Amidst a week of dour economic news, you’d be forgiven for wondering if the music in our current collector car market party is about to stop. This 1984 Jeep J-10, which just sold for $84,000, including fees, says “Keep those records playin’.”
If you’ve been keeping track of J-10 prices, you’ll know that’s nearly twice the Hagerty Price Guide value for a Condition #1 (concours-ready) example, even though said values have been steadily increasing in the last few years. If, like me, you really haven’t been keeping track and think of 1980s Jeep pickups as offbeat used trucks, it’s a little shocking. We are, after all, talking about a near forty-year-old pickup with stick axles and a three-speed automatic.
But that is how our current collector car market works. Although we’ve seen plenty of bigger sales of late, this J-10, as much as any individual vehicle, epitomizes many of the recent trends. It is, first and foremost, a vintage SUV in a market gone gaga over anything old and tough looking. The average appreciation in the Hagerty Price Guide for trucks over the past three years is 40 percent, which is well ahead of the 23 percent appreciation over the same period for cars. Vintage SUVs also tend to have lots of cross-generational appeal. That is, everyone seems to like ’em. The J-10 exemplifies this—collectors who call Hagerty for insurance quotes on them are split evenly by generation (one-third are Millennials and younger, one-third are Gen–Xers, and one-third are Baby Boomers and older).
The J-10’s biggest liability in the 1980s is now, for many collectors, a selling point: It was really old. You don’t need to squint very hard at the photos here to see the Jeep Gladiator that went on sale way back in 1962. By the mid-1980s, pickups and other large trucks had begun their long journey from workhorses to luxury automobiles, but cash-strapped AMC, which had invested heavily in the smaller Jeep Cherokee, couldn’t afford to keep pace. And so the later J-10s still used a live front axle, and they were significantly smaller than their full-size contemporaries from Ford, GM, and Dodge (in fact, the Jeep is closer to what we think of as a compact truck these days). When Chrysler bought AMC in 1987, it saw no need to continue a slow-selling competitor to its Dodge Ram and new Dodge Dakota.
What that means today is that a 1980s Jeep J-10 has all the vintage charm of a 1960s American truck—industrial looks, maintain-it-yourself mechanicals—but is two decades newer. The J-10 also bears more than a passing resemblance to the Jeep Wagoneer, which has long been a darling among vintage SUV collectors. Finally, although the link between new cars and classic car values is near impossible to quantify, it certainly doesn’t hurt that Jeep has recently reintroduced a pickup truck and spent millions convincing people to buy them. So, it makes plenty of sense to us that J-10s have appreciated more than 90 percent in the last three years, and that nice ones are fetching ever higher prices. Around the same time as this Bring a Trailer sale, another nice Jeep J-10 hammered on eBay for nearly $53,982.
But $84,000? That makes us gulp hard. Mind you, the J-10 offered on Bring a Trailer has many of the traits that appeal to vintage SUV shoppers: It’s presented with a recent repaint and tasteful, period-appropriate cosmetic modifications, namely the roll bar. Modifications to the 360 cubic-inch AMC V-8, including Holley Sniper electronic fuel injection and an upgraded camshaft, help rather than hinder. Truck collectors, far from penalizing modifications, have repeatedly demonstrated that they’ll pay a premium for updates that make these rigs more usable.
Of course, the Bring a Trailer effect likely came into play here, as well. A large gallery of quality photos and an active, encouraging comments section surely egged on bidders. The winner, who goes by the handle Stephenscars, is a frequent buyer on the site and, in the weeks prior to this sale, had bid on a 1971 K5 Blazer and 1978 Jeep CJ-5. This time, clearly, he was not going to be denied. Upon placing the winning bid, he commented, “I KNOW YOU ALL THINK I’M CRAZY. PROBABLY RIGHT!”
In today’s rabid collector car market, he’s far from alone.