My Car Quest

June 20, 2024

Classic Car Market Dynamics Can Be Puzzling

by Mike –

A 1965 Buick Riviera sold at auction in Arizona recently for $121,000. As I said in a recent post this has to be a world record price for this model.

This Riviera was a “Professional Restoration in Original Colors” as described by Gooding, the auction company.

Buick Riviera Gran Sport

1965 Buick Riviera – $121,000 USD

Then today I read about another Buick Riviera that sold in Paris recently, read about it below.

1963 Buick Riviera

This Buick Riviera sold at the RM Sotheby’s auction in Paris on 3 February for €22,400 (25,300 USD).

1965 Buick Riviera

1965 Buick Riviera – $25,300 USD

RM Sotheby’s writes,

340 bhp, 425 cu. in. OHV V-8 engine, two-speed Twin-Turbine Drive automatic transmission, independent front suspension with double wishbones and coil springs, live rear axle with trailing arms, lateral track bar, and coil springs, and four-wheel finned aluminium hydraulic drum brakes. Wheelbase: 2,972 mm

Single-family ownership since new
Original and unrestored
FIVA Passport

Note the “original and unrestored” statement above.

The market had moved to “original and unrestored” being more valuable than perfectly restored examples, at least for the Mercedes 300SL Gullwing this has been the case.

Here we have two closely related cars; one fully restored and one all original, they are even nearly the same color – yet the restored example goes for 4.8 times more! I know one is a ’65 and one is a ’63 and the ’65 is a Gran Sport – yet I don’t think that explains all of the huge price difference.

I can’t explain it – can you?

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Classic Car Market Dynamics Can Be Puzzling
Article Name
Classic Car Market Dynamics Can Be Puzzling
There is a huge price difference between two similar Buick Riviera models.


  1. Two words: Covered headlamps

    Also, there’s the Roadhouse connection.

  2. Hello Mike
    Just a couple of thoughts, though I’m no player so am open to correction.
    One: It would depend entirely on the size of the market which is not only available but also appreciates the said make and model: USA being larger than France and more appreciative of its domestically produced vehicles, especially muscle cars of which it is experiencing a current revival.
    Two: The marketing for the vehicle within that market. I suspect Gooding would have pushed the vehicle out to it’s member’s list or previous buyer’s list of similar vehicles and invited them to attend the auction. That list (specific interest in US muscle cars) would be more substantive in USA than France or even Europe).
    Further, the presence of auction houses such as Barrett-Jackson and Mecum Auctions which specialise in US muscle cars is indicative of the type of customer in the 2 markets of each country. As I indicated, the USA is currently experiencing a revival of vintage muscle car appreciation and this is evidenced by shows such as Kindig Customs, Fast N’ Loud, Garage Squad, and all the other shows on the Discovery Turbo Channel.

  3. The “market” for cars is no longer consistent and predictable primarily because the fundamentals around the value proposition have shifted away from the object itself.

    The market is a mystery and will remain one for continued years. You could literally lop a zero off all 6 and 7 figure cars sold in 2015 and still have the same discussions about the relative value. What makes a $30 mil car different from a $3 mil car? There is no “value” proposition that accounts for $28million.

    Now do the same with a $500k car and make it a $50k car. The value compression stresses the fundamentals. Can a car be restored for $50k? Can the rarity of it account for another being available at a lower price in the near future? Can the usability (show, tour, event) be exclusive enough to warrant the spending against the return on experience?

    The classic and sports car market is supported by “emotional spending”. But it is moving from emotional (including essentially every potential buyer on an equal basis) to “esoteric spending” (excluding many, whereby only a few understand and agree to understand the levels of justification when purchasing).

    The art and antique market has toyed with this for years and seen some adjustments. But for now, while we move through this complex period of valuation, be prepared to see many market variations that will be impossible to understand. The old models and fundamentals associated with investment strategies or personal justification around emotional purchasing will remain in the lower priced market to some extent but rules of purchase are being broken every month.

    My opinion? If you want a Buick Riviera, buy one with fundamentals in mind. There are too many good ones out there and not enough urgent buyers to elevate these into the pricing structure that accounts for this much market variation in price. It’s not a fluke. It’s a signal that the market is entering territory where fairness and logic are no longer in play.

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