The Wiley Report

A '90s classic will sell for more than $500,000 + 5 more predictions for 2021

by John Wiley
4 February 2021 2 min read
Gooding & Co. sold this Mercedes-Benz 190E Evolution II for $434,000 at its 2020 Scottsdale auctions. This year could see a '90s car not named McLaren break through the half-a-million-dollar ceiling Photo by Matt Tierney

Like all of us, John Wiley loves cars. Unlike most of us, he also loves math, which is why he’s senior data analyst for the Hagerty Valuation Team. He takes a statistics-minded look at the collector car world for Insider.

If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that we should not make predictions. Nothing went according to plan last year, and the first month of 2021 offered few signs that we’ll be getting back to normal. That includes the January collector car auctions, which were successful but looked nothing like what we’ve experienced in the past.

However, since we could all use a laugh these days, we’ll venture several predictions for 2021. 

1. Online auction platforms will overtake live auction sales. 

In North America last year, online auction platforms dedicated to enthusiast vehicles sold more than $400 million of vehicles. Auction companies that had to pivot away from a heavy reliance on live events sold close to $700 million. Several online auction companies grew quickly in 2020, and many more are close to launching their own platforms. 

2. A production car from the 1990s* will sell for more than half a million bucks

A 1990s high-performance road car offered from companies like Nissan, Toyota, Lancia, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW could exceed the half-million-dollar mark in 2021. Specifically, we’ll be watching for exceptional sales of cars like the Nissan Skyline GT-R R34, Toyota Supra Mk IV twin-turbo, Lancia Delta HF Integrale Evo, Mercedes-Benz 190E Evolution II, and BMW 850CSi and M3 E30. 

* Obviously, we mean a 1990s car other than a McLaren F1, which can be worth 30 times that amount. 

3. Restomods will sell for more than originals

C1 Corvette Restomod
Originality has long been king in the classic car world, but versions with modern improvements (ie: restomods like the Corvette on the left) have been gaining ground. (Photo by Josh Scott)

We also expect them to be more numerous at major auctions. Specifically, look for restomod variants of Mustangs, Camaros, and Corvettes, along with Jeeps, Broncos, and Blazers. These vehicles perform particularly well at Barrett-Jackson’s large auctions, so keep an eye on their Scottsdale sale in March. 

4. Ferrari will reclaim its position at the top of the auction price table. 

Prewar Bugattis swept the top five auction sales spots in 2020, but odds are that won’t repeat in 2021. Since 1987, a Ferrari has been the most expensive car of the year half the time. 

Bonus prediction: The year’s most expensive sale will happen at an art auction. In 2020 we saw Sotheby’s sell the Alfa Romeo BAT cars for $14.84M as part of a contemporary art auction. This year, with the return of full-scale in-person auctions to Monterey being far from guaranteed, the most expensive car of the year might cross the stage at an art auction in the fall.

6. October will supplant August as the busiest month on the car collector’s calendar

Several events scheduled for 2021 have already been postponed. Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale January auction is now happening in March. The Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance date in early March is now late in May. Hagerty’s own Greenwich Concours moved from June to the weekend of October 23rd and 24th. It seems many events are moving back their traditional dates two months or more, hoping that amount of time will allow more of the population to get vaccinated. Could October be the new August? 

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  • Scott McPherson says:

    Prediction #3 is more like a hindsight observation. Restomods cost more to build typically and as such have commanded more than originals for some time. Yes it is hard to recoup the build cost for sure and the quality is as important as an restoration to original specs. This is certainly true of high end one of a kind builds and think no further than mid-year Corvettes with LS swaps at Barrett-Jackson for several years.

  • Maestro1 says:

    I think that there will be a correction in the market but I don’t know when that will happen. This kind of high heat in pricing will blow off at some point, and my friends in the Hobby who bought now will be left holding wonderful cars at inflated prices. It’s a classic example of too few goods being chased by too much money. Further, the psychological impetus that takes place in an auction enviornment has nothing to
    do with the value of the car; it is the principle of auctions. However that impetus is a major factor in price escalation. I have been in the Hobby a long time. I buy cars off the street, out of car ports, I know some lawyers who make me aware of estate sales and so on. I am 83 years old, and have been around cars since working on them with my Father, who was a car nut, in Massachusetts. I was 12 years old. I am
    on the Left Coast where they still let me have a License to drive, and will do so as long as I am not impaired. When I am, I will voluntarily give up this Hobby which I so enjoy and get off the road because I will have become a hazard. But not yet.
    One last thing: I support the concept that if one buys a car at an auction, you are the only person in the room who thought it was worth that much money, and if your fortunes change at a later time you may find yourself having to sell at a loss.
    Thank you for this.

  • drhino says:

    Restomods selling for more than original cars. A true sign of the apocalypse. The originals will overtake the cut up stuff once more and more succumb to this terrible fate.

  • Jason Geater says:

    We can’t escape asset price inflation anywhere. Pricing on collector vehicles is just another sign that we are headed for a free-fall once these asset price bubbles deflate.

    The fact that restomod pricing even has a shot of overtaking 100pt originals not only shows euphoria in the market, but that demand far exceeds supply due to cheap money looking for returns. Will be happy to pick up some deals when this house of cards collapses. 😉

  • Sean MORRIS says:

    R34 GT-R like the Show or Display eligible M-Spec Nur, have already sold at more than 300k at auction. We have sold other MotoRex R34 for more than that recently.

  • Michele says:

    After the 90s, I’m now looking at the very early 2000’s cars. I just thought that an XJR X308 2001 V8 Jaguar has good numbers: a very stunning British muscle car with very thin sleek streamlined design, powerful V8 engine with more than 370 bhp and it’s totally underrated. It’s very fast, with very “low-rider” lines, very very cheap on the market right now. Has she the numbers to go up? I think yes, even if she doesn’t have the sporty pedigree of a Lancia Delta EVO but.. c’mon, the big cat is really more beautiful by far. But, and I don’t know why, it seems that the XJR she’s not in the collector’s radar.

  • Aljols says:

    Buy a 1987 or previous Ferrari Testarossa and a MB Cosworth 2.3 16V; sit and hold and watch the values outperform.

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