Courtesy of Worldwide Auctioneers
  • One of 119 RPO 687 “Big-Brake” 1960 Corvettes
  • One of 759 1960 Corvettes built with the 283-ci/290-hp fuel-injected engine
  • BorgWarner T-10 4-speed manual transmission
  • Temperature-controlled radiator fan
  • Positraction rear axle (4.11:1 ratio)
  • Heavy-duty brake and steering package
  • Wide wheels (15 by 5.5 inches)
  • 6.70-by-15 blackwall tires
  • Auxiliary hard top
  • Wonder Bar signal-seeking AM radio
  • Unrestored and well preserved
  • Retains mostly original Roman Red paint finish and black interior
  • Four owners from new

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1960 Chevrolet Corvette 283/290 Big-Brake convertible
Years Produced:1960
Number Produced:119 (RPO 687)
Original List Price:$4,732.85
SCM Valuation:Median to date, $103,800; high sale, $165,000 (1960 283/290)
Tune Up Cost:$500 (estimated)
Distributor Caps:$35
Chassis Number Location:Tag on steering column
Engine Number Location:On block in front of right cylinder head
Club Info:National Corvette Restorers Society
Alternatives:1954 Chevrolet Corvette roadster, 1963 Chevrolet Corvette 327/300 coupe, 1966 Chevrolet Corvette 427/425 coupe
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot 31, sold for $85,250, including buyer’s premium, at Worldwide Auctioneers’ The Houston Classic Auction in Houston, TX, on April 23, 2016.

The more car shows I go to, the more I appreciate cars that are all-original. Just recently, at my local Sunday Cars & Coffee, there were about 70 cars, and most if not all were exquisitely built or restored. And then a 1970 Shelby GT500 4-speed convertible rolled in. It was original. It was dented. It was dirty. The rectangular exhaust tips were corroded halfway through. The interior looked like the Rat Pack had a party there — and left an old matchbook on the floor. It was light years away from “perfect,” but it was also a perfect example of what these big iron lumps used to be. Just old cars. Oh, and guess which one drew a crowd? Yep.

Deciding whether restored or original cars are better is like pondering an Arnold Palmer versus a Mike’s Hard Lemonade — ultimately, it’s best left to the individual owner. This Corvette on offer at Worldwide’s Houston event seemed to have a lot of the things I love about original cars, but there were also some questions raised by this one’s presentation and history. So let’s examine this car, a claimed four-owner original with thorough ownership history and which has reportedly been stored every winter since 1962.

A solid basis

From a presentation standpoint, this car offered some mixed messages. For instance, it carried nice Roman Red paint, period-correct bias-ply tires and painted steel wheels with dog-dish hubcaps, along with good chrome and bodyside trim. The wheel rims appeared minimally chipped, which of course would happen as tires were changed and balance weights added during its heyday. As well, the panel gaps were typically spotty, including the doors and trunk lid. Also appropriately for its age, the clear plastic trunk badge was modestly crazed. The car carried a desirable accessory hard top as well, in the right color. Notably, the front license-plate bracket was askew — which should have been a straightforward fix.

There were two different fuel-injection options for 1960 — the fourth year for the groundbreaking Rochester system. Available were the 250-hp RPO 579, of which a scant 100 were built, and the most popular solid-lifter 290-hp RPO 579D, of which 759 were built. This car had the higher-horsepower system.

Under the hood, things looked appropriate and authentic for a now 56-year-old car. This includes it being a wee bit unkempt, with a dusty fan shroud, chipped and oxidized components, and wrinkled air-induction hoses. I’m cool with that — it adds believability that this car is authentic and unrestored. Unfortunately, the auction catalog included no under-the-car photographs, which is an important omission. There is also an NCRS sticker visible in the auction photos, but there was no documentation by the auction house of any awards won or work done. A quick Internet search of the VIN found that the car had earned an NCRS Second Flight award in 2012, and that it had been “presented to a 2013 NCRS Regional for Bowtie sign-off.” Consideration for the NCRS Bowtie award, which recognizes original cars, makes a good case for its originality.

Some questions

The chassis and drivetrain were said to be all-original except for the clutch, rear frame crossmember, brakes and exhaust. And so sometimes it’s not what’s said but what’s unsaid that is intriguing.

Was the car raced, as many RPO 687 cars were? One must assume not, given its high level of completeness and that no mention was made of this in the auction copy. Next, could the 18,495 miles showing be original? Again, no claims were made to support this, leaving the supposition that the odometer has been around at least a time or two. (However, once it happens one time, it probably doesn’t matter much how many more trips the odometer takes.)

Maybe most troubling are the twin statements that the “rear crossmember” is not original and that the car retains “mostly original Roman Red paint.” These items should have been better explained. Doing so might have actually helped the car’s case, because with nothing else to go on, buyers might have assumed the worst — a big shunt. And if there was actually no shunt at all? Then the omitted information likely hurt the result.

Convincing interior

Inside, the landscape was just as convincing as the underhood view. The steering wheel was tired-looking, the clear Corvette badge in the wheel center was quite crazed, and the seat belts were rumpled. Even the heel-pad inset into the driver’s side carpeting was dingy. Further, the seating surfaces, door panels and various carpet pieces looked used and timeworn, but still quite serviceable. Fair enough, and all good for an original car.

Somewhat surprisingly, the sale price of $85,250 fell dramatically short of where a 1960 290-horse Fuelie should be in the current market. According to this year’s ACC Pocket Price Guide, the median price for this model — not even taking into account this car’s rare and desirable RPO 687 big-brake and steering package, the auxiliary hard top and the extensive ownership history — should be $103,800, with a top-end high-water mark of $165,000. However, the ACC price guide does recognize that the 283/290 prices dipped 9% into the first quarter of 2016, before rising 5% in the second quarter. But even taking that fluctuation into effect, this car looks to have sold cheaply considering all the high points listed.

What remains is for the new owner to decide what to do with his prize. By appearances, any work performed has aimed to preserve the car’s original specifications, right down to the blackwall tires. So at this point it would be unwise to “restore” this car beyond the sympathetic attention it has already received. My take? Buy it, love it and drive it. And most importantly, leave it alone.

(Introductory description courtesy of Worldwide Auctioneers.)

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