As the era of General Motors’ exceptional driver’s sedans readies to kick off its 668-hp farewell tour this summer, many enthusiasts find themselves with a renewed hunger for four-door performance with that tried and true combo of V-8, rear-drive, and manual transmission. Unfortunately, for those of us who look upon the CT5-V Blackwing and see the perfect car staring back at us, there’s just one problem: price. The privilege of putting your right thumb on that sweet, 3D-printed shifter medallion every day will cost $83,995 before you add a single option or account for destination, tax, or dealer fees. Selecting all of the kit that one would desire on their super sedan could send the bottom line soaring past $125,000.
If those numbers are a bit beyond your means because you are, oh, say, an educator, a writer (or both), fear not! There are other comparable options out there, if you’re willing to dip into used and collector market. The LT4-powered Blackwing is just the latest in a line of world-class fast sedans from GM, dating back to the tenure of enthusiast-whisperer Bob Lutz. So let’s turn back the clock to the late 2000s, when Lutz greenlit GM’s first all-out efforts in the world of go-fast family haulers, with a bit of help from Australia.
This was post-financial crisis, when the rescued Chrysler Group LLC elected not to lend the Challenger’s fresh-for-’09 pistol-grip six-speed transmission to its four-door Charger. Ford, meanwhile, altogether sat out the V-8 sedan party to focus company finances and market the EcoBoost line. Over at GM, Lutz & Co. pulled off successive launches of the Australian Holden Commodore-based Pontiac G8 GXP and the second-gen Cadillac CTS-V (V2). Both offered comfortable seating for four adults, big V-8 power, and an optional clutch pedal. They got rave reviews, too, but in the Great Recession economy that didn’t necessarily matter.
Just one year into its lifecycle, the GXP was put out to pasture (along with its 86-year old parent company) as part of corporate fat-trimming at GM, co-sponsored by Uncle Sam. Luckily, the 556-hp Cadillac was sent into the next decade and carried the domestic driver’s sedan torch. Then, as the early 2010s progressed, rumors buzzed about the G8 getting a second lease on life—this time as a Chevy.
When those rumors came to pass, it was on the wings of Holden’s updated VF-generation Commodore, which was converted to left-hand-drive, affixed with Bowties and given the “SS” moniker for American consumption. The Chevrolet SS arrived just in time for the Cadillac CTS-V to go automatic-only, leaving Chevy as the sole option for an American looking to row their own gears in a new V-8 sedan. Then, just four years later, GM showed its Australian manufacturing branch the same axe that ended Pontiac, and the SS disappeared.
Now, just as GM is poised to re-enter the four-door, six-speed stick, eight-cylinder sedan market as the only player in 2021, values of its three previous entrants in the space have experienced a convergence of values. A grand total of 1828 Pontiac G8 GXPs were shipped to the U.S. from Down Under for 2009, and 846 (46 percent) of those were optioned with three pedals. If you are able to unearth one of these stars of Hagerty’s 2019 Bull Market List in Concours-ready condition, prepare to part with $46,200 of your hard-earned dollars (about 15 percent more than its original MSRP) to take it home. A #2 (Excellent) condition example is worth $34,200.
By comparison, with a total build-out of 1400 units over six years, we’re almost spoiled for choice with regard to manual CTS-V sedans. Those were joined by an additional 9365 automatic-equipped cars, for a paltry take rate of 13 percent for the stick-shift option. In the Hagerty Price Guide, the former four-door Nürburgring King commands $51,000 in #1 (Concours) condition or $43,000 in #2 condition (with a -10 percent deduction for an automatic). That’s several grand more on average than a G8 GXP in similar condition, but unlike the last great Pontiac, V2s CTS-Vs are still trading at less than their original buy-in by about 13 percent. CTS-Vs were also available in coupe (9567 built, 1239 with manual) and station wagon (1767 built, 514 with manual) forms. Coupes are worth a few grand more than the sedan, while manual wagons in #1 condition have climbed to $83,400—dangerously close to the new Blackwing’s starting price.
As for the Chevy SS, it mostly went under the radar when it was new, but it has become a relatively in-demand enthusiast’s ride since. Its excellence as a driver’s car earned it comparisons to E39 BMW M5 across the automotive media landscape, and since it bowed out, more people have clued into its brilliance. Between 2014 and 2017, Chevrolet imported 12,924 SS Sedans. After the initial run of 3527 automatic-only 2014s, a sophomore year update brought back the manual and added Magnetic Ride Control as standard. Out of the 3168 SSs built for the ’15 model year, 624 of them were bestowed with the third pedal. 2016 brought another slew of updates, including a revised front fascia, functional hood vents, a new wheel design, dual-mode exhaust.
Total sales fell to 2221 in ’16, but nearly 100 more manuals were sold in its second year of availability. The final year of the SS experiment ended up being its most successful. A total of 4008 were sold, and 1310 people opted to do the shifting themselves. So, would-be Blackwing customers, that means this country has 2647 stick-shift SSs for you to track down. But if you find one, buy it quick! A manual SS rarely lasts a week after it’s listed in today’s market, and clean examples are worth between $40,000 and $50,000 in the Hagerty Price Guide, or just above original sticker prices.
So, if you can’t quite swing a brand new Cadillac CT5-V Blackwing, the next-best thing can be yours for 50 grand or less. Let the early adopters flood Cadillac dealers, while you pray for swift depreciation and in the meantime enjoy your pick of the Blackwing’s three renowned predecessors. This aging breed of V-8 sport sedan is almost extinct from showrooms, but collector-grade examples in the used market should have plenty of life in them for the foreseeable future.