1986 Revisited – Part 1: Deals on Wheels

This is a different one, but it may be fun, and very, very painful. In going through a couple of boxes of old magazines recently I ran across an August 1986 edition of “Deals on Wheels”, a somewhat regional car sales magazine which normally would have been found in grocery stores, auto parts stores, and places like that. It was the car bible for us as teenagers, not having heard of Hemmings yet. I’ll run through a few so you can see how wonky prices have gone for some cars over the last three decades. I have blocked out the phone numbers and tried to make all of the images the same size, in case you were wondering about either of those things.

The first one, the ’67 Shelby GT-500, is perhaps the most painful of this bunch. $14,900 in 1986 dollars equates to $32,800 in 2017 dollars, but Hagerty lists a #2 “excellent” car at $163,000! Ouch. Not quite as painful but an equally desirable car is this 1965 Pontiac GTO, the classic “little old lady” car, except in this case the woman isn’t that old and she was a school teacher with perhaps thee coolest car in the parking lot. $3,995 in 1986 dollars is about $8,800 today. NADA lists a 1965 Pontiac GTO with a 389 V8 (and, this one needs paint) as having a “low retail” value of $19,900 and an “average retail” of $45,200. If you can find a car like this for $8,800, please let me know right away!

A 1969 Plymouth GTX with a 440 six-pack for $7,995, anyone? Yes, please! Neither Hagerty or NADA lists a 3-two-barrel set up for pricing, but a regular, if there is such a thing, 4-barrel 1969 GTX in #2 “excellent” condition is valued at $54,600 today. And, inflation says that $7,995 is only worth $17,600 today, so yes, some vehicles can be great investments.

Is anyone a fan of a 1966 Ford Galaxie 7-Liter? I thought so. This $2,875 asking price would be around $6,300 today, ha, that’s so painful that it’s actually funny! No, actually it’s not funny, it’s just sad that I didn’t buy one of these thirty years ago. NADA lists an “average retail” value of $20,790 for a similar car today. Quite a hike from the $6,300 inflationary rise in dollars since 1986. Kleenex, anyone?

Are you in the mood for even more pain and depression? Here’s a 1970 Plymouth ‘Cuda with a 440 six-pack in perfect condition for $9,000. That price is equal to $19,800 today. A show of hands for those who would pay $19,800 for this car right now? How about $39,800? $59,800? How about Hagerty’s #2 “excellent” value of $93,000! And, that’s for a 4-barrel car, they didn’t have a six-pack listing. That’s also around what they’re selling for, at a minimum, on Hemmings.

That’s it for this edition of the 1986 Revisited! There is much more to come in future, equally-painful, editions.

Fast Finds


  1. grant

    I love it. “100 % original. New paint.”

  2. Coventrycat

    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

  3. 86 Vette Convertible

    Back 50 years ago, one of my classmates had something similar to the Galaxie. Red on Red 2 dr hardtop. 427 (or was it a 428 – can’t remember) 4 speed. That thing could melt a set of tires in an afternoon without trying. He’s since passed and I have no idea whatever happen to the car but it would be something if it was still around.
    Some of those old ads make you drool. Another was the GTX. Worked with a guy back in 1969/70 that had one of those along with a Roadrunner, they were animals. I won’t mention the guy with the 63 SWC Vette with the 65 fuelie engine in it or the guy with the Nicky 66 SS427 Chevelle or even the guy with the 69 396 Camaro. I hung out with a bunch of gearheads back then, most could buy what they wanted while I had to build mine. Boy do I wish there was a way to go back again and get behind the wheel of a few of them again and smell a little Super Shell again.

  4. Allan

    Is this an indicator that the person who has bid the ’70 Boss 429 Mustang to a current price of $168,400 is actually smarter than the rest of us who are simply shaking our heads in disbelief?


  5. Don

    Deals on wheels I loved that mag learned the years and engine sizes of cars make and model 📰

  6. Jay E.

    Nice job finding and putting up an interesting post. The adjusted price is the best part. Seems that I recall interest rates were pretty high in 1986 and that even $2000.00 wasnt that easy to get hold of. I don’t ever recall having $10K back then to buy a car. But a 1970 Duster or even 351 Mustang were less than a grand! That 1970 Boss will probably double in price as the auction ends.

  7. JamestownMike

    I graduated high school in Mesa, Arizona back in 1986! I remember looking at a 68 Dodge Charger 2 door, bright blue, black bucket seat interior, entry level V8, Automatic, A/C that had 80k ish on the miles, 1 owner cream puff, running and driving, completely original car for $5,000 in Tempe, Arizona back in 1986 when I was 18 years old! I was only able to talk them down to $4,500 but could only scrape up $3,000. 1968 is my birth year. Wish I able to buy that car! One that got away! Wow, 31 years have passed since then, now I’m really starting to feel old. How time flies.

