One’s idea of a classic car might not be the same as the next person’s notion of one. When it comes to ownership of one, that is where I deviate.
Classic cars are indeed an investment worth looking into. Although, some have depreciated to levels that are often concerning. Others are seeing their values soar.
Finding the right one to own is tricky. Searching high and low, you have to trust the seller had taken care of this special vehicle meticulously. There must be records, owner’s books, and other key material that is necessary for the vehicle’s proof of authenticity.
When I talk about classics, my definition is both broad and specific. One’s idea of a classic car might not be the same as the next person’s notion of one. When it comes to ownership of one, that is where I deviate.
We all have a specific vehicle in mind – based on national origin, type and class, era and age, condition, and the space to either do updates or restoration, if necessary.
If this were my pursuit, what would I own? Given an imaginary budget of, say, $200,000, here is what I came up as my favorite ownable classic vehicle. Please note that the budget also includes purchasing, registering, insuring, and any work to be performed to the vehicle after delivery to make it roadworthy. And, enjoyable in my care.
1992-2003 FERRARI 456/456M GTA: To think that a Ferrari is “drivable” must come from a background that has never tasted the finer things in life. Today’s Ferrari models pale from the ones of decades before. The 456 was something I actually loved – never driven, but sat in. It was the first “comfortable” Ferrari I ever experienced. Comfortable? It had a four-speed automatic transmission – the last vehicle with a torque converter gearbox in Ferrari history. The gearbox was mounted at the rear axle, giving this Pininfarina-penned 2+2 grand tourer proper weight distribution. Its front-mounted 5.5-liter V-12 engine spewed 436 horsepower – big power for the 1990s. What attracts me to the 456/M is that you can get a decent one for under $70,000. Some even have around 20,000 or more miles on the clock. These are not desirable Ferrari models, but that’s more of a reason to consider one.
1977-1982 MASERATI KHAMSIN: Speaking of 2+2 grand tourers, the Maserati Khamsin got my attention in junior high. No one knew what they were. Nor was Maserati as desirable a brand back in those days. While on the brink of disaster (also known the Biturbo), the Khamsin wore a sharp Bertone track suit, a 4.9-liter V8, an optional Borg-Warner 3-speed automatic – for which only 55 USA market cars were equipped with – and had a controversial rear end. On European market cars, the taillights were mounted on the rear glass panel. For the USA, the taillights were lowered to the body panel with the requisite 5 MPH bumper mounted below it. Not to overstate the obvious, but these cars are very rare indeed. They also need a lot of care since Citroen felt that the Khamsin needed its high-pressure hydraulic systems installed. And, it’s a pre-Fiat ownership (and paired with Ferrari) Maserati. That speaks volumes already. If you do find one, expect to pay over $100,000 for it. Make sure you find a very good mechanic for it, too.
1973-1976 CADILLAC SEDAN DE VILLE: Having owned a General Motors C-Body car (a 1972 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight) from the 1970s, it would seem probable that I would actually consider something else from this era. Not just to fulfill some of my fellow Lambda Car Club International member’s fantasies, but rather to revisit an era that I lived through and somehow fondly remember. While the Oldsmobile exuded luxury, Cadillac fulfilled its “Standard of The World” slogan with exuberance. In 1973, the 7.7-liter V8 resided underneath its hood and its bumpers stuck out like a wagging tongue at the world. By 1975, the larger 8.2-liter V8 was dropped behind the new rectangular headlamp units. Still, a Sedan de Ville can sit up to six people in grace and elegance. Pricing is actually on the ride, with good examples scaling over $20,000. Parts are plentiful, except for some trim pieces and other details. You will find a mechanic who can work on one readily across the country.
1973-1980 MERCEDES-BENZ W116 S-CLASS: The previous entry still crowed that they were the “Standard of The World,” this was the car that knocked off its luxury car leadership plinth. The S-Class experieced a massive revolution with the W116. The design was a modern interpretation of classic Mercedes-Benz elements. It also came with proper V8 power from its fuel injected M117 engine. The 450 SEL was what American luxury car owners wanted – the power that resided in a tauter chassis than is Detroit rivals. There are plenty of them out there, ranging from $6,000 for a fixer upper to the $25,000-plus range for excellent examples. A Mercedes-Benz dealer could assist in service, but they will also have to utilize their Mercedes-Benz Classic Center in California for further assistance and parts.
1985-1989 CHRYSLER LE BARON GTS AND 1986-95 COUPE: Can K-Car derived Chrysler Corporation vehicles become classics? Possibly. There is increased interest in the Malaise Era, and the K-Car is looked at for potential classic value. That is why I believe that one of the leaders in this classic car movement will be these two Chrysler Le Baron models. The GTS is a European-style hatchback that can take 4-5 people and their luggage sportingly, while the coupe will remind you of a reimagined personal luxury coupe. Both cars must have the 2.2-liter turbocharged engine, although the Coupe came with a larger 2.5-liter version towards the end of its run. Right now, the convertibles are ruling the market because of their desirability. Finding a good GTS or Coupe has been a challenge. A lot of examples have been around $2,000 in, at the most, fair condition.
1985-1988 FORD THUNDERBIRD: Again, the Malaise Era yields another possible classic to this list. This could be a Fox platform vehicle that people have probably forgotten about. The first aero-bodied Fords were elegant examples of what they had in mind as a vision of Dearborn’s future. This is a tough one to find, since most V6 and V8 coupes may have been sent to the rust pile. It seems easier to get a Turbo Coupe, as they are the more desirable versions of the Aero Birds. However, to goal is to find a non-Turbo Coupe. The one I found was up for auction and had no price set. Turbo Coupes have been priced well into the $30,000-40,000 range.
1984-1992 LINCOLN CONTINENTAL MARK VII: Similar to the Aero Birds, the aerodynamic styling that Ford was working on was applied to this potential Malaise classic from Lincoln. One have said that the Mark from the mid-1980s gave Lincoln the edge on luxury car sales in this country. Today, trying to find a specific LSC coupe with the High Output V8 engine can be challenge. I did find some as low as $4,500 with prices heading towards $17,000. This would be the perfect Fox platform car if you want something more than a Thunderbird without the Turbo Coupe prices.
All photos by Randy Stern, unless attributed otherwise