Every Mopar freak is watching The Black Ghost, I'm over here looking at a 1978 Volaré.
I'm just getting ready to pull out Hiram's, an old school hot dog stand. A woman hops out of her man's Challenger R/T Scat Pack phone in hand, "tell me about your car, can I video"? I'm reminded of the love/hate relationship the Mopar F-Body has. Everywhere I go in the COVID Twenties the 1978 Dodge Super Coupe gets love. On occasion, mostly by other Mopar guys via keyboard, I'm reminded of the F-Body stink of rusty fenders, firewalls, rocker panels, frame rails, and the stink of Lean Burn.
If you've been paying attention the sticker package faux muscle cars of the malaise era have been increasing in value. In fact the F-Bodies everyone knows, the late 2nd generation Camaro and Firebird, are now out of the affordable window*. The Aspen and Volaré have since 2017 been seeing a real value rising trend. Despite the classic car value guides not indicating so, I'm watching transaction prices even if the guide books aren't. At cars 'n coffee the R/T and Road Runner get the vague head nod of "I remember these". Then there are the special F-Bodies, as special as broke ass Chrysler could afford in 1978, the Super Coupe and the coequally known Petty Kit Car.
The Street Kit Car came in both Aspen and Volaré flavor. These cars were meant to evoke the all business look of the Richard Petty NASCAR and Direct Connection Kit Car track machines. Only 392 Street Kit Cars were built, 247 of them in Plymouth livery. All are equipped with a 360 4 barrel with a 727 automatic transmission, heavy duty suspension and 15x8" wheels. Strangely the Sure Grip rear axle was not standard.
This example at Mecum Indy 2023 appears real clean and straight. The 11,445 on the odometer may be legit. The King has signed in a couple spots. On cars he didn't drive I don't think his signature adds much value but in the boozy atmosphere of Mecum I doubt it hurts. As a top dog F-Body it's value can be indicator of where the market is for the more common Road Runner, R/T or any nice V8 F coupe. As a Super Coupe owner myself I was certainly watching this. The community has been buzzing of late, talking breaking the $30K ceiling. I'm not believer at this time. That is crossing into the much more desirable A and B-Body territory, real muscle. Bidding on this Petty car stopped at $27K, if money was the goal I think the owner should have taken the check.
*I define the Affordable Window as $25K or less for a number 1 or 2 condition car.
Here is one for each tribe.
Mecum at Glendale, AZ runs from March 28th through April 1st. There is no shortage of cool malaise era muscle cars.
1978 Mustang II Cobra
First just a small nitpick to start with. If you have several pics of the car, how about at least one with the hood fully closed? People like to inspect how body parts line up. Oh, another nitpcik, perhaps an outrage! The clowns at Motor Junkie latest error filled click-bait is that the Mustang II is the worst Ford ever. I say the right car at the right time that kept Ford and the Mustang alive! Anyway, every time I see a "performance" Mustang II the more I want one. Massage 300hp out of the small block then let the good times roll! This sharp looking Cobra II is like the one Farrah Fawcett drove on Charlie's Angels. Nothing special equipment wise, the listing is short on details. I see evidence of an intake manifold swap and four-barrel carb. No T-tops, after market wheels and wearing '76-'77 Cobra stripes. I think I'd stopping bidding at $20K.
1978 Ford Mustang II Cobra | W51 | Glendale 2023 (mecum.com)
1979 Trans Am
I normally keep my focus on cars that I believe can be had under $25K. This TA will pull close to $45K, these late 2nd generation F-bodies just aren't bargain cars anymore. I'm a huge fan of the '79-'81 Trans Am despite engine power cliff diving in 1979. This particular car has got it all except T-tops and AC. A quick call to Vintage Air fixes my summer time problem. W72 engine, WS6 performance package and 4 speed manual. I'd call the paint gold, Pontiac calls it Camel with flawless looking matching Camel interior. This is a low mileage survivor, so it isn't perfect but damn nice.