  8. JamestownMike

    Our used car bible in the Phoenix area 30 years ago was Auto Trader. The great deals were snatched up quickly by those that had friends or access to the freshly printed copies (waaaay pre internet)!

  9. Dan

    The 7 litre galaxie should have had a 428, thus 7 litres, a 390 was wrong for that car. A neighbor had one he bought new, 428-four speed, tried for years to buy it and never could, then one day he moved away and never saw the car again.

    • 68 custom

      some of the early 7-litre fords were equipped with the 427, pretty rare I am guessing.

      • MorganW Morgan Winter Member

        Yep, according to Hemmings, a total of 38 ’66 7 litres were built with the 427…

  10. Dan

    Here’s an old ad….wow..

    • K-Mack

      I know the guy that bought Grumpy’s 69 Pro Stocker. Here is a picture of him getting the keys from Grumpy.

      • leiniedude leiniedude Member

        For 3K right?

      • David Montanbeau

        A friend of Don’s actually stole the keys out of the trunk while the car sat in the pits. Can’t recall what race it was. S/S nats in ’70? Anyways, Don visited Bill 25-30 years later with the keys and he agreed to pose for this shot. Hey, I got to hold those keys.

  11. Matt Member

    Aberdeen SD, a hour away from me but we can only dream nowadys. Ithink that same car is still around the Aberdeen area.

  12. JW

    I bought my first house in the 80’s and yes interest rates were thru the roof, my mortgage interest was 10% and I had good credit. Those prices were a sign of the times when these cars were nothing more than used cars, how I miss those days except the interest rates.

    • G.P. Member

      I would rather 10% interest on a 20,000 house than 4% on a 200,000 house, and it’s the same house.

  13. Dan

    And another old ad….Can you imagine?

    • Tom Driscoll

      “… Fred Gibb Chevrolet in LaHarpe, Illinois ordered 30 1969 ZL1 Camero’s for a cost $216,000, but was only able to sell 13 of them…Chevrolet came to the rescue and helped disburse the remaining unsold units to other dealers”

      From 1001 muscle car facts.

  14. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Great concept Scotty ! Looking forward to part two.

  15. geomechs geomechs Member

    I often wonder if it’s that our money is just worth less. I’d have to do some digging but it seems to me that my ’49 Chevy retailed for something like $1600.00 back in the day. The latest appraisal for a #3 ’49 Chevy Styleline Deluxe 4-door (original) is $13,500.00, yet I’ve had a couple of (seemingly) serious offers for $15K (one of those has got to be real serious as the guy has asked me numerous times).

    In ’67 I paid $90.00 for my ’47 Ford pickup. A friend sold a nice driver restoration for $22K while I was offered $4K for my parts truck. It’s all relative, at least it looks that way—to me…

  16. irocrob

    In 1981 I could have bought a 1971 Hemi cuda for $4200. The car was all original with 28,000 miles. Not a old race car just at the time a survivor car driven some. I had 2 small kids at the time and just could not afford it. I knew,even back than that this was a fantastic deal. It was rare and I was broke…..

  17. Dave Wright

    This is a great lesson in perspective. There are examples of winners but also examples of the cost of money and storage. If you simply bought these cars is 1986 and spent 50.00 a month in storage it adds tens of thousands of dollars to the cost of ownership. I let a family owned 1963 IHC pickup go in the 80’s for modest money at the time (maby 500.00) Last year I replaced it with a better 1968 in very good shape for 3500.00, a good price today but the difference in cost between the sale and purchase of the replacement would not have paid for storage all these years. I did loose the family provenance but the replacement truck is much more interesting in the way it is equipped and in better condition. This is perspective we tend to loose……even old guys…….We look at he numbers, not the value. Choosing a winner is a gamble, like playing the tables in Vegas….but fun stuff. If Howard had kept his Diamond T, he would be able to buy a very nice TR6 (with an overdrive) today.

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Dave, oh, that’s a low blow. I’m well aware of that and have made peace with that situation. It was that or off to the pokey. Like you say, I had many vehicles I should have kept. But I still say, it’s better to have experienced those vehicles years ago, for a fraction of what they go for today, and many won’t be able to experience that, because of the prices. By 1986, things had begun to swing the other way, and the classic car inflation was on it’s way. The time to buy these was 10 years earlier. Late ’70’s, you couldn’t give these away.

