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HAGERTY: CLASS OF 2019 – TOP 10 CLASSIC CARS TO BUY

Class of 2019
Hagerty’s Top 10 Classic Cars to Buy This Year

By: AARON ROBINSON on January 7, 2019
Original Article: HAGERTY.COM

When the gavel came down on lot number 372 at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Las Vegas this past September, it smashed any remaining illusions that modern mass-produced cars will never be collectible. The 1997 Acura Integra Type R with 1191 miles showing hammered at $63,800, a startling figure for what is basically a gussied-up Honda hatchback. Indeed, the Integra outperformed a bumblebee yellow 1970 Dodge Charger 440 and a Highland Green (of course) 1968 Mustang 289 fastback, two collectible-car perennials that went across the same block that weekend. What, you might ask, is the world coming to?

Well, the world seems pretty much the same, meaning that values are still rising on some special cars that were once thought commonplace. However, the era of those cars keeps shifting forward as the clock on the wall keeps spinning. Your high-school dream machine may have had a big-block and a shaker, but the guy next to you at the bar might have wanted VTEC and an 8000-rpm redline. And if he graduated high school in 1997, he’s no kid anymore; he’s pushing 40 and perhaps ready to purchase a time machine with whatever cash it takes.

In this, our second annual Bull Market roundup, we have again pulled together a list of mostly later-model cars and trucks that the Hagerty valuation team believes are on the move. These 10 vehicles have slid the usual slope of depreciation and attrition, and the higher-quality survivors are ready to start climbing. Or they have already started climbing and are now poised to launch.

Hagerty
Hagerty

As we did last year, we reached out to our Hagerty membership for owners of the cars on our list. And as happened last year, they astonished us with their willingness to take time off from their lives and troop out to the storied Lime Rock Park circuit in Connecticut’s pastoral Berkshires to be a part of this event. It couldn’t have happened without them. And one of Lime Rock’s favorite sons—racer, author, and TV commentator Sam Posey—dropped in to tell stories, such as that time in 1971 when he was burning down Le Mans’ Mulsanne Straight at 248 mph in a Ferrari 512M. Posey recalled, “I was passed by Pedro Rodriguez in a longtail 917, and he was as white as a sheet.”

So if you’re wondering what the collectible-car world is coming to, take heart. From our vantage point, it looks pretty darn healthy.

1973 BMW 3.0CSL, photo by DW Burnett
1973 BMW 3.0CSL, photo by DW Burnett

1972-1975 BMW 3.0CSL

So much of BMW’s celebrated iconography is rolled up in this one big 1970s coupe. It launched BMW’s M motorsport division. It was part of a family of vehicles that introduced the upturned stop to the rear quarter-window line, the Hofmeister kink, that has been used by BMW for decades and relentlessly copied by others. It pioneered the use of BMW’s tricolor racing stripes, the blue representing the Bavarian flag, the red honoring an early racing partnership with Texaco (bet you didn’t know that), and the purple wedged between them as a bridge. In 1975, the avant-garde painter and sculptor Alexander Calder went to town on one, establishing BMW Art Cars as a thing. Just 1265 3.0CSLs were made, making it as rare as many vintage Italian exotics. On the blue-spinner hierarchy, BMW collectors have recently started valuing them only below the illustrious 507 roadster, the M1 supercar, and the 503 coupe.

The scarcity of CSLs in America is driven by the fact that of the several iterations made—from the earliest 180-hp, 3.0-liter carbureted model that debuted in mid-1971 to the final 206-hp, 3.2-liter injected version that closed out production in late 1975—none was officially imported to the U.S. It was a European homologation special, assembled under contract by Karmann, with thinner steel and several aluminum panels to shave more than 400 pounds from the standard 3.0CS. A warbling inline-six tuned for racing turned the wheels, Bilstein shocks augmented the revamped suspension, and winglets and dams shaped the airflow. One version even came with a big wing tossed in the trunk but not factory fitted because such things were technically illegal for the road—all so BMW could enter the car in the German Touring Car Championship.

If you swear you’ve seen one before, it was probably a BMW 3.0CS, a lovely autobahn eater that went on sale in the U.S. in 1970. Its four round, 5.5-inch headlights, another BMW hallmark introduced by this model, made the car federally compliant, and it became the face of the twin-kidney brand for two decades. So many firsts and so few examples—that is the essence of a collectible car.

1973 BMW 3.0CSL
Engine inline-six, 3153 cc
Power 206 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque 211 lb-ft @ 4200 rpm
Weight 2800 lb
Power-to-weight 13.6 lb/hp
0–60 6.5 sec
Top speed 137 mph
Price when new $10,214
Hagerty value $218,500–$264,700

THE HAGERTY VALUATION TEAM SAYS:

These cars aren’t common, and their values are up 10 percent in the past 12 months. Even though #2 cars are valued at $250,000, we think there is room to grow. BMWs saw the second-highest insurance-quote increase over the past year (after Jeep), and many of the quotes are for people under 55 years old. BMW and Porsche draw many of the same buyers, and as Porsche values grow and price people out, BMWs get more attractive.


2003 Porsche Boxster S, photo by DW Burnett
2003 Porsche Boxster S, photo by DW Burnett

1997-2004 Porsche Boxster

The recession of the early 1990s had been hard on Porsche, and the nearly bankrupt company was in survival mode. Determined not to be so vulnerable again, Porsche hired a team of former Toyota consultants to help streamline production and rationalize the product line, introducing an SUV and relaunching an entry-level mid-engine volume model akin to the old 914. From the windshield forward, the ensuing 1997 Porsche Boxster was nearly identical to the 996-generation 911, which was released almost at the same time. Jointly developing the two cars drastically cut Porsche’s engineering and production costs, helping loft the company to the exalted position it enjoys today as the industry’s most profitable company on a per-unit basis.