1979 Pontiac Trans Am | F109.1 | Glendale 2023 (mecum.com)
1977 Charger SE Midnight Edition
Buy me a coffee or a nice Malbec and I'll talk your ear off on the Mopar Chardoba mistake. That doesn't mean I don't appreciate these cars. This Charger SE Midnight Edition is something I'd love to have in the garage. Short version, while the Chrysler Cordoba was a HUGE success for 1975. Chrysler the corporation was going broke ass. There just wasn't enough money to give the Charger it's own unique skin for 1975. So the Charger wound up being just a Cordoba clone. Dodge product planners and dealers weren't thrilled. Handsome packages like Daytona and Midnight Edition were created to give the Charger its own flavor. This one is equipped just right for someone wanting to get into the classic Mopar scene without breaking the bank. A nice combination of hustle, handling and cruising. Optional 360 4 barrel, Sure Grip rear axle, tachometer, heavy duty suspension, AC, T-tops, cruise control, all the power stuff. The description mentions original unrestored wheels, not mounted on the car as I see it. It's got some day two wire wheels not the W21 Rallye Road Wheels. Original MSRP was $8.9K, this one seems really clean and solid I expect a $22K winning bid which is probably a few grand higher than a Craig's List purchase.
1977 Dodge Charger SE Midnight Edition | W33 | Glendale 2023 (mecum.com)
As always chime in with your thoughts, let me know if you buy anything at Glendale.
I wanted to fall in love with this car.
I've long been a proponent of the C4 as a performance car bargain. Based on fond memories of my '96 LT4 6M and transaction prices. Well, I recently and unexpectedly acquired a '90 ZR1. Which I attempted to drive from Scottsdale, AZ to Florida. I did not fall in love with the ZR1. I had considered dousing it with kerosene then tossing a lit match to it. Even if everything was in working order one thing can't be changed. For older guys that have packed on a few pounds the C4 is like a pair of denim jeans you no longer fit into. Hard to get on, hard to get off, completely uncomfortable the entire time you're wearing them. For young and fit folks the C4 remains a high-performance car bargain. Just make sure the wipers work, the horn works, the gauges work. Also, don't be put off by warning messages, squeaking and rattling.
I'll elaborate on the road trip another time. I really wish I weren't a fat ass. In the short we were together I always enjoyed lifting the clam shell hood looking at that exotic LT5. I enjoyed turning the engine management key away from NORMAL to FULL while letting out an exaggerated Jeremy Clarkson style "POWER". For now, my ZR1 is in the capable hands of Lanz Oil, lanzoil.com/. This one will probably be for sale sometime in April at the Streetside Classics location in Tampa, FL.
I need to find out if that cover story turbo Trans Am is still alive!
A new year means Kissimmee
Things are off to a good start. Among the good deals on C4 Corvettes there is a stunning Z28 and an out of the box thinking American GT from Ford.
First the 1978 Z28 a malaise muscle car icon. The color is right, it has T-tops and huge on my list a swapped in M21 Muncie 4-speed manual transmission. This beauty still has it's original 350 V8. The only downside is the hammer came down just over the $25K threshold. Still, I call this a win for the new owner.
When I say malaise era American GT what do you think of? A Ford Granada, right? Wait, hear me out. The classic definition of a GT is a mix of performance and comfortable luxury. A fun long road trip car. Granted, I'm stretching the truth here a bit. Yet this is a cool ride with the comfort of a plush Granada and the power of a hot 302 V8 backed by a 4 speed manual. The new owner will have the only one at Cars & Coffee. Did I mention Kermit the Frog green? Hammered for the nice price of $7.7K.
I'll be back to wrap up Kissimmee next week.
I could sit in the driveway to stare at it all day.
That slow week between Christmas and New Year's. I begin to fantasize then tell myself the fantasy could be made real. I've got that itch again for a 1975 Road Runner. I know of one available that won't break the bank but I'll almost certainly suffer 318 remorse. If I go down that rabbit hole to buy a 1975 Road Runner I need a 360 or 400 car. Despite the rumors of a few made consensus is no 440 V8 was available.
