E-nergized E-motions and E-xuberance
The phone around here rings pretty regularly with tall tales and car finds. The latest, of course, is “Did you hear what that POS Hemi 'Cuda that turned up in East Podunk last year just sold for?” We all knew, even in the earliest days of the muscle car hobby, that Hemi-powered ‘Cudas and Challengers would be near the pinnacle of the muscle value structure, but I hesitate to believe that anybody had a clue on how pricy they would get. Even cars once thought to be beyond hope are turning over for stupid money right now.
The 1970 debut of Chrysler’s sports car E-body platform was a little late by some opinions. The muscle car era actually peaked very high and hard that model year, and by the end of the 1971 run it was completely over. The big engines that had made muscle cars popular had been castrated by emissions controls and aggressive insurance rates, and culturally there was also some change in the air regarding the very excesses the Sixties had
Some were quickly put into drag racing duty and were butchered in the pursuit of speed. Others met late-night demises at the hands of inexperienced or fearless drivers. In the colder states, there were more than a couple that have been reported to have rusted away in junk yards. Some were parted out, some were cobbled together, and nobody in their right mind would have told you even 10 years ago that, once restored, the remaining examples would be changing hands at a half-million dollars or more.
Is rarity the reason? Well, in the cases of well-publicized convertible examples, that answer would be yes, as there were less than 10 Hemi Challengers released (available in 1970 only) and only 21 Hemi 'Cuda droptops built in those two years. Hardtops, however, are a different story. The 1970 Hemi 'Cuda actually had one of the highest production runs for any Hemi model, with approximately 650 examples being built; compare this to just 30, 1971 GTXs. Even in 1971, where we have been hearing chatter of cars selling at $650,000 and up (and one Sassy Grassy Green sale reportedly at almost the million mark), there were over 100 cars built.
Frankly, in my opinion, the term “irrational exuberance” comes to mind when talking about Hemi E-body prices. The marketplace cannot sustain these prices for an extended amount of time; there just are not enough serious buyers at this level. A friend of mine, Tim Lopata, who promotes the Forge Invitational Musclecar Show once a year every October, once summed up this level of the market by saying the cars are often “whored out.” Regardless of their quality, every collector has this particular car in their garage for six months or so and then sells it for a profit, and the last guy ends up keeping it (getting married to it) since everyone else has already had a turn. A little crude, perhaps, but a telling analogy about some of the numbers.