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Thread: Clues to a car's hidden value?

  1. #1
    mrblanche
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    Clues to a car's hidden value?

    I had a friend in college who started out restoring Model T's as a living. He soon discovered there wasn't much money in it; there were too many T's then for them to be valuable (this was 1970).

    He switched to restoring 1955 Thunderbirds. If you own a 'Bird of that vintage and you live within a couple hundred miles of Dallas, there's a good chance you have one of his cars.

    But the one that drove him crazy was one that he was really proud of. He restored it and was really impressed that he sold it for $10,000. At that time, $10K was over 5 times the cost of a year of college. Of course, it wasn't all profit, but it was half a year's income for him.

    A year later, or so, he saw the car in a magazine. Turns out it was something like #3 off the assembly line. He said he had checked the serial number and didn't see anything unusual about it. The only oddity on the whole car was that the headlight bezels were chrome, instead of being painted as they were on most TBirds. He said he later heard that the first 50 off the line had the chrome bezels, and he should have known about it, but didn't. The magazine had it for sale for $35,000.

    Talk about sick.

    Anyway, there are "clues" on every highly desirable muscle car that tips those in the know as to its true heritage. Do you know of any?

  2. #2
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Clues to a car's hidden value?

    Quote Originally Posted by mrblanche
    I had a friend in college who started out restoring Model T's as a living. He soon discovered there wasn't much money in it; there were too many T's then for them to be valuable (this was 1970).

    He switched to restoring 1955 Thunderbirds. If you own a 'Bird of that vintage and you live within a couple hundred miles of Dallas, there's a good chance you have one of his cars.

    But the one that drove him crazy was one that he was really proud of. He restored it and was really impressed that he sold it for $10,000. At that time, $10K was over 5 times the cost of a year of college. Of course, it wasn't all profit, but it was half a year's income for him.

    A year later, or so, he saw the car in a magazine. Turns out it was something like #3 off the assembly line. He said he had checked the serial number and didn't see anything unusual about it. The only oddity on the whole car was that the headlight bezels were chrome, instead of being painted as they were on most TBirds. He said he later heard that the first 50 off the line had the chrome bezels, and he should have known about it, but didn't. The magazine had it for sale for $35,000.

    Talk about sick.

    Anyway, there are "clues" on every highly desirable muscle car that tips those in the know as to its true heritage. Do you know of any?

    Here's one:

    If you find a '75 Trans-Am carcass that has what looks like stock "splitter" exhaust, you radar should be going crazy. (Only cars equipped with the rare/desirable 455 HO came with splitter exhaust tips in '75; in subsequent years, all TAs got them).

    Another:

    A friend's dad had an unsual '79 Firebird Formula. It had the already desirable 400 V-8 with 4-speed manual transmission (rare in 1979 in Formula Firebirds) but even more rare, it had a vinyl roof.... this madeit one of a handful of 'Birds so equipped that year...






  3. #3
    mrblanche
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    Re: Clues to a car's hidden value?

    I believe it's in Car Craft magazine that one of the writers/editors is a real junk yard crawler, and on a regular basis he points out some of these things to look for.

  4. #4
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    Re: Clues to a car's hidden value?

    mrblanche,

    Excellent point, the clues are very important. Especially on cars such as the Thunderbird you mentioned.


  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Clues to a car's hidden value?

    No worries - it's happened to me also!

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    Re: Clues to a car's hidden value?

    The problem with a lot of the "small stuff" on cars that are a little older today is that they've been ravished by time and a lot of the "clues" have been obliterated by previous owners (POs). The example of the stock splitter exhaust tips cited by Eric is one. Mid-70s exhaust systems were the first thing to rot out on the car -- those that weren't pulled off by the PO to get rid of the single exhaust/catalytic converter back in the day.

    It's best to either go armed with a good knowledge of VINs and engine casting numbers or a ready way to check them.

  7. #7
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    Re: Clues to a car's hidden value?

    Rick,

    Excellent point. Those exhaust systems were the first to go, and most Trans Am owners with these exhaust systems did not cut the spliters and then weld them on the replacement exhaust system.

    I can think of another instance of this phenominon you described. Some cars back in the 1970s were ordered with the radio delete and just had a plate where the radio would have normally been. Of course most of the owners who ordered the radio delete installed a nice stereo head unit and threw away the plate, once they got the car home from the dealer. Finding a car with the radio delete plate still in place is almost near impossible. And I remember a NOS radio delete plate for a late 1970s Trans Am sold for some astronomical price on ebay last year. As a side note there is a guy who owns a '77 W72 SE Trans Am who recently had his car restored and since it came with the radio delete option he an original '77 radio delete plate put back in his car. It was the same car '77 SE T/A that was in my movie I posted a link on TAC last month (I believe you have seen the movie):

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?do...54665244220218









  8. #8
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    Re: Clues to a car's hidden value?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete
    Those exhaust systems were the first to go, and most Trans Am owners with these exhaust systems did not cut the spliters and then weld them on the replacement exhaust system.
    Yep -- the exhaust system on my 75 TA "fell off" miraculously as soon as the 12,000 mile 12 month warranty expired. :-\ It was replaced by a 455 SD factory system (interesting side note: in those days you had to provide a valid SD VIN to get any SD parts -- a buddy of mine from OH had totalled his SD so I used his number to order the pieces from Pontiac). It really wasn't practical to reuse the factory tips, especially when higher quality parts were included with the SD system.