The way I'm sitting right now I'd drop serious cash for one with sliding metal sunroof, a 360 or 400 V8 and a tach. Silly I know but I want the tach! Then I'd do what Plymouth should have, install a pistol gripped manual transmission. A five speed with an overdrive. I learned recently the only manual transmission available on the '75 RR was a three on the tree coupled to the 318 bread 'n butter V8.
I love the 1971-1972 two door Plymouth B-body. With no hint of irony, I see the family lineage in the 1975. I find the 1975 Road Runner nearly as attractive and it's a base that takes modding well.
If you know of one in real nice driver condition or better for sale let me know. Good thing my wife doesn't read this page.
Update: Prices in Kissimmee were INSANE. As you'll see below.
I'll write more on the current state of the market in coming days.
No shortage of Malaise Muscle honies for Kissimmee 2022.
C4, Fox bodies, 2nd & 3rd generation GM F-bodies, it's all there. I selected five that I find of a slightly different flavor, a bit more unique and certainly the ones I'd be bidding on. You know, the stuff you're not really seeing at cars & coffee.
1973 Chevrolet Chevelle SS
Now we can debate whether or not this is malaise muscle. From my perspective the era starts in 1975 with the catalytic converter. Between 1972 and 1974 things start down a path of low compression and power. Still, there was good stuff happening from the factory. Like this Chevelle SS with a 454 and 4 speed manual. It's also got the swivel seats, 3.42 Positraction rear. Supposedly 72,000 miles, the original spare tire and good documentation. The car presents real clean and well cared for. I'd hope to get it at $18K, bidding as high as $25K. It would not surprise me to see bidding halt just under $30K.
1975 Oldsmobile Hurst/Olds
I like this for many of the same reasons as the SS above. Like the big block and swivel seats with reversible seat inserts. I think the Chevy is the more attractive Colonnade with clean sporty lines but the Hurst/Olds has T-tops a.k.a. Hurst Hatches. Are those nifty hood air extractors functional? No manual transmission here but you get the Hurst Dual Gate shifter. A/C and tilt wheel provide even more comfort. This car isn't as clean and near perfect like the Chevy. I expect bidding to top out $26K, I'd be out at $22K.
1976 Buick Century Pace Car
I've written about one of these recently. It just really captures the wild look of the malaise era in a way that the later cars from the 80's do not. This pace car replica still has it's original 350 V8, the 2 barrel has been swapped with a four on an Edelbrock intake. Edelbrock heads and performance exhaust with headers are tasteful mods. No A/C but it has T-tops, Vintage Air no doubt has perfect fit kit. This car is driver quality. You can show it proudly, enjoy driving it, just don't pay more than $12K for it. Under the Mecum lights I could see someone paying concours money, don't be that guy.
1979 AMC AMX
It's no secret the malaise era till the mid-eighties was more style than substance. This AMX is high on style, all the spoilers, flares and decals the era is infamous for. Damn that looks hot. It comes with a 304 V8 for one to modify with go-fast parts. This one is presented as an 8,000-mile survivor with original paint that looks great. A/C, PS, PB, power locks but hand crack windows is weird. Great looking sport steering wheel and full gauges. Lower it two inches, give it a four barrel and performance exhaust. Drive it like that for a few years, then treat the engine to a performance rebuild after putting some miles on that AMX. The downside is the AMC unobtanium parts, steal it at $8K, pay no more than $16K unless it's the one and only thing missing in your life.
1987 Oldsmobile 442
This one I'd consider using as a well-treated daily driver. These GM G-bodies of the mid-eighties were a sign that the manufacturers were finally getting the new world of emissions and MPG mixed with fun figured out. On a platform that muscle car fans were familiar with, almost like the good old were back. It's a shame they would be soon replaced with FWD appliances. Aftermarket support for these cars is very good. V8 and T-tops, the perfect base to build a fun cruiser. This one is listed as having 39,000 miles, A/C and a four-speed automatic. I'd bid up to $20K for this.
Let me know if you snag one of these or chime in if you think my valuation is way off. My valuations were WAY OFF.
Missed out on a sweet T-top Magnum that had nearly everything.
