If the roaring success of Bring a Trailer and the ‘expanding market’ classification by Hagerty Market Rating are anything to go by, then the collector car market is booming. In recent years, the automotive community witnessed how desirable attributes such as rarity and originality catalyzed bidding wars and commanded skyscraper prices almost overnight.
A keen analysis of current trends indicates a notable surge in popularity among gearheads and investors for American muscle and JDM collector cars. Despite the demand, some collector cars are so rare that even the most well-heeled enthusiasts can only dream of, however much they are willing to spend. We’ve picked out five rarest American muscle cars ever produced and five even rarer JDM cars.
10 Rare Muscle: 1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda Convertible (11 Units)
The Plymouth ‘Cuda is arguably one of the most handsome muscle cars of all time, endowed with a huge hood, six unique grille nostrils, angled shark gills on each front fender, and sleek, aggressive body lines. For the 1971 model year, Plymouth built 374 Barracuda convertibles in total, but only 12 boasted the ferocious Street Hemi V-8 power.
Even rarer are ’71 Hemi ‘Cuda convertibles fitted with the factory A833 four-speed manual transmission and Hurst pistol-grip shifter, of which just three are on record. According to Hagerty, a 1971 Plymouth Hemi ‘Cuda Convertible would demand no less than $3,000,000, while pristine examples could hammer for well over $5,000,000 at auction.
9 Rare JDM: 2012 Lexus LFA Nürburgring Edition (50 units)
The world-beating Lexus LFA supercar ended a streak of underwhelming Toyota products, stamping its authority with an impressive hat-trick of class wins at the iconic Nürburgring 24 Hours race. To commemorate the landmark achievement, Lexus commissioned a limited 50-unit production run of the most sought-after iteration of the LFA, the Nürburgring Edition.
Compared to the standard model, the track-oriented Lexus LFA Nürburgring Edition boasts an array of aerodynamic modifications, suspension adjustments, and a much-welcome revision to the 4.8-liter V-10 engine. Other specs include a 10mm ride height reduction, a fixed GT-style rear wing, Bridgestone Potenza RE070 performance tires, and lightweight mesh-style forged alloy wheels.
8 Rare Muscle: 1970 Dodge Coronet R/T 426 Hemi Convertible (2 Units)
For the 1970 model year, Dodge offered the high-performance Dodge Coronet R/T trim with one of the most desirable powertrains of the time, the 426 Hemi V-8 ‘Elephant Motor’. Despite all the impeccable Mopar options, Dodge delivered only two Hemi-equipped Dodge Coronet R/T convertibles in 1970.
While it’s widely known that the B-body Dodge Coronet R/T Hemi convertibles produced in 1967 are just as rare, the sportier E-bodies of 1970 remain the pinnacle of collectability. Should any of the 1970 Dodge Coronet R/T 426 Hemi Convertibles get on the market soon, market experts anticipate them to change hands for no less than $1,000,000.
7 Rare JDM: 1997 NISMO R33 GT-R 400R (44 Units)
Unfortunately for the R33, critics in most inner circles consider it the Blacksheep of the Skyline family, branded as a watered-down version of the R32 and overshadowed by the legendary R34. However, NISMO’s push to homologate the R33 for Le Mans competition spawned the 400R, a justifiable JDM legend that Hagerty considers one of the greatest performance machines of all time.
The NISMO treatment bequeathed the 400R with a 400hp RB-X GT2, 30mm lower ride height, Bilstein dampers, NISMO springs, NISMO Type-2 brake pads, and NISMO LM-GT1 wheels. Initial 400R production aimed at 100 street-legal examples, but NISMO records indicate only 44 units, of which GTR-Registry positively verifies 40.
6 Rare Muscle: 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray ZL1 (2 Units)
Chevrolet produced several hot iterations of the iconic and ludicrous C3 Corvette, but none come close to the mythical status of the legendary 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray ZL1. Ordering the C3 with the aluminum-block ZL1 engine cost more than double the base Corvette, so it’s unsurprising that only two owners took the plunge.
