Doane Yawger: What will be sought-after car in future?

November 20, 2010 

No sense of history.

Looking back four to five decades, I can easily say I've had no sense of history. I lived for the moment and didn't anticipate how the things of yesteryear that I revered would become so valuable in the years to come.

I learned to drive on a 1950 Studebaker Champion two-door "turret top" coupe. In 1965, the car I had driven during high school was wearing out. The driver door wouldn't open and it was smoking a little bit. It still looked good but it needed work.

My folks felt it was no longer safe and sold the Studie to a junkyard. Someone subsequently bought it, driving all over the place without paying their gas credit card bills.

Next came a cherry pie 1952 Dodge Coronet two-door sedan with about 38,000 miles. I commuted to San Jose State College for four years in the Dodge and even brought it to Merced when the Merced Sun-Star beckoned in summer 1969. By then I had put another 25,000 miles on the odometer. It was still in pretty good condition.

That fall I bought my first brand-new car, a 1970 Nova, from John Roth Chevrolet, and the Dodge went back to my parents. Soon the Dodge was sold to the garage that serviced it and vanished.

Alas, the Nova got traded-in two years later and the rest is, as they say, history.

My dad had a 1962 Chevrolet II station wagon for a couple of years but that, too, didn't last long.

Back then the Studebaker, Dodge and Nova were just modern cars. I'm sure if I had asked my parents, I could have at least kept the Dodge, if not the Studebaker, but the thought never occurred to me. I was living in the then and now, not looking ahead.

That's my point: I had no inkling that these vintage vehicles would become collectable, valuable and rare in the years to come. I love to read about collectors who saved their first cars or trucks and are enjoying them today.

History is a little like erosion. The water keeps running over the rock and eventually it will wear down but this takes time. At some point in time a person "wakes up" and realizes things are changing and the past is slipping from his or her grasp.

The horse is out of the gate, already in the pasture, now and it's too late to reclaim these chances to own a vintage vehicle. They are either gone forever or their replacements command a king's ransom.

Time generally is not kind to old cars and trucks. It's always amazing to read that only a small percentage of a particular year of car survives today. Cars weren't nearly as reliable as they are now. They got wrecked, worn out and crushed to provide the metal for their modern replacements.

So now, decades later, what does history teach us?

Even with a fragile, struggling economy at the mercy of a lingering recession, old cars and trucks still are super-valuable, some more than others. That's not likely to change in the forseeable future.

Prices for some collectible cars have levelled off or dropped a bit lately but this won't last very long. They will rebound and you read about some vintage vehicles still commanding six-figure prices at auctions.

Now we know that the value of old cars and trucks will continue to rise, whether it's a basketcase junkyard jewel, street rod, or restored classic. There is a whole vast network of parts suppliers and builders catering to the old car world and they are still prospering in tenuous times.

The next question is: What modern cars will be highly sought-after 30 or 40 years from now?

We know I'm historically challenged so I'm not sure what our grandkids will be looking for in 2040 or 2050; personally I'm not that enamored with any vehicle built since 1980.

I think it's a safe bet the new "crop" of muscle cars will remain desirable. The "new" Mustangs, Challengers and Camaros should remain hot items for many years to come.

Other possibilities could include Plymouth, Oldsmobile and Mercury makes which are no longer being made. Beyond that, I'm not so sure.

Cars and trucks made in limited numbers tend to command greater respect as the years advance. That could mean a contemporary marketing "failure" with low production numbers might eventually become a hot commodity, much like the 1958 Edsel is today.

None of us has a reliable crystal ball that will help in charting future courses. But we know the 1932 Fords, 1947 Plymouths, 1960 Galaxies and 1970 Barracudas are going nowhere but up, if they are cared for properly and preserved.

Now if I could just find that 1952 Dodge or 1970 Nova from my youth. I wouldn't be rewriting history but maybe adding a footnote to it.

Doane Yawger is a retired Merced Sun-Star reporter and editor who can be reached at dsyawger@sbcglobal.net.

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