The market for new, used, old, and classic Corvettes is a dynamic, living thing - and it's not always the case that every Corvette will hold its value, or rise in value over time. If you're interested in knowing what's likely to be hot and collectible in the future, here are my predictions for 2011.
This past year, we saw prices well over a quarter-million dollars for verified and nicely restored L-88 Corvettes - these cars had a nominal horsepower rating of 430, but the truth was closer to 560 horses from the 427 cubic inch big block. But there were a host of big block 'Vettes with the 396 and 427 cubic inch engines, ranging from 390 to 560 horsepower, built between 1965 and 1969. After '69, Chevy changed to the less potent 454, which is still a great engine, but the market has been good to the earlier big blocks, and will likely continue to be strong in both prestige and cash value.
The very first "Carbon" edition 2011 Corvette Z06 sold at auction for $297,000, and it's a certainty that no Carbon will ever sell for that much ever again. They're making 500 of these, and they'll all be immaculately cared for from the time they roll off the line. In 40 years, there will still be 500 perfect Carbon editions rolling around, and while the prices might be higher at that time, you'll need a $10,000 bill to buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks, too. Current special editions are great cars, but as soon as they're built you can bet the factory will have a new special edition ready to come out to keep the buzz going, and then your Carbon or ZR-1 is yesterday's news.
There's a tremendous price difference between a hot rod fuel-injected 1957 Corvette and the ordinary run of the factory with a base V8 (or the original Blue Flame 6-cylinder) and a two-speed automatic transmission. But at this point, who cares how fast an original first-generation Corvette is? It's not like you're going to be racing it. So my recommendation is to buy base models - they ain't making any more of these, and younger models can still be had at a reasonable price.
It started in 1978 with the black and silver Indy 500 pace car edition on top of a basic L-48 Corvette, and continued through the end of the C5 Era in 2004. What I'm talking about is the habit that the factory had of producing "Special Edition" Corvettes for anniversary years (isn't every year an anniversary?) and pace car replicas. Generally, these cars were nothing special in performance (unlike the new C6 special editions) but came with the most garish paint jobs you can imagine. The original 1978 edition pictured here is the best of the lot - actually a handsome car. But the nadir was the 1998 Indy 500 Pace Car in a lurid purple and yellow combination, though many others also contend for that honor. These Corvettes aren't especially rare or desirable, and if you're waiting for it to appreciate, you'd best let that hope die now.
The rationale for a buy recommendation on the 2001-2004 C5-era Z06 cars is easy - used cars hit their lowest values at 10-15 years of age, and the oldest of this range of Z06 performance supercars will be 10 years old this year. So over the next 5 years, we'll see the best chances you're likely to see to pick up a Z06 for as little as possible. There are plenty of these cars out there, so that helps the price. It's not so much that they're likely to rise in value after 2015, but more that you'll get a great Corvette at a reasonable price.