      • Dave Wright

        Yep……….I sold my 1955 Porsche Speedster in about 1983 for 28,000……thought I had cut a fat hog…….I had, bought it in 81 for 100.00 from a junkyard and spent 10,000 restoring it. With that 28,000 I bought 2 late model semis with 48 foot dry van trailers that I made 6,000 a month with. Today those trucks would cost 200,000, still less than the 300,000 the speedster is worth today but the only way to produce income with the Porsche was to sell it……….

      • Loco Mikado

        1975-77 first generation Mustangs were all over the place for $300.00 in daily driver condition, nice ones a bit more. Car & Driver stated that Mustangs wouldn’t be collector items because there were so many made. Boy, were they ever wrong.

  18. ron tyrrell

    I had an import repair shop in Tacoma Wash in the early seventies and here is a small list of project and runners that passed thru the shop that would have been pretty good deals. A.C. Cobra serial #33 needed a left front fender 2200 dollars, 1957 356 coupe 750 dollars, Austin Healy BN7 mk two two place center shift, one of 144 built. This Healy spent its remaining years in Buffalo Wyo and the owner died about six or so years ago, lost track of it. 1957 drop head Jag coupe, motor needed, 120 dollars. 1955 barn door VW bus, stolen from my shop. If we gad only knew what some this would worth.

  19. Retired Stig

    Every gearhead of a certain age has one of these stories, here’s mine: In 1974 I sold my first car, a ’68 Mustang GT/CS with 390 and 4 speed (for $1,200) just because I wanted something different. A guy in town was selling a ’67 Shelby GT500, asking $1,500. I passed on it because it had a white interior and A/T, and what kind of 17 year old GUY would drive something like that??
    If brains were dynamite….

  20. Ikey Heyman

    If you’re just talking about a return on investment, leaving out the possibility of owning a groovy car – if you bought $5000 worth of Walmart stock in 1986, it would be worth about $207,000 today (with dividends reinvested). I could find me a couple nice cars with that wallet today.

  21. David Wilk Member

    Scotty, thanks for posting these, brings back lots of good and some sad memories of cars sold at what now are clearly silly prices over the years. And a lot of memories of lost opportunities. Doesn’t it seem that the cars we want most are always just out of reach financially? I always wanted a Porsche 356SC convertible, but even when they were reasonably priced, I could not afford one. That’s just life for most of us, but there are plenty of good memories too. If you really want to have some fun, read through a a Hemmings or an Old Cars Weekly from about 1974.

  22. Moparman Member

    The funny thing is, we all lament over how “cheap” prices were then, BUT we forget how much money we were making then! I bought a one owner, 29k 1970 Charger in 1974 for $1,778,. but at the time, (IIRC) was only making less than $5-6/hour (if that much!) while going to college fulltime! :-)

    • Howard A Member

      Hi Mm, my 1st (real ) job in the fall of ’72, I was a pump jockey at the new Target store in Milwaukee, making $1.77/hr. In 1973, I got a foundry job, making $3.25/hr, a hefty increase, and bought my ’71 MGB for $1,995.

      • David Montanbeau

        I was a garbage man for the city of Detroit. 1970 3.40 per hour starting pay. Ordered a new LT1 1970 Vette. I was 18. This was my 1st real job living large at home with mom and dad.

      • JW

        My first full time job was in 1971 unloading and loading piston pins to be heat treated in a giant furnace for $3.89 an hr. and later became a press setup man for presses extruding them for $8.00 an hr. Tried to buy a unsold 340 6 pack Cuda from the local Plymouth dealer but had no credit history and my old man hated musclecars so he wouldn’t cosign the loan so I ended up with a used $825 GTO.

      • Jay E.

        $1.80 an hour working at the Chevron station. Made .10 per quart of oil sold. Amazing how many cars came through that “needed” a quart. Sometimes you couldn’t short stick it anymore, the oil was bubbling out the dipstick tube…
        When the oil crisis hit, friends, neighbors, pretty much everyone would give me their car to drive to the station so I could bring it home with a full tank. Hated that job.
        In 79 I was offered a triple black Hemi-cuda straight across for my clean 340 Duster, turned it down… Sort of regret that.

  23. wuzjeepnowsaab

    I paid $5500 for my 67 911s in 1984

    8 years later I sold it for what I paid and thought “that was pretty good”



  24. bob S

    Reminds me of when I was renovating my house and found old newspapers from 1968 in the walls with ads for lakefront lot’s on lake Joseph for $8000 (Ontario). Those are old stock unobtainium now.

  25. David Montanbeau

    I traded a Honda 50 for this 66 Ford 427 dual quad 4 speed in 74.

  26. David Montanbeau

    Paid 400.00 for this 65 Impala SS convertible 409-400 4 speed in 1968. I was 16 at the time.


