Sales that Teach

Muscle cars roared back in 2021

by Andrew Newton
16 December 2021 2 min read
Photo by Mecum

Hagerty’s Automotive Intelligence team analyzes thousands of auction sales each year. Although they all help inform our view of the market, some of them stand out and can tell us something more. We call these Sales that Teach.

In the craziness that was the collector car market in 2021, a few clear themes stand out. Newer enthusiast cars became “collectible,” vintage pickup/SUV prices kept on trucking upwards, and cars that are traditionally cheap or at least affordable became increasingly less so. The demographic shift toward younger collectors hit with full force, a healthy high-end market was confirmed in Monterey, and online auction platforms matured as a permanent fixture of the classic car ecosystem.

One area that didn’t get as much attention as it deserved amidst all that change was the traditional muscle car-heavy live auctions from the likes of Mecum and Barrett-Jackson. But this isn’t to say the muscle car market is sleepy, or that the pandemic has dampened enthusiasm for the live auction spectacle. On the contrary, muscle cars are as hot as they’ve been in a long time, and live sales brought many record prices just like the ones on the internet did. Mecum, which has become something of the Muscle Car King in the auction world, is perfect evidence of that. Although the volume of vehicles sold hasn’t quite bounced back to pre-pandemic numbers, prices are up.

After a few years of softening prices, Hagerty's Muscle Car Index hit its all-time high twice in 2021. Some of the biggest reversals and biggest gains were for cars at the top of the muscle car market. Think Hemi Cuda convertibles, LS6 Chevelles, or Boss 429 Mustangs, including one that sold at Mecum Dallas 2021 for $357,500. While not a record, the price was nearly 60 grand above the Mustang's condition #1 value at the time of the sale.

Photo: Mecum

Boss 429s are collectible for the usual reasons—big engine, high-performance, racing pedigree, and (by muscle car standards) rarity. In order to homologate its 429 cubic inch (7.0-liter) "semi-hemi" engine for NASCAR racing, Ford decided to stuff the near race-spec V-8 into its volume-selling pony car. But the Boss 429 couldn't just drop into a standard production Mustang, so Ford contracted with Kar Kraft in Dearborn to make it fit. In part because of their high price, Ford sold only 1360 Boss 429 Mustangs in 1969-70, and today they're the most valuable Mustangs not wearing a Shelby snake.

The Mecum Dallas car, finished in Grabber Green (one of five colors offered), is a high-dollar restoration with some show awards to its credit. None of that is exceptional for one of these Mustangs, but the price is, and it's part of a general rebound for these Mustang royalty after prices started dipping in the late 2010s. Mecum offered 10 Boss 429 Mustangs in 2021, eight of which were reported sold for an average price of $272,571. In 2019, the average auction price of a Boss 429 was $217,343. Hagerty Price Guide values for the Boss 429 are also up from where they were a year ago. Far from the biggest increase in the world, but notable for a high-dollar car that had been slipping prior to the surges of 2020-21. In short, the past two years have been a big growth period in prices all across the hobby, and that is almost as true for mature segments of the market like American muscle as it is for newcomers like JDM and late-model exotics.


  • KDL says:

    And the (private sale) street market values of just about ALL vintage classic muscle and non-muscle 60’s-80’s has risen substantially & nearly doubled in the last year, can’t find em’ like I used to. Just astonishing, wish I had a crystal ball.

  • Tommy Fox says:

    Some time I would like to here about Pontiac Muscle and the rare engines with the #722 heads on them.
    I am Shure there more Pontiac people out there than me. Don’t get me wrong I like Mustangs also just like something different for a change.

  • drhino says:

    Why would I sleep on a muscle car? Sounds uncomfortable. I have a perfectly good bed to use.

  • MERLIN BALKE says:

    I was working in the Quad Cities in the early 70’s and one of the Ford Dealers, in either Moline or Rock Island, had a Grabber Green Boss 429 on their lot. If memory serves the price was around 4 grand, a price out of the range for a lowly insurance adjuster. I did drool over it for free, however.

  • 1oldgoat says:

    I’m still driving the 64 GTO hardtop I bought new in May of 1964 after reading the March 1964 issue of Car and Driver magazine. Nothing today can beat the joy of rowing through the 4-speed tranny and the sound of the 389 cubes as the gears go up. The Old Goat is stone stock with 74K on the odo and with the exception of radial redlines, nothing has changed from the Window Sticker Details. I display a copy of the Window Sticker at car shows and never fail to get offers to sell it for double the Sticker Price of $ 3,304. Thanks, Hagerty for insuring Our Old Goat.

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