Although that first Boxster may have benefited from the advice of the makers of soulless Japanese appliances, it is hardly without a soul. Low, curvaceous lines, a wailing flat-six, and highly organic handling made the Boxster an instant car-magazine favorite, moving one jaded journalist to declare it was “so much fun that it’s gotta be a sin.” The demand for those early cars was so strong that Porsche shelved plans for the more powerful S model until 2000, as the assembly lines in Germany and Finland were already strained to capacity.

The large number of cars built and some known quality issues mean the values for this genuine son of Stuttgart have depreciated into widely affordable territory. You can be lapping up the top-down delights of a Boxster while enjoying nearly perfect ergonomics and carving your favorite road to ribbons—all for $15,000 or less. The Boxster is everything a Porsche should be: luxurious, thrilling, and above all fun.

2003 PORSCHE BOXSTER S
Engine flat-six, 3179 cc
Power 258 hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque 229 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
Weight 3000 lb
Power-to-weight 11.6 lb/hp
0–60 5.3 sec
Top speed 162 mph
Price when new $51,600
Hagerty value $13,800–$17,200

THE HAGERTY VALUATION TEAM SAYS:

Why this car got cheap: It has the early ugly headlights, the intermediate shaft bearing problem, and a reputation for poor build quality. But 15 years after production ended, there’s a fix for the bearing, and most survivors will have had it done. Many people who could buy a $50,000 car new are the kind who do the maintenance and keep records.


1989 Saleen Mustang, photo by Sandon Voelker
1989 Saleen Mustang, photo by Sandon Voelker

1984-1993 Saleen Mustang

One thing you can say about Steve Saleen is that he’s no quitter. The local Southern California car geek rose from a young club-racing greenhorn all the way to IndyCar and went from repainting Mustangs in his backyard to being Ford’s selected contractor to build the 2004–6 Ford GT. He started Saleen Autosport in 1983 as a Mustang modification house and was recognized by the federal government as a specialty-car manufacturer, eventually producing his own supercar, the S7. Along the way he saw the rights to his own name snatched away by boardroom wrangling, reemerged with a new company called SMS Supercars, regained his name, and today has new projects including an exotic called the S1, performance-tuned versions of the Ford F-150, and a showroom in Shanghai, China. Set the rewind button to 1989, when Saleen Autosport was turning stock 225-hp Mustangs into SCCA club racers for the street, with firmer shocks and springs, larger brakes, and a variety of cosmetic and functional exterior and interior bits, including Flofit bucket seats and a Momo steering wheel. The cars retailed for about $25,000, a significant bump from the stock Mustang LX but at the time the ultimate tuned Mustang with a warranty.

Behind the wheel, the time trip took some of us straight back to high school as we faced the geometric dash that was a hallmark of the Fox-body Mustangs of the era. The simmering V-8 doesn’t make the thunder and lightning of today’s muscle cars, but it can spin the tires and pitch the car sideways, as editor-in-chief Larry Webster demonstrates in the photo above. Owner Donald Carter, Jr.’s, father found this Saleen, which had been in the collection of a Ford dealer, in 1993. He bought it not for himself but for Donald’s mother, who at the time was in her 80s. “Elsa always wanted a sports car,” says Carter. The Saleen became her weekend toy. Her daily driver remained a ’71 Chevy Impala. Today, Carter is a full-blooded hot rodder and engine builder, and he keeps the Saleen under a sheet in the garage, there to remind him of his gear-jamming mom.

1989 SALEEN MUSTANG
Engine V-8, 4942 cc
Power 225 hp @ 4000 rpm
Torque 300 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm
Weight 3000 lb
Power-to-weight 13.3 lb/hp
0–60 6.0 sec
Top speed 149 mph
Price when new $25,500
Hagerty value $26,400–$32,500

THE HAGERTY VALUATION TEAM SAYS:

Fox-body Saleen Mustangs are the early Shelby GT350s of the 1980s. Similarities include being created for SCCA competition by a famous driver and incredibly low production numbers. Bone-jarringly stiff, unapologetic, absolute race cars for the street, these early Saleens are still trading for not much more than a garden-variety Foxbody Mustang GT. For now. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.


1989 Saleen Mustang and 1996 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport, photo by DW Burnett
1989 Saleen Mustang and 1996 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport, photo by DW Burnett

1996 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport

Old names carry big weight in the Corvette world, mainly because Chevrolet, wisely, has never tossed around badges such as Z06, ZR1, and Grand Sport lightly. When you laid out for one of the special Vettes, you truly got something for your money: substantially more horsepower, for one thing, plus exclusive trimmings and maybe a pleasing retro paint scheme. People who buy Corvettes tend to like the fact that they’re joining an old and illustrious family, and the 1996 Grand Sport plainly evokes the model’s racing heritage.

A one-year gift to the Corvette faithful to celebrate the close of the C4’s 12-year production run, the RPO Z16 Grand Sport option was collectible the minute the first of the 1000 examples—810 coupes, 190 convertibles—hit showrooms. Yes, for another $3250 above the Corvette coupe’s $37,225 base price, you got more power, as the placard on the center console next to the six-speed shifter proudly proclaims. Besides calling out the LT4’s 330 horsepower and 340 pound-feet of torque, the placard tells you in large type that the 5.7-liter engine has a 10.8:1 compression ratio, not a common stat found on an interior car badge.

After building Corvettes for four decades, the Chevrolet of the mid-1990s knew that its Vette customers like to quote figures because they get asked a lot.

You could have any color as long as it was Admiral Blue with an Arctic White “skunk stripe” down the center and twin red hash marks on the driver’s front fender. The majority came with black interiors, but a few years ago, John Crynock—who owns two Vettes, this GS and a ’98 Indy Pace Car Replica—pounced on one of the 217 Grand Sport coupes delivered with red seats. The C4 will rocket you back in time in terms of interior electronics and GM build quality, but the rumbling LT4 can still rocket you forward with equal ferocity. The view over the wide bat-wing hood has been and will remain a Corvette trademark, at least until the mid-engine Vette arrives next year to once again evolve the Plastic Fantastic.

