Classified Car Ads Worth Remembering

From 1980s Road & Track magazine

by | Jan 30, 2020 | Car Profiles

Road & Track

Classified Car Ads Worth Remembering

From 1980s Road & Track magazine

by | Jan 30, 2020 | Car Profiles

Road & Track

Those of us who worked at Road & Track magazine anxiously awaited our favorite sections of the publication. There was one specific area that drew us in every month — the classifieds. In small type at the back of the magazine were little ads for everything from owner’s manuals to new interiors for your sports car to a set of Weber carburetors. 

What attracted us were the ads for automobiles of all sorts. Sports cars, of course, but also American sedans, race cars and, given the times, home-built specials. Who remembers the Bradley GT or Meyers Manx?

Ah, such temptations, Ferraris, Corvettes, Bizzarrinis, Porsches and many more at prices that seemed fair, but just beyond our reach. Looking back, maybe we should have reached for it. 

Presented here are 10 classifieds from the year 1980. Included is a description, their value 40 years ago, and what they are worth today, in most cases, estimates are from the Hagerty Price Guide, the premier collector car value guide.

In no particular order, we’ve included the highly prized, a few that are still in the ballpark, and one vehicle that caused us to wonder why anyone bought it in the first place. We didn’t revise the 1980 prices in 2020 dollars, that sort of spoils the fun. On a personal note, we begin with one that breaks my heart. It’s a gem I loved then and still do and could have easily stretched to buy 40 years ago. C’est la vie.


Ferrari Dino 206 GT

1980: $16,000

Today: $580,000 – $623,000

The Dino 206 was named for Enzo Ferrari’s late son, and set the automaker in a new direction when launched in 1968. Smaller than current models, it had a beautifully sculpted body in aluminum designed by Leonardo Fioravanti at Pininfarina. It’s a car you can love just by looking at it. Then again, it was built to be driven. 

The Dino 206 is powered by a 65-degree, 2.0-liter aluminum V6 engine that Ferrari rates at 180 horsepower. The engine is mounted transversely outback and has a 5-speed manual gearbox. The 0-60 mph time is estimated at 7.5 seconds, with a top speed of just over 145 mph. 

Back in 1980, the Dinos weren’t taken that seriously, a theme that continued for several years. Over time, owners have come to appreciate what fine automobiles they are, which is why one in excellent condition could be worth as much as $623,000, another in good condition could cost $580,000 today.


1957 Jaguar XK140 

1980: $12,000

Today: $60,000 – $81,000

The successor to the XK120, as of 1955, was the XK140. This updated model brought with it a larger, heavier body, which took away some of the “sportiness” that made the XK120 so appealing but resulted in more interior room. Still, it has that famous Jaguar look of the era, and the car for sale had just been restored. It’s worth noting that this vehicle never developed any unsightly rust and came equipped with a canvas top. 

Jaguar retained its famous twin-cam inline-6 engine with the XK140, but with 190 horsepower. The gearbox is a 4-speed manual transmission, and Road & Track got its test car to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds with a top speed reaching just above 120 mph.

Those impressive qualities are what contribute to the joy of owning a Jaguar and, though we missed out then, it’s still available for ownership today. While the car offered in 1980 was priced at $12,000, the value of XK140s now would be in the $60,000-$81,000 range.


Shelby Cobra 289

1980: $33,000

Today: $950,000 – $1,500,000

Who hasn’t wanted a Cobra at some time in their life? The small-block 289 is wrapped in the legendary body shape. AC Cars provided the basics, the body and chassis, while Shelby brought it all together with the Ford V8 engine. Initially, that was a 260 cubic-inch V8, but then Shelby upped that to the 289 with its 271 horsepower, which is in the advertised car.

Motor Trend magazine got its test 289 Cobra to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, and said, “We were bothered by excessive wheelspin in first gear.” The top speed was just shy of 150 mph. In addition to the numbers was the visceral feeling of the sound and wind rushing by.

The price of the 289 was initially set at $5,995, so the $33,900 in 1980 wasn’t considered a sharp increase. The owner loved his car — as was demonstrated by the way he drove it 53,000 miles without racing, wrecking or abusing the vehicle.

Today that same car could go for $950,000-$1,500,000. Unless you have a very special 289, like the first chassis, CSX 2000. Several years ago, it auctioned for a final price of $13,750,000. 


1975 Bricklin SV-1

1980: $10,000

Today: $13,300 – $34,900

In the early 1970s, Malcolm Bricklin decided the world was ready for a safer sports car, hence the SV-1 (safety vehicle one). 

The SV-1 was produced with Canadian financing. The sports car had a slightly awkward fiberglass body with electro-hydraulically operated gullwing doors said to weigh almost 100 pounds. I can personally attest to the fact that those doors weren’t water-resistant. Another set of protective features were the huge safety bumpers that were positioned at each end of the vehicle. 

An AMC 360-cubic-inch V8 engine powered the first SV-1s, and a Ford 351 V8 engine was used in other models. While the first Bricklins were assembled in 1974, by the end of 1975, the factory had closed. There is a Bricklin International Owners Club for devoted fans. This non-profit organization offers annual memberships starting at $50. The cost of owning an SV-1 would range from $34,900 for a concours condition down to $24,000 for excellent and $13,300 for good condition. 


