Last weekend, Pleasanton, California played host to the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association’s 27th annual Summer Get-Together.
Overcast skies perfect for shooting, a comfortable 75° outside (that’s ~24° for those of you who use a sensible measurement system), and a plethora of muscle cars just 15 miles (again, ~24km) from where I’m staying? Sign me up.
It was muscle cars and hot rods that originally sparked my interest in internal combustion when I was younger, but my tastes have moved on in a way. This isn’t to say that old school Americana won’t always have a place in my heart, though. I still love a good muscle car, and honestly still would love to own just about any of the cars I saw at the Goodguys show.
And although I didn’t partake, the literal brick of fries or a corndog the size of your forearm didn’t look half bad either.
It’s no secret that many of those who love these sorts of cars are getting older and getting out of the hobby, and I have to say that the crowd was possibly the thinnest I’ve ever seen at a Goodguys show at the Alameda County Fairgrounds. With hundreds of cars on display it wasn’t empty by any means, just not as packed as usual. There were some empty spots on the lawns, and it was easier than ever to avoid folks in the background of my shots. There are also very real and legitimate Covid fears still lingering, especially for the older crowd.
However, at the same time it’s also worth pointing out that on average this was probably the youngest crowd I’ve ever encountered here by a long shot. The next generation of enthusiasts is embracing these cars in their own way, and this faucet of car culture will need to rely on new faces to thrive and survive.
There truly is something very special about these cars, and they deliver a one-of-a-kind experience. Could you imaging wringing out that 427ci V8 on these skinny period-correct tires? How about going on a road trip to Las Vegas and sleeping in that Chevy van as you make your way across America’s highways? Or just simply cruising through downtown on a Friday night in the GTO above?
Because of these exact experiences and many more like them, I have no doubt that these cars will live on forever.
The Bubble Is Forever
As the focus in my own garage has shifted from ’60s American cars to ’90s (Japanese and German) vehicles, it’s interesting to track what both of these markets have been doing as of late. Obviously, everything has been exploding in terms of pricing, while availability of good examples and even parts supply has simultaneously imploded.
Naturally, these two curves are closely related, but some areas of the market seem to be growing a bit more slowly. As millennials finally find themselves with some decent spending power, these Japanese and German cars I’ve grown to love have skyrocketed in value. Meanwhile, not all American cars in America haven’t gone as bonkers in the same way.
There are exceptions, of course. Try getting a resto-modded ’60s or ’70s Bronco and you’ll need to empty your pockets and them some. Collectibles like the Buick GNX are also insane and have only become more so in recent months. C1 or C2 Corvettes, Impalas and other popular models are also holding strong, but good examples of these cars have always been on the pricier end.
Where I’m seeing a lot of opportunity and truly good deals are on some of the less-popular makes and models. Browsing Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace or even BaT, I’ve seen some very compelling prices for old Dodge 500s, Falcons, Dusters and restored or modified quasi-race cars where you know the seller has to accept that they will be super upside-down on the sale.
Some not-quite-so-old American cars from the ’70s and ’80s also might be in a relative valley right now as well, and many hot rods are actively falling in price. As prices for period-correct full restorations go up, modified examples become better deals.
Dollar for dollar, you can get a lot more performance with just as much cool-factor in some of the less popular models. While these cars might be few and far between, the deals are out there to be had. With the current price of labor, you can also score on some half-finished running and driving projects as well if you’re handy or don’t mind unfinished bodywork.
The patina look is cooler than ever, anyway. It’s a near guarantee that you can purchase a car like this wagon and drive its wheels off for a few years before selling for a modest profit. While it’s incredibly frustrating to pay more than ever for worse and worse examples, there’s a latent benefit here as well: ‘free’ car ownership.
If you’re looking to purchase your first daily driver or your first project it can be tough. But, once you’re in you can make some calculated moves to find yourself in a better and better car — either the same one or a different one — as time goes on. More than ever before, these cars are worth keeping on the road, and it makes sense to service and restore them (and drive them) instead of scrapping them.
That’s a win in my book.