1996 CORVETTE GRAND SPORT
Engine V-8, 5733 cc
Power 330 hp @ 5800 rpm
Torque 340 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
Weight 3400 lb
Power-to-weight 10.3 lb/hp
0–60 5.2 sec
Top speed 168 mph
Price when new $37,225
Hagerty value $36,100–$49,500

THE HAGERTY VALUATION TEAM SAYS:

Just 1000 examples built in one year means these cars are rare, fast, and distinctive. In a Corvette—in fact, in most cars—those factors add value. Plus, most Grand Sports were treated as collector cars from new, which means lots of low-mileage choices out there.


2004 Subaru WRX STI, photo by DW Burnett
2004 Subaru WRX STI, photo by DW Burnett

2004-2007 Subaru Impreza WRX STI

A whole generation of drivers learned the letters STI through video games. Before then, the vehicles produced by Subaru Tecnica International, the company’s racing division, were obscure Japanese home-market homologation specials built to support Subaru’s efforts in international rallying. By the early 2000s, however, buyers in North America, familiar with cars like the WRX STI from Gran Turismo and other games, were demanding to be let in on the fun. The first U.S.-legal WRX turbo appeared for the 2002 model year, followed shortly by an even heavier-breathing STI version, and Nipon nerds delighted in the brief turbo-tech war that ensued between Subaru’s all-wheel-drive hot rod and the similarly exotic Mitsubishi Evo.

The STI had big wheels, a big wing, big suspension upgrades, and a big engine. The 2.5-liter flat-four munched on 14.5 psi of boost to make 300 horsepower and 300 pound-feet of torque in a car weighing 3300 pounds. It’s worth noting that, 15 years later, the 2019 model makes 310 horsepower and 290 pound-feet of torque, and the base STI now weighs about 200 more pounds. In other words, unlike many long-running models, that first STI was in some ways the best.

Owner Rich Schaars bought a new WRX in 2002 and in late 2003 tried to trade it in for an STI, but the dealers wanted huge markups. He waited them out over the winter, and by the spring of 2004, dealers were ready to sell at list. More than 100,000 miles and a full engine rebuild later, Schaars’s STI is otherwise remarkably well preserved, accelerating and steering as fiercely as it did when new while evoking Subaru racing glory with its gold wheels and British American Tobacco blue paint.

The years have passed, Mitsubishi has faded, and Subaru no longer wants to talk about its rallying days, somehow believing that creates a hooligan cloud over a brand that is trying to move upscale to become a sort of discounted Audi. You couldn’t even get blue paint over gold wheels on an STI for a while, and now only the limited-edition $50,000 WRX STI Type RA offers the combo. So, although you can buy a new STI, you can really no longer buy a car as weirdly special as that first one.

2004 SUBARU WRX STI
Engine flat-four, 2457 cc
Power 300 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque 300 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Weight 3300 lb
Power-to-weight 11.0 lb/hp
0–60 4.9 sec
Top speed 155 mph
Price when new $32,000
Hagerty value $25,700–$33,700

THE HAGERTY VALUATION TEAM SAYS:

The real-life versions of the cars we played in Need for Speed were too expensive for the kids who wanted them. But as those kids became adults and made money, the cars got older and cheaper. Good examples are hard to find today, but they are that much more valuable.


1988 Toyota MR2 S/C, photo by DW Burnett
1988 Toyota MR2 S/C, photo by DW Burnett

1985-1989 Toyota MR2

The House of Camry isn’t really known for its sports cars, but Toyota has produced a few gems, including the 2000GT and lesser known Sports 800, both from the 1960s. It was the memory of the tiny Sports 800 plus the 1970s energy crisis plus the rapidly growing North American market that inspired Toyota to launch the lightweight (and lightly powered) MR2 in 1985. The odd name equated to “midship-engine runabout two-seater.” The MR2 may have been a 1970s idea, but it was fully teased-hair, floppy-disk, boombox 1980s when it arrived priced around $12,000 and shaped like Tron’s door stop.

A 1.6-liter, twin-cam, 16-valve four producing a mere 112 horsepower growled behind the seats of this junior Ferrari. But the car weighed a mere 2400 pounds, and the engine could zing to 7500 rpm, which ensured that even the dullest commute would have its moments. Everything was light, from the flickable five-speed gearbox to the two-spoke steering wheel that worked the 185/60-14 tires to the way it pranced through corners.

Almost immediately after introducing the MR2, Toyota started piling on features: first, optional T-tops and monochromatic side skirts, then a 145-hp supercharged engine in 1988. The 0-to-60-mph time dropped from about eight seconds to 6.5, but the price jumped to almost $20,000. The MR2 was moving uptown, and a 1990 redesign rounded off all the edges and significantly increased the size, weight, and horsepower.

Owner Jeff Miller was born after his MR2 Supercharged was made and says he had no particular interest in them or in cars in general until playing a video game that included the original MR2. Now Miller owns two of them. A Toyota that converts young people into car collectors? Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto!

1988 TOYOTA MR2 S/C
Engine inline-four, 1587 cc
Power 145 hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque 137 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Weight 2600 lb
Power-to-weight 17.9 lb/hp
0–60 6.5 sec
Top speed 130 mph
Price when new $19,750
Hagerty value $10,800–$14,100

THE HAGERTY VALUATION TEAM SAYS:

A car-magazine favorite when new that represents all the cool design things about the 1980s. Clean #2 cars are still less than $15K, but values are up 25 percent. Millennials make up 45 percent of our quotes, which is insane; they were toddlers when the MR2 was introduced. These are people just getting into the hobby, so there’s room to grow.


