I was born in California in the early 1970’s. My dad was a car salesman by day and amateur English sports cars restorer by night. We shared a subscription to Car and Driver as well as Road and Track and I remember reading the articles multiple times each month while waiting for the next issue to arrive. My friends read them too and we discussed 0-60 times and top speeds almost daily. By the time I could legally drive, European car manufacturers were churning out some seriously capable cars with some seriously wild looks. My generation was obsessed with these cars and today, many of us are established enough to buy one. We just might be the guys spending big money on Ferrari Testarossas, Porsche 911 (930) Turbos, and Lamborghini Countaches. It’s hard to call them classic and they definitely aren’t vintage, but you may have noticed that Supercars from the 1970s and 1980s are hotter than ever. I think we’re just getting warmed up.
The Porsche 930 Turbo
The Porsche 930 Turbo was launched in 1975 in Europe and came to the US the following year and remained in production with very few changes until 1989. The Turbo was a standard 911 with flared fenders front and rear to accommodate larger wheels and tires and then decorated with a whale tale spoiler, which was later necessary to feed air into the intercooler. The early cars without the intercooler (1975-1977) are the most desirable, but the final year 1989, also commands a premium as they are the only year fitted with the 5-speed transmission. The Turbo was available in any body style you liked – coupe, targa or cabriolet with standard fenders or a sloped nose. Each and every configuration included the Porsche Turbo’s most defining feature – the wait for it, wait for it, oops, a little too much turbo power that it was famous for – sending so many amateur racers into the guard rail – backwards. A few years ago $30,000 – $40,000 bought you a really nice car. Now, $75,000 gets you a decent driver with a few modifications that are too expensive to reverse. Perfect original cars with low mileage and no modifications begin at $100,000 and continue marching north of $300,000 depending on the particulars. Porsche values today are driven by specification, color and condition. They’re wonderful cars and an absolute joy to drive once you get the hang of that tricky power delivery.
The Ferrari Testarossa
The Ferrari Testarossa, produced from 1984 – 1991, is a mid-engine twelve-cylinder sports car that was launched in 1984 and replaced the never officially legal in USA 512 BBi. The Testarossa could be purchased directly from your local Ferrari dealer, but in true Ferrari fashion, it wasn’t that easy. At first glance the car’s defining feature is the strakes on the side that were referred to in the day as “cheese graters” or “egg slicers.” After giving the car a good look though, the uniqueness of the strakes fades and what becomes the defining look is that mirror flying high on the driver’s side windshield pillar. That look is bizarre and has become the feature that is most desirable to collectors in today’s market. I owned a 1986 model (with a flying mirror) in 2010 and then again in 2011. It was a nice car with no excuses, reasonable mileage, perfect service history, and was complete with books and tools. I sold it the first time for $40,000 and the second time for $47,500. If I owned it today, the price would be $150,000 and I don’t think it would be in inventory very long.
The Lamborghini Countach
Last, but not least is the most important car of my generation, Lamborghini’s insane creation, the Countach. It was designed by Marcello Gandini and debuted at Geneva in 1971. A production version was available in 1974 and continued until 1990. This was the one you wanted when I was a kid. We couldn’t talk enough about the low, wide shape, the optional rear and front wings or the crazy wheels with giant Pirelli tires. The LP400 (1974-1978) is the simplest and most restrained of all the models and is also the most valuable. Every time one crosses the auction block the result exceeds the prior record-breaking headline-making result. Enough cars have now traded in the $1.2 – $2M range that it would be surprising to see one sell for less. The second iteration, the LP400S (1978 – 1982), was the one that found its way onto the bedroom wall of every car crazed kid in America. We already loved the car prior to watching it star in Cannonball Run, but nobody in my neighborhood had ever seen one in action. Seeing and then hearing that black LP400S scream down the freeway in front of a police car and then learning it was being driven by two very attractive females, cemented its top-podium finish in the hall of fame. A recent sale of a very low-mileage LP400S in a rare color was just over $1,000,000. I can imagine this was surprising to anyone who didn’t grow up with these cars, but as someone who did, I can tell you the recent prices are no surprise and as I wrote above, we’re just getting warmed up.