There are a number of Corvettes that are at the point the traditional classics were a few years ago. Gentlemen open your wallets and start your engines.
Thirty years ago, the C1s and C2s were just used cars, but their rarity and classic status have escalated the value of many of these classic Corvettes well beyond the means of many. But there are a number of Corvettes that are at the point the C1–C2s were a few decades ago. Here are eight of these sleeper Corvettes. They may never reach “classic” status—at least not in our lifetime—nor will they fund our children’s college education, but their prices are starting to rise as the market recognizes their virtues.
1. 1966–69 L36 427
Production: 27,196 L36
Value: $18,000 to $90,000
A defining moment in Corvette history came in 1965 with the introduction of the NASCAR-inspired 396-ci big-block engine. They became 427s the next year, and the rarest, highest-horsepower versions—the L71, L89, and L88—command absolute top dollar, while the 400-hp L68 is gaining. But the 390-hp L36 is often overlooked. They don’t have the “bling” of triple-carbs, but the L36 is nicer for everyday driving than its temperamental high-horsepower brethren, and air conditioning was available. Prices are starting the creep up, so jump in soon.
2. 1973–74 LS4 454
Value: $13,500 to $31,000
Due to the change of horsepower ratings and the switch to no-lead fuel, these 454-powered Corvettes are the Rodney Dangerfields of the big-blocks. But like the L36 and L68, they are great drivers with loads of turbine-like power and torque. Plus, the ’73 models have a unique look with their “soft” urethane noses and “hard” bumpered tails. Prices are also starting to drift upward, so here is the chance to own and enjoy big-block power before these cars gain more respect.
3. 1975 L82 Convertible
Value: $18,000 to $31,000
1975 was a dark time indeed, as it seemed this would be the last-ever Corvette convertible, and the base engine produced a wheezing 165 hp. But these beautiful convertibles still turn heads, and the optional L82 engine added a much-needed 20 hp to deliver a fine driving experience. Like these other sleepers, the ’75 L82 rag tops will never be terribly valuable, but the price has bottomed out and can only improve.
4. 1982 1YY07 Collector Edition
Value: $18,000 to $33,000
At $22,537.59, the Collector Edition was by far the most expensive Corvette built to that point. Created to celebrate the end of the C3 era, the cars are striking with their unique silver-beige paint and sumptuous leather interior. They were also the only C3 equipped with a hatchback. In all, 6,759 were made, and super-low mileage cars have sold for as much as $50k, yet above average examples can be had for about their $22k price when new—but for how long?
5. 1988 Z01 35th Anniversary Coupe
Value: $10,000 to $16,000
The 35th Anniversary coupe might be ideal for someone on a tight budget. These unique cars, with their all-white leather interior and black roof pillars, grab attention while costing very little. They may never appreciate much, but they drive well and deliver great fun while holding their value. Can’t ask for more from a bargain, can you?
6. 1988–89 B9P Corvette Challenge
Production: 56 in 1988, 30 in 1989
Value: $18,000 to $58,000
Historic race cars are traditionally at the top of all Corvette prices, with two crossing the $1m mark recently. So how can the average collector own a piece of Corvette history? The 1988 and 1989 Corvette Challenge cars were built at Bowling Green and race-prepared by a subcontractor. Savvy collectors like Mike Yager and the late Chip Miller bought some of the most historic cars right after the series ended, but many are still available, usually in as-raced condition, and often for less than half the $48k the cars cost new.
7. 1993 Z25 40th Anniversary
Production: 6,492 coupe, 2,043 convertible, 245 ZR-1
Value: $11,200 to $48,300
Chevrolet produced a gem of a Corvette to celebrate the marque’s 40th anniversary. These Ruby Red beauties came in all three flavors—coupe, convertible, and ZR-1—and about the only ZR-1 the market regularly shows any interest in is the 40th Anniversary. The coupes continue to decline, but the lovely convertibles seem finally to have bottomed out and are still real bargains.
8. 1996 Z16 Grand Sport
Production: 810 coupe, 109 convertible
Value: $24,500 to $39,000
The C4 series ended with the return of the Grand Sport name. Skip the coupes for now; too many were made and it may be years before they level off. But Grand Sport convertibles were made in such a small number that owners have cherished them from the time they were new, and finding one with a red interior is all the better. For that reason, there are few on the market, but when there is, act fast.