The common thread, Mr. Vernis said, was the off-the-radar nature of the cars. Few collectors, for example, would have thought the Merkur Scorpio would become an up-and-comer. It was a German-built Ford Scorpio sedan that was adapted for the American market and sold at Mercury dealerships as a potential BMW and Audi competitor. The car was neither unattractive nor bad, but it was a sales flop and disappeared after just a few model years.
Then a 1989 model with just 19,300 miles appeared on Cars and Bids late last year. Mr. DeMuro commented at the time of the auction, “If you’ve ever been looking for something that will win the award of ‘strangest, most unknown car’ at cars and coffee, this is it. It’s probably the nicest one in existence at this point.”
The price of having the nicest Merkur Scorpio in late 2020 was $12,500, about 10 times what a run-down example sold for on Craigslist.
Mr. DeMuro said it often seemed as though collectors were seeking cars that they either couldn’t afford when they were new, or were owned by their family, like the Acura Legend Coupe. Acura was the vanguard of the Japanese movement to sell more upscale brands that later spawned Lexus and Infiniti. The Legend was the first product of Honda’s luxury brand.
Early Legend sedans from the 1980s are now hard to find, especially the two-door version. In January, Bring a Trailer offered a 35,000 mile 1988 example that looked like it had just left the showroom. The winning bidder, at $15,000.
The Legend and the 1981 Accord were bought by Gary Duncan, a Japanese car collector from Virginia who has a history with the brand.
“I’ve been a Honda dealer for 44 years and an Acura dealer since 1988,” Mr. Duncan said. “I buy every low-mileage Japanese car I can find for my personal collection. I think that the 1988 Legend Coupe was the best looking Acura coupe of all, and the 1981 Accord sedan, Special Edition, is unbelievably rare. I just had to have it no matter what.”