As you cruise car shows in the greater Los Angeles area, you might notice that muscle cars from the 1970s are increasing in popularity. Phil Skinner, editor of Kelley Blue Books “Early Model Values Guide,” agrees. He’s the sort who would rather spend time snooping around at auction yards and surfing Ebay Motors than sipping pina coladas in Malibu.
Knowing his penchant for a good classic-car deal, we asked him to share his knowledge and his photos of this latest upstart classic category. The result is this list of 1970s muscle cars that a) are still financially viable, and b) have the potential of increasing in value.
1977-78 Pontiac Trans Am coupe By Phil Skinner Buy a Trans Am like the one in “Cannonball Run” and you too could end up with Sally Field (or Burt Reynolds) next to you as you tear up the highway. Actually, at the time, this was one of the best and fastest rides out there. Pay close attention to the engine; the 6.6L V8 was a heady performer, and today sharp examples can be found at a reasonable price. Current KBB Early Model Value, in good to excellent condition: $12,200 to $21,900. (Photo by Phil Skinner)
1971-73 Datsun 240Z coupe In the early 1970s, the Ferrari 365 GTB Daytona coupe was the hottest ticket around, and at a glance the Datsun (as Nissan was known back then) fastback coupe had a lot of that same visual effect. While people were starting to warm to the dependability and economy of Japanese imports, the “Z-car” was unleashed and won thousands of loyal fans, thus producing enough sales when new that an ample supply is available today, keeping values within reach of most everyone. Current KBB Early Model Value, in good to excellent condition: $9,950 to $17,900. (Photo by Phil Skinner)
1971-73 De Tomaso Pantera coupe The perfect marriage: sleek Italian sporty body, chassis and suspension, paired with good old American horsepower in the form of the legendary Ford 351 Cleveland V8 engine, and backed up with a ZF five-speed transmission. The Pantera offered all the speed and looks of a Ferrari for about one-third of the price. Current KBB Early Model Value, in good to excellent condition: $38,000 to $63,000. (Photo by Phil Skinner)
1973-76 Chevrolet Nova SS In the waning days of muscle, the Nova SS stood out; its power-to-weight ratio was about the best of the day, and it had a solid package and was easy to maintain. Nowadays there are lots of reproduction and performance parts available, making this a very popular ride. Current KBB Early Model Value, in to good to excellent condition: $9,200 to $16,000. (Photo by Phil Skinner)
1973 Ford Mustang Mach 1 fastback The last of the first generation “pony cars,” the Mach 1 with the Q-code 351 V8 was still a potent machine when new, but it was overlooked for many years as collectors went after the earlier models with even bigger engines. The 1973 edition has a number of unique and attractive accessories; plus, when it’s properly geared, it gets up and scoots with the best of them. Values have increased recently but they’re still affordable. Current KBB Early Model Value, in to good to excellent condition: $21,300 to $41,800. (Photo by Phil Skinner)
1970-71 Plymouth Duster 340 coupe In the world of muscle performance, Plymouth and other Mopar brands were once the marque everyone else looked to, but the days of the gas-guzzling big-blocks were slowing (cmon, gas was hovering at 35 cents a gallon). So the powerful little 340 became the hot ticket for its speed, looks and the wide assortment of upgrades and accessories that made these cars go faster. Current KBB Early Model Value, in to good to excellent condition: $12,200 to $21,900. (Photo by Phil Skinner)
1973 Mercury Cougar XR7 convertible This was the last full-size convertible available from Mercury, and it was considered both luxurious and sporty. Best of all, an owner can still do his or her own maintenance on these cars in many cases. In 1973, there was still a choice of engine size up to a big “429.” Current KBB Early Model Value, in good to excellent condition with base engine: $13,200 to $26,300. (Photo by Phil Skinner)
1975-76 Chevrolet Vega Cosworth ed At first, one might think that a Vega is not a performance vehicle -- not by the furthest stretch of the imagination. When Britain’s Cosworth group approached GM for a limited edition, that all changed. Lots of pep, lots of power, dependable performance and, today, still quite a bargain. Current KBB Early Model Value, in to good to excellent condition: $4,625 to $13,900. (Photo by Phil Skinner)
1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass 442/W30 coupe During the heyday of the real muscle cars, one of the biggest contenders was the Olds 442. In a last attempt to field a performance car, plus promote the “Hurst” products, these cars were all painted white with attractive gold trim and were fitted with a 350 V8 and a four-speed. Well-maintained examples are sure to rise in value except for those in California. Current KBB Early Model Value, in good to excellent condition: $8,300 to $16,500. (Photo by Phil Skinner)
1977-79 Chevrolet Corvette T-top coupe Considered the third generation of the legendary Corvette, when mileage requirements and environmental concerns had taken away the really big block engines you could still get the L-82 option. While a lot tamer than before, America’s first sports car continued to draw customers. Major concerns today are emissions control and plastics remaining in good condition. Values will rise except in California. Current KBB Early Model Value, in good to excellent condition: $11,900 to $18,100. (Photo by Phil Skinner)