Vintage Cars Get Hot with Makeovers
By Richard Chang
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Car buyers, tired of designs that roll off the assembly
line, are shifting gears to decades past.
Some are customizing new vehicles to look old, while others are souping up
vintage models with 21st-century luxury and power.
"Resto-mods," or cars that have been restored and modified, are now
commanding the kind of money that only "pure" vintage cars with all-original
parts did just a few years ago.
"There aren't any more" vintage cars being manufactured, explained Tom
Henderson, spokesman for General Motors Corp., "but there's a lot more money
GM, along with other Detroit automakers, has ramped up production of its
retro parts in the last five to 10 years to meet growing demand
(http://www.gm-restorationparts.com ), he said.
This mirrors the trend in clothing, with consumers moving away from the herd
mentality for common brand names to more exclusive labels or one-of-a-kind
"There are so many choices now," said Barrett-Jackson Auction Co. President
Craig Jackson, who runs the world's largest collector car auction. "You
don't have to go with a stock car."
For sure, collectors still treasure rare vintage models, going to great
lengths and costs to rebuild them with original parts so that they look as
they did in showrooms decades ago.
But for people restoring a more common vintage car, it doesn't make sense to
spend all that money while keeping a V6 engine and other components that are
outdated, Jackson said. Instead, enthusiasts customize, adding so much value
that some resto-mods have commanded six-figure prices.
Detroit automakers have already tapped into the nostalgia boom, with
award-winning Chrysler 300 and PT Cruiser harking back to lines of the 1930s
Among resto-mods, one striking choice is the 1957 Chevrolet Belair "Chezoom"
customized by legendary hot-rod builder Boyd Coddington
(http://www.boydcoddington.com ). The car, which has been featured in
numerous magazines worldwide, is the most highly modified '57 in the world,
with hand-formed body panels and pieces too numerous to list, according to
The iconic car is expected to sell for about $250,000 at Barrett-Jackson's
34th annual auction, scheduled for Jan. 26 through Jan. 30
(http://www.barrett-jackson.com ) in Scottsdale, Arizona.
There are similar expectations for "Crazy Horse," a 1965 Ford Mustang that
Coddington created on the Discovery Channel's popular "American Hot Rod"
A "pure" 1965 Mustang without the custom work would probably sell for
$15,000 to $25,000, Jackson said.
The highest bid at the auction is likely to be about $500,000 -- for a 1936
Chrysler Airflow with a stock body resembling Darth Vader's helmet, but in
gleaming silver, and a contemporary drivetrain, V10 Viper motor,
state-of-the-art sound system and even a 40-inch plasma screen monitor built
into the trunk.
"It's like a five-carat diamond," said Steve Drake, chief financial officer
of Barrett-Jackson. "A half-carat is good enough. Bigger is better, and it
has certain elements of showmanship."
The handcrafted car (http://www.airflow2010.com /), one of four remaining
1936 two-door Airflows in the United States, was built by Tim's Hot Rods and
Extreme Customs in Spokane Valley, Washington, and has won more than 35
So far, the highest price paid for a street rod at auction was $432,000, for
a 1938 Lincoln Zephyr -- also built by Tim's Hot Rods -- at
Barrett-Jackson's auction last January.
High-profile builders enhance the value of a car with their craftsmanship,
but appraising one-of-a-kind custom cars and resto-mods is difficult.
Those that are built well can cost into the six figures, Drake said, but
most custom cars really have no generic value.
"What they're worth at the end of the day is what people want to pay for
them," he said.
Values are easier to assign for cars restored to their original condition.
Collectors of such "factory-correct" cars place a premium on accuracy, down
to the date codes on the windshield, seat belts and lightbulbs.
A prime example that Jackson cites is a very rare 1967 Chevrolet Corvette
427/400 convertible with a V8 engine and four-speed transmission, worth
$100,000 to $150,000.
"It's a virtually perfect original" that has won numerous awards, including
one from the National Corvette Restorers Society, he said.
Demand for collector cars has surged in the last 35 years, except for a dip
from 1989 to 1991 caused by a glut of speculators.
"Now people are hanging on to the cars," Jackson said. "They have a real
Yet another $.02 worth from a proud owner of a 1970 Mach 1 351C @