21 October 2015

Bringing Classics Back to the Future: What if Biff Stole a Hagerty Price Guide From 2015, Not a Sports Almanac?

In Back to the Future Part II, Biff famously swipes the Grays Sports Almanac that Marty buys on October 21, 2015 (today) to make a few innocent extra bucks when he goes back to 1985. After Doc Brown talks Marty out of it and forces him to throw the almanac in the garbage, Biff is able to hijack the DeLorean and give the book to his younger self in 1955, and by the time Marty returns Biff has become filthy rich off of sports betting, has legalized gambling, and has ruined their hometown of Hill Valley in the process, not to mention murdering Marty’s father and marrying his mother against her will.

Now this might be farfetched, but what if that book hadn’t been a sports almanac but a Hagerty Price Guide? Sure, it probably would’ve made for a much less compelling plot and Biff would’ve had to take his sweet time flipping cars instead of getting the instant bucks that come with betting on sports games when you already know the outcomes, but what kind of cars might he have bought to make his fortune? Unfortunately for Biff, the DeLorean market wouldn’t have done anything for him. The average value for a DMC-12 hasn’t even caught up to its original price when new, and that’s not even counting for inflation. Plus, Doc Brown’s DeLorean was technically modified, wasn’t it? Unless he figured out how the whole time machine thing worked and sold it to the Soviets or something, the DeLorean with all of Doc’s bolt-ons would have been a hard sell. Provided he just played it safe and stuck with the Price Guide, here are five cars that Biff could have made a killing with over the years.

Ferrari 250 GTO

Average value today: $57,622,500

This car is a bit of a no-brainer and, frankly, what is true for the GTO is also true of just about any championship-winning, low-volume racing sports car in terms of values. Cars like the GTO were expensive when they were new and they’re expensive now, but there was a time when they were just used cars that were no longer competitive on track and often worn out. In the GTO’s case, examples supposedly changed hands in the latter part of the 1960s for under $10,000. Pink Floyd drummer Nick Mason paid around $86,000 for his GTO in 1978, and while that’s still a lot of money (over $300,000 today) and many though he overpaid for it at the time, none of the 36 250 GTOs built would sell for under eight figures today.

Shelby Cobra 427 S/C

Average value today: $1,999,750

Like the GTO, the Cobra wasn’t always a coveted collector car and there was a time after their competitive racing career was over and after Shelby had stopped building them that they were little more than cheap used sports cars. For a time traveling, Hagerty Price Guide-wielding guy like Biff, picking up a used Cobra in the ‘70s and selling it a few decades later would have been worth the wait.

Plymouth Hemi Cuda

Average value today: $236,340 for a coupe; $1,548,500 for a convertible

Even if Biff had only been able to go back to 1985 instead of 1955, he still would have been able to put that Price Guide to very good use. Even just browsing through a single issue of Hemmings in 1985, he would have seen several Hemi Cudas for sale, many of them in the neighborhood of $5,000 (a little over $11,000 today). Regardless of body style or condition, scooping up one or even a few of them would bring huge dividends.

Ferrari Dino 246 GTS

Average value today: $376,400

That same issue of Hemmings in 1985 also would have had several Dinos to choose from, with asking prices of around $10,000 (a little over $22,000 today) being the norm. Long dismissed as “not a real Ferrari”, the Dino has of course since been recognized as the technical and visual marvel that it is, and as an integral part of the history of the sports cars coming out of Maranello. Values have adjusted accordingly.

1957 Jaguar XKSS

Average value today: $8,197,500

The XKSS was Jaguar’s way of getting rid of excess D-Type components by selling road-going versions of their famous Le Mans-winning endurance racer, and only 16 were built before a fire at the factory ended its production run. In a 1964 issue of Road & Track, one was for sale for $6,000 (a little over $46,000 today). It’s hard to place a value on the XKSS as so few were built and because it’s been a long time since one sold, but it’s on a lot of collectors’ wish lists and examples of the D-Type on which the XKSS is based always bring prices well into seven-figure territory. If Biff had picked one up, especially the one that Steve McQueen owned, he could have probably bought the nicest house in Hill Valley and still had a small fortune left over, even if he would’ve had to wait a few decades to do it.

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