What a damn relief. This just isn't really a good time for me to run off 860 miles to bring home a car I have no room for. Many of us have a list we'll move around heaven and earth for. A solid, clean, T-top Magnum GT is one of those on my list. The only fault I could find is the column shifter, cloth seats don't bother me. Now I'm obviously making assumptions with out having physically inspecting the car. The seller provided many good pics, including the data plate, also decent detail in the description. I also did some Fakebook creeping and sleuthing to find more detail. I liked what I saw so much I was ready to offer full ask, no hemming and hawing. I made my self deal, if it was still available this morning I'd hatch a plan to get to Peru Il. I poured my morning coffee pulling up the Fakebook Market Place ad, it was marked SOLD. Strangely there was no pain of regret. Although a T-top Magnum GT this nice for $10K may not become available again until the market collapse. When all the Boomers and Gen-X decide to cash out before or after death.
1979 Dodge Magnum GT, 360 V8, A/C, T-tops, Cruise, PW, 42,000 miles...the tach! I have some questions about the wheels, they're not the 15x7 Super Coupe looking wheels. Again not a problem, I'd get some 17x8 Year One Mopar Rallye Wheels then call it a day. Because this car is ready to show and go. Damn, now I'm feeling a twinge of regret...anybody got a 1975 Road Runner for sale?
No supply chain issues at Mecum Kansas City, get your Christmas shopping done!
There are several no reserve malaise muscle cars up for auction at Mecum Kansas City next month. I've got $20,000 in imaginary cash, here is what I'm bidding on.
1990 Pontiac Firebird Formula
First, I could go on all day about how attractive I find the understated look of this car, simple, clean, mature. The exterior and weather strip around the T-top seems to indicate the 38K miles are legit, the engine compartment looks clean and complete. The cloth seat interior shows more signs of wear, nothing terrible, it seems all there. It's described as being garage kept wearing original paint, a Flowmaster exhaust, and WS6 option package. It appears to have the LO3 305 V8 good for only 170 bhp and 255 lb-ft of torque. The TPI 305 with 225 bhp should have been the standard mill. The optional B2L is the 350 V8 with 235 bhp/340 ft-lb, that is good for 14.4 seconds. In the plus column are the aforementioned T-tops, negative for me is the automatic transmission. This could be solid #2 condition car or a top #3, I'd keeping bidding up $14K.
1990 Pontiac Firebird Formula | T53 | Kansas City 2021 (mecum.com)
1984 Ford Mustang GT350
This should be a budget car, looks like a tired survivor. With a 5.0 and automatic transmission, these cars came well equipped so you have everything you need for a comfortable road trip...top down when the sun is shining. Among the Ford community is the Deluxe Marti Report, all the good info on how your Ford was built, etc. This Mustang comes with documentation. In 1984 the 5.0 was still a sub 200 horsepower mill. Still these Fox body Mustangs have a lot of fun potential and aftermarket support. I'd stop bidding at $9K.
1984 Ford Mustang GT350 Convertible | T91 | Kansas City 2021 (mecum.com)
1979 Chevrolet Camaro RS
Let's just get it out of the way. Yes, 1979 is like rock bottom for the malaise era. So the 305 V8 doesn't back up the Rally Sport's good looks. Again, that's what tools, parts and a good machine are for. Personal point of order, I need T-tops to get real excited for this. That out of the way this is still a well equipped, good looking, solid and clean Camaro. We have no idea on mileage but this looks like a garage kept cream puff. I'd stop bidding at $16K.
1979 Chevrolet Camaro RS | T115 | Kansas City 2021 (mecum.com)
1979 Pontiac Trans Am
No T-tops but it is a four speed manual, the description says Muncie M21. I'm assuming drive-train transplant which is fine if everything is done right. It looks like a solid #3 condition car. I got a thing for 1979-1981 Trans Am, so much so I'd keep bidding till $18K.
