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Antiques Off-Road Vehicles

1994 1997 Land Rover Defender 90
Douglas McColloch | Writer
Posted September 1, 2010
Photographers: The Four Wheeler Archives

A Four Wheeler Guide To Collectible 4x4s

Generally speaking, four-wheel drives don't appreciate much in value over time. We like to buy them cheap, build them cheaper, beat the stuffing out of them on the trail or at the worksite, then sell them off quickly or part them out to our friends, and buy another cheapie to start working on again.

But as with any other type of vehicle, there are some specimens out there which, with the proper feeding and care, will increase in value-sometimes greatly-with the passage of time. Most 4x4s of this type haven't been made in many years, and the reason for their increasing popularity may spring from their relative scarcity, their heritage, or simply because they look really cool.

As a rule, the same collectors' rules for cars apply to trucks as well. A vehicle that saw a limited production run, or for a specific use, will often be more valuable than a mass-production model. An unmodified antique in brand-new condition is generally more valuable than one that's been chopped-but not always; different collectors have different priorities. If it has any racing lineage in its background-a Stroppe-built Bronco from the '70s, for instance-its value will escalate appreciably. If somebody famous ever owned it, that should also up the price tag. (Unless the famous person drove a white Bronco in a police chase.) And if Steve McQueen ever drove it in a movie, you can quit your job now and spend your retirement counting the millions you'll make at the auction house.

To keep things simple, we'll limit our survey to vehicles that were manufactured for sale in the U.S., and for civilian use only, so if you're looking for info on Unimogs, Jimnys or right-hand drive stuff, you're out of luck. We're also limiting our survey to vehicles manufactured since World War II, so how much that 1919 Stanley Steamer in your grandpa's garage is worth, hey, that's your job. We're also ruling out one-offs or 4x4 conversions, so Napco Chevys aren't included here, and if you're looking for one of those legendary '88 Africars, check your local lumberyard. The idea here is to cover those vehicles that the average enthusiast might have a halfway decent chance of finding by perusing his local classifieds or scrounging the neighborhood junkyard.

For the sake of clarification, "current value" here assumes a bone-stock, base-model specimen with all intact bodywork that's free of rust and mechanically sound, and "auction value" is the estimated maximum bid for either a low-mileage original or a ground-up resto, both in like-new condition.

To arrive at our estimated "current" values, we relied on several sources to establish our baselines: Average prices for comparable vehicles sold within a 30-day period at eBay Motors; a one-month sampling of Craigslist classified ads in six major metropolitan areas (Los Angeles, Dallas, Phoenix, Denver, Atlanta, Detroit); and suggested resale values supplied by the National Automotive Dealers Association (NADA). For "auction" values, we examined the online databases at Barrett -Jackson, Russo and Steele, and RM Auctions from 2000 to the present day (and yes, they actually sell Jeeps and pickup trucks, too). Obviously, prices may vary widely, depending on the availability of, and demand for, vehicles in the region where you live, so think of this survey as a rough guesstimate. Either way, read on to see if you've got any buried treasure stashed away in your garage.

1969-72 Chevrolet Blazer
MSRP (1967): $2,852
Current value (est.): $8,000
Auction value: $15,000
Essentially a short-wheelbase (104-inch) version of the '67-'72 K10 pickup, the Blazer was GM's first 1/2-ton SUV. Though the Blazer could be ordered from the factory with your choice of three different engines and three transmissions, the 350 V-8/SM 465 package, with its 6.55:1 granny First and Dana 20 transfer case, are highly sought after by parts swappers. (Auto-transmission-equipped models came with the also-quite-stout NP205 and 3.73:1 axle gears.) Axles were six-lug versions of the Dana 44 front and semi-floating Corporate 12-bolt rear throughout its production run. While the '69 Blazer is the rarest of the breed (fewer than 5,000 were built), the most desirable models are likely the '71-'72 versions, which came with standard front disc brakes, a rear posi limited-slip option (for a whopping $65), and the popular "egg crate" grille design; in addition, the '72 engines were reengineered to run on unleaded fuel. If your Blazer still has a functioning factory soft top, it'll definitely add value, as aftermarket replacement tops are nearly impossible to find. (Fiberglass hard tops were a factory option.) Unlike some other classic 4x4s, rodding and modifying one won't necessarily hurt its peak value. Built-to-the-hilt models have fetched in excess at $20,000 at auction.

1949-65 Willys Wagon
MSRP (1949): $1,895
Current value: $5,500
Auction value: $20,000
These things are just flat-out cool. Designed by Brooks Stevens (the mastermind behind the original two-wheel-drive Willys Jeepster) and first offered for sale in 1946 as a two-wheel drive only, this was the first all-steel station wagon ever produced (less costly to produce than a wood-paneled wagon), and arguably the forefather of modern-day SUVs. For the bulk of its production run, it shared most of its components with the CJ-3 series: T-90A transmission (slightly re-geared), Spicer 18 'case, Dana 25 and 44-2 axles and 5.38:1 ring and pinions. The base engine was the 134ci "Go Devil" Four, though the F-head "Hurricane" became available in 1950, and the 6-226 "Hurricane" could be had in 1954. Willys debuted the trademark "Sedan Delivery" (solid side panels, dual rear doors) body style in 1953, and two-tone paint became an option the following year. From 1958 to 1964, Willys offered an upscaled "Maverick" package (in honor of the TV show, which WIllys sponsored) to 4x2 models, which featured your choice of engine, two-tone paint, vinyl upholstery and a one-piece windshield. Six-cylinder Mavericks are extremely rare; only some 1,500 were ever sold. One-piece windshields eventually became standard in 1959, and grille designs changed several times throughout the 1950s. The debut of the Wagoneer in 1963 spelled the end for the wagon two years later, but over 300,000 of them were built during their run. Jeep collectors tend to be purists when compared to collectors of other 4x4 models, so a low-mileage original or a full restoration will likely bring the highest return on investment.

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