Courtesy of Leake Auctions
  • L75 327-ci 300-hp small-block engine
  • 4-speed manual transmission
  • Riverside Red exterior, black interior
  • AM/FM radio
  • Black soft top
  • Finned aluminum knockoff wheels
  • Whitewall tires

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1963 Chevrolet Corvette 327/300-hp convertible
Years Produced:1963
Number Produced:10,919
Original List Price:$4,037
SCM Valuation:$36,000–$65,500
Tune Up Cost:$400–$500
Distributor Caps:$25
Chassis Number Location:Cross brace under glovebox
Engine Number Location:On block in front of right cylinder head
Club Info:National Corvette Restorers Society, 6291 Day Road, Cincinnati, OH 45252
Alternatives:1965–66 Ford Mustang V8 K-code convertible, 1964–65 Pontiac GTO 4-speed convertible, 1967 Chevrolet Camaro SS convertible
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot 476, sold for $46,200, including buyer’s premium, at the Leake classic car and truck auction in the Expo Center at the Tulsa Fairgrounds in Tulsa, OK, on June 7, 2013.

Buying your sweetie a diamond ring at Costco in Saskatoon will be a different experience than shopping for one on Rodeo Drive. It’s also likely to be much cheaper, but will the quality be similar? The same question could apply to buying a Corvette at auction at any place not named Scottsdale, Amelia Island or Monterey. For example, the average sale price of the eight midyear examples sold at the Leake auction in Oklahoma was a reasonable $53,143, with the most affordable one selling for $44,000 and the highest at $71,500. That’s below prime-time auction numbers. Then again, that’s good news if you’re a buyer hunting for a deal.

Nice car — with lots of questions

The example shown here, a common 300-horse roadster that was restored in popular Riverside Red with black interior and optional cast-aluminum knockoff wheels, looked like something of a bargain at $46,200. Eventually, the new owner of Lot 476 will find out if it actually was. But meanwhile, we can do some forensic evaluation from the sidelines.

A quick run through the ACC Premium Auction Database brought up two hits on this car. First, it sold at the Branson auction in 2002 for $23k (ACC# 29147). It had 97,474 miles showing. It was painted gold at the time and listed as a 20-year-old resto. Ten years later, in June of 2012, the car sold again at Mecum’s Salmon Brothers Collection sale for $56k (ACC# 210511), looking as it did here at Leake. Mecum’s description called it a full frame-off restoration.

Unfortunately, very little other information was provided about the car by Leake, which immediately brings up significant questions about its prior life. One would think, for instance, that a cherished car supported by its build sheet, window sticker, Protect-O-Plate and full ownership and service records would be presented as such. Because no such scenario was presented here or anywhere else the car sold, I pretty much have to conclude that this particular car had been rescued from less-than-desirable circumstances. We know it was restored at least twice.

But the car did look generally nice. The red exterior, black interior, bright plating, new-appearing wheels, thin-whitewall bias-ply tires and preferred 4-speed manual trans all contributed to its stage appeal. It has the bones of a great driver, with the color combination, no-nonsense powerplant, and 4-speed manual. But hopefully the buyer did a closer inspection prior to the car getting anywhere near the auctioneer and his gavel.

Sometimes the lack of information presented about a vehicle is more concerning than any admission of problems, even prior collision damage. This is especially true with Corvettes, as history and originality can make or break a car’s value. One thing is for sure — I’d rather have the entire vehicle history including any crash damage or major component substitutions than no records for a seemingly nice car.

Light history, limited value

Perhaps all the unknowns kept the price down in this case, as bidders felt the same caution that I did. When a nice and tidy little 300-horse convertible restored to period-correct specs attracts only $46k, the absence of hard info — and some visible issues — is most likely to blame.

This is important on two levels. First is that your safe use and enjoyment of the car is directly related to the quality of the restoration — both mechanical and cosmetic. And second, the day you want to sell the car, any savvy potential Corvette buyer will deduct significantly from your asking price simply because you don’t know the car’s history, other than, “Wish I knew more, but I bought it at auction.”

There was no mention of this being an original-engine car. Was it, or was it outfitted with a replacement engine and other key components in order to flip it at auction?

Was it sporting a mass of re-pop parts? From unblemished knockoff wheels to bumpers and interior, my assumption is, by necessity, that these were not original or NOS components. Again, in the Corvette world, that can and does limit value.

Fit and finish

There were some visible fit and finish issues, as you might expect with any midyear Corvette. The left headlight door fit was askew, as was the alignment of the right-front bumper. And while the engine bay appears nicely finished and presents as-new, we don’t really know at a glance what’s authentic there and what’s not. Inside the car, an obviously redone interior shows door-panel fit issues on the driver’s side, at least.

So why did this car sell for $46,200 instead of the $10,000 more it made last year? I’d chalk the Mecum price up to a little auction magic, as well as some competition in the room — that price is closer to what you might expect for a well-documented original.

I think the price achieved at Leake was on the money for a car with these visible flaws, along with the more important questions that the glaring lack of history raised.

The end result of those factors is uncertainty. And just as the stock market doesn’t like uncertainty, neither do the astute buyers when it comes to mysteriously restored Corvettes.

But as long as the mechanicals check out, this’ll make a great driver, and if that’s how it’ll be used, the new owner didn’t pay too much.

(Introductory description courtesy of Leake Auction Company.)

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