1986 Revisited – Part 4: Deals on Wheels

Here is yet another installment from my recently rediscovered 1986 “Deals on Wheels” magazine: this is the Sporty Edition. Maybe this first one should be in the Kleenex edition, wow. Have any of you heard of a Cobra? (hee hee).. This car is by far the most painful one in the Deals on Wheels series so far, at least monetarily. This two-owner, original 1964 Cobra would be worth around $1,000,000 today, give or take a hundred grand or so. $45,000 in 1986 is around $100,000 today so this was not an inexpensive car back then, but man, what an investment that $45,000 would have been!

From $45,000 to $800! This 1974 Volkswagen Thing looks and sounds like a winner and $800 would be a no-brainer, even back in 1986. That $800 in 1986 would be $1,787 in 2017, who here wouldn’t crawl over broken glass to have this Thing for $1,800?! I know I would. Hagerty lists the value of this vehicle in #4 “fair” condition as being $10,400 and in #2 “excellent” condition as being $23,800! Yeah, that $800 was a great buy!

$7,000 for a Chevy Cosworth Vega is right around the middle of the expected range of pricing today. We’ve seen quite a few of these roll through Barn Finds in the last couple of years. $7,000 in 1986 would be $15,560 in today’s dollars. That would be on the high side of its current value so in this case this may not have been the best investment if a person were just going to store it for 30 years instead of driving it. By the way, life is too short just to store vehicles in expectation of making a killer profit in a decade or two. Who knows if any of us will be around by then, let’s enjoy our rides while we can!

This is a personal favorite of mine, and a car that I will probably never own unless I win the lottery. But, maybe that would be for a later UR-Quattro from 1985 on when they were upgraded. This 1983 Quattro would have sold for around $35,000 ($84,340 in 2017 dollars) a mere three years prior to this 1986 ad in Deals on Wheels magazine. Now that’s a drop in value! $14,500 in 1986 would equate to around $32,230 in 2017 dollars. Hagerty lists a value for this car from $13,800 in fair condition to $40,400 in excellent condition so this value is probably right on the money. Later cars can be much more than that, sometimes several times that, but this 1983 would work nicely for me.

Here’s a somewhat sporty ride, a 1976 Rupp Centaur! This would sure be an eye-opener at any car, motorcycle, or even snowmobile show. Yes, it’s that Rupp, the famous snowmobile maker. $1,500 in 1986 would be $3,334 in 2017 dollars making this one a good buy in 1986. A perfect example sold at an auction in the fall of 2016 for around $7,500 so they aren’t ridiculously expensive today. They had a 340 cc air-cooled Kohler snowmobile motor so they were known for having some cooling issues, but it’s hard to not at least look cool when you’re on this thing.

This 1971 Porsche 911 T is another painful one, not on the same scale that the Cobra was, but still painful. $6,500?! SIXTY-FIVE HUNDRED DOLLARS?! Ugh. Just as a reference, I paid $2,200 for my first cell phone (Radio Shack CT-300) in February of 1987, so for another $4,000 I could have gotten this car. Sigh, add that to the already too long do-over list. $6,500 in 1986 equates to around $14,450 today. Even without the current Porsche bubble this would have been a screaming bargain! The 911 T was the base model and it had the lowest power, sort of like a slightly-upgraded 912, but still, $14,450! Hagerty lists a ’71 911 T as having a value of between $31,800 in #4 fair condition to $76,000 in #2 excellent condition. It’s every car-flipper’s dream to find a car like this for less than half price. Well, this is it for the latest Deals on Wheels 1986 edition! Do you have any painful should-have-kept-it-or-should-have-bought-it stories from your past?

Fast Finds


  1. Boss351

    Ugh! If we could only see into the future what gets hot and what doesn’t. I am thinking some of the special fox body Mustang’s may be hot in the future. With my luck, they would all go south after I bought one.

    • KEN TILLY Member

      I have the same problem in that a car or motorcycle that I sell becomes very valuable within months of my selling it!

  2. Warren Johnson Member

    I looked at a new cobra in 1967 when I was stationed at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. ……… $2,400 out the door.

  3. wuzjeepnowsaab

    $45000 in 1986 for a Cobra. Man that was a lot of money in 1986

    Now that longhood 911 for $6500 on the other hand…

    • Jeepster

      Yep, I stopped many times at the Pontiac dealer on the way home from school driving my Firebird looking at the new 1986 Trans Ams. 5 speed loaded with Tops was $12,100.

