10 Most Popular Classic Cars (with Pictures)
The classic car market continues to expand as vintage vehicles get older and more models of yesteryear enter the arena. With projected growth continuing at a steady pace of about $3 billion annually, experts expect the global classic car market to reach $43.37 billion in 2024.
It is an excellent time for enthusiasts vying to get their hands on these storied symbols of automotive accomplishment. While not every vehicle has aged gracefully or retained interest after production, these best-selling classic cars seem to only become more popular as the years pass.
The 10 Most Popular Classic Cars
1. Chevrolet Corvette
Corvette is one of the most enduring and successful car lines from any American manufacturer. Ever since the limited release of its 1953 model, Chevy has pushed the Corvette through several iterations over the decades, each offering a unique appeal and adding yet another chapter to the evolving story of one of America’s most iconic vehicles.
The Corvette took a few years of tinkering before earning a sports car personality with its optional V8 engine. The C2 Stingray styles of the 1960s, led by the split window 1963 model, cemented its status as America’s muscle car.
The rare 1967 L88, available as a convertible or hardtop, boasts the highest sales price of any classic Corvette. Three have sold for over $3 million, with the most expensive reaching $3.85 million in 2014.
2. Ford Mustang
The Mustang deserves credit for its resilience. While it is a bona fide classic today, it had to endure significant design missteps and economic hurdles to maintain its position as a serious sports car.
Outside of the second generation, older versions of Ford’s signature pony car are some of the most popular classic cars worldwide. According to a 2018 tally by ClassicCars.com, first-generation Mustangs were the most searched-for muscle cars in America, showing up as the number one car in 15 states.
As the prototypical American muscle car, vintage Mustangs are among the most-sold classic vehicles in places like Britain, New Zealand, and the UAE. Over the past decade, America sent over 20,000 first-gen Mustangs overseas, more than two times the number of the next closest export, 1968–1982 Corvettes.
3. Chevrolet Camaro
Introduced in 1966, the Camaro was Chevy’s pony car to compete with the Mustang. While the most popular first-year models featured a V6, everyone knows the Camaro for its V8. And like many popular American muscle cars, it has plenty of Hollywood presence, enjoying showcases in blockbusters like 2 Fast 2 Furious and Transformers.
The Camaro saw four generations pass before it was discontinued in the early 2000s. Of those, the first generation is by far the most popular. According to ClassicCars.com, 1968–1970 Camaros were the most searched-for car in four states in 2018 while being the third most popular vehicle in the country in the muscle car category.
4. Dodge Charger
Coming to compete with intermediate muscle cars like the Chevelle, Chrysler released the Dodge Charger in 1965 for the 1966 model year.
Sporting a range of V8s, including a 7.0L Hemi, the Charger immediately offered impressive horsepower and torque ratings. With the evolution of 2015’s 707hp Hellcat V8, modern Chargers are doing their best to honor the namesake.
While many classic cars have several popular model years, interest in Chargers sticks strictly within the second generation, specifically the 1969 model. Made famous by The Dukes of Hazzard, the ‘69 Charger was the most searched-for muscle car in 15 states in the study from ClassicCars.com.
5. Porsche 911
The 911 changed the industry when it arrived on the market in 1965. The unmistakable styling drawn from the VW Beetle, featuring a teardrop form and bug-eyed lights, offers iconic appeal for sports car junkies. And performance-wise, its unique design offers a rare marriage of drivability and racetrack readiness.
Many Porsche 911 models, such as the popular 930 and Carrera RS, continue to rise in value. Several 930 Turbos have sold for over $200,000 in the last two years, including a record-setting $544,000 first-year model.
According to Classics.com, the luxury sports car dominates the auction market. It held the top spot in 2021, as it had for several years prior, with $290 million in auction sales. That was a 127% increase over the previous year and a nearly $150 million advantage over the next most popular auction vehicle, the Corvette.
6. BMW 3 Series
The BMW 3 Series followed the 02 Series, arriving as a two-door coupe before expanding into sedan and wagon models. The second generation 3 Series, the E30, debuted in 1982, eventually becoming the quintessential and most coveted classic 3 Series.
While not the most powerful in its class, the 3 Series became famed as a touring car for its lightweight frame and agile handling. Considering the performance alongside the timeless design of the late ‘80s M3, it’s no wonder these classics continue to rise in value.
7. Pontiac Firebird
Gone but not forgotten, the defunct Pontiac brand lives on stronger than ever through a devoted fan base and a handful of treasured classics, the most prominent being the Firebird.
The Firebird was another GM pony car to rival the Mustang and share the show with the Camaro. With a range of options, from the economical 4-cylinder to more expensive V8s, there was a Firebird to fit any budget and performance need.
The second-generation Firebird, the Trans Am, earned a notable boost when Smokey and the Bandit highlighted the 1977 model. It is the most popular classic car in two states, according to ClassicCars.com data. The most expensive 1977 Trans Am, with a design based on the vehicle from the movie, sold in 2022 for $440,000.
8. Ferrari 250
The 250 enjoyed a short run from 1952 to 1964, long enough to become one of the most popular classic cars today. Ferrari produced several variants for racing and daily driving, including the stylish GTO in 1962. Though it was recently upset by a $142 million Mercedes, a 1962 250 GTO set an auction record in 2018 at $48.4 million.
Aside from the limited number of GTOs, the 250 was singular in many facets throughout its entire run, particularly in power. Many racing and road models included a V12 engine, which earned the GTO its racing prowess during the early ‘60s.
9. Chevrolet Chevelle
The mid-sized Chevelle enjoyed tremendous success during its 18-year run. Several coupe, sedans, and wagons donned the nameplate across three generations while helping other Chevy models to eventual prominence, including the Monte Carlo and the Malibu.
Chevelles aren’t cheap, and prices for the classic Chevy muscle cars continue to creep upward. Current auction prices average around $58,000, and the highly sought-after 1970s SS 454 can easily reach over $100,000. The most expensive Chevelle was a ‘70s SS that sold for $1.24 million in 2006.
10. Mercedes-Benz SL
The two-door SL is the longest-running line from Mercedes and one of its most popular. Since its introduction in 1954, the SL has gone through seven generations and several unique design directions, from early model gull wings to the 7.3-liter V12-powered 73 AMG.
The SL is a perennial favorite at auctions and one of America’s most exported classic cars. Fine craftsmanship and legendary aesthetics maintain the value of classic SLs. An ultra-rare 1955 SLR, an iteration of the popular 300SL Gullwing, holds the record for the most expensive car sold at auction, going for $142.9 million in 2022.
Classic collectible cars are a worthwhile venture for many enthusiasts who appreciate the investment. The market outlook is positive, and prices are continuing to increase. As new models enter the classic market each year, there’s always an opportunity to capitalize on a high-value vehicle.
Featured Image Credit: Jose Mueses, Pexels