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Hagerty Employee

These 4 American classics are becoming more attainable

After collectors (and speculators) scramble to purchase the next hot vehicle, they leave a pocket of affordability in the market behind them—a segment in which cars are bought to be driven, and buyers aren’t in it for the money. As prices seem to creep ever upward, car collectors often find themselves reflecting, “I could have bought one of those years ago for half what they sell for now.” Leaving aside the regrets of established collectors, such cars exist as a bright spot for those who’ve saved for that dream nostalgic ride and aren’t buying it as an investment.


Collectibles such as the homegrown ones we’ll discuss here typically haven’t received a body or frame transplant. They wear their original chrome, roll on stock wire wheels, and display the same trunk and hood ornaments as they did 20 or 50 years ago. We dug into our data and found four models, spanning six generations of style, whose prices have dropped in the past two years. The same amount of red, white, and blue cool—for less.


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There is a reason for this. Younger generations for the most part don't want these vehicles and the market is full of examples for sale. The price corrections will continue for years to come as more and more of the older generations move away from the collector vehicle market.

New Driver

Cougar.  I've always had a weakness for the hidden headlights and it's just a good looking  car.  The Hudson Super is a pretty sweet looking ride too though.

Intermediate Driver

By the time the 2nd gen (58-60) T Bird hit the market, it was no longer competing with the Vette. As a four seater, it had moved into the "sport" luxury car field...of which it was a late comer to a select few cars anyway (Chrysler 300 comes to mind). That said, I wish I still had the 60 Bird that I had back in high school in the early 70's. Fully loaded, canary yellow with black rolled/pleated interior, and Fenton 2 piece mags (torque thrust style centers in chrome rims).  Dang I miss that car... and yes, it would be on the top of my want list from the proposed offerings.


Thank you for an article about classic cars. That's why I use Hagerty. I could care less about some stupid 2020 vehicle, especially the trucks and suv's you've been prattling on about. 

New Driver

You want an affordable, neck-turning, fun-to-drive American Classic? Get a Corvair.

Intermediate Driver

I am just finishing a 1966 Corsa convertible -- the same car I bought in 1968 the night before I went to Viet Nam the second time. I wanted to make it concourse, and it's taken five years to do it. It's "affordable" only because it's my last special interest car, but more expensive than the ones on this list.
Pit Crew

Even with the lower prices 3 of the 4 are still in my unobtainable range.


We tend to want the cars of our teen years so as the population ages/passes on so does the interest in all but the truely unique cars. This is evidenced by the increasing interest and value of cars like the Toyota Celica, Datsun 510’s, etc.  


Here's one for American classic car that's attainable and a real head turner...60-62 Valiant / Lancer...get 'em before their all gone...not many around at all now...soon only rusty, junkers will be available...

Intermediate Driver

The Thunderbird any day, all day!

Intermediate Driver

'61 Chevy.


'61, '63 or '64 Impalas (SS a plus), did not like the styling of the '62's.

Intermediate Driver

I already have a 1967 Mercury Cougar (Motor Trend's Car of the Year - 1967) - base model upgraded with 289 4 bbl - C4 automatic.  Sits on a 3" longer wheelbase than 1967 Mustang (most noticeable in back seat floor area), otherwise shares most hard parts, which are easily obtainable.  I always thought of it like a period T-Bird combined with Mustang type of target.  That said - it was a prime competitor in Trans-Am racing that year - almost won the championship - team run by Bud Moore, cars driven by Dan Gurney, Parnelli Jones, David Pearson.  these 1st gen Cougars have great period styling, and are fun to drive, easy to work with many cars of this era, be mindful of rust when shopping for one.

Intermediate Driver

Already have a 1952 Hudson Wasp.  It was my first car and it's older than I am!  Three on the column -- I couldn't even drive it until my Dad taught me.


I'm not even a "Chevy guy" and I love those years' Impalas. 

Intermediate Driver

I was hoping someone would give some love to the Bubble top! I am quite smitten by them. 
Pit Crew

I had a chance to buy a a first year T-Bird a few years back.  The price was very reasonable, but I passed on the car because I simply did not fit behind the wheel or could not put the top up and sit in the car. (I'm 6'2" tall and a overall a big guy).  It was a good looking car but unless you are small enough to fit under the oversized steering wheel (by 1950's standards), not a car for me.  Don't really care for the rest of your "attainable" cars.  Not my cup of tea.  I would rather pay a little more for a car that I really wanted rather than buy one that has dropped by a few percentage point by your standards.  And I am still a fan of the Corvette, from the earliest up the latest C-8 (I have a C-8 convertible on order).  I am still keeping my C-2 big block convertible, C-3 convertible, and C-7 Z-06 convertible.  The older Corvette get a lot of attention at car show, but it hard to beat the performance/ride/fit and finish of the newest generation Vettes.  And BTW, I have no problem sitting in one of my Corvettes.  That should be the first thing you check out if you are in the market for an older car.

