Thursday, April 14, 2016

A New Reality? "Rubber Bumper" Corvette C3 Prices

1974-1982 C3 Corvettes—with a few exceptions—have been the "entry level" vehicles to the Corvette hobby for a long time. Maybe too long of a time.

Having said that, when I saw posted asking prices on several "rubber bumper" Corvettes at Gateway Classic Cars of Orlando, I almost got a case of "sticker shock!" But since I happen to own a 1976 Stingray, I am not complaining about prices of these models going up, but I was surprised at the sudden increase and, especially, how much.

Although you may correctly say I am biased, I am just one of millions of people all over this planet who think the C3 Corvette design is one of the most beautiful ever. The C3 Corvette body shape—like the Coca-Cola bottle—is timeless.
My 1976 Corvette Stingray

Last Sunday, as I waited at a red light while driving my '76 to a local cruise, a young woman literally screeched to a stop, threw her car in reverse and, when next to mine, shouted, "Your car is so beautiful!" I thanked her and felt proud like a new dad holding his baby for the first time.

This is not the first time something like this has happened to me so I know that most people love C3s. Some may not know or even care about the difference between a chrome bumper versus a rubber bumper model, and that's fine. They are attracted by the shape of the car and the fact that it's easy on the eyes.

I regularly scan Corvette ads on Craigslist in order to see what's available out there, and rubber bumper C3 prices range from a couple of grand for what could be considered a parts car, to just shy of $20,000 for "mint" cars. Of course description accuracy varies greatly and most may not be as "mint" as advertised. And the fact that odometers of the era turn back to zero after hitting 99,999 miles, only compounds the problem.

The Corvettes at the Gateway Classic Cars of Orlando showroom were fine examples of C3s, although I have to admit that I found a lot of flaws that would make justifying the asking prices difficult. But I am a perfectionist and very picky when it comes to certain small details, and maybe the average Joe would not notice or care about such trivial particulars.

On the other hand, a C3 Corvette in beautiful condition should command a high valuation. A proper and flawless paint job, for example, costs anywhere from eight to ten grand or more, so a nice restoration can set you back at least $20,000 and that's if you shop around. My guess is that if you bring a car in need of a complete restoration to a reputable shop, you're going to be looking at around $35,000 and about a year's worth of waiting. Add the cost of the vehicle to the bill and you're darn close to $45,000 for the finished product.

So maybe purchasing a car that has been restored and ready to drive and enjoy in the $25,000 to $35,000 range, is not such a bad deal after all.

Above: This '77 Vette sported Corvette Orange (code 66) paint. Gotta love that color.

Above: Another orange Corvette, this one in Orange Flame (code 70).

Above: This Indy Pace Car 'Vette looked clean without the door decals.

Above: A very clean '76 Vette in Flame Red paint, powered by an L-82 motor.

Above: A '74 Stingray powered by a 454 big block. Nuff said!

Above: A black beauty with custom 1990s throwback graphics.

Above: Starting with some 1980 models, prices start to taper down.