    I can think of another instance of this phenominon you described. Some cars back in the 1970s were ordered with the radio delete and just had a plate where the radio would have normally been. Of course most of the owners who ordered the radio delete installed a nice stereo head unit and threw away the plate, once they got the car home from the dealer. Finding a car with the radio delete plate still in place is almost near impossible.
    Guilty as charged. My car was a radio delete, mostly because I didn't have money for anything that didn't make the car go faster (didn't get the bird on the hood for the same reason). Regrettably, I can no longer find my blockoff plate for the dash -- although I still have the blockoff plate for the shaker. I saved most of the parts I took off, but somehow the radio plate got away from me. I ended up with a shaft-type cassette player/digitally tuned stereo that fit into the stock opening without needing a bezel or cutting the dash, and fortunately it's digitally-tuned so I can use my MP3 player with an FM converter. Who needs a CD player? ;D ;D

  9. #9
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    Re: Clues to a car's hidden value?

    Rick,

    As usual that's some great information.

    That's a bummer your factory exhaust went right after your warranty expired. I did not realize that to order SD parts back in the day, you had to be a SD owner. How long did the SD exhaust last? What was the difference between it and the standard '73-'74 T/A exhaust? I wonder if Pontiac limited SD part sales to SD owners as a curtosy to SD owners or if they feared someone would build up a regular T/A as a Super Duty. So far my 30K mile TATA's factory exhaust is hanging in there, I inspected it last month when I polished the chrome tips, it still looks pretty good for a 28 year old system.

    Personally one of the things I like about 2nd generation T/As is that they came in so many different flavors, some were special ordered for show and others for go. So when I see T/As sans the hood bird and other options or has a bizarre mix of factory options, I think the car has character. These are the cars I always seem to spend the most time looking at. As an example my favorite Formula is a friend's (Jack's) '70 Firebird Formula with no options (does not even have hide-away wipers) and was built for go. It has a factory 3-speed and a Ram Air III 400, just about no other options. It's one of only 16 produced with 3-speed and Ram Air III.

    Enclosed are a few pictures of his stripper '70 Formula:

    Hey how do you like the high performance Ram Air III with no Tach ;D

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    Re: Clues to a car's hidden value?

    and a few more...


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    Re: Clues to a car's hidden value?

    Wow -- pretty cool! Actually, I *liked* it when you could sit down with the salesman and order EXACTLY what you wanted. Today everything is prepackaged into "groups" and you have your choice of A, B, or C (priced ever higher) regardless of whether or not you want or will ever use all the other crap.

    The 455 SD system was a true dual setup in that 2-1/8" pipes came down from the exhaust manifolds (the SD factory manifolds had exactly the same drop as the 1970 RAIII D-port manfolds for the F-body) and then they went into two 2-1/2" pipes that ran on either side of the driveshaft back to the rear axle. At that point they kicked up over the axle and turned inward to a single transverse-mounted muffler. Both sides dumped into the same pipe -- you could look through the muffler and see out the same pipe on the other side. The pipe through the muffler had holes for the exhaust gas to dump into the muffler can, and the outlet pipe had similar holes in it. You could also see straight through the outlet pipe. Both outlet pipes connected to either side of the muffler and then routed out to the exhaust tips. The SD muffler used the same mounting brackets as the single exhaust 75-up transverse mounted muffler. This was a distinct flow advantage over the stock setup, in which the pipes off either side of the engine were combined into a non-mandrel bent Y pipe what emptied into the pellet-bed catalytic converter. A single 2-1/8" (nominal) pipe then ran back to the stock muffler, and the dual pipes came out the back to look like the earlier dual exhaust system. The SD system didn't have any provision for the EFE valve on the passenger side like the factory 75 setup did.

    The story I got at the time I bought the pieces was that Pontiac was aware that people wanted SD parts, and they were in business to support buyers of their cars instead of being a parts house, so in order to make sure they had parts for SD warranty work they were restricting sale to SD owners only. At least that's what my buddy down at the parts counter told me -- and he wasn't wrong about very many things Pontiac.

    I spent the first 12 months of my car's life figuring out how to get back what the EPA had robbed, and had to use a sawzall to get the old system off. I swapped out the stock "log" cast exhaust manifolds for the 1970 RAIII pieces at the same time. The SD system lasted me for a number of years but when I had to use it for a daily drive in the mid-80s road salt and grime took its toll. In the early 90s I had to have the rear half of the system replaced, and I was pretty busy so the muffler shop did a hack job on it. I'd like to get something like a Pypes system to replace it all. :-\ :-\

  12. #12
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    Re: Clues to a car's hidden value?

