Some years ago, I owned a 1963 Corvette coupe. Colin Comer, SCM’s muscle car expert at the time, decoded it for me from a “mystery tag” he had me find near the glovebox.
It was the correct color of silver and had been born with a 4-speed. However, the original 340-horsepower engine was long gone, and a 327 from a pickup truck or some other inglorious source was under the hood. It still had the correct tach for the 340-hp engine.
I had a partner in the car, Dave Stewart. We paid $35,000 or so for the car, and after having some minor rear suspension work done, we both drove it for many miles. I even took it on the Northwest Classic Rally, a four-day exercise in celebrating Oregon roads. The tour was especially enjoyable once I tossed the insufferable Time-Speed-Distance instructions into the trash can and just drove at whatever speed I wanted.
I figured if a podium finish and trophy meant that much to me, I could just order a trophy from a local supply house.
Like the 911, the Corvette is that rare two-seater that has copious space in the back for a dog, luggage or whatever you feel like putting there. Except golf clubs. Which, since I don’t play golf, was not an issue for me.
There was not a single moment where I thought the Corvette was deficient because it had the “wrong” motor. It had plenty of horsepower, especially considering the drum brakes.
On a recent Zoom call with a few dozen of our SCM contributors, SCM Senior Auction Analyst Brett Hatfield commented that, “You can’t touch a Split-Window for under $100,000, no matter what the drivetrain is.”
Both Dave and I have expressed regrets that we sold our Corvette. I think we posted it on eBay and got $45,000 for it. We were pleased at the time.
When we were producing Corvette Market and then American Car Collector magazines, we became fluent in the tribal language of NCRS (National Corvette Restorers Society) and Bloomington Gold. While their judging standards are not the same, both reward authenticity above beauty or functionality.
We wouldn’t have dared to have our ’63 evaluated by either organization.
Yet doesn’t that undercut the basic reason we own a car, which is the visceral pleasure we get from driving it?
While I appreciate those who want their old cars in “mint, uncirculated” condition, I maintain we should first evaluate our collector cars by how well they run and drive, and if they offer a fun experience when we are behind the wheel. I’ll leave discussions about whether a car has more value as a “one-of-one” radio-delete with power antenna to others who place a value on such minutia.
If I were to come across my old Corvette, still with its “wrong” 327 engine, I would buy it in a heartbeat. Just to prove I’m a player, I’d even double what I paid for it first time around.