For many, the 1960s were the golden years of American high-performance automobiles. No car did more to usher in that era than the Chevrolet Corvette. In 1955, it was offered for the first time with a V8 engine. From then on, there was no looking back—the Corvette has helped shoulder the banner for American sporting cars, almost without interruption through to the present day.

In many important ways, 1961 marked the nascence of the Bill Mitchell era in Corvette styling. Use of chrome on the Corvette had been in decline since its high point in 1958, and by 1961, its use was relatively minimal. Gone were the curvaceous rear fenders of the earlier cars, replaced with the muscular haunches and quad taillights that preceded Larry Shinoda’s forthcoming Sting Ray.

This particular 1961 Corvette is a documented standard bearer for the model. Restoration work on the car was undertaken with utmost concern for factory-correct detail, and it has been judged and Bloomington Gold Certified. Furthermore, this Corvette has been the recipient of multiple awards and certifications by the National Corvette Restorers Society, including the Duntov Mark of Excellence and several Top Flight awards.

In Ermine White with silver coves, the finish on this lovely Corvette accurately replicates the standards of its original application in period. The shape of the lightweight fiberglass body is gently accentuated by the subtle contrast of silver and white, and the car embodies a sporting elegance. The interior is finished in the correct red and serves as an apt counterpoint for the subtle exterior. Inside, the car maintains the same attention to factory-correctness present elsewhere, and the proper materials are present throughout. It includes factory-correct components, including tar-top battery, jack, spare and hard top wrench.

One of the many practical advantages to Corvette ownership is an owner community that is nearly unmatched in its knowledge of, and dedication to, the model. This car carries a level of documentation and certification that would be astounding for almost any other type of car. The recognized experts have scrutinized it, finding that its restoration is faithful, detail-for-detail, to the original car as it rolled off the assembly line.

The 1961 Corvette was an utterly brilliant car and a world-class sports car in its day. This is a rare opportunity to take ownership of a car painstakingly restored to exacting standards.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1961 283/315 Fuelie
Years Produced:1961
Number Produced:10,939
Original List Price:$3,934
SCM Valuation:$68,500–$139,000
Tune Up Cost:$500
Distributor Caps:$19.99
Chassis Number Location:Top of steering column under hood
Engine Number Location:Right front cylinder head deck
Club Info:National Corvette Restorers Society
Alternatives:1956-58 Porsche 356A Speedster, 1967 Jaguar E-type Series 1 4.2 roadster, 1967 Shelby GT500
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot 161, sold for $121,000 at the Gooding & Company auction at the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center in Pebble Beach, CA, on August 15, 2010.

If cars were rock bands, this one would definitely be called No Doubt. That’s because its stunningly correct restoration—along with Bloomington Gold, NCRS Duntov and Top Flight awards—gave it all the validation it needed to attract strong bidding at the Gooding auction, admittedly a Eurocentric event.

And truth be told, even among a tasty array of competition-spec Ferraris at the two-day auction, it still made my Top Ten list of cars that I wanted to take home. It sold for the second-highest amount (following Saturday’s Lot 1, a 1958 Fuelie at $137,500) of any of the five Corvettes in the auction.

As solid-axles go, the ’61 is one of the most characteristic, as it heralded the first application of Larry Shinoda’s Sting Ray-style tail treatment that would eventually define all second-generation Corvettes. With this new styling cue, along with a new, roomier cockpit and the highest horsepower of any Chevy to date, the ‘61 Corvette was a grown-up sports car for its time. It was well-suited for daily driving and grand touring, while keeping its lust for a street race.

Numbers-matching Fuelies are rare

The bone density of this particular car gets even better, as it’s also a numbers-matching, fuel-injection model, which was a fairly rare option in 1961, with just 13% of Corvettes so equipped. Having the preferred 4-speed manual gearbox and a lovely optional hard top (a $236.75 option in its day but worth many thousands now) made the car even more complete and usable.

And then there was the execution, which was as close to flawless as you could want. As any restorer knows, the dollars live in the details, and the difference between a Top Flight car and an also-ran can be as subtle as the sheen of the frame paint, the true-to-period look of the exterior finish, or the shine of the interior vinyl. Perhaps even more than the inherent goodness of the 1961 Fuelie model, these details are what built lust in my heart—to quote a certain peanut farmer—for this car.

Actually, the only thing not to love about this Corvette was that it’s a ’61 model, and not the final solid-axle year of 1962, with its enlarged, higher-horsepower 327-ci engine. But we’re quibbling here, because while the 1962 Corvettes were technically stronger, they’re also significantly less rare than the ’61 Fuelies.

Outstanding attention to detail

Showing 38,143 miles, this Ermine White with silver coves car shows little use after its complete, frame-off restoration. The Plexiglass top windows look original, and the addition of period-correct bias-ply tires, old-school battery, and California black and yellow license plates help anchor it in time and place.

I gave the car a 1- rating when reviewing it for CM and SCM at the auction, as the only problems were slightly rumpled seat upholstery and some errant glue around the weather stripping. In actuality, the assembly line workers in St. Louis probably weren’t all that careful about where the glue brush swept when the Shirelles were on the radio.

Someone ought to invent a formula for determining bang-for-the-buck value in classic cars. Why? Well, compared to other highbrow sports cars, such as Shelbys, Ferraris and Porsches, this Corvette certainly would score high in all the important areas, including exciting exterior and interior design, genuine performance credentials, fun-to-drive quotient, easy parts availability and reparability, strength of resale value, and overall pleasure.

In other words, in my personal bang-for-the-buck equation, this car at $121,000 would have a much higher rating than the 1967 Shelby GT500 that sold for $118,250 at the same auction.

This C1 was very well sold, but more importantly, smartly bought. This is the last ’61 that the buyer will ever really need to own

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