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