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Insurance for muscle cars: Then and now

Troy Anderson

In an ironic twist, the car insurance industry is partly responsible for putting the brakes on the muscle car era by charging high insurance premiums.

In 1970, most muscle cars retailed for $3,500 to $4,000, but the insurance cost an additional $1,000 to $1,500 a year, says Phil Skinner, a collector car editor at Kelley Blue Book.

“That’s one of the reasons the muscle cars went away because the cost to insure them was so high,” Skinner says.

Because relatively few of them were made – and even fewer in good and excellent condition have survived –  a muscle car today can cost anywhere from $12,200 for a 1970 Mustang Coupe in good condition to $300,000 for a 1970 Plymouth “Hemi ’Cuda” coupe in excellent condition, according to Kelley Blue Book.

However, insuring one of these collector cars is far less expensive – as a percentage of the vehicle’s total cost – now than it was several decades ago.

“A good rule of thumb is that the collector car policy costs about a third of what a traditional private passenger policy costs because, in reality, the cars don’t get driven that much and the owners tend to be very fastidious about the care and maintenance of the vehicles,” says Jim Fiske, vice president at insurance company Chubb.

For example, the five muscle cars featured on a new series of postage stamps – “America on the Move: Muscle Cars Forever” – have a combined value ranging from $650,000 to $1 million, Skinner says.

The insurance premiums to insure the entire collection would be $4,500 to $7,000 a year, according to Fiske.

“That’s kind of the standard rate,” Fiske says. “But when you get into a collection of that size, most serious collectors would expect a specialized rating based upon the fact that, ‘I can’t drive five cars at once so, therefore, I deserve a little bit better rate.’ So that price could deviate by as much as 50 percent less or potentially more, but it’s unlikely to be more.”

Kelley Blue Book estimates the value of each the cars as follows:

  • ’66 Pontiac GTO – $51,500 to $64,000.
  • ’67 Shelby GT-500 – $150,000 to $170,000.
  • ’69 Dodge Charger Daytona – $125,000.
  • ’70 Plymouth Hemi ’Cuda – $250,000 to $300,000.
  • ’70 Chevelle SS – $60,000 to $260,000.

As for the cost of insuring each of these vehicles, Fiske quoted full-coverage rates with $300,000 in liability coverage. The annual premiums would be $522 for the 1970 Chevelle SS, $964 for the 1969 Dodge Charger Daytona, $1,814 for the 1970 Plymouth “Hemi ’Cuda” coupe, $464 for the 1966 Pontiac GTO and $1,134 for the Shelby GT-500.

“We all yearn for nostalgia, and a lot of muscle car collectors today … can afford to spend that kind of money on a discretionary expenditure,” Fiske says. “For somebody who has always wanted a Mustang, now they can get into Mustang for anywhere from $10,000 to $250,000. It gives us a chance to recapture our youth.”

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