Whether it’s a six-figure Samba, the bubbling up in Amphicar prices, or microcars with macro values, it often appears that the overdriven collector car market of the last few years has overvalued every old car of interest. Who would’ve thought, for instance, that squarebody GM pickups—almost literally a dime a dozen and the epitome of low-buck, anti-style utilitarianism for so many years—would become the hottest thing since the sliced bread that they so resemble?
But as we all know, the economics of old cars is neither predictable nor is it rational, and just as some cars end up selling for more than the experts believe it’s worth, some sell for less. We’re not talking about individual sales here and there, but entire generations of cars that, for some reason or another, remain valued far less than one would expect given the esteem many collectors hold for them. To illustrate this point, we’ve asked the Hemmings Editorial staff to select some of the cars that consistently sell for far less than what those staffers think the cars should be worth. We’re not necessarily looking for bargains or good investments here; rather, we’re talking cars that we appreciate that haven’t (yet) appreciated. Any prices quoted below in general reflect what we’ve seen in the Hemmings classified and auction listings.
Yes, this is an entirely subjective exercise, so once you’ve perused our choices, suggest your own criminally undervalued cars in the comments below.
1960-1964 Corvair Club Coupe
The swing-axle Corvair Club Coupe is a sleeper value. There were a lot of them made and there’s still a strong enthusiast base for the more exotic ’Vairs (turbocharged Spyders, the convertibles, the wagons, and the vans), which means support for the workaday versions. On the other hand, their quirky mechanicals (and a largely unfair black legend about their safety) scare off the big-money folks who like Mustangs and Camaros. The Porsche and Volkswagen crowd, seemingly more sympathetic to their engineering, don’t seem to think much of anything wearing a Chevrolet badge.
Current NADA values for 1961-’63 model Club Coupes range from $2,300 (1961 500) at the low end to $17,500 (’62-’63 Monzas) at the high. The 1960 “Cave Man” cars, which have a lot of one-year-only parts, should go on the average of $7,500, and the 1964 seems to be the sleeper’s sleeper, with a value of $2,425 (500) ranging upward to $16,900 (Monza) at the high end, despite a bigger engine than ’61-’63 cars and suspension improvements.
Perhaps the outstanding example of this criminal undervaluation in our classifieds is this 1964 Chevrolet Monza Spyder Club Coupe shorn of its turbocharger and priced at $4,950. It’s got a black-vinyl interior (claimed original) with the coveted Spyder instrument cluster. Outside, it wears what I assume is Palomar Red paint. The car comes with an unidentified two-carburetor replacement engine wearing an alternator (suggesting it’s a ’65-’69 unit) coupled to a four-speed and an unidentified gearing that should be 3.27 or 3.55. The seller says it’s a “good car to restore” either with a replicated 150hp turbo engine or some hot rodded version of the replacement unit which is good enough that the car currently “runs/drives.” – Dave Conwill
1984-1996 Chevrolet Corvette
The fourth-generation Corvette should have a lot going for it at the moment. Besides the fact that it’s a Corvette—America’s sports car, the everyman’s exotic, the eternal halo car, loved by legions—it almost perfectly fits the aesthetic and the character of the post-malaise Rad-era cars that have enjoyed a surge of popularity over the last several years. And yet while third-generation Camaros, Fox-body Mustangs, OBS trucks, and all manner of Nineties imports have become far more popular (and more expensive) than casual observers could have imagined, the fourth-generation Corvette has not kept up at all. Sure, there’s the ZR-1s and the Grand Sports and the Callaways that all fetch decent money for 30-year-old sports cars, but we’re constantly seeing lower-end hardtops and even the occasional convertible in good, if not perfect, condition selling for four figures. Take, for instance, the all-white 1988 35th Anniversary version for $9,900 or the loaded and recently serviced 1988 for $9,950. Spend any more than $20,000 and it better be one of those special versions mentioned above. While they don’t perform like modern Corvettes, the digital dashes and other gizmos haven’t aged well, and aftermarket support for these cars is thinner than for other Corvette generations, they still perform well for cars of their era and the minimal upfront investment into a fourth-generation Corvette should bend the fun-to-cost ratio in its favor. – Daniel Strohl