go for $10,000 - $15,000.
Photo: Mecum Auctions

Auciton house: Mecum Auctions

Sedans don’t have quite the following as other classes, even if many people have great memories from riding around in their family’s four-door. However, sedans can be a good value. For example, this ‘50s era Buick offered by Mecum Auctions has super-low mileage — Mecum says 9,500. 

The high bid on this car at the Jan. 24 auction was $21,000, which was below the minimum, so it did not sell.

1983 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz Convertible

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Auction house: Mecum AuctionsThe 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertible was supposed to be the last American convertible ever built. But drop-top fans didn’t want to hear any of that. Owners of 80s-era Eldorados stripped off the tops of their cars and had coach builders like Heiss and Eisenhardt created custom versions. Here’s a 1983 sample. (Beginning in 1984, Cadillac decided to build “official” convertibles again – but stopped that after the 1985 model year.) This one could sell for $14,000 - $17
Photo: Mecum Auctions

Auction house: Mecum Auctions

The 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertible was supposed to be the last American convertible ever built. But drop-top fans didn’t want to hear any of that. Owners of 80s-era Eldorados stripped off the tops of their cars and had coach builders like Heiss and Eisenhardt created custom versions. Here’s a 1983 sample. (Beginning in 1984, Cadillac decided to build “official” convertibles again, but stopped that after the 1985 model year.) A car like this can fetch $14,000-$17,000, but sold for much less at the Jan. 26 auction ($5,000, including ommission).

1995 Toyota Supra Turbo

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Auction house: Mecum Auctions
Photo: Mecum Auctions

Auction house: Mecum Auctions

If you are feeling a little adventurous, take a look at this mid ‘90s sports car. You could spot these super-fast Supras a mile away in the 90s (like flannel shirts, grunge music and Starbucks) due to the mega-wing on the back. Supras like this one carried a sticker price of about $50,000 but are now in the $20,000 - $30,000 range. This one sold for more than that: $37,000 (including commission) on Jan. 25.

1969 Dodge Charger “General Lee”

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Auciton house: Barrett-JacksonFinally, this Charger – “Lee 01” – is the very car used to jump over the Hazzard County police cruiser in the first episode of the CBS hit “The Dukes of Hazzard, which ran from 1979-1985. More than 300 cars were used during the show’s run. Sadly, only a couple dozen are still around. A “General Lee” that was owned by John Schneider – “Bo Duke” – sold for nearly $500,000 in 2008, so it’s expect that this one will go for at least that much but likely more.
Photo: Barrett-Jackson Auction Company

Auciton house: Barrett-Jackson

Finally, this Charger – “Lee 01” – is the very car used to jump over the Hazzard County police cruiser in the first episode of the CBS hit “The Dukes of Hazzard, which ran from 1979-1985. More than 300 cars were used during the show’s run. Sadly, only a couple dozen are still around. A “General Lee” that was owned by John Schneider, “Bo Duke”, sold for nearly $500,000 in 2008. This vehicle fetched $121,000 (including commission) Jan 22.