Sale of the Week: Is this low-mile 2003 Corvette finally ready to be driven?

Bring a Trailer / northsideimports

Chevrolet fought the good fight with its C4 Corvette for a dozen years before giving America’s sports car an overhaul. It was as complete as remakes get, and really the only thing that carried over to the new-for-’97 Corvette C5 was the badge.

The aluminum-block 346-cubic-inch LS1 V-8 was new. Putting its 350 ponies to the back wheels via rear transaxle was new. The hydro-formed space frame, the suspension, the interior, the exterior—all of it clean-sheet new. All the meaningful dimensions increased, too—the wheelbase by 10 inches, the width by 3 inches, the track by 4.4 and 2.9 inches front and rear—which led not only to a more sure-footed Corvette, but also to actual space for real human-sized feet in the footwells. The result was the most revolutionary sports car Chevy had ever built.

By the time production gave way to that of the C6 for 2004, the Bowling Green, Kentucky, plant had churned out nearly a quarter-million C5s. Including this 2003 coupe, our Sale of the Week, which rolled off the line October 14, 2002. Radiant in Millennium Yellow, it sold May 10 on Bring a Trailer, after 23 bids, for $30,500.

This Corvette was outfitted with a black leather interior, polished five-spoke wheels (17-inch front, 18-inch rear), a four-speed automatic transmission, a limited-slip differential, Magnetic Select Ride Control active damping, removable glass and body-color roof panels, and a Bose sound system.

2003 Chevrolet Corvette-gauges
Bring a Trailer / northsideimports

None of that exactly makes it a unicorn, but there are several interesting tidbits to consider about this Corvette. For starters, the mileage. The odometer shows just 812 miles, with the dealer-seller adding 20 of those and stating that the original owner only drove the car regularly to cars and coffee on the weekends (a 10-mile round trip) and to a few other car shows. It never knew a raindrop and spent the majority of its days in a climate-controlled garage in Texas. “He was all show and no drive,” the seller said in the BaT comments.

There’s also that color. Millennium Yellow found its way onto 3900 Corvettes in 2003, including 1041 coupes just like this one. It’s not the rarest color (that would be Speedway White), but it does bring a small premium in the market—a premium that will likely exist no matter how many miles get put on this car.

2003 Chevrolet Corvette-front right
Bring a Trailer / northsideimports

Which brings us to the Corvette’s custom engine control unit (ECU) tune and an aftermarket exhaust that includes tubular headers, high-flow catalytic converters, a crossover pipe, and a cat-back system. A cold-start video provided to curious parties confirmed the car’s meaty resonance, while a recent dyno printout confirmed output at the wheels at 324 hp and torque at 355 lb-ft. The car was made to sound better and go better than stock, but who are we to judge an owner for upgrading the performance of a car when they had little intention of driving it?

Hagerty quote data tells us that C5 owners skew boomer, and the majority drive their cars an average of 1823 miles per year, which, 20-ish years on, theoretically makes many of them 36,000-mile cars. In that respect, sure, there is something special about this example. But special enough to keep it that way?

This is no precious Corvette; it is no double-digit, plastic-on-the-seats “wrapper car.” Certainly it would have benefited from such treatment, as the large, unfortunate stain on the passenger seat front bolster attests. As it sits, then, this Corvette presents the buyer with a serious question: Drive it or park it?

2003 Chevrolet Corvette-engine overhead
Bring a Trailer / northsideimports

The $30,500 price paid puts this C5 smack-dab in the middle of the range occupied by condition #1 (Concours) and condition #2 (Excellent) examples, which happens to be about the same realm as a #2 50th Anniversary edition or a #3 (Good) Z06 of the same vintage. But it is neither of those cars. It’s regular coupe with an automatic, which generally accounts for a 10 percent hit in the market.

Even adding ten times the current mileage, with proper care the new owner could still keep this car in excellent condition. As clean C5s have seen some upward movement in the market in the last couple years, it’s reasonable to think the owner might even recoup the investment a few thousand glorious miles down the road.

Cold-start idle videos are great and everything, but there’s a song to be heard from that LS1 and its sporty pipes. A careful strategy to drive and enjoy this Corvette could wring out every delightful note.

2003 Chevrolet Corvette-front three quarter
Bring a Trailer / northsideimports




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    The C5 cars are just now taking off. They have been going up for the last 5 years and are still a performance bargain.

    They have the foundation that is shared with the C6-7 and even with a steel frame rails it is still lighter at 3200 pounds.

    It has the LS engine that is easy to build or modify and there are tons of parts for these cars.

    Just make sure to try to stick to a 02-03 model as they are the most refined. They also lack the Bosch Stability control units that are no longer made, the 01 had ring issues and the 04 requires the rear end andf exhaust to be pulled lose to change the fuel pump.

    The Z06 is going to be the real collector in the group and the more stock the more value since most have been modified.

    Many of these cars were bought and driven lightly and well cared for. The selection is large and prices and miles all over. You can find a lower mile car at a reasonable price.

    Use care as really low miles are often no bargain. They will need tires, Changes of fluids, and you will often find they may have been sitting in a garage getting banged up with stuff stacked on them. I had one I looed at that the seats were scratched and the paint was damaged and it had less than 10K miles.

    The cars with 20K-50K are in the sweet spot as they were driven enough to keep things fresh and often serviced and cared for better. Some low mile cars are cared for but just don’t assume.

    Also cars sitting much can have rodent damage as the critters are attracted to the wires on these cars like most modern cars. Some can be so damaged it is no bargain.

    But look around and just find a sporty car like this with a convertible that is increasing in value that can run 13’s and top 170 MPH.

    Also rust is little of an issue on these cars as the frame is well protected and much else is aluminum and composites.

    It is also one of the last Corvettes that is not major computer controlled so modifications are much easier than later cars.

    As for colors yes Yellow is rare. Why because it is not that popular but on the used market those wanting have to pay more since there are few of them. Torch Red most popular and are the fast sales. They made more of them but they are hard to find as they sell often in a week if in good shape.

    Look at the drivers seat not the miles. the condition of an unbuilt seat will tell much on the care the car had. Cracked leather says no care. Broken and torn covers little care and snapped control bezels little care. Seat bushings are worn and the seat rocking no care. 30 min fix. These are easy cheap fixes and if not repaired then it may have other things lacking.

    I own a 2004 Milennium Yellow convertible, auto, 55k miles and performs like new. Great car and throaty with a Corsa Exhaust System and no drone but fun to drive

    One could drive and enough this near new Corvette for another 30,000 miles and still recoup most of the money. Awfully cheap fun with a Corvette. It’s not unique enough to save in its current state.

    This car is bored to death. Drive it and get some enjoyment out of it. Staring at cars in dark garages or a field full of folks in lawn chairs derives no pleasure. What is more fun than driving your beloved?

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