    We had ‘TRADIN TIMES” newspaper that you could find everything in.It was ebay before ebay.
    Guys would wait at the 7-11 for the delivery guy jumping him in the parking lot to get the jump on everyone.

    Those were good times. Now its to easy, roll out of bed in your underwear and buy whatever you desire.

  28. That Guy

    Now where did I put those keys to my time machine…

  29. Howard A Member

    The small “Auto/Truck Roundup” magazines were, and still are my favorite.

  30. David Montanbeau

    I just missed this one in 96.

  31. angliagt

    Makes me think of all the cool cars I’ve owned over the years,
    that I could never afford now.Back then you could buy something cool/-
    interesting,& sell it later to buy another cool/interesting ride.
    Now,if I find a deal,I have to figure out financing,& how I’d pay
    for it.Most seller won’t wait around for that.
    I guess it’s good that I have too many cars/projects right now,
    as it keeps me from adding more.We have over 5 vehicles around here
    right now (2 dd’s,3 projects,2 parts cars,+ an Anglia 105E in storage.
    All you do is depress yourself,when you start dwelling on what
    you sold,& what you SHOULD HAVE kept.

    • wuzjeepnowsaab

      “All you do is depress yourself,when you start dwelling on what
      you sold,& what you SHOULD HAVE kept.”

      Nah…makes me feel good that I knew all the right cars and motorcycles to own! I wuz just ahead of my time ;)

      • David Montanbeau

        I was really lucky, I started flipping cars at an age of 14 in 1966. I have owned about 200 muscle cars from 58 to the 70s. And being a 10 car hauler, I got to drive and haul almost every muscle car that was made. Here is one of my loads.

  32. BradL

    From my April 1969 R&T. FYI – $8,500 in 1969 is worth just under $56k in 2017 dollars. These are now worth around $30 million.

  33. James

    My uncle sold his Superbird in 1984 for 3K…

  34. Glen

    The lesson here is , KEEP EVERYTHING!

  35. TBAU Member

    There were a few monthly magazines in Australia ( some are still going ) that had similar advertisements. At highschool, my friends an I would cut out and stick the ads of the cars we dreamed of owning onto the covers of our school books. I’m 47 now and still can’t afford them but now I have Barnfinds…

  36. angliagt

    And then there was insurance – if you were 16-18 back then,
    insurance would be $500+/year.In 1972,minimum wage was $1.65/hr.

    • David Montanbeau

      My ins in 1968 was 150.00 a year full coverage with AAA. I was 16 and the car was a 65 SS 409-400-4 speed.

  37. angliagt

    You aught to call the number in the Shelby ad,
    & ask if they still have the car.If so,ask if they’d take $10,000
    for it.

  38. Rob S

    Ha! We thought those prices were crazy at that time! Look at us now. 25 years ago I paid an astonishing 14k for my 67 GT 500. Still have it today. I never worried about its worth, $1 or $1 mil. The car is timeless and a all time favorite for me. This thread brings tons of memories and makes me laugh.

  39. Wd62vette

    I bought my rustfree1958 Impala in 1976 in Redondo beach Beach California for $2000.00. Sitting in the street with a “for sale” sign. I thought that was all the money in the world. I guess it was when you are 20 years old.Thankfully I took care of it and kept it and still have it today.

  40. Bob Graham

    Everyone has a story. In 1981, during my senior year in high school, there was a 1968 Shelby GT-500KR for sale locally. The price? $4500 and it was in great condition. We negotiated to my ’66 coupe and $2000. I still couldn’t raise the money. I am curious what the conversion is to modern dollars.

  41. Keith

    My brother has literally a decades worth of Deals on Wheels covering the entire 80’s decade. When we occasionally leaf through them, I can never decide afterwards if I just had fun or was just mentally tortured. I guess it’s a bit of both.

  42. Mark-A

    The one thing everyone seems to be forgetting is that at the time (1986) most of these cars were simply OLD Cars & nobody really was thinking that they would still be around another 21yrs later? Or am I the only person who is thinking this?

    • Tyler

      Agreed! About 80 or 81, I bought a 67 2 door hardtop Chevy II Nova for $850 off a used car lot a couple miles from my house. At the time it was simply a 13 year old used car that had a cracked windshield & needed paint. The seats had been recovered in that crushed velvet that was popular at the time. I sold it around 86 or 87 for 2k & thought I was making a killing at the time.

      Oh to have had the means to keep & shop to store all the cars I had back in those days, I could have a good retirement now! But at the time, they were just old used cars, & with a wife & new baby, I thought I needed something newer.

      Shoulda, coulda, woulda…

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