2004 Dodge Ram SRT10, photo by DW Burnett
2004 Dodge Ram SRT10, photo by DW Burnett

2004-2006 Dodge Ram SRT10

Bold, brash, and more than a little bizarre, the Dodge Viper was the American Lamborghini, a wholly unapologetic gas-guzzling, two-seat screw-you to the presumed responsibilities of adulthood. Likewise, the Dodge Ram SRT10 was a kind of American Lamborghini LM002, another truck with a ridiculously overcompensating engine that served no purpose other than to make people giggle. It took Chrysler 13 years after the Viper’s debut to answer this absurd “what if” question by shoving the Viper’s 500-hp, 8.3-liter V-10 and a big red “start” button into its regular-cab, short-box Ram pickup. The result was a 5100-pound keg hauler that roasted 60 mph in under five seconds while slurping up the juice at the rate of 12 mpg.

During the brief years of production from 2004 to 2006, a four-door variant appeared, offering an automatic transmission and a 7500-pound tow rating (the original had no tow rating owing to the lowered ride height and worries about clutch life). Weighing more than 5600 pounds, the SRT10 Quad Cab was a $52,115 hulking hunk of high-caliber freedom that could at least perform some of the duties of an actual pickup truck. The factory built nearly 10,000 SRT10s of two- and four-door variety, as well as a few special editions such as the Yellow Fever and the Night Runner.

Car and Driver magazine summed up the SRT10’s behind-the-wheel experience as follows: “Cement-truck ride, cement-truck noise, fuel mileage worse than a cement truck’s.” We would only add that the combination of the heavy clutch and lanky shifter, plus the typically slushy pickup-truck steering, makes navigating a twisty road feel like performing spinal surgery with a CAT excavator. Yet listening to that V-10 make its distinctive syncopated roar as it roasts the rear meats (our photo truck had nonfactory side pipes) is a hilarious joy. A hot-rod pickup seems an anachronism today when factory performance trucks such as the Ford Raptor are really about off-road prowess, but that is part of the Ram SRT10’s brutish charm. It apologizes for nothing.

2004 DODGE RAM SRT10
Engine V-10, 8277 cc
Power 500 hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque 525 lb-ft @ 4200 rpm
Weight 5100 lb
Power-to-weight 10.2 lb/hp
0–60 4.9 sec
Top speed 150 mph
Price when new $45,000
Hagerty value $26,700–$35,000

THE HAGERTY VALUATION TEAM SAYS:

Our insurance quotes are up 40 percent, and 61 percent of those are from Gen X and millennials, meaning the interested parties are under 55. Auction sale prices are up 15 percent. At the Mecum sale in Monterey, a 1500- mile truck went for $56,000, 10 grand over the original MSRP. They’re really hot right now, they’re moving, and there really isn’t a substitute. A pickup with a V-10 and six-speed is an uncommon combination.


Ford Bronco and 2004 Ram SRT10
Ford Bronco and 2004 Ram SRT10

1980-1986 Ford Bronco

Of course, the later versions of Ford’s original sport-utility vehicle will be forever associated with the events of June 17, 1994. That’s when retired NFL defensive end Al Cowlings gave his buddy O.J. Simpson a lift down a Los Angeles freeway as 95 million people watched on television. That particular 1993 white Bronco now lives in the Alcatraz East Crime Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and no doubt aficionados of later Broncos shudder at the connection. Their beloved trucks are so much more than a single tawdry TV moment that must come up in every gas-pump conversation with strangers.

These latter Broncos are everything people love about big two-door SUVs. They’re huge, comfortable, fun in their own easygoing way, and plaid-and-plastic time machines back to the pre-motherboard era. The owners of this particular third-generation example have five Broncos in their fleet, and when the local Bronco club last met, 50 of them convoyed under police escort because “there’s something about a Bronco and a police escort,” said the fellow who brought the car on behalf of the owners. Well, at least they have a sense of humor.

Now that values of the first-gen Broncos have reached the level of surreal, the later full-size ones (as well as the few surviving Ranger-based Bronco IIs) are moving as well. Don’t blame yourself if you can’t picture the second-gen Bronco; Ford only built it for two years, from 1978 to ’79, and finally abandoned its special platform. Like the Chevy Blazer, the Bronco at that point became simply a bobtail version of the contemporary full-size pickup but with a fiberglass cap. The third gen debuted in 1980 with an eggcrate grille and inset headlights—the flush headlights didn’t appear until the fourth gen in 1987—and a range of engines that topped out in 1984 with a high-output (okay, 210 horsepower) 351 V-8. The third-gen was also notable for the adoption of an independent “twin traction beam” suspension, which made the ride pleasantly less agrarian.

With a new small Bronco expected for the 2020 model year, Bronco interest is higher than ever. Perhaps even higher than in the summer of 1994.

1983 FORD BRONCO
Engine V-8, 4917 cc
Power 130 hp @ 3800 rpm
Torque 222 lb-ft @ 2000 rpm
Weight 4100 lb
Power-to-weight 31.5 lb/hp
0–60 14.4 sec
Top speed 86 mph
Price when new $10,858
Hagerty value $13,400–$18,100

THE HAGERTY VALUATION TEAM SAYS:

Just as with later Benz SLs, there’s a strong substitution effect by people priced out of the first-generation vehicles. There wasn’t a big performance difference between all the model years, so there isn’t a big falloff in values from the ’70s to the ’80s. Millennials are twice as likely to quote a third-gen as a first-gen because they’re cheaper; a #2 value of $15K is a lot more accessible. The fact that they are bringing the Bronco back stands to help long-term values.


