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Wilson's Auto Restoration Blog

More Muscle Might Not Equate to More Value in Collector Cars

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For years American muscle car enthusiasts have been chasing the allure of pretty much one thing, muscle. Performance has pretty much been the name of the game for many red-blooded Americans since the first muscle cars rolled off the production line in the 60s.

What if I told you that buying high performance parts and beefing up the horsepower in your street machine could actually reduce the overall value of your vehicle. Sounds insane right? Well the fact of the matter is that it can.

For many collectors the true value of American muscle lies within its authenticity. Changing the original specs by adding newer engines and other technologies to crank out massive horsepower is not ideal if you are trying to obtain the highest ROI.

Rick Carey recently wrote a great article for the Hagerty Insurance blog that discussed a real world example of this happening. Rick tells a story about a 1969 Camaro RS/SS that sold at the 2009 Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale Arizona for $73,700.

Apparently this Camaro ( VIN 124379N681661) had been recently restored with the 300 hp 350-cid engine, M21 four-speed, 3.73 Positraction, J52 power front disc/rear drum brakes, air-conditioning and power steering. In addition it had the scarce Daytona Yellow paint with black vinyl roof and yellow houndstooth interior color combination. Needless to say this was a top notch frame off restoration. Two years later it came back across the Barrett-Jackson auction block. This time selling for an even more impressive $82,500.

This is where Rick’s story and the Camaro take a big u-turn. The people now in possession of the Camaro decide to replace the 300hp small block motor for a 2014 GM Crate motor… a mighty L-88-style 427-cid big block. According to Rick’s article, the engine upgrade went well into five figures to complete. The Camaro was really beefed up now. It had almost 200 horsepower more than it did from the 300 horsepower 350-cid engine.

The Camaro once again found its way to the Barrett-Jackson event and this time was being auctioned off with the new found horsepower. On the outside it still looked like the Daytona Yellow over yellow houndstooth Camaro earlier described, but this time it had the 480 horsepower GM Crate engine under the hood.

The average muscle car enthusiast might think that this Camaro would bring in a hefty bid despite overall Camaro prices currently being in a lull compared to 2011. The average muscle car guy would be wrong. Purists, collectors and investors immediately recognized the difference in value. Even though the new owners had stuck thousands more into the vehicle, the Camaro went across the auction block and only sold for $47,300. I’m willing to bet they regret not setting a reserve on this car.

I like how Rick puts it, “the big-block crate motor was the only difference, and it cratered the car’s value.”

We want to thank Rick and Hagerty once again for sharing this concrete example online. Its a perfect illustration of how “upgrading” a classic car, muscle car or antique vehicle can sometimes bring down the overall value. In some cases the value can be drastically reduced even with the best of intentions.

Now don’t get us wrong, we understand the appeal of taking the beautiful styling of early day muscle cars and giving them the performance of today. They can be a blast to own, drive and all around enjoy. If you plan on owning it for a lifetime then go for it, turn your muscle car into your ultimate dream machine. If you are in it for the investment however you are almost always better off restoring it back to original.

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