Regeneration of Excitement
Eric Lawrence - September 12, 2013 10:00 AM
The showcased car of the 2012 Corvette Funfest at Mid America Motorworks was the iconic 1963 Corvette. These cars can bring top dollar since they are highly desired.
The car carries the optional teak steering wheel, an original factory option that can add value. Ask for documentation and be wary of reproduction parts added years later.
This 1967 convertible is one of the few convertibles that has the L79 engine and air conditioning. The engine and transmission combination was the popular choice for the model year.
Many of the 1968 Corvettes you will find can be purchased for a great and fair price. You will occasionally find one that has had mega money in the restoration work and becomes a borderline museum piece. It lies in what you are seeking.
The 435 horsepower engine in this car will take the price higher and any rarity will kick it up even more. The interior color on this car was the least popular, so you won’t find many like it.
The first year for a redesign, the 1970 models have their share of fans in the Corvette world. Depending on the engine, some of these cars could pull an extra amount up to $15,000.
The 1973 has the unique distinction of two different types of bumpers, the only time it happened. This one carried a 454 engine, which will bring an additional $2,500 onto to the asking price.
The 1982 Collector Edition goes for an extra $5,000 in many cases.
There’s a good chance the 2014 Corvette Stingray will be hitting the streets right about the same time you’re reading this article.
As America’s premier sports car, the Corvette has legions of diehard fans, but the new C7 is so impressive that Chevrolet is anticipating welcoming many newcomers into the Corvette family. With 450 horsepower on tap and a highly sophisticated suspension, the latest Corvette is without question the best performance buy out there. If it was made in Italy and had a prancing horse on the hood instead of crossed flags, it would certainly sell for three or four times its $51,995 base sticker price … and still be considered a bargain.
Since Chevrolet has resurrected the Stingray name after a 38-year absence, it seemed like a great time to look back at the earlier cars that also carried that name. Just to set the record straight, it was spelled Sting Ray from 1963-’67, took a year off in 1968, and returned as Stingray from 1969-1976, but we’ll include all of the C3 model years (1968-’82) in our discussion. We’ll focus on the major differences from year to year, talk about the various engine options, and look at their current values.
C2s, mid-years, Sting Rays … it doesn’t matter what you prefer to call them since they are universally considered to be the most collectible Corvettes of all time.
The 1963 Corvette was essentially a brand new model, with very little carryover from earlier years. The chassis, which was good enough to remain essentially unchanged for 20 years, was an advanced design whose most innovative feature was its all-new independent rear suspension, elevating the Corvette into the ranks of world class handling sports cars. The Corvette had traditionally been an open car, but a fastback was added to the mix for the 1963 redesign. The 1963 Corvette coupe is referred to as a “Split Window”, since the rear glass is divided into two side-by-side pieces. The rear window was replaced by a one-piece unit in 1964 to improve visibility, making the 1963 coupe unique and highly collectible.
The 1963 and 1964 Corvettes are very similar. Both have two horizontal non-functional cooling ducts behind the front wheels and the hoods have recessed areas, but only the 1963 models have imitation cooling louvers mounted in them. Sales increased over 33 percent to 21,513 in 1963 with 10,594 split window coupes and 10,919 convertibles. Total production rose to 22,229 in 1964, with coupes accounting for 8,304 and convertibles coming in at 13,925. The base engine both years was a 327 cubic inch unit rated at 250 horsepower. Optional engines for 1963 included 327s rated at 300hp (8,033), 340hp (6,978) and the fuel injected 360hp (2,610). The 300hp was again available in 1964 (10,471), but the middle offering was bumped to 365hp (7,171) and the fuelie to 375hp (1,325). Although the three-speed manual was standard, not many stayed with it. A total of 17,973 customers opted for the four-speed in 1963 and 19,034 upgraded in 1964, with about 2,500 choosing the Powerglide each year.