Interestingly, one of the two 1969 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray ZL1s is up for auction publicly for the first time in 30 years. Considering RM Sotheby’s Phoenix sale listing indicates an estimate of $2,600,000 – $3,000,000, there is a legitimate shot that the certifiably rare beast will become the most expensive Vette to cross the auction block.
5 Rare JDM: 1994 Toyota TRD 3000GT (35 Units)
Toyota’s in-house tuning department TRD has been on a hot streak, engineering and tweaking remarkable production cars for motorsport. Except for that one time in 1994 when they inversed the approach and produced a limited 35-unit run of road-legal TRD 3000GT models inspired by a JGTC competition car.
Toyota Racing Department delivered each factory-built sports car with a unique VIN plate, officially reclassifying them as TRD 3000GTs rather than fourth-generation Toyota Supras. Other distinguishing characteristics include a wider yet aerodynamic bodywork made from fiber-reinforced plastic, uprated suspension, four geometric hood vents, and two high-level wing options: Type-S and Type-R.
4 Rare Muscle: 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake (2 Units)
Carroll Shelby transformed two of only 23 examples of the Shelby 427 Competition Roadsters built into the Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake, identified as CSX 3015 and CSX 3303. Unfortunately, the CSX 3303 got destroyed when owner Bill Cosby drove off a cliff into the Pacific Ocean.
The only existent Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake served as Shelby’s automobile, which he famously drove to the Turismos Visitadores open-road event to earn the iconic nickname, ‘The Cobra to End All Cobras.’ The one-of-a-kind CSX 3015 boasts second-to-none performance thanks to an 800hp 427 big block equipped with a pair of Paxton superchargers to feed dual Holley four-barrel carburetors.
3 Rare JDM: 2005 NISMO R34 GT-R Z-tune (19 Units)
In commemoration of its 20th anniversary, Nissan’s NISMO department acquired 19 used R34 V-Spec II models and rebuilt them into the NISMO R34 GT-R Z-tune. Equipped with the advanced technology and vast experience gained from the Group A, GT500, N1, and Nürburgring racing projects, NISMO created the ultimate form of the R34, affectionately dubbed the ‘Mother of all GT-Rs.’
The NISMO R34 GT-R Z-tune features the potent combination of a modified 493hp twin-turbo RB26DETT, ATTESA E-TS, and HICAS. The Z-tune features wider bodywork to accommodate the wider wheels, functional hood vents, a Sachs race suspension, and a bespoke Brembo brake setup.
2 Rare Muscle: 1967 Shelby Mustang GT500 Super Snake (1 Unit)
In what started as a promotional test vehicle for Goodyear’s Thunderbolt tires, Shelby American eventually built the most coveted Mustang GT500 of all time. Shelby fitted the one-of-one Shelby Mustang GT500 Super Snake with Ford’s lightweight 427 race engine, the same V-8 powerplant utilized in the legendary GT40 Mk II racing program.
Fred Goodell made modifications such as an external oil cooler, remote oil filter, braided lines, stiffer springs and shocks, a special rear axle, a special transmission, and a variation of the GT40 Mk II’s signature ‘Bundle of Snakes’ exhaust system. Besides Thunderbolt tires, other notable external elements include unique Le Mans striping and chrome inboard headlight surrounds.
1 Rare JDM: 2005 Honda NSX-R GT (5 Units)
After releasing the second-generation NSX-R, Honda developed five examples of the limited-edition NSX-R GT to meet the homologation requirements for Super GT racing. The aggressive GT body kit for the NSX-R comprises an extended front spoiler lip, bigger front intakes, deep side skirts, bigger side intakes, and a rear sub-spoiler.
The most distinguishing characteristic of the NSX-R has to be the dramatic intake snorkel mounted on the rear window beyond the roof. Unfortunately, the NSXR-GT received no power upgrades, with Honda utilizing the same 3.2-liter DOHC V-6 found in the production NSX-R.
Sources: Hagerty, Toyota.