Courtesy of Barrett-Jackson

This 1970 Corvette LT-1 coupe was bought new off the showroom floor at Backhus-Ebert Chevy-Olds in Fowlerville, MI, in May 1970. Options included the 350-ci 370-hp solid-lifter engine, close-ratio 4-speed M21 transmission, 4.11 axle, power brakes, Firestone F70 white-letter tires, AM/FM radio, alarm system, and a dealer-added luggage rack.

The seller purchased the Corvette from the original owner in 1981 with all original paperwork, including the window sticker and sales order. Now showing just 19,900 original miles, the car still retains its original Marlboro Maroon paint and Saddle vinyl interior, but has enjoyed cosmetic restoration of the undercarriage and engine bay. It received a Bloomington Gold award in 1981, and is offered with the judging sheets. In addition, the car has been featured in books, magazines and a calendar, which are also included.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1970 Chevrolet Corvette LT-1
Years Produced:1970
Number Produced:10,668 (coupes, 1970)
Original List Price:$5,192
SCM Valuation:Median to date, $39,400; high sale, $112,200
Tune Up Cost:$500–$600
Distributor Caps:$35
Chassis Number Location:VIN plate on lower left windshield pillar
Engine Number Location:On block in front of right cylinder head
Club Info:National Corvette Restorers Society
Alternatives:1962 Corvette 327/250 convertible, 1964 Corvette 327/250 coupe, 1996 Corvette Grand Sport coupe
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot 1070, sold for $71,500, including buyer’s premium, at the Barrett-Jackson auction in Scottsdale, AZ, on January 29, 2016.

The high-water mark of Chevy small-block engine development for its time, the solid-lifter 350-ci LT1 was at its performance peak in 1970. Just 1,312 Corvettes were so equipped, including 1,287 cars ordered with the stand-alone LT1 option, and another 25 competition-spec ZR1 models, which also included the hot rod mill. All this represents just 7.6% of the production run of 17,316 cars that year.

The LT1’s 370 horsepower was terrific for a small-block V8 at the time, and it remains impressive over four-and-a-half decades later. In fact, it wasn’t until the four-cam, 32-valve, fuel-injected ZR-1 debuted for 1990 that a production Corvette finally surpassed the LT1’s output (albeit by just five horses as rated). Not too shabby for an iron-block pushrod mill with a single 4-barrel Holley on top.

Should be famous

Given its performance capabilities, it’s a wonder the LT1 small-block doesn’t get the same recognition among car people that the Hemi, 427 or L88 does. After all, a high-performance small block is like a welterweight MMA fighter — quick, powerful, reasonably light, highly durable… and brutally effective. But perhaps this is just as well, because this means the LT-1 moniker (with hyphen as displayed on the car, without as an RPO code) remains something of a secret handshake among Corvette insiders.

Now to this car in particular. At 46 years old, this Corvette had accumulated just 19,900 miles, and it was reportedly still wearing its original paint and interior. That works out to just 432 miles per year, or just over a mile per day on average. In the grand scheme of things, that’s chicken feed.

Desirable models that have lived pampered lives make for serious bidding whenever and wherever they‘re found. But cars like this one are fairly rare in a sea of hundreds or thousands of restored cars — some doubtlessly of dubious origins and history — orbiting around the major auctions each year. An astute buyer grabbed this one.

The best small-block Shark

The Corvette was available in a record 11 exterior colors for 1970, but this car’s Marlboro Maroon enjoyed reasonable popularity, although it was only about half as popular as Donnybrooke Green. Fortunately, the maroon on our subject car holds up well today — both literally and artistically — with the finish bright and deep-looking, and apparently unmarred.

Equally impressive was the Saddle interior, which still looks showroom-fresh. Clearly a meticulous effort was made to detail the car, as there wasn’t a bolster wrinkle, upholstery stitch or carpet fiber out of place. As referenced in the introductory copy above, the engine bay had been detailed, and it presented at auction as carefully used but original. Just right, and convincing.

The 1970 model is one of five C3 years (1968–72) with chrome front and rear bumpers. As such, it falls right smack in the middle of this early and most desirable series of Sharks. Truthfully, somewhat overshadowing the LT1 engine this year was the debut of the 454-ci LS5, boasting a claimed 390 horsepower. However, the big block was a way cheaper option at $289.65 versus the LT1’s $447.65 premium, and with the pizzazz offered by the biggest engine ever to grace a Corvette, it’s little surprise that the LS5 outsold the LT1 by nearly 3.5 to 1. (However, today, the LT1 beats the LS5 in value.)

Also to the 1970 LT1’s credit, at 370 horsepower, it was the highest output of the LT1’s short three-year run, as the power rating dropped to 330 hp for 1971 and then further plummeted to 255 hp for 1972 as emissions regulations took further control. The engine option disappeared for good in 1973. All told, this makes the 1970 Stingray LT-1 — either coupe or convertible — the most desirable small-block Shark out there.

Of luggage racks and 4.11 gears

Regarding the car’s other features, the 4.11 axle is certainly a magic number in street performance (“With 4.11 gears you can really get lost”— Commander Cody), but such low gearing invites stoplight drags more than it does interstate touring. Which means that the dealer-installed luggage rack is a bit of an odd fit for the car, although they’re nostalgic enough today that in my estimation the rack neither damages nor helps the car value-wise. And with such low mileage, original paint and interior, and a Bloomington award to its credit, there is little chance this Shark will ever be used for anything that involves the affixing and transportation of suitcases, ice chests or golf bags anyway.

With no other remarkable options or any particular history noted besides the original sale documentation, the chief merits of this C3 are its rare and desirable LT1 engine, the exceptional original finish and interior, and the extraordinarily low mileage.

Among 77,909 chrome-bumper 1968–72 Shark coupes built, due to its extraordinary surviving status, along with the zenith of performance for the ’70 LT1 engine, this car fully deserved the $71,500 paid in Scottsdale. With the current ACC Pocket Price Guide framing 1970 LT-1s with a median price of $39,400 and a high-water sales mark of $112,200, this particular sale tucked in about where I’d have expected based off its condition and history. To my way of thinking, that made it a terrific buy.

(Introductory description courtesy of Barrett-Jackson.

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