Jeremy Cliff, courtesy of Mecum Auctions
  • Nut-and-bolt frame-off restoration by His Place Inc. in Emmitsburg, MD, in 2009
  • 683 miles since completion
  • 540-ci Dart block engine by Shafiroff Racing
  • Aluminum intake manifold
  • Holley double-pumper carburetor
  • MSD ignition
  • Dyno tested at 682 hp, 680 ft/lbs torque
  • Tremec TKO 600 5-speed transmission
  • 4.11 Positraction
  • REM coated ring and pinion
  • Heavy-duty half shafts
  • Aluminum driveshaft
  • Headers and stainless exhaust
  • Power steering
  • Wilwood master cylinder
  • Leather interior
  • Air conditioning
  • Power windows
  • 15x8 inch Rally wheels

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1971 Chevrolet Corvette REsto-mod
Years Produced:1971
Number Produced:14,680
Original List Price:$5,496
SCM Valuation:$40,000–$80,000
Tune Up Cost:$500–$600
Distributor Caps:$35
Chassis Number Location:Plate on lower left windshield pillar
Engine Number Location:On block in front of right cylinder head (Dart blocks have numbers stamped in front of block)
Club Info:National Corvette Restorers Society
Alternatives:1964 Corvette 327/300 coupe, 1968 Corvette 427/435 L71 coupe, 1968 Camaro Z/28
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot T236, sold for $73,440, including buyer’s premium, at Mecum’s auction in Kissimmee, FL, on January 22, 2015.

Bill Mitchell’s shark-inspired C3 design is aging nicely, with interest in and appreciation for the cars steadily improving. And while Corvette’s third generation has little chance of ever surpassing the ’63-’67 mid-years in value, the 133,449 early chrome-bumper models could eventually draw close — especially the 427 and 454 big-block cars. That brings us to our subject car — an inventively big-blockized ’71.

Based on the auction copy’s lack of reference to either a high-output 350 LT-1 or a 454 of any stripe originally living under the hood, I must assume that this tasteful resto-mod started life hosting the 270-horse base 350 that powered 14,567 of the 21,801 Stingrays produced for ’71. And because it’s silly to throw out an original, matching-numbers drivetrain these days, we might also assume that this car, when it rolled into the restoration shop, may have had either the wrong powertrain or no powertrain at all.

Under such circumstances, the owner made a great call in creating an authentic-looking but not-so-stock big-block car wearing LS6 decals. The reason? Only 188 of the 425-horse LS6-powered Corvettes were built for ’71 — a rare and costly option that became the Corvette horsepower king after the demise of the L88, whose last tire-scorching hurrah was in 1969.

Go big or go bigger

Given an engine-less, small-block blank-canvas ’71 to work with, what would you do? You could find (and pay the seller’s asking price for) a period-correct 270-horse 350 and a matching tranny and put this Shark back to bone stock. Doing so would result in a best-case value of $40,000 if the original car had air conditioning, according to the latest ACC Pocket Price Guide. Considering the purchase price of the donor car and all that would go into executing such a faithful resto, there wouldn’t be much more than a sliver of profit — if any at all — at trail’s end.

That’s why following the “liberal arts” path was much smarter here. For probably no greater investment, the restorers created a fine-looking big-block car with performance rivaling or surpassing an original L88, thanks to the frame-twistingly powerful 540-inch motor. And combining a low axle ratio together with a 5-speed gearbox (which no production Corvette ever had) probably gives an ideal mix of knockout acceleration along with comfortable highway cruising.

It’s all very tastefully done, and with a subtle 5-speed transmission gate pictograph next to the shift lever and an LS6 Turbo-Jet 454 air-cleaner decal, it might actually fool casual Corvette fans. To the extent that any big-block Shark can ever be a sleeper, this one is.

An intelligent approach

In terms of the overall build, the restorers used an uncommon degree of restraint on this project — a welcome deviation from resto-mods festooned with 18- and 19-inch bling wheels, nonstandard paint, slammed ride height, and fuzzy-dice interior appointments.

The oversize 15-inch white-letter BFGs — slightly larger in the rear — add a subtle bit of attitude compared with the stock F70-15s, without being egregious. And sticking with stock-looking wheels helps further.

The chrome-bumper Sharks changed the silver paint specs nearly every year (from Silverstone Silver in ’68 to Cortez Silver in ’69–’70, and from Nevada Silver in ’71 to Pewter Silver in ’72), so it’s hard to say whether the restorers went to any pains to mimic the ’71’s actual Nevada Silver paintwork. But it does look period enough, adding to the appeal.

Inside, the interior also appears stock and tidy, with fresh-looking leather upholstery and carpeting and nice bright trim. The only possible variation noted was that the seating pleats on early ’71s ran fore-aft, whereas they are lateral on this low-VIN, early-production ’71 model (it was built in August 1970). But this isn’t an NCRS candidate, and the lateral-pleat seats look better anyway. Likewise, the silver-on-black color combination is impossible to quarrel with, compared with potentially more polarizing options such as Ontario Orange over dark green.

Everybody wins

Seeing the appeal clearly, Mecum set the pre-auction estimate at $55,000–$75,000, and the winning price of $73,440 indeed landed right at the high end of that range. The price achieved surpasses most other C3s in the ACC Pocket Price Guide, and even surpasses the top values for some of the base mid-years, which nowadays is a pretty strong benchmark.

All things considered, I’d suggest that the builder made pretty good decisions here and was well rewarded for his vision and execution. And the buyer got a wonderfully presented kick-ass car with an interesting little Cinderella story to go with it. While I’m predisposed to dislike resto-mods, fakes and clones, due to the tasteful execution here, I’m actually envious of this one. Well built, well bought, and well sold.

(Introductory description courtesy of Mecum Auctions.

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