Are second-generation Corvettes on the move?

Matt Tierney

The second-generation (1963–67) Corvette is a cornerstone of the classic market and is, of course, a bucket-list car for many a collector. Yet as value trends go, it has been relatively boring in recent years. Stingrays mostly sat out the market peak of the last decade and were conspicuously absent among the vehicles that took off via online auctions in 2020 and 2021.

Well, that’s starting to change.

A little over a month has passed since the gavel fell on the final lot during the whirlwind January auctions. While just about everything that sold in Scottsdale and Kissimmee went for big amounts, one of the clear winners were C2 Corvettes. That said, any auction—even the biggest ones on the calendar—can be an isolated event.

All this in mind, going into Amelia week, C2 Corvettes were among the cars we were paying very close attention to. None of them disappointed. In particular, Gooding & Company and RM Sotheby’s secured a group of exceptional Corvettes with terrific provenance, which blew by even our highest expectations. So let’s take a look at these cars and dissect what these sales mean to the market.

1963 Corvette Z06 (small tank) Split-Window Coupe

1963 Corvette Z06 small tank Split-Window Coupe
Matt Tierney

RM Sotheby’s Lot 158

Sold for: $423,000

Hagerty Price Guide #1 (concours) value: $402,000

Of the two C2 Z06’s offered on the island, this one was the “bargain,” yet the final price exceeded the Hagerty Price Guide’s concours-condition value by $21,000. You might be thinking, “At this price level, what’s another $21,000?” and you’d be right save for one caveat: This was not a concours-condition car. Its restoration was performed 10-years ago, and even the best restoration will lose some of its luster over that span. That said, this car showed better than a lot of recent restorations we’ve seen in the past.

What may have pushed this car over the top was its provenance. It has been judged NCRS Top Flight, MCACN Concours Gold and Bloomington Gold certified. If you want your Corvette taken seriously within Corvette circles—and for nearly a half-million dollars, you probably do—this sort of prestige matters. Last but not least, it crossed the block before a well-attended room, despite appearing toward the end of the sale. One of the benefits of Amelia’s relaxed schedule was that each catalogue auction company—RM, Gooding & Co., and Bonhams—was able to have a night entirely to themselves, meaning bidders weren’t scurrying out of the tents to make the next auction.

1966 Corvette Coupe 427/390

1966 Chevrolet Corvette 427 390 Coupe front three-quarter
Gooding & Company

Gooding & Company Lot 72

Sold for: $533,000

Hagerty Price Guide #1 (concours) value: $125,000

On paper, this sale is a head-scratcher. The 427/390 engine was by no means the hottest option for Corvettes in 1966, and under normal circumstances, a collector would wait for a 425-hp car. Yet this one brought more than 400 percent of its concours-condition Hagerty Price Guide value. At a final price of $533,000 this result would become the highest price ever paid at auction for a ’66 Corvette.

However this is no ordinary ’66 Corvette. Showing just 10,673 miles when it crossed the block, this one-owner car showed just what originality and exceptional history has potential to do for a seller. One of the salient features of the current market—particularly at the higher end—is that buyers will splurge on a car that hasn’t changed hands in a while. No less important: this ‘Vette looked great. The ’63 Z06 that ran before this car (and which we’ll get to next) showed less dulling to the finishes, but the ’66 had that unmistakable appearance of an unrestored, very-well-cared-for survivor. Collectors tastes are slowly but surely tilting away from better-than-new restorations, and there are vanishingly few Corvettes in such fine condition that haven’t been redone. We don’t expect this sale to be repeated any time soon, but it is one that will most certainly be talked about for a while.

1963 Corvette Z06 (small tank) Split-Window Coupe

1963 Corvette Z06 small tank Split-Window Coupe
Matt Tierney

Gooding & Company Lot 71

Sold for: $1,242,500

Hagerty Price Guide #1 (concours) value: $402,000

A ’63 Z06 Corvette has typically been a $300,000–$400,000 car with models equipped with the 36-gallon “big tank” option fetching up to the $700,000 range. With that context, Gooding’s $700,000–$900,000 estimate on this “small tank” model was eyed with a bit of skepticism by some in the room. Indeed, the estimate was way off—but not in the direction anyone expected. When the hammer fell, it had crossed into seven figures—triple its concours-condition value in the Hagerty Price Guide.

As with the other big Corvette sales at Amelia, this one becomes more understandable when we look into the particulars. With 5353 miles on the odometer, and in original condition, this Z06 attracted admirers the entire preview the day prior. Upon inspection, it was in better condition than many 5-year-old used cars. And like Gooding’s ’66 Corvette, this one’s beauty was a testament to loving preservation over the decades rather than the talents of a restoration shop. The opportunity to buy any ’63 Z06 comes around only so often—Chevrolet built just 199 of them—and most don’t look like this.

The fantastic condition of the Corvettes on hand at Amelia—particularly the Gooding cars—make them less-than-perfect indicators of where the Stingray market is headed. Your typical driver-condition ’64-or-later Stingray with a small-block remains a five-figure car (and, for the sake of collectors on a budget everywhere, we hope they stay that way). Yet the fact that top-tier collectors were willing to splurge does hint that Corvettes, like everything else, are moving on up. It also confirms that exceptional cars will always bring exceptional money.

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