2009 Pontiac G8 GXP, photo by DW Burnett
2009 Pontiac G8 GXP, photo by DW Burnett

2008-2009 Pontiac G8 GXP

The House of Wide-Track was still listing heavily to starboard from the Aztek debacle when the first Australian import, the GTO, arrived in 2004. Life on planet Pontiac was suddenly a lot more interesting, but hip-shooting product planning chief Bob Lutz’s strategy to further cultivate Holden’s rear-wheel-drive catalog didn’t advance again until the G8 sedan—né Holden Commodore—finally sailed in for the 2008 model year. It was a critical time lapse; by then the U.S. economy was in free fall along with the dollar, making the G8 unprofitable to import, and the new-car market had plunged to its lowest level since 1983. The G8 lived for two model years until GM strangled Pontiac as part of its bankruptcy reorganization.

The division went out swinging with the 2009 415-hp G8 GXP, likely the closest thing we’ll ever see to a four-door Corvette and the most powerful factory Pontiac ever made. The 6.2-liter LS3 V-8 could be paired with a six-speed automatic or, blessedly, a six-speed manual. Despite a curb weight of 4000 pounds, the car was good for 4.7-second holeshots to 60.

Owner Terrence Benton didn’t know any of this until his son, who worked at a Pontiac dealership, called and said, “Dad, you just gotta see this car.” Benton saw it, then ordered this silver automatic, then waited a full year to receive it. He put 60,000 miles on it as his daily driver until his son called again and said, “Dad, you gotta get another daily driver and garage that car.” Benton again followed his son’s advice, parking the GXP under a cover from which it emerges only on nice Sundays—and for Hagerty photo shoots. When asked if his car could be used for burnout shots, Benton said, “Sure, that’s what it’s for.”

2009 PONTIAC G8 GXP
Engine V-8, 6162 cc
Power 415 hp @ 5900 rpm
Torque 415 lb-ft @ 4600 rpm
Weight 4000 lb
Power-to-weight 9.6 lb/hp
0–60 4.7 sec
Top speed 146 mph
Price when new $39,900
Hagerty value $40,700–$47,800

THE HAGERTY VALUATION TEAM SAYS:

The last hurrah of the Pontiac brand, the GXP was the only G8 available with a manual trans. Members of the Pontiac fan club are crazy excited about their cars in general, and when the brand was discontinued, they went nuts and became even more enthusiastic. Values are up 10 percent over last year’s. There’s no downside to this car, and it will never get any cheaper.


1994 Buick Roadmaster, photo by DW Burnett
1994 Buick Roadmaster, photo by DW Burnett

1994-1996 Buick Roadmaster

This elephantine throwback to an earlier age of family wagons with wood paneling and rear-facing kid seats seemed archaic on arrival in 1991, when Buick dug deep into its closet to pull out the Roadmaster name after a 33-year absence from the catalog. It and its considerably rarer Oldsmobile doppelgänger, the Custom Cruiser (there was a cheaper Chevy Caprice wagon, too), were nonetheless streamlined for the modern age, riding on GM’s giant B-body platform and basically being a state police cruiser underneath. Luxury touches for the Roadmaster included pillowy leather sofa seating, acres of faux wood filigree, and the mushy DynaRide rear air suspension.

The first “Roadmonsters” wafted their way up the driveways of the best antebellum estates with a 170-hp, 5.0-liter V-8, but the 1994–96 wagons are the ones to go for, having come standard with the 260-hp LT1 V-8 from the Corvette. Sure, the Roadmaster can shroud a whitewall in smoke—just one, because of the open differential—but the last great American road hog is best when it exudes a certain old-fashioned southern charm (hey, they were assembled in Texas) while lazing down the freeway on a wave of whipped buttermilk. Today’s buyers who want size XXL go for pickups and SUVs, which makes the big American car a rapidly disappearing animal. But a Roadmaster Estate looks far more swish than any pickup while swallowing a four-by-eight sheet of plywood through its tailgate, which folds down and also opens to the side. Not to mention it can tow up to 7000 pounds. Take that, crossover lovers!

Owner Jack Thomas’s Roadmaster in Light Driftwood Metallic is proudly unsporty, with doughy tall-sidewall tires that absorb bumps like punches to a fat roll. A retired insurance broker who has driven his Roadmaster daily for years, Thomas’s business card now advertises “used cars, whiskey, land, chicken manure, nails, fly swatters, racing forms, bongos, & oysters.”

Meaning he’s exactly the kind of guy GM had in mind when it built this car.

1994 BUICK ROADMASTER
Engine V-8, 5733 cc
Power 260 hp @ 5000 rpm
Torque 335 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm
Weight 4300 lb
Power-to-weight 16.5 lb/hp
0–60 8.1 sec
Top speed 118 mph
Price when new $26,400
Hagerty value $13,300–$18,300

THE HAGERTY VALUATION TEAM SAYS:

Is this the AMC Pacer of the ’90s? The number of insurance quotes we give on this car leads the overall market by 14 points. The quoted values have pretty much bottomed out, which means they are done depreciating. We don’t see them at the auctions yet, but they have a big cult following on social media, and there’s nowhere for Roadmasters to go but up.

[Source: Hagerty]

HAGERTY: THE SCCA RACETRUCK CHALLENGE

The SCCA RaceTruck Challenge was Pole Position Mayhem

By: BENJAMIN HUNTING on October 02, 2018
Original Article: HAGERTY.COM

Long before Stadium Super Trucks entered the global racing consciousness, and in a time predating even NASCAR’s involvement in pickup racing, the Sports Car Club of America unveiled perhaps the most unusual professional class in its long and storied history. It was a tightly-contested battle between the least likely of competitors: high-riding four-cylinder trucks not all that different from what you could drive home right off the showroom floor.

The SCCA RaceTruck Challenge—initially branded by Coors, then redubbed the SCCA Truck Guard Shellzone Challenge a few years later—started in 1987 and ran through 1991. During that time, it gathered together a who’s who of the mini-truck world, including nine different automakers represented (with varying degrees of official sanction) that fought it out over the course of the season across the United States. During its five-year tenure, the series would support both the open-wheel CART championship as well as Trans-Am, in addition to being featured on its own alongside other classes of competition on SCCA weekends.

