Price Of Classics Tumbling? is reporting that the current financial crisis is having an impact on the collector-car scene, with prices all over the map at the first Barrett-Jackson Auction held in Las Vegas, Nevada recently. Hemi Mopar madness has ended – the days of the $80,000 Austin Healey and six-figure E-Type Jaguars are over for now.

A 1962 Healey 300 MKII (Lot 762), which was a ground-up restoration by Healey Lane, of Oregon, was perfect yet sold for a mere $53,900. In January, that car would have sold in Scottsdale, Ariz., for $80,000. (All prices in U.S. dollars.)

An even bigger surprise was a 1962 E-Type Jaguar (Lot 813.1) I inspected at the auction — the flat- floor cars are highly sought after. This one-owner Beverly Hills convertible with a documented 7,400 original miles sold for $77,000. A few years ago, it would have been in the $110,000 price bracket.

Low-production muscle cars have dropped a little, but not as much as I had expected them to. I think the January 2009 auctions in Scottsdale will be a better indicator of things to come for this segment of the market.

The very wealthy tend to put their money into tangible investments — “precious metals” such as Gullwing Mercedes and rare Ferraris. They did the same thing the last time the stock market collapsed.

I have said many times before that I can’t understand the hype that is connected with some celebrity- owned cars. This year — despite financial turmoil — there were two big surprises. One of the big sellers was the car that Carroll Shelby used to launch his racing career in 1952. The 1949 MG TC (Lot 819) sold for $313,500. I must ask whether that car is really worth $273,000 more than a show condition MG TC.

The one that really amazed me was the sale of the Bette Davis 1980 Ford Mustang (Lot 460), which sold for $55,000. I think it sold for $50,000 too much. The Pony came from a museum and will likely end up in another such institution.

Those with money will still pay what it takes to get their car. I’m sure the collector-car owners who will get hurt the most in this crunch will be ordinary Joes (and Jills), who have borrowed to buy that dream car they always wanted.

For instance, the values of American cars from the 1950s seem to have taken a nosedive.

Three stunning mid-1950s Ford Crown Victorias averaged selling prices of just $34,000. These cars have been selling in the $70,000 bracket for the past three to five years.

The 1955-1957 Ford Thunderbird prices also seem to be falling. There were some bargains when it came to the pickup trucks. A turquoise 1955 Ford F-100 (Lot 221), a nut-and-bolt restoration, sold for $30,800.

An example of the custom-car market hitting the wall was demonstrated by the winning bid of $30,000 for a 1960 Chevrolet Impala Custom (Lot 760).

It was not just any custom car but a masterpiece from Troy Trepanier, a well-known hot-rod and custom- car builder, designer and racer. This very same Impala was one of the cars that set the standard for pro-street cars of the 1990s. Hot Rod magazine voted it 52nd out of the world’s top 100 customs for 2008. It was also ranked in the top 10 of all time by Hot Rodding magazine.

Despite a few teething problems, the Barrett-Jackson organization sold 512 vehicles totalling $28.7 million. The most expensive car sold was a 2006 custom built Ford Mustang Coupe (Lot 774.4), known as Funkmaster Flex.

The cheapest was a 1964 Chevrolet Corvair Monza Coupe at $5,500. There were certainly no million-dollar cars as we have seen in Scottsdale.

I should wrap up with some advice to those of you who fall into the Ordinary Joe collector category. In Vegas, I spent some time examining the cars very closely and must say that sometimes what you see under the bright lights and then under natural light are very different things — so are the descriptions that are written by the sellers.

One car that comes to mind is a 1963 Pontiac Parisienne. It was described as an older restoration, finished in a pearl white and with a new top. It looked quite nice in the catalogue but I would hardly call it a restoration.

It was more like an economy paint job, poor masking with lots of paint on the weatherstrips, and some of the chromed pot metal parts were growing things! It was just an old car with who knows what lurking under the fresh paintwork.

Nigel Matthews is the manager of specialty vehicles (vintage and collector cars) for the Insurance Corp. of B.C.