The car market was the best-performing collectibles market in 2014, according to many indexes. But the best-performing car for the year is something of a surprise.
While Ferraris claimed all but one of the top 10 spots for the most expensive cars auctioned in 2014, Ferraris were not the biggest gainers in terms of price. That spot went to its Italian rival, Lamborghini—and for a car that graced the bedroom walls of countless teenagers in the 1980s.
The Lamborghini Countach (pronounced Koontosh) was the top car in 2014 for price gains, according to Hagerty, the insurer of collectible cars. Prices for Countachs jumped by 175 percent in 2014, meaning they nearly tripled in one year.
Cars that used to sell for $200,000 or $300,000 are now selling for more than $750,000. A 1979 Countach LP 400S is being auctioned off by RM Auctions in Scottsdale, Arizona, next month, and it could top $1 million.
The Countach has always been a high-profile car. Launched in 1974, the car shattered the curvy convention in the car design world with its futuristic wedge shape and sharp angles. The car also broke ground with its "scissor doors" that swung up and out and became a common feature of supercars.
Lambo produced only around 2,000 Countachs between 1974 and 1990, when it was replaced by the Diablo. But there were hundreds of thousands of posters sold of the Countach, most adorned with scantily clad women, as the car became the official fantasy wheels for the boy teens of the 1980s. As some of those teens get rich in adulthood, they're making their teen dreams possible by buying Countachs at auction.
"People of that age now have a little bit of money and it's cool to have a Countach," said McKeel Hagerty, CEO of Hagerty. "Not many people have a Countach. It was an amazing looking car, a little bit eccentric mechanically, but a wonderful car."
Two other cars that were top performers last year in terms of price gains were the Sunbeam Tiger and the Aston Martin Lagonda, according to Hagerty.
Sunbeam Tigers boast a compact British car body with a monster Ford V-8 engine, and have appreciated by 61 percent this year. And Lagondas, which took the Lambo wedge to almost absurd lengths, were also a big hit in the 1980s.
It all shows that classic car prices are as much a function of demography (and the age of the new rich) as they are a function of history.