A perfect Daytona: How high-powered cars have muscled their way to the top

Tomorrow (February 23) marks the 52nd anniversary of the very first Daytona 500 - and to celebrate, we at Paul Fraser Collectibles thought we'd dedicate a little time to the iconic NASCAR race and collectible muscle cars in general.

The race is held annually at the Daytona International Speedway at Daytona Beach, Florida.  It consists of 200 laps and is 500 miles long, and is considered the most prestigious NASCAR competition, and regularly attracts the highest viewing figures of any American motor race.

The inaugural race, held in 1959, was won by Lee Petty, one of the pioneers of the competition and a racing celebrity in the 1950s and 1960s.  2008 marked a half-century of 'The Great American Race', and three years on its remains as popular as ever.

The race has involved some fantastic cars and its importance has had an impact on the collectible cars market.  In 2010, auctioneers Barrett-Jackson offered a wonderful vehicle in their Scottsdale Auction - a 2011 Ford Mustang GT Glass Roof Coupe, the official pace car for the 2010 Daytona 500.


Ford Mustang GT
2011 Ford Mustang GT, which set in the pace 2010 Daytona 500

The red V8, 5.0 litre vehicle was the first Ford to pace the Daytona 500 in 40 years and was one of a kind, with a unique paint scheme, suspension, and interior.  The popularity of the race was reflected in the popularity of the car - it realised a staggering $300,000, making it the most expensive car the Scottsdale auction.

The sale also represents the rising popularity of muscle cars in today's classic car collectors market.  The rise of Tammy Kerrigan (née Allen) as one of America's most prolific, yet most mysterious, muscle car collectors is a good example. 

Among many other notable purchases, Kerrigan acquired the No 5 Iacocca Silver 45th Anniversary Edition Mustang - one of just 45 created - for a stunning $352,000 in October 2009.  She hasn't been alone in raising the profile of the muscle car either.

As we reported here, a Detroit-made 1969 Chevrolet Corvette L88, one of only 116 made, was sold by RM Auctions for an enormous $401,500 in 2010, and only a few months ago, a 1969 Pontiac GTO Judge Ram Air IV Convertible from the legendary Milton Robson collection realised an epic $682,000.

Even after 52 years, the Daytona 500 remains supremely popular - and with classic muscle cars commanding impressive prices now, it's anyone's guess how valuable Daytona cars will be after a century of the race.  However, investors like Tammy Kerrigan clearly recognise the potential in this category - and if you have the funds, it is very worthwhile joining the race.


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