The 1965 Corvettes were treated to a modest restyle, losing the hood recesses and replacing the two non-functional horizontal cooling ducts with three functional vertical ones. The 1966 models were essentially the same, but in 1967, two additional vents were added. The biggest news for 1965 was on the performance side, with the arrival of disc brakes at all four corners (standard) and the availability of big-block engines, complete with unique hoods. The base engine for 1965 was the usual 250hp 327, but the 300hp version became standard for 1966-’67. Several 327s were optional in 1965, including the familiar 300hp (8,358); 365hp (5,011); and 375hp fuelie (771).
Joining the lineup for the first time were the 350hp “L79” (4,716) and the big-block 396, rated at a whopping 425hp (2,157). The optional engine choices were pared down for 1966, with the 350hp “L79” (7,591) being joined by a pair of 427 big-blocks, rated at either 390hp (5,116) or 425hp (5,258). (The 425hp version was briefly rated at 450hp.) The “L79” (6,375) and the 390hp 427 (3,832) were available again in 1967, a 400hp version (2,101) joined the lineup, and the top engine was now rated at 435hp (3,754). Four-speed manuals were still the overwhelming transmission of choice, with 21,107 in 1965, 24,740 in 1966 and 20,172 in 1967. Powerglides accounted for a little more than 2,000 per year. Total production was 23,564 in 1965 (8,186 coupes and 15,378 convertibles), 27,720 in 1966 (9,958 coupes and 17,762 convertibles) and 22,940 in 1967 (8,504 coupes and 14,436 convertibles).
As you are probably aware, the “mid-years” are very popular and are therefore quite expensive. Expect to pay $30,000 to $35,000 for a fastback coupe in nice condition with the base engine, and up to $60,000 for a truly excellent example. Convertibles will typically run about $1,500 to $2,500 more across the board than coupes. It may seem like a very low “premium” for the convertible when compared to other collectible cars, but it is due to the fact that the fastback is such a popular body style in these years. The 1963 Split Window coupes are highly sought after by collectors and typically bring $10,000 to $15,000 more than the other years. The 1967 models are also a bit more popular and can command a $3,500 to $5,000 premium.
The “big money” mid-years are the ones with original factory-installed high performance engines. The fuel-injected motors, the 360hp in 1963 and 375hp in 1964-’65, will add $15,000 to $20,000 to the car’s value. If paired with a Split Window coupe, it’s more like $30,000 to $45,000 extra. The 390hp 427 from 1966-’67 will add from $13,500 to $20,000 to the base car, the 425hp 396 from 1965 and 427 from 1966 adds $17,500 to $25,000, the 400hp 427 from 1967 adds $25,000 to $30,000, and the 435hp 427 from 1967 will add $40,000 to $50,000. As a side note, many collectors consider the 1967 big block hood to be the most attractive one ever designed.
Since there was such a high installation rate of four speeds, we assume them to be the “standard” transmission and do not add for it. However, there are several options that can add value to a mid-year Corvette. Original knock off wheels and 1967 “bolt-ons” can raise the price by several thousand dollars. Original sidepipes are also very popular, as is the teak steering wheel that was optional in 1965-’66. Make sure you have documentation for these options … there are excellent reproductions available today, but they are much less expensive.
The exterior of Corvette was redesigned for 1968 and the new look was so popular that it would continue in the same basic configuration until 1982. While the C2s were very angular, the 1968 redesign was all about smooth curves. The convertible was still available, but the coupe was upgraded with lift-off roof panels and a removable rear window … providing the open air feel of the convertible without sacrificing structural rigidity. The 1968-’69 models were very similar to each other and the 1970-’72s, which had been updated with modest fender flairs and redesigned fender louvers, were also very much alike.
The C3s, sometimes referred to as “sharks” by collectors, sold very well. Production in 1968 rose to 28,566 (9,936 coupes and 18,630 convertibles), 38,762 in 1969 (22,129 coupes and 16,633 convertibles), 17,316 in 1970 (10,668 coupes and 6,648 convertibles), 21,801 in 1971 (14,680 coupes and 7,121 convertibles) and 27,004 in 1972 (20,496 coupes and 6,508 convertibles). As you can see from the production numbers, convertibles were becoming less popular as the years wore on. The open-air feel of the coupe gave buyers a great alternative.
