Cars on Cusp of Collectibility

Auctioneer Dean Kruse, chairman of Kruse International of Auburn, Ind., has sold more used cars than Cal Worthington and certainly knows his collectors and their collectibles.

He also knows that not all collectors are millionaires, the majority start with one inexpensive motorcar, and today's newer breed of younger men and women "in their 40s are relating to cars that were popular when they were teenagers, cars that they now can afford to buy."

Hence Krause's 1999 "Dean's List" of affordable cars, mostly convertibles, that are on the cusp of collectibility.

* 1961 Oldsmobile Starfire convertible with a 330-horsepower Rocket V-8. A limited-production car, most powerful of the species, and currently priced between $10,000 and $25,000, depending on condition.

* 1960 Chevrolet Impala 348 ragtop. With '57 and '59 Chevys selling quickly and expensively, beginning collectors are turning to the '60 model as an affordable alternative. Also priced between $10,000 and $25,000.

* 1963 Pontiac Bonneville convertible, a sleeper at $15,000 and expected to appreciate 15% in the next 12 months.

* 1963 Ford Galaxie 500X 427 V-8. Considered one of the best-built cars of the '60s, and red or black seem to be the collectible colors. Priced now at $15,000 and rising.

* 1969 Dodge Coronet Super Bee. With prices already touching $28,000, the 440-horsepower Super Bee is clearly moving up-market. A high-performance vehicle easily modified by backyard mechanics and street racers. So make sure your Super Bee has its original engine.

* 1969 Mercedes-Benz 280SL convertible. Never lost its traditional quality, prestige and style. More power than the earlier 250SLs and currently undervalued at $12,000 to $20,000.

* 1956 Chrysler 300B two-door hardtop. One of the 300 series cars that left off where Chrysler's 1999 300M picked up. Fun to look at, and only 1,100 were built. Priced these days up to $17,000 with an estimated 18% annual appreciation rate.

* 1959 Mercury Turnpike Cruiser. A power rear window, a Holley four-barrel carburetor for extra oomph, only 1,200 were made, and a price increase to $75,000 in the next few years is not unreasonable. For right now, expect to pay $26,000 to $36,000.

* 1957 DeSoto Adventurer convertible. Tall fins, high power and the pace car of the 1957 Indianapolis 500. Priced today between $12,000 and $24,000 with a 20% annual appreciation rate because only 300 were built.

* 1948 Chrysler Town & Country convertible. A limited-edition luxury car and one of the last of the genuine woodies that used genuine wood. Pricey at $30,000 to $50,000 but expected to get pricier.

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