  4. Rodney Corriveau

    Pretty sure a 289 cobra wouldn’t do 7 figures. But I’ve been wrong before.

    • Scotty Staff

      Hi, Rodney – Hagerty lists the value as being between $835,000 to $1,100,000. I’m a pretty firm believer in Hagerty values, at least as a general stopping off point.

  5. John

    I have a classified from the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1970 advertising a 1957 Corvette with fuel injection for 1,500 or best offer. Ack!

  6. LOSER


    Why did you hav a cell phone in 1987?

    • Scotty Staff

      I was an early-adopter… No, I owned a service business and it was handy for keeping in touch with the people that actually did the work while I goofed around all day, sort of like I do now. I still have that phone, it’s sitting literally three feet from me as we speak. I’ll list it in Deals on Phones magazine in a few years..

      Like 1
  7. jw454

    45K in 1986 is the same as $100,39.63 in today’s dollars.

    It wasn’t such a good deal at the time. The difference is what it would sell for above the 100K figure now. I have no idea maybe someone here does.

  8. junkman Member

    Any Hemmings from the late 70’s to early 80’s will certainly make you feel like you missed the boat, BUT you probably would have wrecked it anyway! So enjoy what you’ve got and have no regrets, life is short. Fix what ya got and drive it.

    Like 2
  9. Adam T45 Staff

    Hey Scotty, I just had a look at a picture of your first cell phone. It was nearly as big as the Porsche!

    • Scotty Staff

      HA! I never thought of that, Adam, that’s good stuff!

  10. billy

    We all have these kind of stories. Mine is the 1970 Superbird I turned down for 5K in 1980. (Hemi orange, 4 speed 440 six pack, around 5000 miles, flawless ten year old car at the time). Guy said his girlfriend was pregnant and he “has” to get married and needed the money. Of course being in college at the time, it was not even a choice for me, rent and tuition had to come first. (and don’t even ask me about the $800 rust free, dent free, damn near perfect 1971 Dodge Challenger convertible from about the same time period!) Gee whiz guys, I thought these painful memories were supposed to feel better after time has past. I give it almost 4 decades, and those two still sting like fire!

    • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

      Yep, back when I bought my 70 Corvette Convertible in ’85, I could have gotten a Superbird or 69 Camaro SS Indy Pace Car Convertible for pretty much the same money.

      I went with the Vette because I always wanted one and really enjoyed it, but either of the other two would have brought some serious bucks today.

  11. tom benvie

    In 1973 I was home on leave from the Army and bought my future wife her first car, a 1969 AMC AMX. On the lot was a 289 Cobra for $6,000. “Who would pay $6,000 for a car without a top?” she asked. “I’m hoping someone does” answered the salesman. It was on the lot the whole 20 or so days I was home.

    Married in 75 and a few years later followed up on a lead for a 70 Superbird-440, used car shape, $1500. “There is no way you are parking that stupid looking thing in the driveway!”. Didn’t get it, and told her I was never again going to bring her to look at a car I was buying, and I haven’t. Even funnier, I was pretty sure I could flip the Superbird for $2500 or so after a little work and clean-up, so I wasn’t going to keep it anyway. And the AMX? became my passion, and I had a number of them. Now I have Cadillac Allantes-the first car she actually likes!

  12. stillrunners lawrence Member

    yep….like what the hot and not so hot girl from HS looks now…….!!!!

  13. D. King

    How ’bout the Mercedes that a friend of ours was selling in the early ’70s? I remember the asking price as $6,000 (Hubby remembers it as $8,000). We had 3 cars and a plane at the time, so we didn’t bite…

    …of course it was a Gullwing.

  14. Howard A Member

    Not to upstage Scotty, but let’s take ‘er up a notch. This was from 1976. Look, an Opel GT is almost double what a ’69 Mach 1 Mustang cost. Would you say the bottom fell out of muscle cars in ’76? A freakin’ VW was the same price as a Super Bee. Obviously, Corvettes were still hot. http://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/46/4c/9f/464c9fc8ee124f1939250cdca2a61481.jpg

    Like 1
    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      Man, what an ad! That’s a car show today. Well, one thing is you can still get a 1974 Corvette for about the same price today.

      Like 1
  15. Andy

    I think we all feel foolish about the opportunities we’ve missed. The harder reality is the car that we had to part with, for whatever reason. Mine, a 63 split window coupe. Somehow the reasons don’t seem so important now.