Nearly stock

Mark Windecker
Mark Windecker

Like any racing series, the RaceTruck Challenge had its own set of rules. But the list of prohibitions loomed especially large when it came to the degree of modifications that teams were permitted to make to each of the trucks. Striking a balance between a Showroom Stock class and one that recognized that, “Hey, maybe pickups aren’t quite ready to tackle a high speed corner right out of the box,” RaceTrucks were allowed to swap in stiffer bushings, more appropriate shocks, and make a few other tweaks to the vehicle’s suspension. As long as trucks remained eight inches off of the ground, as measured from the rocker panels.

Under the hood, everything had to stay stock, although teams could reassemble or “blueprint” their engines rather than run a sealed factory unit. The trucks were strippers, featuring torn-down interiors and zero options, with A/C and other niceties left off of the order sheet. They ran full cages, race seats, and steering wheels, and used racing pads and shoes. Yes, that means the rear brakes were drums, just like the ones sitting on the dealer lot.

Mark Windecker
Mark Windecker

Stock horsepower was far from evenly distributed across the models that lineup up for the SCCA RaceTruck Challenge. At one end of the spectrum were pickups like the Dodge Ram 50/Mitsubishi Mighty Max, Jeep Comanche, Mazda B2300 and the Ford Ranger (campaigned under a Saleen badge with none other than Steve Saleen himself behind the wheel), which offered 110–120 ponies, while others from Isuzu were below the century mark. Hovering in between were entries like the Nissan D21 and the Toyota Truck, forcing the SCCA to introduce weight handicapping—sometimes by adding nearly 200 pounds of ballast to the quickest truckst—to even out the field.

Minimal power, maximum fun

Mark Windecker
Mark Windecker

The racing itself was fun to watch, and if you weren’t able to be there in person during the Racetruck series’ heyday, then you can catch highlights on YouTube. There was banging, sliding, numerous lead changes, and five-wide dashes down the front straight. Not the grippiest of steeds, to be sure (considering their weight concentrated forward of the center axis), nor the most aerodynamic despite air dams and other ground effects, the pickups relied on luck and the skill of their drivers rather than raw power or flashy top speeds to carry the day.

Typically, events ran 25 laps, although on longer and shorter courses that number could be massaged to keep things around the 50-mile mark. Tracks that saw Challenge competition included Mosport, Road Atlanta, Sebring, Mid-Ohio, Texas World Speedway, Las Vegas International, Laguna Seca, and Sears Point.

It was a remarkably even series in terms of both individual accomplishments and the manufacturer standings. Nissan won twice in a row (after having lost by one point to Jeep in 1988), along with two drivers championships (including the inaugural by driver Max Jones). Steve Saleen’s remarkable 5-of-6 win effort sealed the overall crown for Ford in ’91 (previous seasons contained 9–11 races).

While the RaceTruck Challenge was definitely entertaining, the field shrank as time went on, dropping from a high of 19 trucks entered per event during the 1988 season to 10 the final two years. Mitsubishi dropped out by ’89, and Toyota was gone a couple of years later. Flagging interest spelled doom, and 1991 was the final season of the RaceTruck Challenge.

Looking back, looking ahead

Mark Windecker
Mark Windecker

The legacy of SCCA RaceTrucks soon bore fruit. Jeep would produce the Comanche Eliminator from 1988–92, a two-wheel drive street warrior that delivered 177 horsepower and 224 lb-ft of torque from a 4.0-liter straight six, while Saleen would build a handful of hopped-up Ranger Sport Trucks. Whether GM’s limited experience in the series (the Chevy S-10 was a late entry) would have anything to do with the genesis of the turbocharged GMC Syclone is anyone’s guess, but at the very least the Challenge proved that there was an interest in mini-trucks that did more than just haul.

Looking at the pickup market today reveals intriguing potential for a revival of a similar-type road racing grudge match between brands like Toyota and Nissan, who never gave up on the entry-level truck segment. Meanwhile, Chevy is back with the Colorado and Ford is joining the re-joining the party with the U.S.-market Ranger—both automakers briefly turned their backs on anything smaller than full-size. Although today’s mid-sizers are significantly larger than anything RaceTruck-related, power plants are also much mightier, raising both the stakes—and the ride heights—for potential pole position mayhem.

Mark Windecker
Mark Windecker

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[Source: Hagerty]

HAGERTY: FOX-BODY SALEEN MUSTANGS

Fox-body Saleen Mustangs: Why I’m buying them

By: COLIN COMER on November 27, 2017
Original Article: HAGERTY.COM

I saw a 1988 Saleen Mustang heading to the block at Barrett-Jackson. Not just any Saleen, but serial number 01—the one that was a development mule and appeared in all of the brochures. It was even a magazine test car and then Steve Saleen’s personal car. I followed it to the block and stood there as it bounced around numbers I thought seemed very cheap considering the car’s pedigree. I bid. And three minutes later the crack of the auctioneer’s hammer declared me the owner of 1988 Saleen #01.

1988 Saleen Mustang (serial #01)
1988 Saleen Mustang (serial #01)

Think Carroll Shelby was the only racer who hopped up Mustangs that went on to win championships? Nope. Steve Saleen did the same thing a couple of decades later with his Fox-body Saleen Mustangs. Starting in 1984, and using a similar formula to what Shelby employed on the original 1965–66 GT350s, Saleen focused on chassis, suspension, and braking upgrades to the factory Mustang. Shelby called it making “a racehorse out of a mule.”

And once again, it worked.