    CORRECTION: I wrote
    The SD system didn't have any provision for the EFE valve on the passenger side like the factory 75 setup did.
    That's incorrect -- I should have said DRIVER side -- Pontiac V8s had the EFE valve on the driver side, not the passenger side. Seesh...it was only 31 years ago...you'd think I'd remember stuff like that... : :

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    Re: Clues to a car's hidden value?

    Rick,

    You're right gone are those days, and the option packages today make ordering a car easier, but if you want a one of kind car with a crazy mix of options - forget it. You can't even order a wild interior color anymore.

    That some great info on the SD exhaust. I never had an opportunity to see a stock SD exhaust system in person. Years ago a guy from the old Trans Am Forum board sent me photos of his '74 Super Duty and one photo was of the underbelly of his car (while it was on a garage lift). His car had the factory stock SD exhaust system. Unfortunately I lost the photos when hotmail deleted all my mail, after I did not use the email account for 30 days.

    It seems that was common practice trying to return some power to the choked 400s or 455s. The good thing was that It did not take much to bring the power back and there were many high performance parts to choose from. It was pretty easy with a few mods to get a 400 or 455 moving faster. Eric who posted up above has a Carousel Red '76 T/A which originally came with a L78 400. He has a high performance 455 in it now. Here's a link to a previous post with pictures of his '76 T/A:

    http://www.ericpetersautos.com/forum...p?topic=1366.0

    BTW: thanks for the correction, its hard to remember exact details from 31 years ago, hey I have difficulty remember stuff from a few years back.

  14. #14
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Clues to a car's hidden value?

    Quote Originally Posted by Pete
    and a few more...

    'Twas I who detailed that engine, too!

  15. #15
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Clues to a car's hidden value?

    ".... I'd like to get something like a Pypes system to replace it all. :-\ :-\"

    I have one of their systems on my '76... it was possible to install by hand, with just basic tools... really nice stuff - I recommend Pypes heartily!

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    Re: Clues to a car's hidden value?

    Eric,

    You did a mighty fine job on that engine. If you like to do another my W72 is in need of a repaint. ;D

    I actually plan on repainting mine using your painting with your sponge method. It's been too hot this summer to do it, in another few weeks I probably start painting it in stages. I have the Bill Hirsch GM corp blue ready. I painted a spare W72 intake I had with the Hirsch Corp Blue using a sponge brush. Wow it came out good.

    Here's how my engine currently looks:


  17. #17
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Clues to a car's hidden value?

    "You did a mighty fine job on that engine. If you like to do another my W72 is in need of a repaint. ;D"

    Thanks!

    It was fun working on Jack's Formula; the engine's "all there" - and everything is super easy to get to. Yours will be harder, given all the accessories and the plumbing, etc.

    But it still looks pretty nice to my eye - a "survivor" original; maybe you should leave it that way for a bit rather than refresh?

    PS: One of the small things I like about my '76 is the deep metallic blue engine paint used that year (and into '77, if I recall correctly). Hirsch's stuff is superb. It's all I use...!


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    Re: Clues to a car's hidden value?

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    PS: One of the small things I like about my '76 is the deep metallic blue engine paint used that year (and into '77, if I recall correctly). Hirsch's stuff is superb. It's all I use...!
    Correct -- that is the Classic Industries "Strato Blue 62040" and it was used for 1975 production through the early 1977 production. IIRC, one of the reasons it was changed was to indicate compliance with the new ( for 77) emissions configuration to the assembly plants. One look at the corporate blue engine told them it was OK for use after the changeover date.

    Have you ever read about the travails of the SD engineering team in meeting the EPA certification for the 455? :-\

  19. #19
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Re: Clues to a car's hidden value?

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick
    Quote Originally Posted by Eric
    PS: One of the small things I like about my '76 is the deep metallic blue engine paint used that year (and into '77, if I recall correctly). Hirsch's stuff is superb. It's all I use...!
    Correct -- that is the Classic Industries "Strato Blue 62040" and it was used for 1975 production through the early 1977 production. IIRC, one of the reasons it was changed was to indicate compliance with the new ( for 77) emissions configuration to the assembly plants. One look at the corporate blue engine told them it was OK for use after the changeover date.

    Have you ever read about the travails of the SD engineering team in meeting the EPA certification for the 455? :-\
    I have!

    Wasn't it part of the reason they went to a less aggressive cam - and thus the drop from the planned 310 hp to the production 290 hp?

    PS: Pete tells me you have a '75; that's one of my favorite years - in part because they're much less common than the later (and earlier) cars and in part because I like the unusual features that only the '75 (and'76) cars had. Is your car a 400 or 455 car? What color? Any pics?

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