|Vehicle:||1967 Chevrolet Corvette 427/435|
|Number Produced:||3,754 L71|
|Original List Price:||$5,304.55|
|Tune Up Cost:||$150|
|Chassis Number Location:||VIN plate on dashtop at base of windshield|
|Engine Number Location:||Pad on front of block below right cylinder head|
|Club Info:||National Corvette Restorers Society 6291 Day Rd. Cincinnati, OH 45252-1334|
This car sold for $190,800, including buyer’s premium, at Mecum’s High Performance Auction in Kissimmee, Florida, on January 30, 2010.
The 1967 435-hp Corvette is one of those vehicles that has been surrounded by so much legend and hyperbole that it is difficult to discern its place in history. But on a warm August night in 1975, I learned firsthand what the L71 Corvette is all about.
Quick on a straight or in a bend
My quick 1970 Plymouth Duster 340 got hooked up in an impromptu street fight with one of these cars, and while I ran nose-to-nose with the Corvette up to about 60 mph, the superior horsepower and aerodynamics of the Corvette had it disappearing into the horizon in a flash. I was in good company; most muscle cars had the same experience.
Some could keep up with the Corvette in the quarter mile-contemporary road tests showed 0-60 mph in under five seconds and the quarter mile in around 13-but if the racing venue was more than 1,320 feet long, the Corvette was gone. And if cornering or braking were involved, there was no American-made automobile that came close.
At a sticker price of around $5,500, the 435-hp Corvette might seem like a bargain today, but it was actually 35% to 50% more than most U.S. performance cars of the era. At that price, the L71 was in Cadillac and Lincoln territory, and the demographics of the typical 1967-era Corvette buyer are telling: a college-educated Caucasian male in his late 30s with a professional career. Since few were owned by young punks on a thrill, they tended to be well cared for, even if they were driven hard.
But many were downright pampered, and most were stored winters in all but the warmest climates. So two decades after the ’67 Corvette was new, it was not uncommon to find one in decent, original condition.
But the L71 convertible David Burroughs bought in 1989 was far beyond decent. “No one had spray bombed or tried to fix (or freshen up) any of the original finishes or factory flaws,” he says. “It drove great, made my eyes water with acceleration, and fit like a glove.”
Burroughs was pretty sure it wouldn’t qualify for a GoldCertificate, the highest award for Corvette perfection, so he paid $17,000 for the car to find out if he was right. According to him, “Although it had some pinstriping on the exterior, the convertible top had been replaced, and the fender wells were slightly shaved, everything else was intact. It was worn in, but not worn out.”
Restorations have something to hide
“I’ve always preferred unrestored vehicles, since I can read them like a book,” Burroughs told me. “Restored cars can hide the gremlins with new shiny paint or reproduction parts. Unrestored cars also seem to me to drive better and have a more genuine feel on the road than restored cars do. I promoted this philosophy for almost two decades (1970-86), but no one paid much attention to me.
“I’d see very nice unrestored original Corvettes go through Certification and be judged to have more than 5% deterioration from factory-new. That resulted in a SilverCertified® outcome. That usually drove the owners crazy, so they’d have the whole thing restored and drag it back the next year to be GoldCertified®. In short, I saw nice unrestored cars with all their original fingerprints turned into homogenized re-creations of what they once were.”
Burroughs decided that rather than simply buying a Corvette that fit that ideal, he’d create a judged event at Bloomington that would feature unrestored cars and would hopefully inspire other owners and collectors to try to preserve rather than restore. “I designed the judging criteria, selected the top judges in America, and created a music video featuring the Beatles song, ‘Let It Be.’ The video debuted at the Bloomington Gold Special Collection in 1989 and introduced everyone to the new judging event coming in 1990- Survivor®.”
So what’s it take?
To be certified a true Survivor®, “think 20/20 and 50/50,” says Burroughs. A vehicle must be at least 20 years old, and must pass a 20-mile road test. It must also remain over 50% unrefinished or unaltered in at least three of four areas (body, interior, engine compartment, and undercarriage) and retain over 50% of the original finishes. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but don’t try to fool the judges, either, as they are experts in this field and know what factory original finishes and components look like. If it isn’t certified by Bloomington Gold, an automobile can’t legally or legitimately be called a “survivor,” no matter what make or model it is.
Burroughs’s own Corvette-our subject car-was the inspiration for this ideal and featured in the video as well as brochures to promote Survivor®. The trademarked tag line “Worn In, But Not Worn Out” came from his description of the car. He sold the car in 1994, just as the Survivor® concept was gaining popularity. Since 1990, over 1,000 Corvettes have been Survivor® certified, and 2010 marks the first year that Survivor® certification will be open to all makes and models that are at least 20 years old.
Of any given marque or model, there will always be a handful of original examples, but far fewer than restored vehicles. In just the past few years we’ve seen the values of some original cars surpass those of similar restored cars, and we will likely continue to see more value given to well-preserved vehicles in the future.
At Kissimmee, a Survivor® sold for as much as another convertible that was restored to perfection and owned by Brad Whitford, a guitarist in the rock band Aerosmith. And it did so at the top of the current price range for Tri-Power Corvette cars. Well sold indeed, and a clear indicator of the growing maturity of the market when it comes to valuing original, unaltered artifacts.