The 1986 Corvette convertible was a big deal… back then


It was the sports car for which Corvette fans had been waiting 11 years. No, not the mid-engine C8 or its just-revealed drop-top sibling. Folks stood by much longer for those. Nevertheless, when the cover came off the highly anticipated 1986 Chevrolet Corvette convertible three decades ago—the first drop-top ’Vette since 1975—it was a very big deal. 

Back then, anyway. Values are a mixed bag these days.

“Exceptional examples do well at auction, but broadly speaking they’re not worth any more than a 1987 or ’88 convertible,” says Hagerty valuation editor Andrew Newton, who added that prices remained unchanged with last month’s Hagerty Price Guide update. Not only that, “Insurance quoting activity overall is almost flat over the past year, and it’s down slightly over the past three years.”

Still, there’s some good news. “While most C4 prices have been relatively flat for the past five years, prices are up a bit for really good #1-condition (Concours) and #2 (Excellent) cars.”

1986 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible
1986 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible GM
1986 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible
1986 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible GM

1986 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible
1986 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible GM

Values for ’86 Corvette convertibles in #2 condition have risen 7 percent over the past two years and 8.4 percent over the past five. Besides, Newton says, “Early C4s, despite their low horsepower rating, have plenty of usable torque to enjoy. They’re reasonably fast for a car from the 1980s.” Now here comes the bucket of cold water. “With that said, they’re definitely not as nice to drive as the later C4s. Convertibles also squeak, rattle, and flex, just like the coupes do.”

Chevrolet built 7315 Corvette convertibles for the 1986 model year compared to 27,794 coupes, so they’re four times as scarce. Just don’t believe it when someone says they own a rare Pace Car Edition. Every ’86 convertible was shipped with “Official Pace Car” decals. Some owners added them, some didn’t. So they’re all Pace Car Editions.

The ’86 Corvette’s 350-cubic-inch L98 engine received new aluminum heads, which boosted horsepower to 230 (and 330 lb-ft of torque at 3200 rpm). The heads in early models proved to be too thin, however, and they had cracking issues under high load. The problem was corrected before the end of the model year.

MSRP for a 1986 Corvette convertible was $32,480, but today one in #2 condition is worth about half that: $16,700. One in #1 condition is valued at $21,200.

1986 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible
1986 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible GM

According to our data, the average auction price for 1986 Corvette convertibles over the last seven years is $12,900. Five of them were sold at Mecum Kissimmee earlier this year, and while two were hammered not sold, three brought prices that were higher than current #1 values: $24,750 for a white automatic with only 868 miles on the clock, $23,100 for a red four-speed with 8000 miles, and $22,000 for a red metallic automatic with 1864 miles.

The most paid at auction for an ’86 Corvette convertible was $49,500 at Mecum’s 2017 Indianapolis event for a yellow automatic with 788 miles on the odometer. Of course, that car carries serial #1.

Oddly enough, C4 Corvettes are disproportionately more popular among Baby Boomers and Pre-Boomers, not younger buyers, which is unusual given how cheap they are. Maybe that’s because those older buyers remember pressing their noses against the windows at their local Chevy dealership to check out the long-awaited return of the Corvette convertible.

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