If you're like most Pontiac collectors/hobbyists who've been watching the market over the past six years, you likely thought that owning your favorite GTO, Trans Am, or other classic had become impossible. From 2001 to 2006, the collector-car market grew as quickly as the price of gasoline and the skyrocketing prices of houses.
Many insiders blame the collector-car inflation spiral on the out-of-control home refinancing market that allowed homeowners to suck cash out of their home's market value and invest it in other tangible assets. The collector-car market seemed a perfect place to put all that cash, and speculators and nonhobbyists began buying Pontiacs with the sole intention of flipping them for a quick profit.
Soon thereafter, word hit the hobby that a handful of select Pontiacs were fetching six-figures (Ram Air IVs, Judges, '69 Trans Ams, and '73 Trans Am Super-Dutys are some examples), and many who had a Pontiac sitting in their garage thought it, too, was worth more than their mortgage. This furthered the insanity of the escalating market. Day after day, late-'70s Trans Ams hit the marketplace with asking prices in the $40,000s, and Grandma's trusty two-barrel LeMans was advertised as the $20,000 find of the century. Even previously ignored 403- and 301-powered Pontiacs of the '70s and '80s carried asking prices of $15,000 or more along with the promise to be today's hottest appreciating collector cars, just to make sure you thought you were getting your money's worth.
If you've held off buying the Pontiac of your dreams because the thought of spending $100,000 on a car that cost only $5,000 new sickened you, we may have good news for you. The market is in a downturn and appears to have receded to pre-2004 levels. That means popular Pontiac musclecars are available at prices that most collectors would agree are more sensible and affordable.
So which collector Pontiacs do you invest in during this market downturn? We asked four industry insiders-Jim Mattison, Don Keefe, Dana Mecum, and Thomas A. DeMauro-for their market observations and their top picks for you, the High Performance Pontiac readers. If you plan on investing in a collector Pontiac this year, these insights will help you find one that won't break the bank.
Jim Mattison is wholly qualified to comment on the Pontiac collector-car market. His company, PHS Automotive Services, provides copies of buildsheets and invoices of Pontiacs manufactured from 1961 forward. Jim assesses the true rarity of surviving Pontiacs on a daily basis and gives seminars throughout the year on the "State of the Hobby."
The "high-water" mark for the collector-car market was reached in 2006," Jim says. "At that time, a car could be posted on eBay on Monday, sold on Friday, reposted on Monday, and flipped for a profit the next Friday. There were a lot of speculators in the market who have since moved on to other things.
"That said, I firmly believe that old cars, and specifically Pontiacs, are still an excellent investment. Many are starting to find their way back into the marketplace as people reach their retirement years or change their priorities, and there are now excellent opportunities to pick up some great Pontiacs. In the current market, if you do your due diligence, a collector Pontiac is a better investment than stocks or money in the bank. Here are my top picks listed in order by year.
'65 GTO: "All cars, and especially Tri-Powers, equipped with the four-speed transmission. The '65 GTO is a beautiful automobile. It featured minor updates from '64, but most of the styling concerns of the first year were corrected to create a timeless example of Pontiac in its prime. It's the first year of the power bulge hoodscoop, which became the GTO trademark through 1967 and was the first year of plentiful performance options for the GTO including close-ratio four-speeds, 3.90 and 4.33 rearends, and over-the-counter Ram Air late in the year."