Advanced Driver

Honestly, I'm 5'7' 145 and it was a tight squeeze into a vintage thunderbird


One car that is totally under the radar is the 1966 Pontiac Tempest Overhead Cam Sprint 6. From the factory with 4 barrel Rochester carb, 10.5 to 1 compression, high lift cam etc. This was a screaming package. Get one while you can, they are hard to find but still reasonable in cost. I have considered letting mine go to the next caretaker.

Intermediate Driver











When they flood the market with electrics and there is a shortage of fossil fuel where will all these Beauties from the past end up?  

Intermediate Driver

If gasoline becomes unobtainable today, I would convert my '69 Mustang into an electric.
Intermediate Driver

How about the hugely overlooked AMC lineup. The Hurst SC/Rambler, Rebel Machine, Matador, Marlin, 1st gen 2 seat AMX, 4 seat Javelin, 2nd gen Javelin with it's curvaceous body lines, cockpit inspired interior, sst or amx packages, or the spritely little Gremlin X available with a v8 giant killer. I am partial to the 72 Javelin sst as I am the proud owner of one. I would love to see Hagerty do an article or two on these great machines.

Intermediate Driver

Glad to see the Cougar here.  The base 1968 four speed with 302 engine can be bought in good condition for around 10K.  While this may not be on the collectors’ list, it still has some decent power AND those awesome vacuum controlled headlights hidden behind its aggressive looking split grill.  

Intermediate Driver

Cougar Eliminator  all the way!!!  




Intermediate Driver

I bought a wrecked '56 T-Bird for $600 in 1967, when I was 15.  Dad and I got it repaired and beautiful for another $600.  I drove it through HS and University, selling it after 183,000 fabulous miles and 7 years.  I quadrupled my initial investment, selling it for $2,300.  I thought I had hit a home run.  Dad just said, "You'll be sorry."  Needless to say . . . 


I was born in 1942 and have been around all of these cars.  I wouldn't buy any of these to drive and put into my garage even if I only paid $2k.  Just not interested in them.  Also I wouldn't want any of them to flip.


1959 and 1960 Ford Thunderbirds were some of the most beautiful, sturdy, well made and trouble free cars ever made by any manufacturer.  The FE block motor was smooth and whisper quiet. I own 5 of these cars in convertible and I also have every year of Thunderbird from 1955 to 1966 in convertible.  59 and 60 are my favorite because of their reliability. They also ride beautifully and handle turns very well compared to autos made in the same time period. These Thunderbirds were like little tanks because of their weight.

Intermediate Driver

I found my dream car 6 yeas ago, spent 3 restoring it. 1956 Meteor Niagara two door hardtop, only 700 produced. Also had a 75 C3 Vette. then Covid hit, nowhere to go and enjoy them . Now at 64, I just don't enjoy turning wrenches like I used to. Sold them both and bought an 89 Vette convert that we can just turn the key and go. Happy motoring. 

Advanced Driver

67 here.  I have the same appreciation of 'turn-key' ready.
Intermediate Driver



Please send me one of those highly attainable '61 Chevy Bubble-Tops.  Prefer a 4-Speed, 409 with Posi, Red in Red...


Thank you!

Advanced Driver

I first saw a pair of new Cougar Eliminators on a dealer lot when I was kid in the '60s, and I've always been a fan.  The other Cougar's are ho-hum for me, probably because my first car was a '68 Mustang.

Intermediate Driver

Well, we had a ‘69 Cougar XR7 and loved it in the Seventies. Just bought a very striking turquoise original 1966 Thunderbird 390 V8 Town Coupe with lots of chrome and those sequential turn sigs. And we’ll under $20k


"I can remember when" 55 - 57 T-Birds were selling for at least twice as much as the figures you're quoting. All has to do with the age of the people they appeal to I suppose. At age 72 I see the early T-Birds as more of a Bobby-Soxer generation car than "my" generation. 

Pit Crew

Me, I would pick the Cougar first. 68 XR7, blue, black interior. Had one as a kid and loved the looks. 

2nd choice would be the Hudson. Love the looks and any of the Hudson 6 cylinders are a nice motor. 

Cliff Ramsdell 

Intermediate Driver

I would not have the Heart to convert my original 67 Mustang to an electric.

Ford has disappointed the Mustang Cult by building an Electric SUV and putting the name MUSTANG on it.

I have bought my last Ford vehicle.


The problem for me is that the only versions of these cars I would want are the rare, hi-perf versions and they still command big money.


I've been noticing 50s cars plunging for several years unless they are special for some reason.  And the biggest plunger seems to me to be the 1955-57 Thunderbirds. 


And no I don't think Thunderbird is a cooler name than Corvette.

