The Year in Review

What we got wrong (and right) about 2021

by John Wiley
23 December 2021 2 min read
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We predicted a front-engine car from the 1990s (that is to say, not an exotic) would sell for more than $500k in 2021. This Porsche 968 Turbo S from Gooding & Company proved us right, bringing $792,000. Photo by Photo by Brian Henniker, courtesy Gooding & Company

Last February, I made several predictions about what would happen in the enthusiast vehicle market in 2021. This was, if I do say so myself, rather daring; we had just come off what was—for most of us—the most disruptive year of our lives.

Since we here at Insider are all about data—what we know about classic cars and not just what we think—it’s only right to put those predictions under the harsh light of reality. Also, if you still trust my gaze into this upcoming year’s crystal ball, check out my predictions for 2022.

1. Online auction platforms will overtake live auction sales.  

I’ll give myself a half point. Online auctions sold more vehicles than live auctions, but total sales in dollars lagged slightly. If online auctions continue to double each year, expect this to change in 2022.

2. A production car from the 1990s* will sell for more than half a million bucks. 

One point. In March, a 1993 Porsche 968 Turbo S sold for $792,000

3. Restomods will sell for more than originals. 

Courtesy Barrett-Jackson

One point. Exhibit A is this 1959 Chevrolet Corvette resto-mod that sold for $825,000 in March. Compare this to the highest Hagerty Price Guide concours condition (#1) value for a 1959 Chevrolet Corvette at the time sitting at just less than $243,000 for a 290 hp fuelie with all of the desirable options. 

It's not just a one-off. First-generation Camaros, 1955–1973 Corvettes, and first-generation Broncos tend to sell for more at auction than stock examples. The same is true for 1964–1989 Porsche 911s, but the difference is much smaller.

4. Ferrari will reclaim its position at the top of the auction price table. 

Close, but no cigar. This Ferrari 250 GT California LWB Spider was the second most valuable car at auction this year, trailing a McLaren F1. (Photo by Evan Klein)

Alas, no points. Statistically speaking, this was a pretty good bet—on average, a Ferrari has been the most expensive car to sell at auction every other year. Unfortunately for me, a mighty McLaren F1 sits at the top of the list of most expensive cars to sell at auction this year. Note to self—averages can hide a wide distribution, and this one is backwards-facing. 

5. Bonus prediction: The year’s most expensive sale will happen at an art auction. 

Also, not true. No points.

6. October will supplant August as the busiest month on the car collector’s calendar. 

Fortunately, also not true. Monterey Car Week went ahead as planned, and August reclaimed its preeminence on the auction calendar. Auction sales for August surpassed $440 million, compared to just $183 million in October. No points.

Overall score: 2.5/6. That is, statistically speaking, not so great. I take some consolation in the fact that 2021 was, despite continued challenges amidst the pandemic, a very fun year to be collecting cars. We were able to reunite with like-minded friends at car events and saw the hobby continue to grow. Here's hoping—and, yes, predicting—that 2022 will be even better.

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