What’s Driving the Boom in 1980s Classic Cars? The Male Midlife Crisis

The Financial Times published a good piece this week on the boom in 1980s “classic cars.”  Yes, I put “classic cars” in quotation marks because, frankly, everything to come out of that decade is horrendously ugly and best forgotten.

The FT writes:

The 1980s, often recalled as fashion’s ugliest decade, is back in favour when it comes to sports cars.

Collectables such as the Ferrari 308, driven by Tom Selleck in the Magnum PI television crime drama, are rapidly rising in value as a new generation of buyers enters the classic car market to purchase the cult supercars of their youth.

Average prices for signature wedge-shaped models including the Lamborghini Countach have doubled or tripled in the past year on both sides of the Atlantic. Even the cost of a humble Ford Capri Mk 3 has risen more than 80 per cent…

A Lotus Esprit car converted into a submarine and taken underwater by James Bond in The Spy Who Loved Me in 1977, was listed on eBay this week for $1m – in the region of the price Tesla chief Elon Musk paid for a similar model last year.

What’s driving the boom?  Ian Fletcher of IHS Automotive calls it “bedroom wall syndrome.”  The boys that used to hang posters of these cars on their bedroom walls are now middle-aged men with the disposable income to buy them.

Doc's time machine would be worth a lot of money today.

Doc’s time machine would be worth a lot of money today.

Men are predictable.  Most of us, while we age physically, never really mature much beyond our teenage years.  So might buying broken-down old sports cars be a viable investment strategy?

Yes, but pay attention to demographic trends.  A man who is 50 today was born in 1964, just a couple years past the peak of the post-war baby boom. He would have been sixteen years old–and fantasizing about exotic sports cars as much as exotic women–in 1980.  The demand you see today for early 1980s cars are from men born at the very end of the baby boom.

But think about what came next.  After 1961, U.S. births went into a long decline that didn’t bottom out until the late 1970s.  It wasn’t until the late 1980s that Americans really starting having babies at anything close to the levels of the 1950s and 1960s baby boom.

What does this mean?

It means that we shouldn’t expect a repeat of this next decade with 1990s classic cars.

Why?  There will be a shortage of middle aged men buying 1990s cars next decade because there was a shortage of teenage boys in the early to mid 1990s to lust after them.

If you want to play the long game here, start shopping for hot cars from the mid-to-late 2000s in another 10-15 years.  The boys born in the “mini baby boom” that peaked in the early 1990s were car-crazed teenagers circa 2006.  They will be 40-something professionals with disposable income to burn by the early 2030s.

Charles Lewis Sizemore, CFA, is the chief investment officer of the investment firm Sizemore Capital Management. Click here to receive his FREE weekly e-letter covering top market insights, trends, and the best stocks and ETFs to profit from today’s best global value plays.

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