  16. 86 Vette Convertible

    Back in 1967 a local dealer had a 64 AC Cobra they took in trade on a Pontiac. It had been on the lot for about 6 months and I could have gotten it for a little over $3K. Unfortunately I was a minor so I had to my Dad sign on it, guess who wouldn’t even consider that. Hind sight is 20-20, wish it had gone different.

  17. RayT Member

    Back in 1972-73 (don’t remember the exact year) I had my first high-paying job and thought I might splurge and buy a Dino 246. Went down to the dealer and started making “I’ll take it!” noises. The salesman pointed to a blue Daytona sitting next to it and said “For a couple thousand more, you could buy THIS.” They were asking around $12,000 or so for the Dino, IIRC.

    Apparently, the high-rollers were queuing up for red Daytonas, but the blue one just didn’t light anyone’s fire….

    Went home to think about it, and ultimately didn’t buy either. I have consoled myself over the years by thinking I would have driven it into the ground. I mean, who wants a tired Ferrari with hundreds of thousands of miles on the clock? No one, right?

  18. D. King

    How ’bout the cars we DIDN’T miss? In our case, it’s a ’64 Porsche 356 SC Sunroof Coupe. Numbers matching. Hubby bought it in ’67 with 12,000 miles for $3000. Restored in 2000-2001, and we drive it regularly today. As a matter of fact, Hubby semi-insisted that I drive it to the restaurant for Mother’s Day. (I think it’s because I planned to drive my classic Mini, and he’s not fond of her.)

    That’s 50 years of ownership, if you’re counting!

  19. Jay E.

    In 1964 my Dad and I went to look at an airplane. Nice stock condition, full of fuel. It flew into the airport and was sitting there proud and beautiful. The price? $5000.00. My Mom talked him out of it. The plane? P-51D…

    • D. King

      Groan. That hurts! I’ve never talked Hubby out of cars (or airplanes, back in the day). And when I found my classic Mini, I didn’t ask him IF I could buy it. I just asked him what account he was going to take the money from. He knew I’d wanted one since the late ’60s, so he didn’t dare squash my dream.

      There were a couple of cars over the years that I wish he hadn’t bought, and there were a couple that Hubby never liked, but we were happy with most of them. And I feel good that we found each other. We actually met BECAUSE of the Porsche I referenced above (I walked up to him as he was locking the car), so we’ve always had similar interests.

  20. Craigvalk

    Had a 1970 Cougar Eliminator with the 428CJ. Bought it 1978 for 2500 bucks. Had every option. I knew it had been special ordered by a dealer for his personal use and had handed it off to his kid from whom I bought it. I was all of 24 years old and that car was an absolute screamer, it was a wonder I didn’t get jailed for driving it as I did. There was a deserted road outside of town and we’d drag race quite a bit out there and that car never got beat. I let my brother use it for his senior prom and he beat it hard and burned the clutch out, I laugh today but I was highly PO’d at the time. Loved it but had limited budget and really wanted a motorcycle so I sold it 3 years later and patted myself on the back for getting my 2500 back.

    Fast forward to 2017, I see them going for huge dollars. Had I only known.

  21. Capt Doug

    I think I lament more the cars I have owned and sold than I regret the deals I missed.
    A 1935 Buick coupe I bought at 14 yrs old and never drove, the 1936 Packard 120CD that was my HS car, the 1964 ImpalaSS, the I966 Chevelle 396[stolen], the 1967 Volvo 1800S [I really regret selling], — moved to the Caribbean — lots of VW’s bugs, fastback, squareback, dune buggy, the 1976 BMW 2002, and just recently my perfect 1995 BMW 328IC hardtop convertible when I lost stateside storage.

  22. Paul S.

    For me the painful one is the 911T. I had a 1970 911T from Cali that had been repainted looked like new. I sold it it in 1987 for 4500 dollars.

  23. Mike

    Found a ’59 Facel Vega HK500 parked at a gas station/repair shop in 1986. They wanted $5,500 for it. It was complete but needed a resto. Couldn’t get my dad to sign off on a loan from the bank. I knew what it was, but my dad didn’t. He finally saw one in the flesh in 2001 and said that I should had twisted his arm more to get it. If I knew that, I would have twisted them right out of their sockets! What are these cars worth now? $150k?

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