Classic 4×4 continue to rise in value. Boomers with money bought up all the mainstream muscle cars and the metrojack movement is nearing its zenith, meaning those withing to co-opt some classic style are looking to Land Rovers, Land Cruiser Wagons and Wagoneers to match their overpriced under-muddied boots. Blazers, Broncos and CJs are just too accessible and everyone forgets Scouts exist. Land Rovers and Cruisers were made in few enough numbers and were genuinely crappy enough to make ownership challenging enough to feel special. Ambitious sellers are attempting to move top-condition Wagoneers in that over $20k (and up) market, but how can that work when they’re still thick on the ground under five grand?
I’ll admit in advance that this comparison is unfair. Exhibit A may well be the best-kept early Wagoneer in the country, a ’66 with 327ci V8, automatic and vinyl interior. The condition’s damn near perfect and nearly as original. The odometer reads 17,000 miles, which aligns with the condition (or a 6th-digit rollover and a massive restoration). Notable visible flaws include hacked-in extra gauges cut into the dash, a rattle-canned (?) instrument cluster and a giant CB antenna attached to nothing. There are no pictures of the undercarriage, which is concerning on a midwestern example. Speaking from my own example, the clean metal dash and instrument cluster are major aesthetic selling points, which are screwed up in nontrivial ways here. And yet: $60k Buy-It-Now.
Meanwhile, this ’66 in Riverside is selling with a $3,600 opening bid and no reserve, meaning the seller’s willing to take $3,601. Obviously it’s several condition notches down, but certainly not $56,000 worth of work away from Exhibit A. It’s got the same V8, a preferable manual transmission, a better/more intact dash and the seller’s actually included pictures of the undercarriage. Compared to the wannabe museum piece, this one’s driven regularly and isn’t sitting on unusable antique bias ply whitewalls.
While this is an intentionally extreme example, it seems the same story plays out through the middle of the spectrum as well. For every example that some dude’s trying to sell for $20k, there’s a slightly scruffier, functionally equivalent example for less than half-price. Hell, I could’ve met my needs for half the $8k I paid for mine. Given how most of these will be used (beach cruiser, hauling, camping, etc), the last 20% of the aesthetics aren’t all that critical.
I suppose I could conclude by congratulating myself on for constructing a nice “Don’t Buy and Expensive Wagoneer” PSA (again), but maybe there’s something I’m missing. Is there some confirmation bias that the buyer of a super-expensive vehicle adopts? “It’s good because it’s expensive”, rather than the other way around? Obviously Wagoneers are in my wheelhouse, but maybe you know of other vehicles where some examples pull ridiculous sale prices for no good reason?