1975 Maserati Merak

1980: $16,500

Today: $39,000 – $66,000

As strange as it sounds today, the famed Italian automaker, Maserati, was owned by the French automobile manufacturer, Citroën, from 1968 to 1975. In that time, Maserati created the V8-powered mid-engine Bora, and followed it up with the Merak featuring a V6 engine. Both cars had the same basic Giorgetto Giugiaro-penned body, but the Merak differed by having a flying buttress arch at the cockpit instead of a hinged engine cover.

That 3.0-liter, 190-horsepower V6 engine was just part of the equipment, including steering, brakes, and transaxle, that the Merak inherited from Citroën’s unique SM coupe. That combination would propel a Merak to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds on to a top speed just above 150 mph. 

The Merak was something of an oddity at the time, the little brother of the Bora, despite the same handsome bodywork. They were quite fun to drive, and you likely won’t find another in your neighborhood. These days the price ranges from $66,000 for a concours-quality example to $50,000 for excellent and $39,000 in good shape.


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Ford GT40

1980: $80,000

Today: $3,800,000 – $5,250,000

Most everyone is familiar with the GT40 history, from the obscure to the beloved. In 1980 it had been 11 years since a Ford GT40 scored a win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, so at that point, GT40s were in an awkward position. They were too old to race professionally, but fast enough to be considered a street machine.

The early examples were based on the Lola GT, debuting at Le Mans in 1964, with GT40s in various forms winning that classic race from 1966-1969. The F.A.V. in the classifieds ad refers to Ford Advanced Vehicles in England, where the cars were assembled.

The ad is quite a tease about a tremendous historical note. Wouldn’t we love to know the car’s serial number? In any case, even just a good example could fetch $3,800,000, an excellent example at $4,500,000, while the concours cars go for $5,250,000.


1956 Tanner T-1 

1980: $9,750

Today: $25,000 – $35,000

Now back to the somewhat obscure, unless you are a fan of vintage car racing. The Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) has long had a series of classes that run during weekends, from big V8 or V12-powered sports cars to those with smaller engines.

Martin Tanner was an advertising executive, but he was also highly adept at designing and building his race cars. The Tanner T-1 was designed with a beautiful tube frame wrapped in a sleek aluminum body, and the engine was possibly from Crosley or Saab. Tanner went on to win an SCCA championship, and the T-1 was his first race car. 

According to vintage race organizers, today, this car would be worth $25,000-$35,000 or possibly more. Any vintage race meeting that had a class for it would welcome the Tanner T-1 on the grid.


1967 Bizzarrini GT Berlinetta 5300

1980: $29,500

Today: $680,000 – $850,000

Giotto Bizzarrini was a significant engineering force for the likes of Ferrari, Lamborghini and Alfa Romeo. He finally got to create his own car, the Berlinetta 5300, which was sometimes called the Strada. 

Giorgetto Giugiaro, then at Bertone, was involved in the flowing bodywork, made of aluminum. The suspension is independent at the front, a DeDion design at the back and complete with 4-wheel disc brakes. The 5300 comes from the 5358 cc of the Chevrolet V8’s displacement, which produces 365-385 horsepower. The gearbox is a Muncie 4-speed transmission.

That combo gave the GT the speed to go with its styling, 60 mph coming up in around 6.5 seconds with a top speed near 160 mph. The ad points out that only 76 of these cars were made, and this one, at the time, had only 10,000 miles. Today, a concours-level Bizzarrini 5300 GT could command $850,000, an excellent model $740,000, and a good one would cost $680,000.


Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe

1980: No price listed

Today: $23,000 – $30,000

Most everyone knows about the Peter Brock-designed Cobra Coupe. Its shape was somewhat unconventional for the time, but proved perfect for taking GT class wins throughout Europe. The most critical was the GT victory at Le Mans in 1964 when Dan Gurney and Bob Bondurant finished fourth overall. The Coupes then went on to take the 1965 GT Manufacturer’s Title.

We don’t know exactly which one of the six this example might be, though the ad suggests it is the crucial Gurney and Bondurant Le Mans winner. Interestingly, the owner mentioned in the ad they would consider a Ferrari, exotic, racing car trade. However, no offer price was mentioned. 

Daytona Coupes don’t trade hands often. One sold for $7,250,000 at auction, but that was more than a decade ago. Hagerty puts the current cost for a concours Coupe at $30,300,000, an excellent at $27,250,000 with a good one bringing in $23,250,000.


1957 Porsche 356A 1600 Speedster

1980: $16,500

Today: $250,000 – $450,000

This Speedster was restored with new parts, including a German canvas top, interior carpets, wheels and radials. The ad also claimed this car to be in concours condition. If that’s the case, this Speedster could now draw $450,000 or at least $250,000 for an average example.

US Porsche importer, Max Hoffman, gets the credit for convincing the automaker there was a market for a simpler, less expensive model for the American market. They trimmed equipment, along with the windscreen, giving the Speedster its lower, sleeker look. The interior consists of lightweight seats and minimal instrumentation. 

Before long, Speedsters became winning race cars around the country and helped establish Porsche’s reputation. We’re not certain which version of the air-cooled flat-4 was in this Speedster, but if this was the Normal example, it had 60 horsepower, while the Super got 75 horsepower.

If I had the insight I had now, I would have purchased one of these models when I had the chance. For now, the history of these beautiful machines will have to suffice.

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