Steve Saleen and his Saleen Mustangs took home many racing wins, including the 24 Hours of Mosport (an SCCA Endurance Championship race) three years in a row, from 1986–88. The Saleen Mustang team won the 1987 SCCA Escort Endurance Championship Driver, Team, and Manufacturer titles for the series, and in 1993 the Saleen Mustang team placed third and fifth in the SCCA World Challenge championship. Not bad for a racer-turned-manufacturer that started with a car with decidedly humble beginnings. The 5.0-liter Fox Mustang was great, and it brought real performance back to the masses. But at the end of the day it was, well…still a 1978 Fairmont underneath.

In the 20 years between Shelby hot-rodding 1965 K Code Mustangs and Saleen attempting the same with 1984 Mustangs, a few more hurdles cropped up. Gone were the days of manufacturers freely swapping intakes, carburetors, and exhaust systems with any aftermarket parts they wanted. Saleen couldn’t do any engine modifications if he wanted to avoid trouble with the EPA, so he left the engine, exhaust, and drivetrain alone during his conversions. The upshot was that this preserved Ford’s factory warranty, which was another important aspect. Saleen did add a stiffened Racecraft suspension, custom wheels, sticky General tires, and a body kit that not only looked cool but likely offered some degree of aerodynamic benefit. As the years went on, Saleen slowly ramped up the modifications to include five-lug wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, and further interior upgrades, including trick Flofit front seats.

1989 Ford Mustang Saleen Fastback (Mecum)
1989 Ford Mustang Saleen Fastback (Mecum)

In its day, the Saleen Mustang was a pretty stout package that also came with undeniable street cred. It earned that reputation in no small part because, like the original Shelby Mustangs, the Saleen was an obtainable giant-killer. An underdog that punched well above its weight. A better, exclusive version of the 5.0-liter Mustang that was already the car everybody wanted.

And I was on that list. In the 1980s there was a Ford dealership situated between my grade school and my parents’ house. I wandered that lot at least once a day, oftentimes twice. In doing so I became friends with the lowest men on that dealership’s totem pole, guys I thought had the perfect job—the lot boys and the “get ready” car prep guys. These dudes had it made, at least as far as I was concerned. They were the first to drive the new cars in from the transport trucks, and they got to unwrap, clean, and drive them around some more! Well, at least to the front line or up the ramp to the second floor storage lot. Which was conveniently lubricated with years worth of tire dressing. Hmmm.

In 1983, the Mustang GTs started rolling in. In ’84, the new “GT350” limited-production specials came out. I was a kid so I had no idea they were a “GT350” in name only, or that Shelby was going after Ford for trademark infringement. Yet as cool as they looked, they just didn’t have the bite to match their visual bark. Then came electronic fuel injection and roller camshafts, and the continuous development of the 5.0-liter that made it into a killer. The burnouts these new 225-horsepower cars could do on the ramp made that very clear.

1987 Saleen Mustang front 3/4
1987 Saleen Mustang front 3/4
1988 Saleen Mustang Convertible and 1987 Saleen Mustang Hatchback
1988 Saleen Mustang Convertible and 1987 Saleen Mustang Hatchback

By this time I was off to high school and in possession of a crisp new driver’s license. That, of course, heightened my awareness of what car I’d buy if I won the lottery. I got my answer instantly upon seeing an episode of Motorweek in early 1988, when a new Saleen Mustang was tested. It was white with blue stripes, and John Davis couldn’t say enough good things about it. It was a “racer for the street” and showed “just how much more a Mustang could be.” The Saleen also trounced the new ASC McLaren Mustang the Saleen went up against in the test. And this alone really sealed the deal, since a kid in my high school had received an ASC McLaren convertible from his parents. Oh, to get a Saleen and have the chance to heads-up race that oblivious kid from the other side of the tracks! It was the stuff of dreams. One, like many, that would have to wait.

Fast-forward a few more decades, to the point when I found myself at that certain age when nostalgia suddenly becomes more of an issue. I watched as Fox-body 5.0-liter Mustangs, new cars in my formative years, became collectible, and I started looking for one in earnest. Then I saw a 1988 Saleen Mustang heading to the block at Barrett-Jackson. Not just any Saleen, but serial number 01—the one that was a development mule and appeared in all of the brochures. It was even a magazine test car and then Steve Saleen’s personal car. I followed it to the block and stood there as it bounced around numbers I thought seemed very cheap considering the car’s pedigree. I bid. And three minutes later the crack of the auctioneer’s hammer declared me the owner of 1988 Saleen #01.

They say never meet your heroes, but the Saleen didn’t disappoint when I drove it. It was a riot. Everything a good Fox-body car should be but far more raw, with a punishingly stiff Racecraft suspension. It drives just like you’d expect a slightly more modern early Shelby to drive, but with A/C, power steering, and really good brakes. It has just enough power to drive it tail-out almost anywhere you want, making freeway ramps into all kinds of sideways fun. And the car is very well balanced and predictable, at least on smooth roads.

1987 Saleen Mustang - courtesy of Colin Comer
1987 Saleen Mustang – courtesy of Colin Comer

All of this fun with #01 led me to look at other Fox Body Saleens as they came up for sale. For the price of one vintage Shelby Mustang you could fill an airplane hangar full of them. I focused on 1987–89 model years primarily because they combined five-lug wheels, the Flofit interior, and also pre-dated the airbag steering wheel that arrived in 1990. The earlier “four-eyed” Saleen Mustangs from 1984–86, of course, are also desirable because of their even smaller production numbers, unique early features such as three-piece front air dams, 15-inch wheels, and other details that show how the cars (and production) evolved quickly. Plus, the 1984-86 cars feature the arguably more attractive quad headlights with cool Saleen-installed Plexiglas covers.

