I can’t stand cars that depreciate. It is largely unnecessary, particularly if you absolutely positively don’t have to own a car that’s brand new. I knew a billionaire whose daily driver was a Chevy Caprice. Sam Walton famously drove an old pick up. If I buy something, I want it to be worth MORE than what I paid for it one day, not half!
The days of barn finds and grieving parents who finally sold their son’s big block Camaro (after he didn’t return from Vietnam) are growing few and far between except for reality TV shows. But they are still out there.
So, how does one find “value” in today’s over-heated collector car market? You build it. Allow me to introduce you to my friends at the National Corvette Restorers Society (NCRS). There are some passionate car owners and clubs out there for most all brands. I’m a member of many of them. But there is nothing, and I mean no other brand or group of fanatics who can even begin to carry the water for the Corvette owners. These people are nuts, in a good sort of way.
My first exposure to this group of expert engineers and self-taught historians was at a funeral, of all places. The pastor noted, with a great deal of anguish I might add, that the recently departed requested that all donations and memorials should be made to the NCRS. What??? As one of the few people attending the service who knew about this passionate group, I nearly fell out of my chair!
The NCRS, as it turns out, is the “keeper of the flame” for all things original Corvette. In other words, they want these iconic American sports cars preserved for future generations “exactly like they left the showroom floor.” Not improved, resto-modded, or over-restored. Exactly.
Now in this crazy hobby, that many have turned into a business, information helps you build value. I own some cars that were very limited in production, say 100 examples or less. Do you have any idea how hard it is to find a wiring harness for a car that does not have a wide following? There might be, say, one harness for sale “in the whole freakin’ world.” Now the owner of said harness had two built figuring he could sell one and recoup his investment many times over by selling it to me, the poor soul who really needed one to complete his restoration. You know who you are.
Corvettes are not like that. Not only is there a huge aftermarket with every possible part you might need for your restoration (although some care is needed, here, in order for the parts to pass scrutiny) there are literally teams of highly trained expert judges who give up four days at a time, multiple times a year, to critique your car.
Right down to the correct lock washer. Oh, my.
The whole process is really quite fascinating. With an enormous informational database assisted by GM, access to assembly line personnel who actually built the cars, historians who have written volumes on correct restoration, and finally a large number of owners of “survivor cars” (those that have never been restored), you can take a basket case and a rolling chassis, and turn it into a million dollars with a lot of patience and advice from the judges at the NCRS. Did I mention that they give you extremely detailed scoring sheets at the end of every event?
It’s basically a road map to the ideal correct restoration and you don’t even have to do the research!
It works like this on a 4500 point system: Second Flight (for 675 point deductions), Top Flight (for 270 point deductions) and Duntov for the extreme crazies who are willing to score 97% (135 point deductions) at a National, Top Flight at a Regional or National, and pass Performance Verification, aka PV, on their 1953-1974 Corvettes. PV was first conceived by demonic engineers who knew that forcing the owner of an old Corvette to have every single component working exactly as left the factory all on one perfect day at one perfect time would be difficult, if not impossible. This is made all the more maddening by the fact that the judging is total pass/fail. One Chinese bulb that blows in the glove box, one drop of errant oil (after the 10 mile drive with a judge in the car where you run it up to 80% of redline and nail the brakes–just to make sure it doesn’t pull to the left or right) and one tenth of a mile variance on the trip odometer, you are finished. This is among an entire book of other things the judges check and verify over the course of an entire day. If you fail at anything, you take your car home and start over.
This is why only about 1,000 Corvettes, since the inception of this program several decades ago, have ever been certified as “Duntov” cars (named for Zora Arkus Duntov, the German engineer who is known as the “Father of the Corvette.”)
Once you have done all of this, you get an award that some estimate adds between 15 and 25% to value of your Corvette. Now that’s’ what I call a “smokin’ hot deal.”
The good thing is, even if you aren’t handy at turning wrenches, you can oversee the project yourself. Join the NCRS and get their literature. Then, I recommend that you search for the Corvette that you always wanted. You know, the one that the rich guy in high school drove around so scores of young girls could throw their naked bodies at him and his car. Never mind the fact that he’s now unemployed, and been bankrupt as many times as he’s been divorced. Hey. He still drove a cool car!
Buy that car, but make sure it has the things the NCRS covets like exterior and interior colors that are original to the car, and an engine that has the correct numbers. Next, do your homework and try to find one that had limited production, options, or color. Once you join the NCRS you can go to one of their many events and meet the guys who are experts in your preferred year model. Many times they will know someone who has a good car that might “need a little work” and can steer you in the right direction, because, at the end of the day, Corvette owners really do have their own cult.
I once noted that there are far too many “old dudes” and not enough youth in the Corvette ranks. A Millennial informed me, “There’s a reason why no one from my generation has an interest in this hyper-restoration stuff. We don’t have the patience!” That’s actually a good thing if you want to add value through an NCRS pedigree. Plan on selling it one day to a Millennial for big bucks so he or she can have more time to waste on those dumb cell phones.