Photo by Karli Watson.
Somehow, while we weren’t looking, another year passed us by. With 12 more months behind us, it’s time once again to dust off our crystal ball (Lucite, really, because the good stuff is out of our price range) and peer into the future. As cryptologist, mathematician, and computer scientist Alan Turing once observed, “We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.”
First, tradition requires us to take a look back at what we thought 2017 would hold in store:
- We’ve reached peak “barn find.” Though the trend isn’t happening as fast as we’d like, we’re going to say we got this right last year. With every passing auction, there are fewer and fewer cars covered in period-correct filth and bedecked with designer tears in the upholstery. Some of the barn finds we’ve seen over the years even had us asking if the patina was genuine, or a clever enhancement designed to pump up a car’s value. Barn finds aren’t behind us—and perhaps they’ll never be—but at least they’re no longer a requirement at every high-end auction.
- We’ve also reached peak “garage television.” Call this one a swing and a miss, and, sadly, the quality of most scripted “reality rebuild” shows is going nowhere but down. We’re still hearing about requests from production companies looking to cast the next big hit. Which, they believe, will consist of a harried shop owner, dealing with inept employees while trying to meet impossible deadlines for ungrateful customers. Seems like we’ve heard this one before…
- If you’ve ever wanted a transaxle Porsche, now is the time to buy it. We were correct on this one, though some transaxle Porsches appreciated more than others. According to NADA Guides, the 924s we sampled (a 1977 924, a 1982 924, and a 1988 924S) went up in value by an average of $817, while the 928s sampled (a 1978 928, a 1986 928S, and a 1991 928 S4) appreciated by an average of $1,517. The big winner, however, was Porsche’s 944; our sample (a 1983 944, a 1986 944, and a 1991 944 S2) went up in value by an impressive $4,308. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
- Ditto for a first-generation Miata. NADA Guides says we’re wrong on this, with a three-car sample (1990, 1994, and 1996 M) actually depreciating by an average of $292. Real-world experience, at least in the Northeast, shows that nice survivors (say, condition #2 and above) aren’t going down in price, though driver-quality cars may be. Each year sees fewer examples on the road, so sooner or later (in 2018, perhaps) our prediction will ring true. If you want one, buy the nicest example you can find today.
- The success of The Race of Gentlemen will spawn similar vintage events. Score this one in the correct column, at least for two-wheelers, and by way of example our resident motorcycle guru Jim O’Clair cited the Spirit of Sturgis (introduced in 2016) and Sons of Speed (which debuted in 2017). On the four-wheel side, David Conwill reminds us that the RPM Nationals filled a void created when TROG opted not to return to California. In any event, TROG’s explosive popularity—coverage was everywhere in 2017—means that more such gatherings are inevitable.
And now, without further ado, here are our prognostications for 2018:
Electric cars—including classic cars with electrified drivetrains—will become more commonplace.
Jaguar E-type Zero. Photo courtesy Jaguar Land Rover.
While the big news around electric cars has recently been centered on Tesla, the company has a surprising number of things stacked against it. Without addressing the production backlog for the Model 3, Tesla has introduced a new, priced-in-the-stratosphere Roadster with almost unbelievable performance specs, along with an electric semi, aimed at hub-and-spoke operations instead of over-the-road operators. Disappointing consumers with late deliveries is one thing, but disappointing fleet buyers like WalMart, UPS, and PepsiCo may prove to be Tesla’s undoing.
On the classic-car side, look for more companies—and more independent shops—to emulate what Jaguar has done with its E-type Zero. While a classic, sports or muscle car with a battery-powered drivetrain still won’t be to everyone’s liking, we suspect this segment will begin to emerge—and grow slowly—over the coming years, particularly as battery capacity increases and prices drop.
Expect to see more museums close and more collections head to auction.
Overall, attendance at museums—including those dedicated to automobiles and automotive history—is down. To attract visitors (particularly younger visitors), look for increased use of new technologies such as holographic projection and virtual reality, already in place at the Porsche Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, and the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles. As museums struggle financially, look for more collections to be downsized to fund ongoing operations. If you have a favorite museum, 2018 will be a good year to pay it a visit, or better yet, make a cash donation.
Long-ignored cars will gain in appeal among a new generation of collectors.
A Plymouth minivan on display at Hershey in 2010. Photo by Richard Lentinello.
Cars that many of us viewed as nothing more than basic transportation are gaining in popularity among a group of collectors that now have disposable income for such purchases. Look for cars of the 1980s, like GM G-bodies (excluding performance variants, which are already collectible), Ford Thunderbirds, and Chrysler minivans to become quirky favorites. As Jim O’Clair reminds us, station wagons from the 1960s and 1970s are hot, too, and will probably continue an upward trend in pricing.
After five-plus decades of speculation, the mid-engine Corvette will become a reality in 2018, but we’re betting this will be a separate model and not a replacement for the C7.
Why? While GM has built fast Corvettes in the past, it’s never had a halo model like Ford’s GT (either the 2005-’06 version or the 2017-’20 variant) or Chrysler’s Viper. Building an ultra-high performance mid-engine Corvette variant would enable GM to target a market segment dominated by manufacturers like Ferrari (which is expanding production to meet demand), but only if the car’s performance is on par. Since the current C7 Corvette addresses a different segment of the market, and since mid-engine cars have different handling dynamics than what Corvette buyers expect, our hunch is that the two will coexist.
Motorcycles will continue to climb in value at auctions, even as ridership decreases.
1982 Suzuki GS650 Katana. Photo courtesy Bonhams.
Bikes from the 1970s and 1980s are increasingly relevant to a new generation of collectors, who are willing to pay handsomely for well-preserved or carefully restored examples. As roads become more congested, drivers more distracted, and new motorcycles more complex (and expensive), vintage bikes—ridden occasionally but otherwise displayed—will only grow in popularity.