Brawn Over Beauty: At Auctions, Ford Bronco Is the New Ferrari

Though a new Ferrari may be worth a mint from the dealership (its cheapest model, the California, will still run you roughly $195,840) with models priced well over $300,000, it seems that some of the cars have not aged as well as one would hope.

The DuPont Registry — ultra-expensive and rare car classifieds, if you will — has a 1985 Ferrari 308 Quattrovalvole GTS on sale for $36,900. That’s a Ferrari badge for less than a GM (NYSE:GM) Chevy Volt, which starts at $39,000. It should be noted, though, that it’s all about the model in question. In fact, the most expensive car ever sold at auction was a Ferrari, a 1957 250 Testa Rossa, to be specific: it brought in a cool $16,390,000 when it went under the gavel in 2011. Not only that, but Ferraris make up four of the ten most expensive cars ever sold at auction.

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However, the Italian manufacturer is now facing competition in the auction house from what can only be described as its polarizing opposite: the Ford (NYSE:F) Bronco. Yes, the one and only Bronco, which is more at home on the side of a mountain than the straightaway of a track.

It appears that younger auction shoppers who don’t want to pay top dollar for an Italian exotic are turning to more affordable alternatives, such as classic trucks. The vintage SUV market has grown 65 percent since 2008, according to a report by the Michigan-based Hagerty Price Guide. By comparison, the rate of growth for the entire classic car market is about half that, or 37 percent.

“If a truck is what you drive, buying a vintage one makes sense,” McKeel Hagerty, president and chief executive of Hagerty, told Bloomberg in an interview. “They’re cool, parts are readily available: It’s an inexpensive way to play in the car market.”

Ferrari and other niche luxury brands are by no means losing value. According to Bloomberg data, the classic car auctions held by Gooding, RM, Barrett-Jackson, Bonhams, and Russo & Steel in Arizona in January generated $223.8 million with fees, $39.9 million higher than last year. Hagerty’s “Rossa Corsa” Index of collectable Ferraris is also at an all-time high of 324.4 points — following a gain of 24 percent over the last year alone.

However, classic SUVs like the Bronco, as well as classic Jeeps, are beginning to appreciate as well. Broncos from the 1960s and 1970s rose in value by 61 percent to $25,250 in 2012, from $15,700 in 2008, said Hagerty. Prices of Toyota (NYSE:TM) FJ Land Cruisers rose 35 percent over the same period; Jeeps were up 21 percent.

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“Broncos are attractive and their convertible models have a warm-weather appeal,” Hagerty told Bloomberg. “Also, their engines have a bit more pep than Jeep.”

Now, there are even specialty outfitters, such as Icon, that will sell a fully restored Bronco, with all sorts of added accoutrements and options. The package can run a pretty penny, but the fact that companies are now dedicating products solely to bygone eras of SUVs is a sure sign that vintage four-by-fours are staging a comeback.

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