12 Working-Class Cars That Became Very Expensive Collectibles

Know that Honda (HMC) Insight on the used car lot with the ugly wheel well covers and dwindling battery life? Don't knock it: it could one day be a classic.

There are cars on lots and on the road right now that could be the big-ticket, auction-worthy status symbols of the not-so-distant future. As Fate of the Furious continues a generation's on-screen obsession with tuner automobiles and transforms cars like the Nissan Skyline, Toyota (TM) Supra and Honda S2000 into icons -- and Generation X develops enough disposable income to make its poster cars like the Lamborghini Countach and Ferrari (RACE) F40 a reality -- we're already starting to see what the second-hand luxury market will look like a few decades from now.

However, unlike a generation of Baby Boomers who dreamed of owning Steve McQueen's green Ford (F) Mustang from Bullitt or Peter Fonda's Charger from Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, a younger generation hasn't exactly struck up a love affair with the automobile. The share of new cars being bought by Americans between 18 and 34 is down 30% in the last five years, according to auto pricing site Edmunds.com, A Pew Research Center study notes that people under 35 bought 12% fewer cars than they did in 2010. The Department of Transportation notes that just 28% of 16-year-olds had driver's licenses in 2010, with just 45% of 17-year-olds claiming the same. That's plummeted from 50% and 66% respectively in 1978. While the number of 16-year-olds with driver's licenses peaked at 1.72 million in 2009, it dropped to 1.08 million by 2014.

That's shrinking the pool of potential collectors, but not before Baby Boomers and Generation X place their bids of their dream machines of yesteryear. While Lamborghinis and Ferraris started out as supercars, the folks at auto pricing site Black Book note that some collectibles have far more humble beginnings.

"What makes a car a collectible over time includes any number of factors that include popularity, pop culture, and production volume," said Eric Lawrence, Director of Specialty Products at Black Book. "Many people think today's uber-expensive vehicles always came with a hefty price tag, but these vehicles show that's clearly not the case."

With help from Black Book, we uncovered 12 fairly working-class cars that became big-ticket collectibles. If these cars can bring in big money, why not a fast-and-furious Mazda RX-7?:

12. 1965 Ford Mustang GT convertible
12. 1965 Ford Mustang GT convertible

Trim: 289/271-horsepower

Original price: $3,156

Current value: $68,500

Percentage increase: 2,100%

This was the one that started it all. Before the genericized '70s versions, before the Vanilla Ice 5.0, before the "retro futurist" Mustang throwbacks, there was the iconic, yet purposefully affordable, pony car that gave drivers a bit of performance without jacking up the price. While that $3,156 isn't exactly peanuts when adjusted for inflation -- $24,564, or about $600 less than the base price of a 2017 Mustang -- it's still a bargain compared to the $68,500 that all-American "pony" car from the New York World's Fair and Goldfinger fetches now.

11. 1957 Ford Thunderbird convertible
11. 1957 Ford Thunderbird convertible

Trim: N/A

Original price: $3,408

Current value: $85,000

Percentage increase: 2,400%

This two-seater was supposed to be Ford's answer to Chevrolet's Corvette, but the '57 model is as close as Ford came to that ideal. Two years after its release and just one year before a complete overhaul, the Thunderbird was gifted a sexy chrome bumper, large grille, tailfins, and larger tail lights. The cars gauges were tightened into a cluster, while a 245-horsepower V8 was installed as the standard engine (though brawnier versions could boost horsepower up to 300. While Ford loved selling 21,380 of them, an overhaul into a sedan a year later meant that there were only 21,380 of these produced. By comparison, there were about that many Nissan Sentras sold in the U.S. in March alone.

