The Hagerty Price Guide is updated quarterly, and the methodology takes into account many factors, from auctions to private sales. For a better understanding of how we put it all together, check out this article.
Summer has turned to fall, and those of us in northern states are already thinking of the long winter and reluctantly planning for storage of our collector cars over the winter months. Taking stock of the past three months, it’s safe to say this was an active summer. We observed the second-strongest Monterey auctions of all time, as well as in-person and online auctions turning out a steady stream of sales. But like the crisp fall weather, the market has been cooling and showing signs of change.
And yet, despite that, we observed cars that posted notable gains over the course of the summer. Although the selection looks much different from over a year ago, there is still plenty to analyze. Here are five of the most substantial gainers in the latest edition of our guide.
1955–58 Studebaker President: +70%
Studebaker Presidents posted a 70 percent uptick in value over the past few months. While the brand may not be as popular as many of its contemporaries, it was for a time one of the oldest and most respected car manufacturers in the U.S. By the 1950s, however, Studebaker was losing major market share to the Big Three, finally breathing its last breath in late 1963. For the 1950s, the President was the brand’s top-of-the-line model and offered better amenities than its Commander and Champion stablemates.
The rise of the President has been driven primarily by a surge of cars coming to market recently, all of which sold or were offered above prices we’ve previously tracked. A secondary driver (these are still low-volume cars in the grand scheme) is that these cars kept quiet while other American cars of the 1950s saw a renaissance in the market a few years ago. Studebakers just didn’t get the same surge that Chevys, Cadillacs, Fords and other well-known cars from the era enjoyed, and now President prices are playing catch-up. Studebaker is still a challenging marque to call: sales prices are high, but asking prices are even higher. This is where it is important to remember that asking prices do not equate to sale prices, and the longer a car sits on the market, the more apparent it becomes that the expectation of seller and potential buyer aren’t aligning. Regardless, it’s abundantly clear that if you thought Studebakers would be lost to time and ignored, the market begs to differ.
1982–85 Renault Fuego: +57%
There are two groups of people looking at the Fuego. One is thinking, “I vaguely remember this car and I vaguely remember there being a good reason they stopped selling them here.” The other is thinking, “Wait, they sold a Renault here?” That’s right, folks, Renault sold cars in America for a hot second, but their Frenchness never really caught on. To be fair, Peugeot tried and failed, too. Sold through AMC dealers, Fuegos were small, fuel-efficient economy cars that actually looked pretty good. If you squint at one, it looks like some inspiration came from some of Citroën‘s better designs. But economy and looks couldn’t save the car from dismal sales, with just under 100,000 units sold in three years.
OK, so these are not particularly well remembered or common. But today they are cheap. You can still buy a nice one for under $15,000, and that’s a “really gotta have it” price. But unbelievably, it wasn’t so long ago that you’d be nuts to pay more than a couple grand for one. A big percentage gain on a cheap car still equates to an affordable purchase. However, Fuegos had no real market value change in years, so there is a clear response to the moving market happening here. Post-pandemic increases have effectively filtered into every level of the market—even cheap, forgotten French cars.
1970–72 Pontiac Firebird Formula: +36%
Second-generation Trans Ams are now bonafide automotive stars of the 1970s, from the early white-and-blue cars to the later “screaming chickens” of the Smokey and the Bandit era. But imagine, if you will, being a buyer in the early ’70s: you want all the punch of a Trans Am, but you’d rather not be goaded into drag racing by every kid at a stoplight because they know what you have. Well, Pontiac had just the right sleeper for you. The Formula 400 and 455 offered a more adult aesthetic with all the power of the T/A.
Though the general public took a long time to catch on, Pontiac aficionados have always known that the high-horsepower Formulas are much rarer than their flashier siblings, but still less expensive than the T/A. That changed this summer when a well-equipped 1971 Formula 455 HO sold on Bring A Trailer for huge money, even exceeding the values of a comparable T/A. Before we celebrate too hastily, it is important to remember that another Formula 455 HO sold on the same site in April for a much more modest price. This is a good reminder that single sales should call our attention to a potential market evolution, but they don’t dictate our view of the market—and it may not be the Formula’s time to pass the Trans Am in value. That said, we’ll be watching these cars, as the ones equipped with the same engine have rapidly closed the gap.
1986–93 Buick Riviera: +30%
Here’s another one we rarely discuss, the 1986–93 Buick Riviera. The Riv has always been Buick’s top-tier personal luxury model. Unfortunately, while the Riviera started out as a sporty model with a long list of luxury appointments, the 1980s saw a bigger focus on luxury, and less on sporty. The fire-breathing V-8s from the early days were gone, replaced by a transverse-mounted 3.8-liter V-6 engine. Sure, they offered a T-Type version, but before you get excited, this one didn’t have a turbocharger like the Regal-based T-Types. These were the darkest of the dark times with respect to the cars GM was willing to force onto the public.
Were these really that boring? Car enthusiasts would be quick to respond, “Hell yes, they were.” But let’s take a step back for a minute. Anyone who has ridden in an ’80s Buick, Oldsmobile, or Cadillac will confirm that the seats are some of the most comfortable ever put into a car, and the digital dash and climate display in the Riviera is cool even by today’s standards… as long as it’s working. This might be a reach for some, but not all that was previously uncool is still completely uncool, especially at the price point of these cars. The nicest one on the planet is still a sub-$20,000 car, and even with a 90 percent increase to our condition #3 (Good) values on these, $10,000 will get you a clean example you’d like to own. Whether you agree or not that these Buicks deserve a seat at the table with the other collector cars, it’s clear they’re no longer cheap used cars.
1968–72 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser: +30%
There’s no denying the surge in popularity that station wagons have seen over the past few years. Once as mundane as a minivan, the classic wagon has evolved to hold a sort of cult appeal. Not quite to the hipster levels of the Volvo 240, or to the sport wagon fury furthered by models like the CTS-V and Audi Avants, but there’s been a collective shift for many that these are cooler than people remembered.
Oldsmobile’s contribution to the wagon scene in the form of the Cutlass-based Vista Cruiser is an especially unique entry. Where the Vista Cruiser especially stands out is with the unique Vista Roof offering better views and improved lighting to passengers via additional windows in the roofline. Think of it as Oldsmobile’s take on a 21-window Volkswagen Microbus.
Clean wagons are especially hard to come by, as attrition from daily use and lack of initial collectibility saw many discarded rather than saved when they came to the end of their service life. Over the past few years, however, we’ve noticed wagon prices steadily climb to the point where, in plenty of cases, their values sit close to or above those of their comparable two-door siblings. In the case of the Vista Cruiser, the reason behind the spike in value likely has a lot more to do with it catching up with the market versus being a true breakout. It’s very likely we will see a leveling out of values from this point rather than their continued rise.