Wednesday, September 2, 2020

How Much Have I Spent on my 1976 Vette? So Far...

$32,939.81 (as of this writing).

And I started with a C3 Corvette in good, drivable condition!

That figure includes what I paid for my 1976 Corvette Stingray.

And yes, I am off by a few dollars because I probably failed to record a couple receipts. I have a binder full of them, but no one's perfect. And the total amount does not include "invisible" expenses such as insurance or license and registration fees.

The day I bought it. Friday, February 20, 2015
So by now, my guesstimate is that I've spent at least $34K. A tidy sum indeed.

The previous owner also spent quite a bit of cash having the car repainted and on a lot of repairs and maintenance. I have most of those receipts and that amount is not part of the number shown above.

Classic car restoration, maintenance, and ownership are not cheap!

Over the years I've owned many cars, including six C3 Corvettes, ranging from a 1968 model to my current 1976 Stingray to which this blog is dedicated.

I did not keep financial records for the previous five, but I know that—other than the fun factor of owning and driving a Corvette—I did not make a profit. Most likely, I lost money.


WHY DO WE RESTORE OLD CARS?

Every individual has their own reasons as to why. In my case, I still am trying to figure it out. But these are some of the reasons that come to mind, in no particular order.

  • I enjoy working on something and trying to make it look new again.
  • While I work on my project car I don't think or worry about anything else.
  • I get to meet, chat and share with other like-minded people.
  • I love the lines of the Corvette and having one in my garage.
  • I love driving my Vette.

I've heard comments such as some of these cars not being as "valuable" as other models, and while that may be true to some, those comments are usually made by people who don't own a C3 Corvette. Or maybe they owned one years ago. Or their cousin's best friend did. Or blah, blah, blah.

I am not clear as to when or why the "chrome versus rubber bumper" nonsense started, but I guess it could be a generational thing.

Maybe older guys like lots of chrome while younger guys favor less? I don't know. And I really don't care.

I like what I like, and I make no apologies for that.

As a teenager in the 1970s, I grew up dreaming about C3 Corvettes, and like many other Vette enthusiast, I was always curious and eager to see what Chevy designers and engineers had dreamt up for next year's model.

People getting all excited about rumors or the latest spy photos of upcoming models and that sort of thing, is not a new phenomenon.


Case in point. I have yet to see a C8 in the flesh and people are already talking about new features of the 2021 and 2022 models. Or that the 2025 Corvette Zora will be powered by a 1000 HP 5.5 Liter twin-turbo LT7HP1 hybrid.

Only time will tell, but the cycle never ends. Only the participants. Who, at some point in the future may argue as to why 2014-2017 Corvettes are more desirable than later C7 models.

But I digress.

When I bought my '76, the plan was to have a car I would enjoy driving. I didn't want or need a race car, but it would be a 4-speed project car in great condition in need of maintenance, repairs, and a few upgrades. Those were my wants.


BUY THE BEST CORVETTE YOU CAN AFFORD

If you are buying a Corvette that's so unique and significant, where the cost of rebuilding and restoring is of no consequence and you have the funds for such a project, knock yourself out!

However, if you are like the rest of us, be careful as to what you spend your hard-earned money on, and try to get the best car you can afford.

Between TV and YouTube car restoration shows, many restorers-to-be have been fooled into thinking that these cars can be turned from trash to show-winning beauties in a matter of weeks. That notion is so far removed from reality that I am amazed that some actually believe it.


So again; purchase the best restoration project you can afford. Ideally, one that needs very little work or restoration. Which brings me to the next point.


THESE PROJECTS ARE NEVER DONE

Parts and components break. It is not a matter of "if" but rather a matter of "when." And the fewer broken or inop parts make ownership of a classic vehicle that more enjoyable.

You learn very quickly that anything associated with Corvettes is expensive. Even though many parts fit other GM vehicles, the ones advertised as Corvette-only will carry a premium.

I don't have a good explanation as to why that is. Most of the stuff available nowadays comes from China, so you'd think that between low quality and ample supply, prices would be reasonable. Well, in most cases they are not.

Above: Low-Quality repop outside door handle. Notice the years it fits.
And speaking of the low quality of most of the reproduction parts available, which encompasses sloppy manufacturing as well as low-grade materials, oftentimes you're better off rebuilding the old but original US-made components that came with the car instead of buying cheap, poorly-built reproductions.


The picture above shows a side-by-side comparo between a low-quality reproduction outside door handle and a high-quality piece. Notice the huge gaps and the handle flap already sagging. The chrome finish also leaves a lot to be desired.

Yes, one will cost more, maybe a lot more than the cheap alternative. But by getting the better one in the first place, you will avoid buying yet another one after you come to realize that cheapo really means "No Bueno."

I'll eat crow and admit the error of my ways by buying a replacement part that looked worse than the one that needed to be replaced. But hey, it was cheap!

Oh, and as far as I know, you cannot restore these types of door handles, hence the need to buy a good quality repop.

Moral of the story? Don't spend a fortune to save a few dollars!


TO DIY OR NOT DIY

There's absolutely nothing wrong with letting someone else restore your Corvette if you're not mechanically inclined, lack the tools or a place to do the work, or simply hate getting dirty and frustrated fixing an old car.

I do not subscribe to the "Built, Not Bought" way of thinking, even though I try to wrench as much as I can on my vehicles. I do it because I enjoy it, but have in many instances, paid others to do jobs for me.


So if you have the resources to let a professional mechanic or restoration shop do the dirty work for you, just do it and never apologize for that. At the end of the day, it's about you and your Corvette.


IS RESTORATION WORTH IT?

Only you can make that judgment. Just go into it knowing that it will take time and cost money. In most cases, the car restoration formula shows that any given project will take four times the estimated time and cost at least twice the amount budgeted.

A word of caution: If you are at a point in your financial life where you would need to skip a rent or mortgage payment in order to buy parts or have your engine rebuilt, for example, Corvette restoration—or any kind of restoration for that matter—is definitely not for you!

Please forgive me for being flippant with my example but I'm just trying to make a serious point.

Restoration projects can be killed for many reasons. Money happens to be the main cause. But another reason is having an unreasonable deadline. If your project resembles a sprint instead of a marathon, chances are you're gonna lose that race.

Miguel de Cervantes y Saavedra wrote long ago,

The Journey is Better than the Inn.

I think Miguel would've made an excellent Corvette restorer.

Thank you for following my '76 Vette Blog.


Product Links... (#sponsored)

How to Restore Your C3 Corvette: 1968-1982
1968-1982 Corvette Restoration Guide
Corvette C3 1968-1982: How to Build & Modify
How to Rebuild Corvette Rolling Chassis, 1963-1982


2 comments:

  1. Wow....love everything about this post; your honesty and transparency, the truth in it; the REALITY of it all. I don't want to hijack Corvette journey started when I was a toddler and the year 2020 was the year in which 38 years of wanting turned into a HUGE learning experience and I know that it's just the beginning.

    I went 38 years of hoping to cruise around one day in these (not obsessively) to buying 3 this year(77, 77, and lastly a 69), first one sold already, second one will be up for sale after some minor maintenance next week hopefully, and hoping the third one will be my last which I've been driving, LITERALLY every second and opportunity I get (I'm even making up reasons to take it out now!); C3 anyways! :) Yet, I know that my C3 journey is in its infancy stage!

    As mentioned, same for me, enjoying the driving of it is part of the reason I'm willing to go through what it takes to own one. However, like the author, cleaning/detailing/restoring it and accomplishing minor maintenance the RIGHT way is as exhilarating to me as it is soaring down the road in it!

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