The 1968-’72 models are the last that feature traditional chrome bumpers front and rear. This “classic styling” has pushed the early C3s to near the top of most collectors’ wish lists. You can expect to pay about $15,000 for a coupe with the base engine in nice condition and up to $30,000 for a super example. Convertibles run $3,000 to $4,000 higher.
Engine choices carried over essentially unchanged for 1968 and 1969, although the 327 was replaced with the 350 in 1969. For 1968, the 327/350 accounted for 9,440 sales, while the 427/390 reached 7,717, the 427/400 1,932 and the 427/435 2,898. Totals were similar for 1969, with the 350/350 hitting 12,846, the 427/390 at 10,531, the 427/400 at 2,072, and the 427/435 at 2,722. The 350hp engines will add about $1,500 to $2,000 to the bottom line, the 390hp adds $6,500 to $8,000, the 400hp adds $8,000 to $10,000; and the 435hp adds about $15,000 to $20,000. The two-speed Powerglide was replaced with the far more desirable three-speed Turbo Hydra-Matic in 1968 and installations rose to roughly 5,000 in 1968 and 8,000 for 1969. We’ll still consider the four-speed the “standard” transmission during these years.
In addition to the slightly different body shell introduced in 1970, the Corvette received a new slate of engine choices. For 1970, the 300hp 350 carried over from the previous year, but it was rated at 270hp for 1971 and fell further to 200hp for 1972. The biggest news under the hood was the addition of the high performance solid lifter LT1 small block and the enlarging of the big block to 454 cubic inches. The LT1 was rated at 370hp in in 1970 (1,287), 330 in 1971 (1,949), and 255 in 1972 (1,741). The LS5 454 was rated at 390hp in 1970 (4,473), 365 in 1971 (5,097), and 270 for 1972 (3,913). Tuning for unleaded fuel and a change in measuring criteria accounted for most of the published losses. Expect to pay about $12,000 to $15,000 extra for the LT1 in 1970, $10,000 to $12,000 extra in 1971, and $8,000 to $10,000 more in 1972. Even though they have higher horsepower ratings, the LS5s typically run about $2,500 less than the LT1s due to their relative production numbers. The installation rate of the Turbo Hydra-Matic was approaching 50 percent during this period, so while we’ll keep considering the four-speed to be “standard”, I would like to note that most collectors prefer it to the automatic and will pay a premium for it.
The mighty LS6 454 made an appearance in a couple of hundred Corvettes during 1971 and it was still rated at a healthy 425hp. If you’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to pick up an LS6, expect to pay big money … about what a 1967 435hp would run you.
By 1973, the Corvette was well on its way toward becoming a high-speed luxury touring car as opposed to a traditional sports car. Most Corvettes during this period were being ordered with air conditioning and automatic transmissions, reflecting its new role. Being the fastest guy on the block was no longer the reason for the Corvette’s existence, but it was always a solid performer. Production was very high during these years, topping out at nearly 54,000 in 1979, so there are plenty of cars out there. 1977 was the last year for the traditional tunnel-style rear window as 1978 and later cars went back to a fastback design.
You can expect to pay around $10,000 for a nice coupe and up to $20,000 for a well-restored or mint original example. Convertibles were available until 1975 and run $2,500 to $4,000 more than the coupes. The LS4 version of the 454 was available in 1973-’74, and that tacks on an additional $2,500 or so to the base price, while the optional L82 small block, available up until 1980, will add about $1,000. Automatics are much more common than four-speeds during these years, which typically command a $1,500 to $2,000 premium.
There were a few “special editions” available. The 1978 Silver Anniversary Edition will add about $2,000 and the Pace Car Replica from the same year will add about $5,000. Both came standard with the 185hp L48, so also add for the L82 if present. The 1982 Collector Edition will also run about $5,000 extra.
Once again, please use these values and production numbers as a guide. People have written entire books about these cars, and they are a much better source if you are looking for that level of detail. This is intended as an overview to give you a general understanding of these models.
Eric Lawrence has been the editor of the CPI Collectible Vehicle Value Guide since 1988, and has written monthly columns for various car enthusiast magazines since the early 1990s. He can be reached at ELawrence@BlackBookUSA.com.