The market for muscle cars has fluctuated for decades. They reached their first peak in 1970 when virtually every American manufacturer from AMC to Oldsmobile offered a V-8-powered coupe. Several years later, during the gas shortage, they could no longer be given away. In the 1990s and 2000s, collectors sparked buying frenzy that ultimately led to more dips and recoveries. However, none of those compared to this summer.
The obvious question is how long this can continue. According to conventional wisdom, another bust is only a matter of time, particularly as collectors who coveted these cars when they were new leave the market. However, the actual answer is more complicated.
Current Muscle Car Price Trends Historical Peaks
Let’s begin by defining “all-time high.” Our Muscle Car Index tracks the market segment’s most influential vehicles, including the 1970 Chevelle SS LS6, Mustang Boss 429, and the Plymouth Hemi Cuda Convertible. In our most recent price update, virtually all of these major vehicles increased in price. (Price Guide revisions occur every four months.) It was the Hemi Cuda Convertible that shone the brightest. In May, many auctions offered a magnificent 1971 Hemi Cuda Convertible, which fetched a reported high bid of $4.8 million. The price is the highest we’ve ever seen for a muscle car. Others, such as 1970 LS6 Chevelles, have yet to approach their pre-2008 prices, but we continue to observe the highest prices in at least ten years.
There is a significant gap between these six- and seven-figure muscle cars and, for example, a 289 Mustang. However, the trends are generally quite similar. The most recent update includes double-digit percentage increases for vehicles such as small-block first-generation Camaro Super Sports (up 14%), ’70-’72 C-code (289ci/200 hp) ’65-’66 Mustangs, and ’70-’72 Camaros with supercharged engines (up 10 percent).
Current Muscle Car Price Trends Final Push
Baby boomers are the elephant in the room, so let’s address them. They were the original target audience for these vehicles, and they have been the driving force behind every increase in muscle car values. So, what occurs when these collectors decide to downsize their collections or when drivability becomes a greater concern? Will this mark be the final peak? Insurance quote data, which can serve as an interesting barometer, indicates no. There are only so many thirty-somethings who can afford a million-dollar Mopar, but the majority of callers are Gen-Xers and millennials inquiring about 1968-1972 Chevelles and 1967-1969 Camaros.
This is not to say that collecting priorities will never change. Younger collectors are fond of muscle cars, but also enjoy German sedans from the 1980s and Japanese coupes from the 1990s. What happens when the individuals for whom muscle cars represent the burning core of their passion gradually leave the market? Prewar automobiles may contain some of the answers we seek. If conventional wisdom held, that subsequent generations will not be interested in their fathers’ automobiles, then the prewar market must be at its lowest point, right?
In fact, no. Ford Model A’s are consistently among the top 10 insured vehicles, alongside the Ford Mustang. Top-tier prewar vehicles, such as Duesenbergs and blower Bentleys, maintain a following and are sought-after focal points for serious collections.
Every car enthusiast should experience driving a muscle car at least once in their lifetime. The grunt of a large displacement V-8 engine with no driver aids to prevent the tires from smoking is unparalleled. Or the odor of unburned high-octane fuel emitting from a pair of tailpipes. For many of us, and not just those who recall watching the Beatles perform on The Ed Sullivan Show, muscle cars represent a golden age when manufacturers produced automobiles that the average enthusiast wanted and could afford.
Ironically, this sentiment is likely to keep muscle cars expensive for some time. There is a possibility that top-tier muscle cars will eventually settle down. Their market volatility indicates that this has occurred previously. Even as new segments such as Japanese sports cars join the ranks of desirable collectibles, it is safe to assume that stalwarts such as Camaros, Mustangs, and Chevelles will continue to hold their ground among younger buyers. Similar to the Model A, muscle cars will always be available to enthusiasts who are prepared to make the transition to “collector.”