Intermediate Driver

My dad being influenced by his older brother with his high end Hudsons, bought a Hudson Pacemaker 6, 3 on the tree, with overdrive in 1951. The car was well cared for, and was at length passed on to me, where it stayed for several years. Started having problems with the shift lever connection to the rod going down the side of the steering wheel not staying together. Finally, after several trys over many months to solve the problem, the car was sidelined and later sold.  Sure was a good car otherwise though - not super fast getting to speed, but held its own, and delivered 20mpg. Still think about what it would be like to still have it, especially with the availability of parts nowadays.

Advanced Driver

I'm not really a Chevy guy, but that Impala (is that a '61?) has some very nice lines.  The hardtop really cleans it up also.  The Hudson is pretty cool, too (but maybe I think so 'cuz I like the Disney movie "Cars"; and who doesn't like Paul Newman in that role?).  The Cougar? Meh. And the T-bird? Not in THAT color! Yuk.

Pit Crew

I purchased a '36 Buick Series 40 in excellent condition with the original Straight 8- the engine's claim to fame is "first year with the valve in the head". It's so cool- suicide rear doors with vent windows, rear curtains, and even brass flower vases on either side of the rear seat- which is as big as my living room couch. Philco radio and brass along the driver door to rest your arm on so you don't rub the paint. These pre-war beauties can be picked up for extremely low prices (especially 4-door models when rear suicide doors were the norm). Costs hover around 15-20K for a nice driver. I've even seen pre-war Lincolns with the 12-cylinder for 25K. This car gets more attention than my chopped and channeled '54 Nailhead-powered '28 Ford Tudor, '64 Corvette, 50s inspired '58 Edsel 2-Door, and '65 Cobra Kit Car.


That's whats so great about this hobby / life choice, classic cars, there is a car / cars for everyone's taste. Gotta love it! And, a lot of us get that something extra, we get to work on and repair / improve our babies! I will add this, one lifetime is not enough.


Of the four, I'd easily pick the Cougar. It looks great, is a timeless model and can be had for a song. For me, I'd much rather have a small block GM model than a Ford. Much more fun to be had with the small block cars.


I have 4 Cougars (insured with Hagerty), including a 1968 GT-E and a 1970 Eliminator. 


The biggest issue with Cougars is that body parts (sheetmetal, trim pieces, interior pieces) are all unique and mostly not shared with Mustang.  While there are some new body panels coming out (finally) it is much harder/expensive to restore a Cougar compared to a Mustang.  That is the biggest issue in values.  Unless the car is already in #2 condition, getting it there is hugely expensive and that pushes down the values of the #3 and #4 cars.  For example, in 2018 I sold my 1968 XR7 X-code (390-2v engine) for about $35,500.  It was an excellent car in fantastic condition. I had purchased it about 5 years earlier (from the family of the original owner) for $12,000.  At that, I just about broke even with what it took to get that car from #3 to #2 condition (and we are not talking about paint, upholstery or anything like that).  Just fixing things that needed fixing, upgrading some interior pieces (steering wheel being very expensive to restore), etc....  In other words, the value gulf between the #2 (finished car) and the lower categories tends to be huge.

New Driver

The ‘61 Chevy bubble top is my favorite chevy

New Driver

"pocket of affordability"--affordable to who? Not your average person. Even if I had money burning a hole in my pocket, I wouldn't spend that kind of money on a classic car that's going down in value.   


I tend toward the '50s/60s Italian & Brit or 'the  Classics' (of usa) late '30s sometime up to very early '50s. Love the cloth insulated wires, early generators/mags, mechanical breaks'n wire wheels...some of the sm trucks really get it for me too if having implements, PTOs, winches, etc (power wagon's mid frame swivel, have a post hole auger on my '66 bronk). To me the above are way too 'late model' to have the name 'classic' applied to them.

Pit Crew

beautiful cars. love the cougar, hudson hornet and the impala. And thunderbird.

Intermediate Driver

People who like these Chevy bubble tops have never been in the back seat of one of these on a hot summer day, especially anywhere in the south, even with air cond.  The sun bakes you medium well on a hot day.  My buddy had one for 2 years & no one would sit in the rear seat on a sunny day under that extended bubble glass. He got rid of it in 2 years! 


Community Manager

That's a really good point. I wonder how well they would fare today with a couple layers of clear (ceramic?) window tint


Barrett Jackson is one thing that is a barometer if you will of the market 200 thousand dollars for a 70 Chevelle give me a break not that I wouldn't luv to have one but that's a lottery win away,iam old so yea the cars of the sixty's/seventy's are totally on my radar screen if I were 20,s/30,s don't think I would be looking there if I were it would have to be a resto mod with all the electronics/handling/braking/drivetrain

of near a modern day car,a paradigm shift in the collector car market is underway I doubt I will be around to see its next gen conclusion.Cheers all R.