This year’s Barrett-Jackson auto auction in Scottsdale yielded many record breaking sales across the board. Among the largest numbers ever paid for a car was some $3.4 million for a rare Oldsmobile concept car from the 1950’s. Chrysler muscle-car products from the 50’s and 60’s took the show with several six-figure sales including a couple 1961 300G convertibles that sold for $190,000 and 205,000. While there are many aspects to report in the larger picture, what was going on with Mustangs in this market for 2005 was quite illuminating if not surprising.
Of the some 40 Mustangs that crossed the auction block at $11,000 to nearly $200,000 it was made increasingly apparent that a changing set of values and priorities are being placed on originality, rarity, and custom restomods. Did he say restomods?
First off, some of the highest priced cars were of course the rarest of the rare, and perfectly restored such as the Royal Maroon ‘69 Boss 429 4-speed car that sold for a whopping $194,400. Other collective BOSS cars sold between $91,000 and $140,000. Then there were a number of original restored Shelbys that sold for six-figure prices including one ‘67 GT-500 that pulled in a precious $162,000. Another notable Shelby was a pristine ‘66 GT-350 in dark green, an award winning show car that fetched $123,120.
Then there were the “Plain Janes” that are your more average cars. These are the coupes, convertibles, and fastbacks that are restored but perhaps not completely original. Several Mustangs that had aftermarket items like engine dress up kits, Grant steering wheels, or new style custom wheels were getting the attention of some well heeled buyers. A plainish C-code ‘66 convertible picked up $18,000 and some change. A ‘69 fastback with a 351 4v and a 4-speed got an eye watering $37,800. This car even had an aftermarket CD player and Flowmaster exhaust. Another ‘66 C-code convertible, well restored picked up a cool $26,460. Of the more surprising sales was a 1970 convertible, well optioned and restored captured a sizzling $39,960. An A-Code ‘65 GT convertible picked up an astonishing $42,000. As the days wore on the big sales continued as a 1970 Mach 1, with less than original add-ons in the engine compartment and some cheap looking custom wheels received $42,660!
As the cars became less original and more modified, things began getting what we call “hinky”. Most everyone in the Mustang hobby has heard the term “Restomod”. The youngest entrants to the Mustang world are avid modders of vintage cars, adding the latest technology, aesthetic design, and modern conveniences while tossing the high dollar smog pumps, rallye-pacs, pony interiors, and wood-rimmed steering wheels into the garbage heap. The cable TV networks have fostered this movement with show after show that create the fuel for the modding culture. You have seen them…..Overhaulin, Pimp My Ride, American Hot-Rod, Etc……….This new realm in the Mustang hobby has also made a few purists edgy as good original cars are being restomodded forever. You cant get those babies back.
But, what you can get for them right now is money, and lots of it! The sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach came as a cavalcade of “recreations“, “restomods“, and customized Mustangs were fetching astronomical prices. Starting with the parade of jaw dropping sales was a couple of rather average, non-original ‘65 fastbacks that had a number of aftermarket add-ons, presented well, sold for $42,000 and $43,000. An absolutely horrible looking ‘71 fastback gussied up in the latest ”Elanor” fad, complete with ‘68 Shelby tail end, a 502 Chevy crate motor, and more engine chassis and chrome modifications to list sold for a euphoric $71,280. A ‘67 Restomod coupe in vintage Trans-Am garb sold for $31,320 while a badly done custom ‘65 convertible with custom wheels got $46,440 across the block. A ‘66 fastback “Shelby Re-creation”, an admitted FAKE Shelby, fetched $58,320 while another fake Shelby GT-500 pulled down $37,800. The top dogs in this freak show were the well done Boyd Coddington ‘65 Fastback featured on the show, American Hotrod that sold for a house mortgaging $156,600 and the Ford Racing Parts show car, a ‘65 custom fastback from last year with the new 5.0 Cammer crate engine sold for $135,000.
What is surprising in all of this, is not that people would like these modified, restomod, and “re-creation” cars. They are in-fact very nice cars. What is surprising is the value people are placing on them. Many of these non-original one-offs of average cars sold for 3-4 times what 100% original, concours restored, rare models sold for. In the past, when you strayed from the original restoration on your project car you were writing checks you’d never get back. In fact, the more you spent on a custom car, the less it was worth. This is not the case in today’s heady market.
This year’s auction will surely fuel another show season of restomodding as builders see profit in the ventures. Why restore a car to a factory crisp orange peel with 4-on-the-floor when a crate motor, rack and pinion steering, billet trim parts, and candy-apple paint will get you twice the return.