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Chevrolet Corvette C3

Bet on this Corvette? Published: 10th Jun 2011 - 2 Comments
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Chevrolet Corvette C3You can certainly have a huge amount of fun with a Corvette C3!
Big Block cars like this 427 Stingray are most collectible of C3’s Big Block cars like this 427 Stingray are most collectible of C3’s
Engine bays don’t come much more sanitary than this concours 'Big Blocks' are worth most Engine bays don’t come much more sanitary than this concours 'Big Blocks' are worth most
Cosy interior, this one’s been fully retrimmed in leather Cosy interior, this one’s been fully retrimmed in leather
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The third generation of America’s most venerable sports car, retaining the traditional separate chassis and GFRP bodyshell and powered by a Chevrolet’s legendary 5.7-litre V8, is the last liked ‘Vette of them all.

Pros & Cons

Style, value for money, rust-less body, good driving dynamics
Least liked model, restoration costs against real world values
£3500 - 15,000

The third generation of America’s most venerable sports car, retaining the traditional separate chassis and GFRP bodyshell and powered by a Chevrolet’s legendary 5.7-litre V8, is the last liked ‘Vette of them all. Available as a coupe, T-Top or with a convertible body, the C3 model offers superb styling, suffi cient to make your pulse race, plenty of performance especially from 7.0-litre big block cars, and most importantly you can still purchase small block cars without breaking the bank!

History & Driving

The brand new C3 arrived in 1968 and while it retained the legendary Stingray name, it was now spelt as one word. The fi rst cars sported chrome bumpers which nowadays are some of the most sought after, even more so if there’s a big block engine lurking under that huge pointy bonnet. Whether you had a 5.7 or 7.0-litre V8, performance was still pretty brisk and transmission were either manual or the legendary TH350/400 Turbo Hydramatic automatic, from the same family that was used in the Rolls-Royce and other luxury high brow cars of that time. Early C3’s sported rear buttress style bodywork similar to the Jaguar XJS, which hinders rearward vision though from 1978 a restyling exercise saw fastback rear bodywork with a huge window and neat Kamm tail. The C3 is strictly a two-seater with luggage space to the rear of the seats, unfortunately there’s no exterior access to this, until the last models arrived in 1982 when the rear wrap around window opened on gas struts. Due to ever increasing emissions regulations the C3’s engine output was gradually reduced and ended up rather low, but with GFRP bodywork the Corvette was still hardly a slouch.

Prices

Entry level for a well used car requiring restorative work is around £3500 - £5000, a car in fi ne condition, though not necessarily perfect will be £8000 - £9000 and the best will be £10,000 - £15,000. Early chrome bumpered cars 1968 – 1973 and all big block cars are generally more sought after than mid 1970’s models and will command a higher premium to the prices listed here

What To Look For

  • Utlilizing a GFRP body the C3 hasn’t any issues with rust, but there are all sorts of other problems associated with ‘plastic’ bodies. Instead you have crazing of the paintwork, also referred to as ‘Crow’s Feet’ there’s general cracking of paintwork, especially if there’s too many coats, along with micro blistering and bubbling.
  • There are no quick fi xes for sorting out problem paintwork, the only route is to remove all the paint back to the gel-coat and start again and this won’t be cheap. If you are looking at a car that requires major paintwork rectifi cation, budget accordingly or maybe walk away?
  • Check also for any poorly repaired accident damage. Look at the car from the front and check for bowing, twisting and obvious gaps and misalignment of the front wings and lower valance. Do the pop up headlamps work as they should – that’s another sign of accident damage.
  • The steel ladder type chassis is extremely robust, but can rot in places, especially if the rear drain holes aren’t kept clean. The chassis rails can also rot just in front of the rear wheels. Cars that were originally fi tted with a manual transmission have a centre cross section that’s welded in place, automatic transmission cars have a bolted on crossmember - which may be missing.
  • An extremely poor handling C3 could suggest that bushes, dampers and U/Js are past their sell by date, trailing arms can also rot badly and are not cheap to replace. Brake calipers can be prone to leaking and the pistons in the unit often seize up with infrequent use.
  • The V8 engines enjoy excellent longevity provided they have been well maintained. Look for 50-60psi oil pressure and 30psi on very hot idle without any undue smoking.
  • Ensure automatic transmission changes are silky smooth, manual Muncie ‘boxes are reasonably bullet-proof if the fl uids have been changed on time.

Verdict

The Corvette C3 defi nitely scores top marks for Va, va, voom and all round desirability for a Yank sportscar. Collectors will opt for big block cars, though there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a humble small block car that can be further tuned with ease. With a thriving owners club and plenty of UK specialists to help, the feelgood factor once you’re behind the wheel is ten out of ten. Buy the best you can afford, don’t restore a lemon, you’ll never recoup your money, unless it’s a big block car, and body off chassis restorations aren’t for the faint hearted


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User Comments

This review has 2 comments

  • C3 the least popular Corvette?
    ...whom ever wrote this knows nothing of the Corvette market, and the C4 is the stickiest sellor secondhand.

    The C3 was THE best selling new model ever, over 50,000 in 1979 alone, and best seller second hand too, with the best back-up too for parts.

    Comment by: iconic rich     Posted on: 02 Mar 2012 at 12:42 PM

  • I forgot to mention the most important thing to check when buying is the 'birdcage'....this is the metal space-frame that goes around the passenger cell (windscreen/A posts/B posts/sills/floor, everything else is an easy fix, rust here is a killer for a C3.

    Comment by: iconic rich     Posted on: 02 Mar 2012 at 12:46 PM

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