10. 1969 Chevrolet Camaro coupe
10. 1969 Chevrolet Camaro coupe

Trim: Z28

Original price: $3,184

Current value: $95,000

Percentage increase: 2,900%

Yet anther pony that strayed from its beginnings, the Camaro from General Motors (GM) drifted through its existence as Chevy's not-quite Corvette at best and as an '80s pizza delivery guy's car of choice or Shia LaBeouf's Transformers bestie at worst. At its inception, however, the Camaro was forced to be basically what it is now: Chevy's Mustang. It came out two years later, was tagged with the working title "Panther" before executives thought better of it and was only pressed into service after Ralph Nader's book Unsafe at Any Speed labeled Chevy's Corvair a death trap. It came as either a coupe or convertible, but the Z28's 4.9-liter V8, racing stripes and rally wheels made it the Mustang hunter that Chevy had always dreamed of. There's a reason Chevy went back to this design for the Transformers-bound fifth-generation Camaro for the 2010 model, and it's because the Camaro never looked as good as this.

9. 1957 Pontiac Bonneville convertible
9. 1957 Pontiac Bonneville convertible

Trim: N/A

Original price: $5,782

Current value: $175,000

Percentage increase: 2,900%

By the time the Pontiac brand sputtered to its death in 2010, the Bonneville had been five-years dead and had died as either your grandparents' retirement car of choice or the car you rented at the airport when there were no more Oldsmobile Auroras available. Long stripped of any personality or flair it once had, the Bonneville was a sad shadow of the curvaceous, chromed-out, full-sized beast it was in its early years. This Bonneville was originally a trim on Pontiac's Star Chief model. The next year, it would evolve into the Indianapolis 500 pace car and would get the 300-horsepower V8 engine and dual exhausts to back it up. Only 630 1957 models were made, which makes this Bonneville one of the rarest Pontiacs ever produced. Given some of the utilitarian yawnmobiles that the brand was cranking out just before the late-2000s economic downturn put it out of its misery, the '57 Bonneville represents a whole lot of wasted potential.

8. 1968 Dodge Charger RT
8. 1968 Dodge Charger RT

Trim: Hemi 426

Original price: $3,937

Current value: $135,000

Percentage increase: 3,300%

If you don't want a "pony" car as small as a Mustang but want to keep it slightly smaller than a Thunderbird, this is what you went with. No, this isn't the Charger from Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry, nor is it the basis for the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard -- both 1969 Chargers -- but it had the hidden headlights and bumble-bee stripes of the later models. However, the R/T (Road and Track) had the 455-horsepower Hemi 426 available. Dubbed the "elephant engine," that beast was only built into a few dozen vehicles at the time and discontinued altogether by the early '70s. For gearheads, that muscle is the mother lode of the auction market.

7. 1967 Chevrolet Corvette convertible
7. 1967 Chevrolet Corvette convertible

Trim: 427/435-horsepower

Original price: $4,677

Current value: $165,000

Percentage increase: 3,400%

This was the last year of the Corvette's original Sting Ray design, and boy did it go out loud and rowdy. The 427 trim, in particular, was loaded with a "Tri-Power" V8 engine, so named for its Holley triple two-barrel carburetor. It was basically a track engine in a production car's body, with everything from the camshaft to the aluminum radiator made specifically for the vehicle. There are still claims that those 435 horsepower are closer to 550, which made 103-octane racing fuel a must (also, good luck finding that today). It was such an unwieldy engine that Chevy forced buyers to add the Positraction traction control system (yes, the one from My Cousin Vinny), a more formidable suspension, power brakes and an upgraded ignition. They'd even pull out the radio and heater in the holes that nobody would ever drive it on the street. Of all the Corvettes sold that year, only 20 were bought in that high-powered package.

