If we go by the book, a classic car is usually defined as a model that is 25 years or older, which is usually restored to its former glory. But, some people consider even older models to be classic and there’s no accurate description yet, However, not all cars become a classic. They have to jump through certain hoops and go through seven distinct stages before achieving classic status. Of course, not all cars are lucky enough to pass all the stages, and predicting a future classic is a lot harder than you’d expect.
Depending on the market and customer priority, even a used Volkswagen Golf for sale at your nearest dealer can become a classic car and be worth a lot of money after a while. To describe the seven stages of a car’s life, let’s consider an American Icon, the Ford Mustang, which is undoubtedly one of the most sought-after classic cars in today’s market, and one that is still on sale today.
- Showroom Fresh Stage
The starting stage of any classic car is a brand-new example. As of today, you can walk right into a showroom and buy the latest S550 generation Mustang, which was launched back in 2015. It is still one of the best muscle cars of this generation, especially if you consider the Shelby GT500, which is undoubtedly a future classic. However, even the base Ford Mustang GT is an excellent choice with a V-8 under the hood. After all the updates over the years, Ford has perfected the formula, and the latest generation can easily double up as a daily driver with all the latest creature comforts on the weekdays and carve some corners on the weekends.
Because it’s a brand-new model, ownership is a lot easier than usual with a manufacturer warranty and good support overall. As of today, the Shelby GT500 can set you back nearly $80,000, while a regular GT starts at just under $40,000.
- Pre-Registered Sale
By this stage, the car is almost factory fresh except for being slightly cheaper than usual because they’re registered to a company. This is usually done so that the dealers can get a bonus for registering, then pass down the savings to a potential customer. Cars at this stage are practically new with very low miles on the clock. However, this is a rare stage that not many cars pass through. With the Ford Mustang, you can expect to get a discount of a few thousand dollars off the retail price.
Most pre-registered cars are also untaxed, and the dealer will register them before you buy the car and pay the money.
- Slightly Used Stage
Now, we’re entering the used stage, which includes models that are a few years older than new. However, they can’t be defined as used cars as of yet, since most examples are demonstrator cars used by dealerships or cars that were on a short-term lease. Most cars in this category are less than a year old with under 10,000 miles on the clock.
Because they’re less than a year old, the manufacturer warranty is still applicable, making the ownership experience more peaceful.
They are also certified by the manufacturer and go through a thorough inspection. You can get some very good deals on a Ford Mustang if you shop around in this stage, especially since the S550 generation has been around since 2015. So, even a Mustang that is a year old will be just as good as a brand-new model.
- Used Stage
In this stage, the Mustang finally attains the used status with one or more previous owners. But, we’re generally considering cars that are less than 10 years old with less than 100,000 miles on the clock in an ideal situation. This means that we have to consider both the S550 generation and the older S197 generation which was manufactured between 2005 – 2014. Both are excellent options on the used market, aimed at buyers with different budgets. The S197 Mustang was an instant hit for Ford with its retro design and the famous V-8 engine. Since we’re looking at cars built after 2011, we also have to include the 5.0L V-8 equipped S197 models which go for a slight premium over the others.
At the used stage, you can get the Mustang experience for several thousand off the brand-new price, making it an ideal stage if you want to save some cash. A quick look around dealerships and you can find plenty of examples ranging from as low as $20,000 depending on the condition.
- Banger Stage
In this case, were considering cars that are well past the 10-year mark, going for prices well below the previous stages. Because of their age, a lot of examples are abused and have high miles on the clock. However, they still have some life left, especially if you look hard enough for a good example. For this stage, we’ll consider the SN95 Mustang which was launched back in 1994 and went out of production in 2004. Because of its age, you can find some examples for just a few thousand dollars. While the SN95 was not as popular as the newer or older generations, it still had all the character and performance of a Mustang. The SN95 also received the V-8 engine in two states of tune, with the latter limited to the Cobra models.
The Terminator Cobra Mustang is the most notable offering of the generation, although it demands a significant premium over the other models if you can find one. While most basic models will eventually end up in the scrap heap, the Cobra and Terminator Cobra trims are future classics in the making. Prices have already started to rise for these options.
A quick look at some websites will reveal some models priced at nearly $20,000 even after 25 years.
- Ironic Classic
Some generations like the Fox-Body Mustang that ran from 1979 to 1993 and the second generation which ran from 1974 to 1978 were widely criticized for being too different from the original models. But, they still had a unique character, and a lot of enthusiasts stood by them as potential future classics.
As of today, these cars are starting to become classics with prices going through the roof for well-maintained examples. However, the Fox Body is the one to go for as the second generation Mustang or Mustang II is widely regarded as the worst Mustang generation of all time because of their muted V-8 engines and ordinary styling. A higher-spec Fox Body Mustang with a V-8 will easily fetch more than $25,000 in today’s market, while some GT models can go as high as $35,000 depending on their exclusivity.
Finally, we reach the last stage of car life. Here, the obvious choice is the first generation Mustang which was built from 1965 to 1973. By this stage, almost all surviving options are considered classics, even ones that are less maintained or used to be bangers. Of course, badly maintained ones will go for cheap in some cases, especially the ones with the smaller Inline-6 engine that produced just over 100 hp. However, some well-maintained models can easily cross the $100,000 threshold, especially the GT350 and GT500 models with bigger V-8s under the hood, breathed upon by Shelby performance. Since most options of this vintage have already gone through a rebuild or thorough restoration, they still have life left if you want to enjoy the 1960s Amerian Muscle car generation.
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