Other than being absolutely insufferable, the bad boyfriends and middle-management jerks of '80s movies had one thing in common: terrible taste in "hot" cars.
Not every musclebound car with a few decades on its tires is considered a classic. Just because it looks as if it won B-movie drag races in the '70s or sat in a reserved spot in a telecom company's suburban campus parking lot in the '80s doesn't mean there's huge demand for it 30 to 40 years later. An iconic look is only part of the classic-car equation: Demand and scarcity need to be there as well.
With Baby Boomers retiring into their dream rides of the '60s and '70s and Generation X reserving its love for either screen icons (think "Back To The Future" DeLoreans and "Smokey and the Bandit" Trans-Ams) or supercars (the Lamborghini Countach, Ferrari F40 and Porsche 911 come to mind), there are some once-classic cars out there whose reputation has rusted throughout the years. As tastes shifted from American muscle to European excess to Japanese flexibility (like the Nissan Skylines and Toyota Supras of the "Fast and the Furious" films), a whole lot of cars got lost in the shuffle.
Chances are you know these cars all too well. They're the cars your pizza guy peeled away from your house in as you flipped on Family Ties. They're the cars your grandmother bought at a cut rate as the oil crisis forced everyone out of rolling cruise ships and into compacts. They're the cars your toy dolls drove to her shoddy dream house while everyone from "Magnum P.I." to the "Cannonball Run" contestants upgraded to continental dream machines.
They're the stuffy German luxury vehicles that Bimmer-loving brokers straight out of Wall Street scoffed at. Automakers thought they'd be legendary, but they're either forgotten generations of unforgettable vehicles or footnotes to a change in the auto industry's upper echelons.
They're cars that collectors walk right by and that the average carbuyer thinks were crushed long ago. As used car pricing and data site CarGurus.com points out, there are a ton of these cars on the used car market decades after their initial release, but few of them that anyone is paying top dollar for. With help from CarGurus, we've found five vintage cars that have been rendered worthless in their used-car afterlife. There are classics of the era, but then there are these big-name clunkers that serve as a reminder to drive and collect cars because you love them -- not because you assume they'll be worth more someday:
Editors' pick: Originally published July 14.
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Total national listings: 372
Current value: $41,405
It's the GM's (GM) Camaro's 50th anniversary this year, so these models would have been among the first driven in the United States. However, there were nearly 100,000 produced that year with 80 different factory options and 40 different dealer accessories. If you weren't one of the 602 people who purchased the Z/28 version with the 290-horsepower V8 (a 1969 Z/28 now sells for close to $100,000, according to vehicle pricing site Black Book), your version isn't particularly scarce. Granted, the original base MSRP of $2,572 amounts to $19,312, meaning you've more than doubled your money even if you just performed basic maintenance. But considering the Z/28 is worth five times as much -- and that $41,405 is still a fairly low buy-in price for a 50-year old classic -- the original Camaro's value is more in its looks than in its list price.
Total national listings: 164
Current value: $33,227
The Chevelle could go one of two ways: it was either the sensible mid-size with a modest six-cylinder engine or the musclebound SS with a 325-to-435-horsepower road eater of a V8 engine. That sale price represents a mix of all of the above but is also what you'd expect from a car model that was the No. 2 seller in the U.S that year. The base price of $2,759 translates to $16,428 today, which little more than doubles the selling price. The $3,410 price of the SS version would still clear an owner $13,000 today. Again, however, considering that Camaros and Corvettes from this same year regularly fetch close to or well within six figures -- and that nearly 450,000 of these vehicles were made, not including the nearly 200,000 that were branded as the Chevrolet Monte Carlo -- this model year's Chevelle isn't so much a collectible as a modest car that held up.
Total national listings: 544
Current value: $30,438
Sandwiched between the pioneering 1965 model (worth upwards of $68,000, according to Black Book) and the redesigned 1967 version, the '66 Ford (F) Mustang had no real pressing demands placed upon it. The fact that nearly 610,000 were produced also takes away any sense of buyer urgency. The $2,759 it cost to buy the base model of this car in 1966 translates to more than $21,200 today, making your total takeaway little more than $9,000 even if you put decisively average effort into maintaining it. That's no small feat, considering how cars typically depreciate as soon as they drive off the lot, but that $9,000 premium is the classic car equivalent of a golf clap. Drive this gorgeous vehicle to car shows in you retirement, but don't use it as the foundation for your retirement savings.
Total national listings: 136
Current value: $21,373
For an original buyer to break even on selling this car for that price, Mercedes-Benz would have had to sell it for $9,500 in 1986. We can assure you that no car in the SL class was selling for Hyundai Excel prices that year. If you bought the SL560, the top line in the SL class, you paid more than $48,000 for it. That's $107,000 today, which puts you at a roughly $86,000 loss. Even the $43,000 people paid for the 500SL is $96,000 today, which puts owners $75,000 in the hole. Buyers look right past the 5.0-liter V8 engine and see a vehicle that looks bulbous, plasticized and more dated than classic. Not only is this vehicle fairly worthless as a collectible, but at $11,700 less than the price of a 2017 CLA-Class -- the most stripped-down vehicle this automaker offers -- it's fairly worthless as a Mercedes.
Total national listings: 292
Current value: $7,396
Black Book lists the 1967 427 Corvette Stingray convertible at $165,000. This is not that car. There isn't enough space in this blurb to indicate how beloved the curvaceous Corvettes were from 1953 to 1982 -- or how hated the Barbie Dream House versions of the mid-80s to early '90s are to this day. Corvette model years from 1984 through 1981 were listed on CarGurus for less than $13,000 on average, with the '80s models often coming in under $10,000. These were cars that were selling for a minimum of $21,800 at the beginning of their run in 1984, to $37,225 by the end of the infamous C4 generation in 1996. And it wasn't as if these were unpopular cars at the time: People loved the glass hatchback, they were enamored of it as a pace car at the 1986 Indianapolis 500 and they loved that an already powerful 5.7-liter V8 engine just kept evolving. But features like glass hatchbacks, LCD displays, flip-up headlights and molded plastic just didn't age well and, quite frankly, made the Corvette look a little too much like General Motors' more downmarket ponies: The Chevrolet Camaro and Pontiac Trans-Am. Far from timeless, this car just screams '80s and was tellingly passed over for Ferraris in '80s video games like Out Run and Rad Racer.Compared to other generations of this vehicle, the C4 looks like the "cheap Corvette." That resale price just proves it.