6. 1959 Cadillac Eldorado convertible
6. 1959 Cadillac Eldorado convertible

Trim: Biarritz

Original price: $7,400

Current value: $270,000

Percentage increase: 3,500%

Yes, there are folks who love this car because of its pointy tailfins, twin bullet tail lights and bejeweled grille, but that isn't the association most Americans have with this vehicle. Not, the 345 horsepower and standard power brakes, power steering, automatic transmission, backup lamps, two-speed wipers, wheel discs, outside rearview mirror, vanity mirror, oil filter, power windows, six way power seats, heater, fog lamps, remote control deck lid, power vent windows, air suspension and electric door locks kind of become secondary when this convertible's image is seared onto your brain for another reason. This wasn't exactly a rare vehicle, but that distinction gives it a particular place in the American psyche.

5. 1965 Porsche 911
5. 1965 Porsche 911

Trim: N/A

Original price: $6,490

Current value: $250,000

Percentage increase: 3,800%

So... no removable Targa top, really small rear seating, an underpowered 2-liter, flat-six "boxer" engine, five-speed manual transmission and a more powerful version produced two years later. Why do people love this early 911? Well, because this is the year it officially replaces the gorgeous 356 and it was Ferdinand "Butzi" Porsche's attempt at creating an icon. Considering how immediately recognizeable the classic 911 still is to this day, Butzi can consider this a resounding success.

4. 1948 Chrysler New Yorker
4. 1948 Chrysler New Yorker

Trim: Town & Country

Original price: $2,725

Current value: $140,000

Percentage increase: 5,000%

An absolute tank of a vehicle, this postwar gem was a symphony of rubber and chrome. With a 5.8-liter engine driving a melange of curves and brutalist bodywork -- including the body-width "harmonica" grille -- this car ended up being the vehicle through which Chrysler would bring actual tank technology -- including the hemi engine -- into the average vehicle. That starting price is the equivalent of nearly $28,000 today, but this vehicle's four-speed, somewhat-automatic transmission was an incredible innovation inside a gorgeous vehicle.

3. 1971 Pontiac GTO convertible
3. 1971 Pontiac GTO convertible

Trim: Judge

Original price: $4,070

Current value: $225,000

Percentage increase: 5,400%

One of the first models that springs to mind when most people think of "muscle cars," the GTO's more musclebound versions got their "Judge" name from a Sammy Davis Jr. bit on Rowan & Martin's Laugh In and was meant to be a stripped-down version of the vehicle. Well, this final "Judge" iteration packed a 335 horsepower V8 engine and was only available in 357 cars. Just 17 were convertibles. A year after its appearance in Two-Lane Blacktop and a three years before the end of its original run, the GTO was already losing steam, but still had enough fans to make it a sought-after collectible.

2. 1967 Shelby roadster
2. 1967 Shelby roadster

Trim: Cobra

Original price: $7,500

Current value: $1.3 million

Percentage increase: 17,000%

It's a beloved vehicle that's was an absolute financial disaster for Ford and U.K. partner AC Motors. The 1967 Shelby Cobra was the last to be sold in the U.S. and featured the whopping 7-liter, 425-horsepower Ford 427 engine  with a top speed of 164 mph. However, there was also a 485-horspower, 185-mph competition model that never quite made the cut for competition. However, the 31 unsold versions were stripped of their race tuning, fitted with windshields and turned into S/C (semi-competition) models. That's the 1967 version that fetches seven figures, and you kind of had to have your ear to the ground to get one during the first go-round.

1. 1971 Plymouth Barracuda
1. 1971 Plymouth Barracuda

Trim: Hemi 426

Original price: $4,296

Current value: $2.5 million

Percentage increase: 58,000%

The Hemi-cuda is a rare gem indeed. This version of Plymouth's monstrous muscle car needed a reinforced suspension and frame just to be considered street-legal. The 7-liter, 425-horsepower hemi was the only 'Cuda built with four headlights in its already menacing front end, and it's chased to the ends of the earth. Only 13 were built, and only seven were sold in the U.S. When someone parted with one three years ago in Seattle, it cost the buyer $3.5 million. That's a huge return on investment for a car whose tricked out package originally sold for the equivalent of $26,000 in 2017 dollars.

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