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Starting a Corvette Restoration Project

First Steps on a Long Road


Project Corvette Restoration Aerial View

This is a truly good-looking Corvette - it's just a little tired and needs to be freshened up. That makes this car a good candidate for restoration.

Photo by Jeff Zurschmeide

When I started looking for a Corvette to restore, I wrote an article about finding the perfect project Corvette, and I laid out some parameters - the most important being that the car would not cost me more than $5,000 to purchase, but also that the car would run and be drivable from the first day. The price restriction pretty much limited my search to late C3 (1975-1982) and early C4 (1984-1988) Corvettes. I would have liked a 1968-1974 Corvette, but the ones that I could afford weren't really running.

I found the right car after a short search, and this article begins the series of stories that will document the restoration and customization process. I'll take this Corvette from tired survivor to car show jewel over the next few years, and keep track of the expenses along the way.

Narrowing the Search

In the course of my search for the right car, I gained a lot more respect for the much-maligned C4 models, but I realized that my heart was set on a fin-back C3. My unscientific observation of Corvette market values, at least in the Pacific Northwest, is that there's a price dip for cars made in the mid-to-late 70s. Corvettes made in 1974 or earlier trend upwards in price, and prices start to rise again with the glass-back Corvettes from 1978 and later. So that meant that I was limited to 1975, 1976, and 1977 model years to find a running and drivable project for less than $5,000.

Finding a Candidate

Following the advice I offer to my readers on how to buy a Corvette, I spent several weeks scanning the advertisements on Craigslist. I knew I wouldn't find my bargain 'Vette at a collector car auction or even on eBay, so my options were limited to the newspaper classified ads and Craigslist. I used Craiglook.com to scan all the Craigslist regions within 250 miles of my home.

I called a bunch of prospective sellers, and then went to look at several Corvettes, including one that had been the sad victim of an engine fire. I saw several that were substantially incomplete, or which had extensive body damage from previous accidents. I learned a lot about Corvettes from this process, so when I found the right car, I knew it immediately.

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