Three Corvettes to buy, sell, or hold
By any stretch of the imagination, the Chevrolet Corvette is a very, very popular car. With 66 years of production under its belt and well over 1.5 million sold, it’s one of those cars that’s impossible to ignore or forget.
There’s a Corvette for every budget, from $3500 for a rough #4 (Fair)-condition 1985 model to $3.85M for a 1967 L88. There’s a Corvette for every taste, too. If you like curves and chrome, C1s are an obvious choice. If you want a cheap boulevard cruiser, a later C3 with automatic transmission is always an option. If you want a serious track-day weapon, a late-model Z06 or ZR1 begs to be driven hard.
Corvettes are just inescapable when shopping around for a collector car, and it’s one of Hagerty’s most insured vehicles. But with such a wide variation in looks, age, performance, and value, it’s no wonder that different ‘Vettes are performing differently in the marketplace. We’ve scoured our valuation data to compile a list of three Corvettes to buy, sell, or hold right now.
It’s not the prettiest thing on four wheels, but the C5 was a massive leap forward in performance over the C4. It benefits from a lighter and stiffer design, features a transaxle for better balance, and introduced the glorious LS-series V-8, which was more powerful out of the box than the old LT engine (as well as more tunable for all the tinkerers out there). C5s won at Le Mans and they sold well in the showroom, with well over 30,000 leaving dealerships each year of production.
That was a while ago, and even the newest C5 is a 15-year-old car. Although we still see C5s in traffic and tearing it up on track days, about a year and a half ago we began to wonder, “Are C5s collectible yet?” If recent prices for base-model cars are any indication, we can now answer that question with a pretty emphatic “yes.”
On average, condition #2 (Excellent) values for base-model C5s bottomed out in 2015 as they finished depreciating, stayed flat until the beginning of 2018, and started recording modest gains as they made that transition from used car to collectible. In the last two years, the median condition #2 value for a 1997–2000 coupe increased 9.2 percent. For a convertible, it was up 7.4 percent. The 2001–04 cars, which had a five-horsepower bump over the earlier cars for an even 350, were up a more modest but still significant two percent. All base-model C5s also started out the year with a two-percent rise in average value. But with a median #2 value still at $21,300, the C5 is still a heck of a lot of car for the money, with room to grow. At only a few grand more than a good C4, it’s a better value than the earlier car, even after prices started to rise. Nobody is going to get rich from holding onto a good low-mileage C5, but most signs point to an increase in value in the near term.
Although 1978 was an important year for the Corvette, it wasn’t the golden age of performance. America’s sports car celebrated its 25th anniversary, it paced the Indianapolis 500, and it received a new fixed-glass fastback rear. For $399, buyers could add the Silver Anniversary package that included silver upper and gray lower body paint. It also features pinstriping and included the optional aluminum wheels and dual sport mirrors. It looks pretty sharp and represents the first two-tone paint job on a factory Corvette since 1961, but Silver Anniversary Corvettes aren’t as special as they might seem at first glance.
First off, the package was very popular at the time, so these are not rare cars. Chevrolet sold more than 15,000, which was about a third of all Corvettes sold that year. The Silver Anniversary outsold every other available Corvette color, including the 6000 or so Indy Pace Car versions. The package didn’t add any real performance cred to the mix, either. Buyers just got the usual combination of 220-hp L82, close ratio four-speed, and gymkhana suspension.
Silver Anniversary Corvettes are worth more than a base ’78 ($14,100 for an L48-powered base in #2 condition versus $22,200 for a Silver Anniversary), but they’re worth comfortably less than a Pace Car ($26,900) and they’re getting cheaper. We haven’t seen one sell at auction for a #2 price or above in more than a year.
Values were flat with the latest pricing update we released this week, but they were down 15 percent on average at the beginning of the year. The average condition #2 value currently sits at $23,400, far down from its peak at $28,500 in mid-2015. Base-model ’78s and Pace Cars have trended down as well, so there is still room to drop.
Yes, there are two C5s on this list, but the Z06 is a different kettle of fish in terms of both performance and price. The Z06 was one of the top performers of the early 2000s. It delivered a knockout punch to its nemesis, the Dodge Viper, by being both quicker and cheaper, and it was able to embarrass certain exotics from Europe with even higher price tags. After GM stopped building it and moved on to the C6, though, it became old news, and it depreciated as most used cars do. But it was still seriously fast, and C5 Z06s represented just about the most performance per dollar you could buy.
The secret has started to get out, and Z06s have started to get a little pricier. Compared to the base C5, Z06 values bottomed out at around the same time in 2015–16, but they started to rise earlier in 2017. No volatility, just a general trend upward. Average values are up 4.5 percent from two years ago and 6.7 percent from four years ago.
With the latest update of Hagerty Price Guide values, however, the Z06 has flattened out. There haven’t been any surprises on the auction or private market lately, either. That said, all the signs point to Z06s taking a breather rather than heading for a downturn. A good, unmodified low-mile Z06 is a significant car with a bright future in terms of collectability and room for growth. With a condition #2 value of $27,200, a Z06 isn’t even $7 grand more than the equivalent base coupe. It’s also $17 grand cheaper than the equivalent Viper. So, although Z06s are holding steady for now, don’t expect that to last forever.