Jerry Heasley
May 1, 2010

He may be right, but the money is real. The bidders create their own market. The TV audience is national. I have been attending this auction for over 25 years. I always meet newcomers to the hobby. These people are fascinated with the cars most of us have loved for decades.

The red '66 Shelby was stunning. With a roomful of bidders loaded with money, apparently the pricing got competitive. Somebody paid "too much." Funny thing is, Jackson remembers, "Not very long ago, $200,000 was 427 Cobra money." A 427 Cobra today is worth close to a million dollars.

About 30 minutes after the '66 GT350 sold, I watched a '68 GT500KR convertible sell for $142,000 plus commissions. A big-block KR convertible sold for less than a '66 GT350? How can this be?

Perkins pointed out that a '68 GT350 convertible, a Lime Green small-block, sold for $135,000 at Barrett-Jackson. The price almost matched the big-block KR because of the quality difference. Bob said, "That shows that cars with exceptional workmanship, quality, and the right stuff still bring good money."

Big prices on great cars during the recession are still not the norm. Perkins mentioned owners with "top end cars" who were into the stock market and real estate and lost their shirts. They were forced to sell some of their cars. These sales freed up some of the high-end Mustangs that probably would never have seen a for-sale sign. "They aren't cheap, but at least they've become available," Bob said.

One of those rarities that Perkins had the pleasure to purchase was Ohio George Montgomery's Mr. Gasket twin turbocharged Boss 429 AA/GS drag car. Perkins said, "I could never have bought that car if the owner hadn't gotten into financial trouble. He paid Montgomery a million and a quarter for the car and I bought it for a fraction of that price."

The owner of a '67 GT500 recently told me he wanted to sell. He had over $50,000 in his restoration, but he would wait for the market to rebound because he didn't have to sell. He didn't need the money. Many owners of higher-priced Mustangs have told me the same thing. The ones who don't have to sell are holding. The ones who have to sell have to take less.

While the classics in stock condition held their value or even escalated, most restomods did not fare nearly so well. Waydo cites a '65 fastback built by K.A.R. "It was on the cover of the December 2006 Mustang Monthly. That car sold quickly for the asking price of $79,500 a couple years ago. Today, that car would be in my showroom with no takers."

Of course, in stock condition a fastback of this same model year would sell for quite a bit less than $79,500. Apparently, in this economic climate, buyers do not feel comfortable paying a big premium for a restomod. They would rather buy a stock car for less money. George believes when the market comes back, so will restomod prices.

Meanwhile, back at Barrett-Jackson, the Ring Brothers' wild "Reactor" '67 fastback sold for $235,000 plus 10 percent commission. Apparently, there are restomods and then there are restomods of an extreme build and a healthy dose of fame to push the envelope to world record prices at the world's greatest collector car auction.

Another part of the Mustang market picture is sales to foreign markets. Waydo said, "In the last year, no less than half the cars we've sold have gone overseas."

For example, in 2009, K.A.R. sold a small-block, non-GT Mustang fastback for $34,500, which is on the high side in the U.S. It sold within 30 days to a buyer in New Zealand. Waydo had six back-up buyers in Australia for this same '68 before the deal was done.

Another example is a '66 Emberglo A-code fastback that needed a total restoration. The Mustang was rust-free, but had weak paint, tired interior, and dirty engine compartment. It sold within two weeks to an Australian for $22,500. Apparently, the Aussies and New Zealanders favor either number-one quality cars or rust-free project Mustangs. George said, "They'll buy one or the other, but nothing in-between."

The economic downturn lowered the number of domestic buyers who will pay the price for such classics. At the same time, foreign buyers appear anxious to pay the price. One Australian buyer told George they felt an urgency to buy now, during the downturn, to get a good deal.

Fox-body Mustangs entered the hobby as appreciating collector cars sometime in the early 2000s. The '87-'93 models were hot three to four years ago. Prices have really cut back. However, this drop in values and demand happened prior to the recession. The recession didn't help Fox-body values, but the real reason for the sudden retreat of prices and interest points directly to the arrival of the '05 Mustang and the availability of aftermarket performance parts. The retro-styled '05-'10 Mustang has apparently swayed many Fox-body people.

Only time will tell, but if past history is any indication, the Fox-body Mustangs will come back in value for reasons we don't know yet. Likewise, the rest of the market will also return. In that return, we always see realignment. Although the rise in Mustang prices is sometimes bumpy, over the long trip, the road has always been to the upside.