Ground Effect Kit 90-93 Saleen Mustang SC
Ground Effect Kit 90-93 Saleen Mustang SC
Ground Effect Kit 88-89 Saleen Mustang SSC
Ground Effect Kit 88-89 Saleen Mustang SSC

A handful of years later, the heritage, affordable cost of entry, and off-the-charts fun factor has resulted in a herd of Saleens following me home (six, at this writing, to be exact). Insanity? I don’t think so, and here’s my defense: Again, much like those first Shelby Mustangs, Saleen was a small manufacturer finding its way with a specialized product. The conversion also wasn’t cheap; in 1987 it was a roughly $7,500 more than the base Mustang LX 5.0-liter’s $13,000 base price. As a result the production numbers are very low, totaling just hundreds each year. And, very much in parallel with Shelbys, every Saleen Mustang is serialized and can be documented, in this case by contacting Saleen directly. Club support is fantastic as well; Saleen owners are a passionate group who love their cars. Both bode well for the future of these cars because the fakes are being filtered out and the good cars are being cherished.

Which brings me to another point: The attrition rate for Saleen Mustangs is surprisingly high, either as a result of wrecks, thefts, or simply cars falling into the wrong hands or being destroyed by modifications. So as the market matures and collectors seek out truly elite-grade examples, the few examples of great, stock, low mileage Saleens that remain among the original limited production run protect the model’s future value.

The best part? Right now a good early Saleen carries a very small premium over what some of the best Fox-body 5.0-liter Mustangs are bringing. It seems as close to a no-brainer proposition as there is, especially in today’s increasingly hot 1980s collector car market. Even though prices have noticeably jumped in the last three years or so, you’re not too late to the Saleen party. There are still pretty fantastic Saleens for under $30K, and it’s possible to stumble on a great deal for much less. I’ve seen nice “driver-level” cars which sell for as little as $15K, but I have also noticed the supply dwindle considerably in the last two years. And we all know how the law of supply and demand works.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not predicting people will get rich off these things in the near future. But I sure think in another 10 to 20 years there will be another comparison to draw between Shelby and Saleen Mustangs—that they both really hit their stride value-wise when they turned 40. And even if I’m totally wrong about that, I don’t think anybody who buys one will complain after the fun they’ll have with it in the years to come.

And that’s why I’m still buying them.

P.S. If you have a really great Saleen for sale, please disregard all of the above. Just contact me so I can buy your car.

[Source: Hagerty]

HAGERTY: STEVE SALEEN’S FOX ERA MUSTANGS

Steve Saleen Built The Most Collectible Fox-body Mustangs

“There is a great passion for these vehicles and the Saleen brand in general”

1989 Ford Mustang Saleen Fastback (Mecum)
1989 Ford Mustang Saleen Fastback (Mecum)

By: MIKE BUMBECK on October 12, 2016
Original Article: HAGERTY.COM

Ford established a winning formula of shipping assembly-line Mustangs to specialty companies for conversion into near-racing specials. Credit Carroll Shelby during the 1960s for inspiring this practice. At the dawn of the 1970s, the Boss 429 emerged from the Kar Kraft facility in Brighton, Mich., destined for showdowns against Hemi-powered competitors. The ’80s saw this tradition continue to third-generation Fox-body Mustangs from Saleen, a California tuner shop.

Though Mustang traditionalists may angrily shake a fistful of collapsed carburetor floats toward the sky at the thought of any car built after 1972 being collectible, the age window of what’s considered classic progresses. The ’80s, along with cassette decks, body-color mesh wheels, flared fenders and fade-stripe graphics, are powering into the present with fuel-injected V-8 power.

For 1986 the Saleen Mustang packed a 200-horsepower 5.0-liter High Output (HO) V-8 with tubular headers and dual exhaust, backed by a five-speed Borg-Warner transmission. The Saleen aero treatment meshed with 16×7 Riken alloy wheels, Racecraft suspension and ’80s-perfect striping. A three-spoke Momo steering wheel, Hurst shifter and sports seats met an optional radar detector in the cabin. A Saleen Mustang so equipped could hold .88 G on the skidpad and top 140 mph, according to Ford’s marketing materials.

After transforming just three factory stockers into Saleen Mustangs in 1984, production increased to just over 200 by 1986, well over 700 by 1988 and nearly 900 for 1989. Steve Saleen took his Mustang racing knowledge and transferred it to a series of cars that honed his company’s formula of suspension and power upgrades, including select builds that boosted acceleration, via a supercharger.

Ford had offered supercharging in 1957—a factory-installed McCulloch/Paxton centrifugal blower—and as an option in the 1966 Shelby Mustang GT350. Saleen resurrected the practice for Fox-body Mustangs with Paxton units. A 1984 model [1985 model sic] was the first outfitted, but it took until 1992 for development to conclude and the Saleen/Vortech supercharger option to become available.

These early-’90s supercharged Saleen specials are among the most coveted as an economic recession, combined with the approaching demise of the Fox-body, resulted in a drop in Saleen Mustang production in 1990-93, with just 476 Saleen Mustangs built. Production revived to 1,225 in 1994-98 with the debut of the SN-95 Mustang and ramped up to more than 4,000 constructed in 1999-2004.

The resurgence of the Fox-body has been good for the Saleen Mustang and its devotees; the Saleen Owners and Enthusiasts Club currently has 5,000 members worldwide. The club’s president, Jim Dvorak, shed some light on the current state of enthusiasm. A renewed interest in all things ’80s, together with limited Saleen production, has seen the collector market for Fox-body examples trending upward in recent years.

“There is a great passion for these vehicles and the Saleen brand in general,” Dvorak said. “A lot of the trading is underground. A lot of the special cars are purchased privately and never advertised. The auction results can be a little misleading in some cases.”

Original condition Saleen Mustangs can fetch more than modified examples, and Saleen keeps documentation on every car built, with unique history in some cases able to influence value. The good news is that getting into an era-defining collectible that has a connection to a strong community of like-minded enthusiasts doesn’t cost a million dollars.

[Source: Hagerty]