Bruce Springsteen’s Chevelle could be yours
It’d be right at home cruising “The Streets of Philadelphia” or tearing up “Thunder Road.” First, though, this Chevrolet Chevelle convertible formerly owned by Bruce Springsteen is cruising to the Mecum Indianapolis auction block. An SS tribute car configured with a 396-cubic inch big-block engine and a Hurst on the floor like the Chevy in The Boss’ “Racing in the Street,” this Chevelle is a rock star in its own right. Will Springsteen’s ownership elevate it to a sale price beyond the value of similarly-built models?
If more than one bidder has an attitude of “No Surrender” and raises their paddle with a “Hungry Heart,” chances could be good.
“Celebrity cars are always a draw and almost always bring a premium. The estimate suggests that this Chevelle might bring two to three times or more than the market value this car would otherwise bring if not owned by The Boss,” says Hagerty Price Guide editor Greg Ingold.
“But here’s the thing: Simply being a celebrity doesn’t necessarily equate to big premiums; it usually helps to be a massive car person as well. While Springsteen is undoubtedly that—nobody can argue otherwise—it’s not as big a part of his persona as it is for Paul Newman or Steve McQueen, for instance.
“Bottom line: How high this car will go is anyone’s guess.”
The Chevelle (VIN #136679B400523), which will cross the block on May 20 at Mecum’s Indianapolis Auction, has a presale estimate of $150,000–$200,000. Mecum confirmed that the vehicle is not a factory SS 396. Even so, the estimate is well above values for the 1969 Chevrolet Chevelle 396 SS convertible, which come in at $70,200 for an example in #2 (Excellent) condition and $90,600 for one in #1 (Concours) condition. (To read a breakdown of how we evaluate a vehicle’s condition, and 1-to-4 the scale we use, click here.)
The Chevelle was owned by the legendary rock star from 1981 until Christmas 1987, when Springsteen gifted it to Toby Scott, who worked as a recording engineer or mixer on 18 of Springsteen’s albums. A prolonged rotisserie restoration that started in 1988 and wrapped up in 2020 included returning the Chevelle to its original LeMans Blue from the Midnight Black it wore during Springsteen’s ownership.
Shortly after its rebirth, the car was delivered to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland in August 2020 and displayed with the same surfboard that The Boss would put in back whenever he headed to the beach in New Jersey.
The 396-cubic-inch big-block V-8 in the classic GM A-body produces 350 horsepower and is mated to a four-speed manual transmission. Though the Chevy featured in “Racing in the Street” wears Fuelie heads, the real-life car does not—small-block Fuelie heads won’t fit the big-block 396—and Springsteen acknowledged that bit of creative license in a 1978 radio interview.
Other features include a white convertible top, white bucket seats, a white side stripe, chrome Cragar SS wheels with BFGoodrich Radial T/A raised white-letter tires, power disc brakes, electronic ignition, MSD tachometer adapter, serpentine belt system with polished alternator and water pump, ceramic-coated Hooker headers, and dual exhaust. The Chevelle also has a period radio, which has been installed but is not hooked up.
It also wears Super Sport emblems, SS-style blacked-out grille and rear panel, and a double-domed hood.
The sale includes a signed letter from Springsteen regarding his ownership, a document from his mechanic describing the purchase of the car on Springsteen’s behalf, and a photo of the license plate that the car wore while registered to The Boss.
Advertised as “America’s most popular mid-size car,” nearly 455,000 Chevelles—in coupe, convertible, sedan, station wagon, and pickup (El Camino) form—were produced in 1969. Only one was owned by Bruce Springsteen.
While Springsteen didn’t make our 2022 Power List of Musicians whose ownership adds significantly to the value of a car, there’s no denying his presence in American culture. We’ll be watching to see if his provenance tacks on a decent premium to this Chevelle, especially considering its sentimental ties to one of his most iconic songs.