Values of C3 Corvettes have been sliding for the past four years, with a steeper decline setting in during 2011. As a group, these cars have dipped 7% during the past 12 months and are off 16% from 5 years ago. Entry-level cars have suffered more than the high-horsepower cars, but all have been impacted.
The reason is over-supply, as C3s have long been popular among “casual” collectors. Prolonged economic troubles have simply forced these owners to bring their “extra” cars to market. When coupled with a lengthy production run and good survivorship, buyers don’t have far to look for C3s.
The flip side is that now is a terrific time to buy. The C3’s design has aged remarkably well, and these cars provide a visual pop in the right color. They are also a great way to enter Corvette ownership without investing much — this generation has a much lower initial cost than other ’Vettes, and they are still relatively easy to work on.
Look to buy a chrome-bumper example that is as original as you can find, and enjoy it for a few years. And be wary of oxidation. Yes, the body is fiberglass, but the frame is not, and rust on the frame can travel if left untreated.
Corvettes have historically been an insulated market segment. As the preeminent American automotive icon, demand is perpetually high, which typically translates to less volatile price fluctuations. This has held true over the past five years where we have witnessed other segments experience rapid growth, followed by steep declines and then relative calm. Corvettes, in the meantime, have mostly undergone a gentle decline.
None of the Hagerty Price Guide's Corvette index's eight component cars is stronger today than it was in 2006, and the group is down 18% overall during that timeframe. Although prices have slipped, we feel these cars still represent a strong buy. The 1991 ZR-1 is off 30% from five years ago, but offers tremendous performance per dollar and is gaining attention for this reason. The 1970 LT1 is also off 30% since 2006, but is possibly underpriced given the engine’s sublime reputation.
Should the collector car market continue its recent rise as most expect, Corvette prices should move the needle in the other direction soon.