1979 Pontiac Trans Am | F69 | Kansas City 2021 (mecum.com)
1981 Pontiac Trans Am
Remember what I said above? T-tops for summer time cruising a big plus. An automatic transmission, insert sad face emoticon. Turbo! Normally with most cars that is something to get excited about. Now I'm not going to rehash the whole crappy turbo 301 thing. Technology has come a long way, the Buick boys learned a lot and even helped with a good Turbo Trans Am a mere eight years later. In short I'd give the 301 a mild performance rebuild and some modern turbo tech and forgo some played out LS swap. This car is a solid #2 with some great equipment, WS6, 4 wheel disk brakes, A/C, tilt wheel. A 55,000 mile survivor. I'd stop bidding at $22K but would hope to get it at a lower price.
1981 Pontiac Turbo Trans Am SE | F93 | Kansas City 2021 (mecum.com)
1979 Chevrolet Corvette
Red, 1979, automatic, L48. I mean what is there really to say? It's a can of Bud Light...alright a Bud Light in a plastic bottle. Oh, 52,000 miles you say? There's that. Still, it's a Corvette which is better than no Corvette. This is perfect for the person that wants to start their Corvette journey on a budget. Take it at $12K but bid no more than $14K because you're entering C4 territory at that point. Unless you place a premium on swoopy curve body work over driving dynamics.
1979 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe | F83 | Kansas City 2021 (mecum.com)
1994 Chevrolet Corvette
Bang for the buck there are very few value buys right now better than a mid-late C4. While the 1979 Corvette was a punchline of a bad joke, the C4 remains a legit real world sportscar today. This appears well cared for with 52,000 miles. A fun car you can drive cross country with confidence. This can nabbed at the $12-16K range.
1994 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe | F90 | Kansas City 2021 (mecum.com)
What's your bidding strategy, which one are you taking home?
Only the Deuce and Fox matter!
The fine folks at Hagerty who insure my 1978 and send me a glossy magazine every other month are running a Mustang valuation article. Around here only two generations matter, for the complete story click the link below.
The most valuable Mustangs from every generation - Hagerty Media
We like the Mustang II and we don't apologize for it. Now if you were asking me to guess I'd say the 1978 King Cobra. Offer me a 1978 King Cobra with T-tops, a four speed manual with 3.40 in the rear axle. Prove it's a #2 condition car, I'll write $20K check. According to Hagerty the most valuable Mustang II is the 76-78 Cobra II, #2 condition averaging $32K. I have to believe that is with the 302 under the bonnet.
"Mustang IIs are appreciating faster on a percentage basis than any other car on this list"
For the malaise era Fox body the most valuable is no surprise, the 1993 SVT Cobra R. This was Fox body going out swinging. The Cobra R was a track day car right off the show-room floor. With only 107 built it's no surprise prices have sky rocketed, #2 condition are averaging $94K.
Do you own one now? Have you ever owned one? Chime in on the comments section below.
Stepping out of my regular lane.
Part of the focus on malaise era muscle cars is their accessibility. We basically cover cars that can be bought for less than $20K, cars you can afford that are driven not trailer queens. So I don't spend a lot of time discussing the 10th Anniversary Trans Am, those are $30K all day long. The much maligned Mustang II is seeing a rise in values and the King Cobra is the most elite Mustang II. The one pictured above sold for $36K and no it doesn't have super-low mileage or a stick. It does have T-tops and A/C. It is a well cared for one owner survivor with 54,000 miles. Based on the few flaws seen in the pics and the Hagerty valuation tool this should have sold for $26K. I don't know the dynamics of the day in Chattanooga but someone really wanted this car. I won't pretend I don't understand it. The car has super cool character and with a little wrenching could be a decent street bruiser.
It looks like it was treated to rust proofing back in the day. It was obviously garaged kept. Still, the price is way too high, an outlier not the norm.
1978 Ford Mustang II King Cobra | F102 | Chattanooga 2021 (mecum.com)
John is a GenX car enthusiast who grew up driving classic muscle cars. He enjoys the new modern muscle cars that can out perform the classics in every way. In the sportscar world his banners are Viper and Corvette. John has a guilty pleasure. The disco era street machine. Those unloved, underpowered cars festooned with scoops, spoilers and stripes.