10 American Cars That Were Worthless A Decade Ago (But They’re Worth A Fortune Today)
There are two types of classic car owners. Avid gearheads understand the value of having cool rides for fun driving or car shows, treating car collection as a hobby rooted in emotional factors, personal experiences, or nostalgia. On the other hand, it’s no secret that investing in classic cars is a fun and stable way to grow personal wealth, and some people prefer to collect cars for cumulative returns.
The market surged substantially in the last decade, and the value of some classic American vehicles has risen dramatically. And with the growing rarity and increasing demand for these vehicles, we’ve seen their values double or even triple. Unfortunately, some enthusiasts will feel left out since their dream cars got more expensive, while others seek to invest or capitalize returns on the surging car values. Depending on which side of the fence you sit, here’s a list of ten American cars that were worthless a decade ago but are now worth a fortune.
1991 GMC Syclone – $50,600
The Syclone pioneered big horsepower and performance in the truck space, combining the best of a hotrod and a pickup in a revolutionary way. GMC equipped the Syclone with all-wheel drive, a sports-tuned suspension, and a 280hp 4.3-liter turbocharged V-6, making it a sports car killer.
Interestingly, GMC built less than 3,000 units of the Syclone for 1991 and the otherwise non-existent 1992 model year. A decade ago, a well-maintained Syclone went for less than $20,000. However, the value has since doubled to nearly $40,000 on average, with Concours-condition models fetching well over $50,000.
1994-’96 Chevrolet Impala SS – $51,800
The Chevy Impala suffered tremendously in the Malaise Era, but it later turned out to be a diamond in the rough for GM in the mid-90s. Thanks to the 260hp 5.7-liter V-8 pulled from the contemporary Corvette, the Impala SS was faster than sporty American sedans like the Ford Taurus SHO and put upmarket imports like the BMW 5-Series to shame.
Today, the average price for an Impala SS is within the lowly $12,000 mark, but the value of a model in excellent condition is more than double that amount, estimated close to $30,000. On the other hand, the best-kept, low-mileage Impala SS fit for Concours will fetch north of $50,000.
1993-’95 Ford F-150 SVT Lightning – $53,800
After Ford founded the Special Vehicle Team in 1991, the F-150 SVT Lightning was one of two models launched in 1993 aimed at the Chevrolet 454 SS. The SVT division upgraded the standard two-wheel drive F-150 with a 240hp 351 Windsor engine, alloy drive shaft, lower ride height, better handling, unique front air dam, special 170-inch wheels, and conspicuous Lighting decals.
A Ford F-150 SVT Lightning in good condition costs about $23,500, slightly more expensive than when it launched in 1993. According to Hagerty’s valuation, an F-150 SVT Lightning in excellent condition is worth $35,800 in today’s market, while a world-class example in Concours condition demands up to $53,800.
1978-’83 Jeep CJ-7 Golden Eagle – $56,800
Introduced to replace the low-production, long-wheelbase CJ-6, the CJ-7 proved more agile on the trail than its predecessor and still more luxurious and civilized than the CJ-5. Jeep introduced the Golden Eagle trim package for the CJ-7 in 1977, which included a 5.0-liter V-8, a golden eagle hood decal, body stripes, off-road driving lights, wheel lip extensions, rear step bumper, and chromed/anodized front bumper.
The package also included an engine-tuned instrument panel, a sport steering wheel, front buckets, and rear bench seats. As the last of the CJ series, the CJ-7 Golden Eagle gained value over the last decade, with examples in excellent condition going for $41,600. However, it’s worth noting that world-class examples in Concours condition could fetch up to $56,800.
1990-’95 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 – $79,400
With imported sports cars gaining ground on the market, Chevrolet made considerable updates to the Corvette lineup and introduced the revered Corvette ZR-1 coupe. The ZR1’s party piece was a 375hp 5.7-liter LT5 V-8, designed with significant engineering input from the then GM-owned Lotus Group. However, the 1993 model year saw the engine gain several upgrades to churn out 405hp and 385lb-ft of torque.
According to existing records, slightly over 6,900 ZR-1 coupes rolled out of Chevrolet’s Kentucky factory between the 1990 and 1995 model years. With these production numbers declining yearly, a ZR-1 goes for an average of $27,500. At the same time, well-kept, low-mileage examples could demand almost triple, estimated within the $80,000 mark.
1980 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am Turbo- $81,100
The 1980 Pontiac Trans Am was the meanest bird in the second generation flock, boasting GM’s sensational F-body, an unmistakable gold and black theme, a unique Firebird hood decal, and a prominent rearward-facing shaker hood scoop. The 1980 model year marked a pivotal performance milestone for the Firebird Trans Am, with Pontiac introducing a turbocharger for the 4.9-liter V-8.
Interestingly, most Trans Am models gained tremendous value in the last few years thanks to their impact on pop culture. The Trans Am Turbo had an average price of about $16,000 a decade ago, but that doubled in recent years to an average of $32,000. We’ve also seen examples in world-class Concours conditions fetch north of $80,000