April 30, 2021

Linkage Mag

Geared for the Automotive Life

Have You Valued a Ford Lately?

Image: Bring a Trailer

Did you ever think a 1980 Ford F-250 would be worth nearly six figures?

Well, in large part, they’re not. Or at least they weren’t. Not until February 1, when Bring a Trailer sold a 76-mile 1980 Ford F-250 for $97,000. Yep, you read that right.

Image: Bring a Trailer

The truck itself was remarkable only for its mileage — someone bought this thing new, optioned it reasonably well and then parked it in a warehouse for 40 years. The story is that the original owner bought it as a crew truck for his wiring company, but the crew irritated him, so he instead parked it for four decades out of spite. 

Then, after 62 bids on BaT, it ended up just shy of six figures.

If you’re shaking your head over all that, you’re not alone. Hey, people are weird sometimes, and I guess spite can pay off.

As for the price, cue the “one sale doesn’t make a market” team, ready to downplay this as a fluke, or an example of what happens with someone just has too much money to spend. I’m tempted to go there, too. 

Trouble is, higher prices for low-miles or especially nice American trucks — even from this later era — are popping up more often. The frequency of this conversation is starting to drown out the non-believers.

For example, an ’85 F-150 with 2,100 miles did $50k last month.

Image: Bring a Trailer

A ’69 F-250 Custom with a great restoration did $69,500 in June.

Image: Bring a Trailer

A 33k-mile ’86 F-250 did $45,000 in July.

Image: Bring a Trailer

And that’s just the Fords. GM trucks have been hot for a long time now, too.

A 589-mile 1985 Chevrolet K20 Scottsdale 4×4 did $84,500 back in June.

Image: Bring a Trailer

An ’85 Chevrolet K10 shortbed 4×4 did $75,000 in October.

Image: Bring a Trailer

And if you don’t mind looking at the older and more popular GM rigs, a ’72 C10 made $88k at Mecum Kissimmee a few weeks back, and then there was the $198,000 K10 that sold a week later at Mecum’s Muscle Car City sale.

Image: Mecum Auctions

Okay, so what’s going on here? Well, there’s a couple of things. Inflated truck prices aren’t new — and if you think about it, they make sense. What shared the driveway next to a muscle car? What did your father or grandfather drive? There’s a bunch of nostalgia over the American experience and how it relates to old trucks — especially right now.

Don’t believe me? Take a nice one to Home Depot and see what happens. Heck, take one anywhere and see how many conversations it starts up, and compare that to any other old or flashy car.  

A friend of mine emailed me the other day to ask a few questions about a 1977 GMC he’s thinking of restoring. “The truck’s not in too bad a shape for being a farm truck,” he said. “It has about 120k miles. It’s kind of funny, but I get more thumbs up driving the truck than I do in either of my Porsches.”

I’ve had the same experience in both my ’72 Chevy K10 and my LS-swapped ’79 Chevy short wide. It’s just a weird fact of American society. These vehicles resonate.

There’s nothing pretentious about an old truck — even a really nice one. There’s a mix of comfort and utility here that’s hard to deny, and I don’t mean comfort in terms of a bench seat — I mean comfort in terms of recalling what we think were simpler times in the midst of a complex modern era. A 1980 F-250 is the antithesis to every truck available on a new car lot in 2021.

Beyond that, there’s a new generation that’s found these easy-to-modify and plentiful 1970s and 1980s trucks and made them their own. What did kids turn to when the traditional muscle cars they dreamed of owning became too expensive in the 1990s? These. Hey, they had rear-wheel drive and V8 engines, and they were easy to find and modify. Those people are now well into their 40s, and they’re starting to hunt down the dreams of their youth again, too — both stock and modified. All that’s helped push prices as well, and it’s also developed a healthy aftermarket of new custom parts for every era of American truck. Case-in-point, the only GM parts on my ’79 C10 are the frame, body and rear axle housing

So where does that leave us?

Well, the market has always loved in-the-wrapper cars and trucks, so they tend to rise to the top of the charts in terms of value. No-mile trucks, however, are complex to wrap your head around. What do you do with a utility vehicle that you can’t use? I suppose each buyer has a good reason for their actions.

Not all trucks are shooting up in value. Not by a long shot. A truck must be particularly special, like the F250 here, to set a record right now. But high prices do keep happening. If you’re not already paying attention to this section of the market, you should be, even if it’s just sitting back and wondering when it will stop.

Chances are it won’t be anytime soon. An old truck may not be for everyone, but I’d bet everyone would have a good time in one.