Finding cool classic cars on a budget is a real challenge, especially right now when used car prices are unbelievably high (largely thanks to The Bat Kiss).
For every shitbox, fifth-gen Honda Civic or ‘bogan’ VL Commodore that went from being hard to even give away to an in-demand investment opportunity, there’s plenty of fast-depreciating ‘modern classics’ that are anything but. How do you find something that’s going to keep you smiling years down the track?
Two men who know how to pick them are Blair “Moog” Joscelyne and Martin “Marty” Mulholland, the geniuses behind leading Australian YouTube channel Mighty Car Mods. Marty and Moog, who boast over 3.4 million subscribers on YouTube, have spent the best part of the last two decades finding and doing up old cars, and have a god-given knack for finding diamonds in the rough.
Indeed, they’re so good at it that whether or not the cars they work on are considered classics before they bring them in, they’re definitely considered classics once they’re done with them – the ‘Mighty Car Mods effect’ fuelling used car prices like Warren Buffet’s endorsement affects a stock’s performance, but even more turbocharged.
DMARGE had the chance to pick the boy’s brains about how their approach to finding investment-worthy whips, who explained that it’s very much a passion-driven process.
“The market goes crazy with some stuff being in fashion and expensive or cheap and no one wants them, but regardless of that there is a list as long as our arm of cars we’re keen to get into and modify and try… there’s so much good stuff out there.”
Their take? Old turbocharged and/or all-wheel drive (AWD) cars are only going to continue becoming hot property, due to the simple fact that very few brands are making them these days.
“I wish manufacturers would make more turbo and all-wheel drive stuff. They grip, they stop, they handle and you can add power. Front and rear-wheel drive is fun in its own way but turbo AWD stuff is where it’s at.”
They’ve certainly put their money where their mouths are on this note. Many of their most famous project cars are either turbocharged, AWD (or both): think the Nissan Pulsar GTiR, Daihatsu Mira TR-XX, Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, Ford Focus RS, and of course ‘Supergramps’ the Subaru Liberty wagon…
They also have a penchant for rear-wheel-drive cars, another layout that’s becoming increasingly uncommon on Australian roads. Two notable examples include their Datsun 240Z and most recently, their BMW E30 coupé they overhauled to celebrate the launch of Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.
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“Probably the strangest turn we’ve seen lately is that cars we’d consider to be not that special are fetching crazy money and being considered investments rather than tools for a fun time… it’s just the way things go when there’s lots of demand and not much supply for 1997 Hyundai Excels,” Marty and Moog joke.
That’s certainly true of the E30 they’ve most recently put their spanners to. The E30 is a great example of a car that was widely ignored up until relatively recently, as people have rediscovered its performance potential and gained a new-found appreciation for its very 80s boxy shape (not to mention high-profile celebrity endorsements from the likes of Ronnie Fieg and Tyler, the Creator among others).
That’s the other big pointer the boys have – 80s cars, beyond cars from other eras, are where the best finds are to be found.
“The 80s certainly was an interesting time for cars,” they relate.
“Japan was making some really weird, wild and wonderful stuff, European manufacturers were jumping ahead in leaps and bounds with the quality of the stuff they were coming up with, all while dealing with tightening emissions laws and the fuel crisis and no end of other issues that we forget about these days nearly 40 years later.”
While some DMARGE readers might find the prospect of 80s or even 90s cars being considered classics, the numbers don’t lie: it’s cars from those eras that are seeing the most speculation.
Earlier this year, we spoke exclusively with Marty from The Motor Tailor, a Sydney-based enterprise that specialises in restoring and dealing in classic cars, who says that it’s “bedroom wall poster” cars that are the ones becoming the new classics, with “people in their thirties or forties… now looking for their dream cars from their teens, now that they have a bit of money. For example, the R32 Skyline.”
It’s the same approach Mighty Car Mods takes to picking their next project cars. “In many ways, we’re ticking off bucket list cars. Things we’ve driven in the past or wanted to experience,” they say.
That emotional factor is so important, and influenced why they picked the E30 for their collaboration with Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War.
“This [game] being set during the Cold War meant we straight away thought 80s and European. Some Russian cars were initial ideas also but there’s so few of them here and it takes quite a while to customise them to the point where they can be fast AND reliable. The E30 platform we ended up going with is really popular in the car scene which means there’s lots of aftermarket support and its possible to make something really fast and really fun that’s still within the theme and ideas of the game.”
“In games where you can mod cars, our favourite kind of thing is to get the worst nuggety piece of junk the game offers you then just make it off its head with turbos and nitrous and all the gear to go and chop more expensive stuff, so I guess that’s a lot like real life.”
A fitting way to sum up the pursuit of classic cars – finding automotive nuggets, and turning them into gold nuggets.