Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Buying a C3 Corvette: Thoughts and Considerations

After having owned six C3 Corvettes, ranging from 1968 to 1976, and with a fine-looking and running '76 Stingray in my garage, you'd think the last thing I need is another C3.

And you'd be right. However, I am not as smart as I like to think I am so I'm always looking for the next project. Not sure if it's a disease or an addiction, but as far as I know, there is no cure.

But all joking aside, I thought this would be a good time to share my thoughts and views on purchasing a new (to you) C3 Corvette.

Needless to say, this article (and the video at the end) are based on my experiences of owning, fixing, and restoring C3s, so it may not apply to everyone.

Factors such as your location, knowledge about these cars, access to new and used parts, plus your DIY ability in addition to your level of wealth (or lack thereof), will have a direct and big impact on how you look at things, so please share your thoughts on this subject with the rest of us by posting a comment below.

THE chase

A few months ago I drove to Hernando, Florida to look at a 1976 Corvette Stingray for sale I saw advertised on the Facebook Marketplace. The car had a factory 4-speed transmission which, IMO, is a must-have for a sports car.

And yes, some of my previous C3s were automatics, so there's no need to flame me.

The seller was very nice, accomodating, and honest with his description of the car, so the $10,000 asking price was what I consider fair considering the overall condition of the vehicle. Over the years I've seen many C3 Corvettes offered for sale for higher asking prices in far worse shape, so this Vette was a good deal for the right buyer.

Unfortunately, that wasn't me.


Again, after owning six C3s over the years and having restored many, many cars, I have a pretty good idea of how much it can cost to bring a vehicle up to my standards, so in my eyes, the top price I would have paid for this particular '76 Corvette was in the $4,500 to $5,000 range. Again, the car looked good and it was obvious the seller had made some upgrades that justified the asking price, and he was aware of the items that needed attention. But again, as a potential buyer, I had to base my offer taking into consideration how much I would have had to spend to bring the car up to my standards while keeping costs under control so they would not exceed the market value of a restored 1976 C3 Corvette.
Above: Pace Car rear spoilers look good on 74-79 C3 Corvettes.
Fiberglass units are the best option. Personally, I've never cared for the luggage rack.

I'll be the first one to admit that the cost of a restoration is not the responsibility of the seller. Everyone has a different idea as to what "restored" means, what they want to fix, the cost of what will have to be done by others, and so on.

So again, for the right buyer, the 10-Grand asking price for this Corvette was reasonable as the car was operational and in acceptable overall condition. In other words, the new owner would be able to drive it home without issues.

Alas, we did not reach an agreement even though I explained (and the seller understood) my position. I believe he sold the Vette a few days later, something that is not surprising since the car looked and sounded good.

be honest... with yourself

When buying a project car, you have to be one hundred percent honest as far as your expectations, your budget, and how long you're willing to allow the restoration to take. Also, if you plan to pay someone to do some or all of the restoration work, keep in mind that those quotes will most likely be subject to change as the project progresses.

Above: The car's Pace Car-style front air dam looked odd.
I am guessing it was an aftermarket piece.

A friend of mine recently sold his C3 Corvette mainly out of frustration with reliability issues, things that would need to be repaired or replaced, and more. In those cases, most people are lucky to recoup their initial investment. Been there, done that.
You really want to avoid owning a restored car for which you paid far more than what you can sell it for should the need arise. If you plan to keep it for a long time or the car has sentimental value, then your situation will be different than that of the average classic car owner, as long as you have the funds to justify the price of your new "toy."

Above: Wrong trim screws oftentimes lead to damage behind panels.

Above: Mystery switch and interior trim in need of repairs and/or replacement.

Above: Electric fans are great, but these were super loud.

Use your head!

It's difficult not to become enamored with the idea of bringing your favorite Corvette back to life and making it beautiful for the whole world to admire.

Add to that all the Instagram and Facebook pics of gorgeous C3 Corvettes plus thousands of YouTube videos, so it's near impossible not to fall in love with the idea of restoring a C3 Corvette.

However, as my grandma used to say, "When it comes to matters of love it's better to use your head than your heart since the heart tends to make mistakes."

In reality, when it comes to Corvette restoration or any kind of restoration project for that matter, I think the meme below illustrates fiction vs. reality pretty accurately.

I filmed a video during the initial inspection of the Corvette (click the image below), but since we did not agree on a fair amount for either party, I did not have a chance to inspect the car in greater detail, ideally with a lift.

Before parting with your hard-earned money, properly inspecting a Corvette is crucial. Having a pro helping you with the inspection is time and money well spent as it can help you either re-negotiate the sale price or walk away all the wiser and with your money in your wallet.

Car restoration is a very expensive and time-consuming hobby, so bite the bullet and buy the best car you can afford.

Thank you for following my '76 Vette Blog!


  1. Good article Louis....I'm not flaming you here, but there is a place for automatics and luggage racks (both of which I actually like, prefer the auto, rack I could go either way on)...just saying!

    I know the article is on a C3, but similar things can be said for a C2 or C1, but much, much bigger dollars out for sure.

    Also, would love to hear your thoughts on C3 restomods for the non-mechanical. As you know, I'm a huge fan of modern reliability in a classic, but BIG bucks for that stuff as well.

    Other thing I'd like you to address maybe, is the difference in value/desirability of the chrome bumper era (68-72) 73? and the rubber bumper era (74-82).

    I have so much to say regarding this subject..........2020 has been such a learning experience for me buying, selling, attempting to fix, maintain, detail, etc. these beautiful cars!

    1. Hi Ken, and thanks for taking the time to comment.

      As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, "...this article (and the video at the end) are based on my experiences of owning, fixing, and restoring C3s, so it may not apply to everyone."

      I prefer manual transmissions, but that's just me, and I base that preference after owning several C3s with auto transmissions. I really enjoy rowing through the gears. My first car, a Falcon station wagon, had 3-on-the-tree and I envied anyone who drove a car with four-on-the-floor. LOL. Actually, nowadays a manual transmission doubles as an anti-theft device in many cases.

      Restomods? I like them as long as they are not excessive. Again, a personal preference. For example, I appreciate a nice, lowered stance but to a point. And the same goes for bigger rims and tires. I don't really care for tires with rubber-band profiles. I guess I am a purist to a certain degree and I love C3s because of the original design. Yet I would love a nice LS motor under the hood of my '76. And the only reason I don't go that route is because I don't have the money.

      As far as chromies and rubber-bumper Vettes, I've owned both and I like all of them. I like all Corvettes, really. Yeah, some more than others with the design of the C3 at the top of the heap. But I am old enough to remember a time when some of these C3s were new and I always wanted the latest model. I bought my first '76 back in 1982 because I could not afford a 1980-1982. And I probably could've purchased a chromie with a 454 for half the money I paid for my '76. Ironic, isn't it?

  2. That is super ironic, about the cost....pretty cool!

    When I refer to restomods, I am NOT a fan of changing the styling and looks at all (MAYBE wheels, but that's about it); just the technology underneath; LS motor, fuel injection (no carbs), modern suspension, no more vacuum advance on headlights or wiper doors, modern handles, modern fuel system, modern AC, etc. I love the C3's styling for exactly how they are.


Please share your thoughts.