Dean Kruse keeps close tabs on what's hot and what's not in the collectible car trade. That's because his firm, Kruse International of Auburn, Ind., is involved in auctioning such cars just about every week.
Each year, Kruse also compiles his "Dean's List" of cars most expected to increase in value, as a guide for those who make a business of collecting and those who are thinking about entering the hobby.
"I'm seeing a new trend this year," Kruse said. "People are going for the '40s and newer models because they want to drive them, not just buy and show them."
But one tip.
"Stay away from four-door sedans of any era and American cars of the late '80s, when the focus was on fuel economy and making cars as cheaply as we could while the Japanese were building better cars and got a foothold in this country," he said.
A sampling of Kruse's picks and commentary:
1901 Curved Dash Oldsmobile: This will be Oldsmobile's last year -- what better car to buy than the first year's model? Only 386 were produced, making for a thrilling hunt. You can buy one today for $27,000-$40,000; values should increase 20% in 2004.
1931 Ford Model A Deluxe Roadster 4-cylinder: These beauties have stayed at the same price level for several years. They will go up this year. $14,000-$20,000. ; could rise 20% in 2004.
1935 Auburn Model 8-851 8-cylinder Custom Dual Ratio Cabriolet with rumble seat: A great-driving antique car. It is undemanding and beautiful. $65,000 to $85,000; should increase 20% this year.
1955-56 Ford Crown Victoria Sunliner V-8 convertible: A very desirable car. This is one of Ford's most attractive designs and always a good investment. $17,000-$30,000; expect a rise of 15% this year.
1958 Chevrolet Impala convertible V-8: The older it gets, the better it looks. A timeless design with many engine options including fuel injection. $45,000 to $55,000; ; should go up 15% in 2004.
1960 Cadillac Eldorado Biarritz convertible V-8 390 with three two-barrel carburetors: One of the largest convertibles ever built. A smooth ride with sleek lines that's gaining popularity. $40,000 to $60,000; can go up 20% this year.
1967 Chevrolet Corvette Big Block convertible: The sky is the limit on this 427-cubic-inch American sports car. $60,000 to $600,000; values should rise 15% this year.
1907 Peugeot Chain Driven Six: Peugeot has the prestige of being the first automaker to sell a car to a private individual, in 1889. The ultimate find might be the very rare 40-horsepower, 6-cylinder version with chain drive. This all-brass car could approach $500,000 to $600,000; could go up 20% this year.
1928 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Piccadilly Roadster: The Piccadilly roadster is noted for very clean styling and lines. Its proportions give the illusion of a very long wheelbase. The Piccadilly was for the true playboy. Will bring $90,000 to $150,000, depending on condition; should push up 15% this year.
1934 Mercedes-Benz 380K Sports Roadster 8-cylinder: Very few 380s were produced. Most of the existing examples reside in the finest collections, but can be found on the market. $150,000 to $180,000; should increase 15% this year.
1954 MG TF Roadster: A very popular car. The MG ushered in a new era of sports cars in the U.S. Even with the Corvette in production, the MG continued to be popular. $13,000 to $17,000; will go up 15% to 20% this year.
1954 Morgan Plus Four 2+2 Two Seater Roadster: Only 59 Morgans were imported into the U.S. in 1954. The most obvious design change to the Plus Four Morgan in '54 was the sloping front grille, which would remain and become a most recognizable attribute. Prices range from $18,000 to $25,000 and are increasing because of limited availability and promise for top-down fun; expect values to rise 18%.
1959 Porsche 356 Speedster Convertible D: The Convertible D was a unique model, a designation that for one year bridged a gap between the speedster and cabriolet. It offered slightly better rearward visibility over prior designs and roll-up windows and the same timeless beauty. Seekers of unique models will find the Convertible D a special treat. Vintage Porsche cars are a solid investment, with roadsters of the late '50s fetching mid- to high-$50,000s -- perfect cars will see $80,000; up 15% this year.