What's the best investment and most usable Corvette you can buy for $100,000? Think you know the answer? Check out what Todd Fitzerman, Edward Foss, Jerry Heasley, Kevin Mackay, Dana Mecum, and Roy Sinor (nationally known restorers, collectors, dealers, auctioneers and Corvette judges) told CM.
Automotive writer and photographer
No six-figure ’Vette is a sleeper, at least one would not think so. But many of the better “tuner” Corvettes of the late 1990s and early 2000s fit our formula of $100,000, usability, and investment status. Two years ago, a 427 twin-turbo Lingenfelter widebody, circa 1999, sold at Barrett-Jackson for around $80,000. This muscle Corvette cost more than $150,000 new. With 0–60 mph in 2.97 seconds, quarter-mile ETs in the mid 9-seconds, and production at just seven units, this ’Vette has potential. There are a variety of these tuner Corvettes on the market from more manufacturers than Lingenfelter. I inserted many of these tuner Corvettes of this era into my new book, Corvette Masterpieces (see review, CM Winter 2008, p. 92). I was there to photograph the cars brand new—from Lingenfelter, Callaway, Mallett, Specter Werkes, John Caravaggio, Doug Rippie, Andy Pilgrim, Hennessey, even the Corvette Skunkwerkes team, among others. The enthusiast’s job is to seek out these $100,000 Corvette specials and watch history repeat itself like the specials of the muscle car era, from Yenko, Dana, Berger, and Baldwin-Motion.
President, Corvettes of Dallas, TX
We respect the question, but typically, “usable” and “investment” do not appear in the same sentence when referring to a $100,000 Corvette. Collectible cars in this price range are usually fully restored or original “survivors.” Driving the car hurts the investment value and such cars are typically limited to being trailered to various shows. With the recent rise in value of mid-year and straight-axle cars, I’d recommend something like a ’75 convertible or possibly an ’81 or ’82 Corvette. These cars are affordable daily drivers. With regular maintenance, they will most likely outpace higher value cars on a percentage basis. Nineteen seventy-five was the last year for a convertible in the C3 category, yet it is very usable in that it has power steering, power brakes, power windows, and air conditioning—a big plus in the South. It’s much more usable than a $100,000 big-block ’67 coupe with no a/c. I don’t want to take away from the investment quality and pride of ownership of any $100,000 Corvette. However, over the past couple years, I have noticed that later C3s are more difficult to find. This could be a determining factor in an increase of value. When coupled with fun and usability, you might have a winning combination.
Collector of original Corvettes under 10,000 miles and special limited editions
The best usable investment-grade Corvette would be a low-mileage, original 1969 427/390 convertible with correct paperwork and lots of options. These would include power steering, power brakes, power windows, and for usability, let’s add an automatic transmission. Now that’s a great driver as well as a great investment. Odds are that you are not going to be able to get into a 1969 427/435 low-mileage car for $100,000. But with the 427/390 car, you still get the legendary 427 engine that makes it so collectible, and the low-mileage, original car gives you an investment-grade Corvette. The C3 Corvettes from 1968 throughout the ’70s give collectors as well as one-time buyers the opportunity to make an investment in an up-and-coming Corvette market. The 1969 Corvette I described above happened to be part of my personal collection, which I sold at the 2008 Mecum Bloomington Gold Auction. With 5,142 original miles and all of the correct paperwork, it sold with commission for $99,750. Low-mileage Corvettes and the big-block engine are a proven combination for a secure investment.
President, Corvette Repair, Inc. Valley Stream, NY
If you have $100,000 to spend, here are some cars to consider. My first choice would be the 1968–69 427/435 or an L89 option car. Note that that L89 is the same as the 427/435, but with aluminum heads. It’s my first choice, but it’s not a practical street car, as it can run very hot. My second choice, which is a practical street car, would be the 1965–67 327/350 with a/c and all the other optional bells and whistles. When buying any of these cars, color is very important. Black is the rarest and red is second best, although blues are very attractive. The least desirable colors are greens, whites, and yellows. Avoid 3-speed cars. Even though they are rare (252 total made in 1969, the final year of production), they are not desirable. Killing two birds with one stone, the 1970–72 LT1 is a great investment and a great street car. As a small-block, it runs cool and drives easily—truly the best of both worlds. Whatever your final decision, don’t forget that factory documentation and matching numbers are vital.
President, Mecum High Performance Auctions
I think you can have usable and collectible. I suppose the first answer is to buy a $200,000 car for $100,000—a good older restoration or a car that’s been kept up. Nineteen sixty-seven is the vintage wine for Corvettes; it’s what everybody comes back to as the leader in values. The 427/435 isn’t really a usable car, with solid lifters and airport gas required, but I have a 427/390 that runs fine on pump gas. The most magic in American collectible cars is in the big-block, and I have the stinger hood. You may not get the original motor, but you can buy a good 390-hp car with paperwork for $85,000–$120,000. And buy one with side exhausts. Every time I raced a 435 and I had side exhausts and the other guy didn’t, I beat him in my mind because I sounded like I was going faster. For usability, buy radial tires and your Corvette will drive like a modern car. The solid-axle ’61–’62s have timeless styling, but drive one for five to six hours and they’re going to hurt you. And a fat man can’t get behind the wheel. C2s have six or seven inches more space where it counts.
NCRS National Judging Chairman, 1996 to present; owner, Sinor Prestige Automobiles, Inc.
I believe the best usable Corvette that could be considered an investment is still the C2. I realize that takes into account a variety of options, so I’ll be more specific. I think the best usable investment for $100,000, or in many cases less, is the 1965 fuel-injected small-block Corvette. These cars have lagged behind the almighty 427, not only in desirability, but also in value, and they always will. Yet they are drivable, they don’t overheat, they have good throttle response and torque range, they are blisteringly fast, they handle well, and are arguably one of the rarest, due to the low production number of 771. They are easily the true high point for the small-block 327 in the mid-year era. For years, these cars carried the stigma that they are hard to keep tuned. That’s not true. If you own a 1965 fuel-injected Corvette with a sound 327 engine—with the proper camshaft—and if your injector has been rebuilt and properly calibrated by an expert, that vehicle will give you years of trouble-free performance with limited maintenance. You need to understand a little about how the fuel injection works, but these cars are undervalued in today’s market, with no place to go but up.