Some cars are valuable and popular with collectors, despite their ample production numbers.
A common cliché in the old car hobby is “rarity doesn’t equal value” and certainly, some vehicles fit that bill. But the reverse can also be true, and in fact, some of these muscle cars may be thought of as valuable, when they may not be rare at all.
First we should determine what rare is—it’s somewhat subjective, as you’ll get a different answer from different people. Some authoritative sources have said that only 2,500 and under was rare. However, does that mean a 1970 Oldsmobile 4-4-2 W30 is not rare, as 3,100 were built? That Olds muscle car may still be somewhat rare, but it’s not a car that requires as much effort to find for interested parties.
Here are several cars prized by collectors whose perceived rarity may be off:
1970 Plymouth Superbird
With the NASCAR aero wars picking up, Dodge introduced the Charger 500 in 1969 with flush front end (courtesy of a 1968 Coronet grille), flush backlight, and chrome A-pillar covers. Ford retaliated with the 1969 Ford Torino Talladega and Mercury Cyclone Spoiler II (sometimes called the “Sports Special”). Dodge countered with the 1969 Charger Daytona, primarily the former Charger 500 with a nose cone and tall spoiler. Plymouth wasn’t in on the act until 1970 when the Road Runner Superbird was introduced. While it may look like the Daytona, there were detail differences in the nose cone design and a slightly different spoiler, among other things. For the 1970 season NASCAR changed homologation rules and required one vehicle for each dealer, which is why at least 1,920 Superbirds were built—compare with 505 Dodge Charger Daytonas.
Since Chevrolet had the most dealerships and sold the most cars, it’s easy to think that there are no rare Chevys. Nonetheless, the LS6 Chevelle is one of those cars that may be the top of people’s dream car lists, but is easy to find. There were four versions of the SS for 1970, with the 450-horsepower LS6 replacing the 375-horse L78 396 mid-year and becoming the engine with the highest advertised horsepower offered during the era. Considering that only 804 people bought a 1970 Pontiac GTO with the top engine, it’s even more amazing that 4,475 SS 454 Chevelles (including El Caminos) were built with the LS6 option.
This paean to psychedelic indulgence had its origins as an affordable competitor to the Plymouth Road Runner, as an option added to the regular GTO. But over its development, the vehicle became a bespoilered Goat with flamboyant stripes and a 366-horsepower Ram Air engine standard. The signature color for “The Judge” option package was Carousel Red (typically a Firebird only color), but after the first month, any regular GTO color became available. By the end of the 1969 model year, the GTO may have lost its perch as the industry’s top-selling muscle car, thanks to competition from the Chevelle SS, and Road Runner, but Pontiac did sell more than 72,000 of them. Today, the Judge may overshadow regular GTOs in desirability for its over-the-top looks and classic muscle car image, but almost 7,000 were built.
This Mustang is a lot of folks’ favorite. The Mach I model dawned with the face-lifted for 1969 Mustang and quickly superseded the GT as the popular sporty Mustang. Per standard Ford practice, the base engine was a small-block V8 with 2 barrel carburetor (in this case, the new 351 Windsor), but a 290-horsepower 351 cubic inch 4 barrel equipped V8, 320-horsepower 390 cubic inch V8, and 428 cubic inch “Cobra Jet” V8 were options. Also available was a new-fangled air induction scoop system called “The Shaker” that attached on the air cleaner and poked through the hood. Over 13,000 Cobra Jet Mustangs were built, with 12,896 being the SportsRoof fastback body style, and a substantial percentage of them were badged Mach I.
The first year of the Z28 option package, there were no external markings except the “Band-Aid” stripes. Only 602 were built—understandable since it was hardly publicized. Thanks to the press, word got out in 1968, and production increasing tenfold. Badges proclaiming “302” were put on the sides of both nostrils until, come mid-year, Chevrolet figured that Z/28 was a name worth branding (including the forward slash). For the first-gen Camaro’s swan song the following year, the Z/28 really took off, selling over 20,000 hardtops, which was within 2,000 units of the 350 cubic inch, 300-horsepower motor option that was standard on the Camaro SS. That is solid popularity, especially for a solid-lifter engine!
If you are restoring a classic car, you might be surprised to find we still have manuals for many of them. If you are a Chevy fan you’ll find Chilton manuals for the Nova/Chevy II, Camaro, and Chevelle/Malibu/Monte Carlo. Over at Pontiac, we have coverage for the Firebird/Trans-Am, and the later era mid-size Grand Am/Grand Prix/LeMans. If you are rebuilding a Mustang, our parent company Haynes has not only the standard manual for the mechanical parts, but also a full guide to restoring a Mustang, bottom to top.Tags: Chevrolet, Chevy, Chevy Camaro, Chevy Chevelle, Chevy Malibu, Ford, history, muscle cars, Plymouth, Plymouth Roadrunner, Plymouth Superbird, Pontiac, Pontiac GTO