Sale of the Week

When a sale makes you go "hmmm..."

by Eddy Eckart
6 May 2022 2 min read
Photo by Bring a Trailer /tscanlon

The 1990 C+C Music Factory hit “Things that Make You Go Hmmmm….” was all but lost in back of my mind with my other memories of fifth grade till the sale of this 1984 Mk I Volkswagen Rabbit GTI wafted the song’s chorus back into my head.

I’m not looking to bash early GTIs. Although they’re not really my cup of tea, they have long had a cult following. They’re a hoot to drive, mechanically simple, and their design has a clean character that’s absent from most modern cars. And, with only 71,804 miles, this particular example has plenty of driving joy left to give its new owner.

What’s eyebrow raising about this sale is the vehicle’s overall condition relative to its $18,637.50 sale price. Paint is peeling from the front bumper, little dents and scratches were shown on several panels, and some overzealous jack work folded over the rockers. The seller noted that it needs a CV boot. Also, the radio, ash tray, sun visors, and shift boot are not installed, although spares are included for the interior pieces. It’s sat for the better part of eight years and the most recent records date from 2014. From a sale preparation standpoint, the car presents as if it were on a buy here, pay here used car lot rather than Bring a Trailer, which has become best known in recent years for spectacular examples.

Photo by Bring a Trailer / tscanlon

Before you Bring a Pitchfork, I recognize that easy fixes and cosmetic issues won’t harm this car’s usability, and that the new owner was happy to pay for the ability to enjoy a personality-filled car. What this sale hints at, though, is yet another evolution in the car market.

In the pandemic era, we’re used to seeing good-condition Mk I GTI’s with 60,000-120,000 miles change hands for $15,000-$20,000. Last July (well into the pandemic’s value bump) a clean 1984 GTI changed hands for $17,745. What sets these two cars apart is condition and preparation. July’s example wasn’t without its own cosmetic foibles, but the car was complete (the seller committed to reinstalling the AC compressor prior to handing the car over), had a thorough recent service and detailing, and was clearly ready for its date with a new owner.

Photo by Bring a Trailer / tscanlon

Throughout 2021, we observed that well-sorted, clean examples of any type of collector car would hit or exceed their marks while cars that needed attention weren’t yet securing a similar bump in value. Ten months ago, it took a great driver-quality Mk I GTI to hit this number. That this silver GTI commanded a similar price suggests tolerances might be changing.

It’s unclear how much will be too much—we don’t know the threshold when a particular model’s following will decide that they’re not willing to pay a significant price for a car that needs a lot of necessary extra work. This example likely won’t break the new owner’s bank in order to get it ready to blast down some back roads. But in this already heated market, when we start to see price creep on entry-level collectibles that need an ever-growing list of parts and effort, we furrow our brows a little and say, “hmmmm….”


  • Russ says:

    I recently bid on a car at BAT – it’s a late 80’s Germanic model that I have owned in the past. Sold one in 2011 for 4k. Almost bought a prime example in 2019 for $12k. Anyway I follow these car and was recently outbid on one. Not unusual these days but the winner paid $33k (I disappeared at $23k). Later I checked to see what other bids the winner had made in the past and saw he had bought a very similar car prior to this auction for $47k. This was a car for my wife and would best be described as a “hair dresser car”. Not concours, not track capable, not owned by Paul Newman. Hmmmm

  • Johnny3 says:

    What if…. And it’s a big if…. The buyer had the VIN of his first car written down somewhere and, from time to time he/she searches for it in the internet. Lo and behold, it popped up on bring a trailer!! You can try to guess what went on here, but you never know why someone pays what they pay for something. Perhaps it’s a personal connection, perhaps it’s an overheated market, perhaps it’s stupidity.

    While I agree that certain corners of the car market are too hot to last, you can’t make a market call on a single low-dollar auction, sorry.

  • Mark Gillett says:

    At the Sotheby’s auction in the late 1980s, I was with a group of dealers and brokers. A 57 Corvette brought $250K. We were amazed because at that time any of us could have sold one to a client for $75-80K! I said that someone must have forgotten to get the cocaine out of the rocker panels.

  • Eldo says:

    It seems to be an old, not well-maintained car. Not old enough to be worth anything – not in pristine condition (to be worth more) – not “American” enough to increase the value. Just a crappy little foreign that was probably cool when it was new.

    • Ducky says:

      @Eldo your comment about “not American enough” suggests you are extremely old. My generation doesn’t care for American cars and anything from 1975 and later that’s American is worth less to us than European and Japanese marques.

      Much like your life, your way of thinking is sunsetting.

  • Kenneth Kyle says:

    That’s BaT for you. The crazier it gets, the crazier it gets.

  • Sonny McCutcheon says:

    Today, May 8, a gold ‘67 Camaro 327 2bbl with Powerglide on-the-column sold for $50,000 on BaT. While the car was certainly a very nice example, there was absolutely nothing special about it. These are some crazy times.

  • Steve M says:

    Simply illustrative of the axiom, “too much money and not enough sense!” These cars were junk, are still junk and will always be junk.

  • JohnBags says:

    Step right up, step right up…Ladies and Gentlemen, get your ICE while they last, first come, first serve, get ’em while they’re hot, going fast, and don’t forget to check out the clowns in our side show……

  • Maestro1 says:

    Eddy, it’s a nice car but one really has to go and put one’s hands on it, so to speak. If somebody is looking for a driver this might be it but with regard to price there will be a correction in the market, as far as I’m concerned, so I’m a little cautious on buying anything now simply because we may be on the top of the market. Wonderful for Sellers, not so good for buyers.

  • John says:

    I have been watching BAT auctions for a while now and have come to this conclusion: It should be noted in every BAT listing, that all cars offered on that site are sold “as-is”, “where-is”, “no-returns”, and DO NOT come with a lifetime bumper-to-bumper warranty. That’s the only explanation I can come up with for the ridiculously high bid amounts for most cars sold there; or maybe it’s just plain stupidity.

  • John says:

    Well….so much for freedom of speech; I see my previous comment was not published and deleted without explanation. Now that Hagerty is a public company I guess it has become another politically correct venue, no thanks…count me out.

  • Matthew Laube says:

    I wonder if my 4 door 80 Rabbit slush box with 56k and no rust will go up in value?

    • Lunchbox says:

      Yup all mark 1s are going up. Even rusty ones. Next, Mk2s will be sought after as the next best option

  • MATTMERICA says:

    Prolly some millennial flush with crypto cash, it doesn’t really matter, because the cars on BaT are not truly indicative of the market. Smart car investors are not paying $18k for sh1t veedubs, ands if it was the car some guy or gal lost their virginity in and want it back, the amount doesn’t set the market. It is one and done

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