Jeff Gordon’s iconic No. 24 DuPont Rainbow livery is the winningest paint scheme in NASCAR history, with 52 wins at 17 tracks, three championship titles, and more than 10,000 laps led. After “Fire and Flames” became the norm for Gordon’s No. 24 in 2001, the Rainbow only made one more appearance until Gordon’s final season in 2015, when this car was painted in the signature livery for one final ride at the Bristol night race. The evening was a highlight of Gordon’s retirement tour for the four-time champion and his adoring fans alike. Since retirement, the car has been meticulously restored to the condition in which it sat on the starting grid that night in Bristol by the Hendrick Motorsports Certified Race Cars team of experts using new, authentic, period-correct parts. The car’s engine is the top-of-the-line Hendrick Motorsports-certified Chevrolet “R07” fuel-injected race engine, good for 725 horsepower. Inside, the cabin has been furnished with a new NASCAR-spec safety cell, fire-suppression system and carbon-fiber dash complete with all the proper specifications preferred by Jeff Gordon himself.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:2014 Chevrolet SS NASCAR
Years Produced:2014
Club Info:Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA)
Alternatives:Any 1995–2015 NASCAR Winston Cup/Sprint Cup car belonging to a top-tier driver such as Dale Earnhardt, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin, Jimmie Johnson, etc.

This car, Lot 146, sold for $212,800, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island sale on May 22, 2021.

Old purpose-built racing cars come in an amazing variety of flavors, from delicate, tiny pre-war Bugattis to bellowing 1950s Ferraris to ’60s sports racers, 3-liter Formula One cars, “unlimited” Can-Am cars, and beyond. Each group has its own characteristics, aficionados, value sets and markets. Trying to write coherently about all of them, as I do, can be a challenge.

“Stock cars” 101

One of the wilder subcategories is ex-NASCAR racers. Often dismissed, they are far more sophisticated and high-tech than the “good old boy” image they sometimes project. Contemporary NASCAR race cars use tube frames that are custom built for the various teams, with double A-arm front suspensions and live-axle rear ends. They have 4-speed “dog box” transmissions and power steering. The bodies are hand-formed steel panels that can be (and frequently are) replaced in just moments.

None of which is to suggest that they are light. Minimum track weight is 3,400 pounds and must be more or less evenly distributed from side to side (important for oval racing). This brings us to the next essential point. With all that required weight, they are strong to the point that drivers can expect to walk away from most crashes. Which, in turn, gets us to the idea that driver skill is essential, but so is aggression and a steely nerve. These cars are not for the timid.

They are also, according to my friends who have experienced them, an absolute hoot to drive. Check your inhibitions at the door and go for it! Give it a fling, stomp that throttle, row it through the gears, and feel those 750 horses pull you ever-faster down the straight. Just remember as you come hurtling down the hill into Elkhart’s turn five that there’s plenty of curb weight and not all that much tire. Whoa, baby! Now turn, please!

Hard to break, easy to fix

NASCAR racers come in three basic configurations: superspeedway, oval and road course. The superspeedway cars (ovals over two miles long, such as Daytona or Talladega) are specific to that purpose and difficult to adapt.

The short/intermediate oval cars (like our subject) and the road-course cars can be interchanged with relative ease. This is a distinct advantage for a driver-collector, as road-course racing is fun and available, while no sane amateur would attempt racing on a big oval. Several vintage-racing organizations have grids for these cars, and they are well attended.

A further advantage is that with the rough use they get in NASCAR, they tend to be bomb-proof mechanically and easy to repair. There is nothing delicate or effete about these cars; they’re all about elbows-out driving and getting the job done. For an amateur driver in a car many years past its glory, this makes maintenance and race preparation much easier.

Livery and history boosts value

The value range for these cars is relatively broad, anywhere from the mid-five figures to $500,000 or so. We should spend some time unwrapping the variables responsible. As usual, it is a function of the various weapons-grade and collector-grade attributes that combine to determine what people are willing to pay.

Interestingly, assuming an equivalent level of mechanical condition, the weapons value over the price range is relatively fixed. They all weigh the same, have essentially identical suspensions and transmissions, carry the same tires and make the same horsepower. No matter the car you are in, whether you finish a vintage race in front or well back is a function of the driver and preparation, nothing else. If what you care about is winning on the track, buy a less-expensive car and spend the money learning how to drive it fast.

If, on the other hand, you are interested in impressing your friends and building your collection, a whole different set of considerations apply. Basically, they are history, driver and livery (in varying order) depending on details, just as if you were buying an FIA-championship racer. In general, great history in a big race trumps the others, though they frequently come together. If you want a Daytona 500 winner with a great driver and good livery, you are probably looking at close to half a million dollars.

Beyond that, driver and livery tend to share equal importance. Jeff Gordon was one of the greatest and most-loved drivers in recent NASCAR history, but the catalog copy gives as much attention to the iconic “Rainbow” paint scheme as to the car’s race history for a reason.

An icon, fairly bought

How much an iconic livery is worth is an interesting question. For an FIA Championship Porsche 917K, the blue-and-orange Gulf Wyer colors (if legitimately worn) can be worth a 15%–20% premium over a privateer’s equivalent car. Of course, team colors and great history tend to come together, so separating them can be difficult.

On today’s subject car, the classic “Rainbow” scheme was a throwback to Gordon’s early career dominance and has strong symbolic importance, appropriate for his final race. The car’s race history was nothing special, so the value has to be assigned primarily to livery and Jeff Gordon.

At roughly $213,000, this car sold for a substantial premium over what would be expected of a garden-variety NASCAR Sprint Cup racer. It was by all accounts beautifully restored and prepared by Hendrick Motorsports, who are as good as it gets, so that was part of the price.

I would suggest, though, that the “Jeff Gordon’s last ride” and Rainbow livery factors were worth at least half of the hammer price. Collector values work that way. As a collectible, this was fairly bought and sold. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)

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