Are the Defenders the New Hunters? If so, what next?

Budget-conscious vintage car collectors, competing with Americans who have taken an interest in vehicles as a hobby in recent years, have increasingly found themselves out of the market for cars once considered fun and cheap and now have a great demand. . Undeterred, however, many buyers are determined to find the next best thing. Introduce the substitution principle.

It’s a financial term that has been appropriated, and somewhat inaccurately applied, by entry-level vintage car buyers, those with around $25,000 to spend. It’s a tongue-in-cheek answer to the question of what to buy when a coveted car has appreciated beyond your reach, something that happens all too often during this wild appreciation period in your hobby. The median value of a collector’s car in good condition soared 20 percent in January from a year ago and another 4 percent in the first three months of this year, according to Hagerty, a specialty insurer.

To their surprise, buyers are discovering that the cheaper substitute can, in many ways, become the equal of the more established collectible. And once word gets out, as it inevitably does quickly in the vintage car world, demand rises for second-tier shipping prices, starting the process of looking for substitutes all over again.

The latest example in that cycle of substitutes is the first-generation Mitsubishi Pajero, which has become a substitute for people who can’t afford an old Land Rover Defender.

The Defender’s appeal is broad: Typically, millennials who binge-watch “The Crown” in Barbour jackets seem to want one as much as boomers who remember the zebra-striped Land Rovers of the cheesy 1960s TV show. “Daktari”. Almost all flavors of the classic Defender are valuable in the United States, but those made for the US market in 1995 and 1997 can be worth up to $200,000.

Less luxurious and less powerful, 1980s Defenders built for the European market had been available for under $20,000 until recently. No more. Mid-range collectors who want a quirky, fun, Serengeti-ready vintage SUV are out of luck, are they?

Lyn Woodward, an automotive journalist, grew up dreaming of boxy, small, off-road SUVs. She struck some kind of balance. Then, about two years ago, while walking around the Los Angeles area, she came across an attractively straight-ahead 1987 Mitsubishi Montero parked in a driveway.

Hardly remembered by most, the first-generation Montero came in three-door and five-door styles. The 91-inch and 109-inch wheelbases effectively mimicked the proportions of the classic Land Rover Defender, and the Pajero gained significant fame in the 1980s, with seven consecutive victories in the brutal Dakar Rally. In fact, its off-road reputation is almost as great as that of the classic Defender. It’s no coincidence that the Montero’s skills and more than passing resemblance now make it a target for collectors who can no longer afford a Defender.

Ms. Woodward put up a valiant but ultimately futile resistance to the charms of the SUV she considers “as capable as it is lovable.” Shortly before the car’s for sale sign was out of sight, she bought the Montero for $2,400.

“It goes up hills slowly, but it’s a total mountain goat off-roader,” Woodward said, noting that the slogan in 1980s ads called the Pajero “the urban gorilla,” effectively foreshadowing the transition from SUVs to vehicles. SUV to grocery stores. getters

Ms. Woodward, who has spent more than a few hours on classic Defenders, said the Pajero was its off-road equivalent and “adds the fun of reliability.” Like most classic British vehicles, old Defenders aren’t exactly known for their bulletproof reliability. Monteros, on the other hand, show off their Japanese ruggedness and engineering in their comically oversized exterior mirrors.

Until recently, owners of a vintage Pajero could steal the looks and appeal of a classic Land Rover and get a possibly better vehicle, for less than 10 per cent of the price of the cheapest Defender. Unsurprisingly, the new buzz around Monteros has increased demand considerably.

Cory Wade, a classic car dealer in Traverse City, Michigan, is also on the hunt for a vintage Montero, finding that prices for cars in average condition, once hovering around $3,000 to $5,000, have roughly doubled in the last two years. .

“For a truly fantastic, low-mileage example, the sky is probably the limit at this point,” Wade said, noting that the three-door Pajero with manual transmission is the version that is now in the highest demand among collectors. “I’m hoping to get over $25,000 for a really cool Montero.”

Mr. Wade added that Chrysler briefly marketed its own version of this SUV, calling it the Dodge Raider.

If one needs more confirmation that the ship has sailed for Montero seekers, it’s the fact that a professional trend spotter, Brian Rabold, Hagerty’s vice president of vehicle intelligence, just bought one.

For vintage car enthusiasts now priced out of the market for vintage Monteros, Mr. Wade, the car dealer, has some advice on a possible replacement: “I really like early Toyota RAV4s. They are boxy and lightweight, but still relatively strong. And just like Defenders and Monteros, they come in three-door and five-door body styles.”

When they were built, “Toyota quality was maybe at its peak,” he said. “There’s really no upper limit to how many miles they’ll go.”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.