At First Sight: 1971 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible


I’ve spent the fair majority of my motoring life loathing the Corvette. Maybe that’s unfair to the car. After all, GM’s darling has nearly always represented a down-right insane performance bargain, but to me, that was always overshadowed by the cars’ owners. I don’t need to pontificate on any stereotypes here, but I just couldn’t see myself being a part of the ‘Vette club. Lately that’s been changing though. While I still don’t have any interest in sourcing some kind of numbers-matching, well-documented time piece, I sure as hell wouldn’t mind laying my grubby paws on a V8 drop-head to play with. And this particular example, with its fistfuls of patina, no fuss 350 and 4-speed manual gearbox, has me by the heart strings. Yes, the asking price is section eight material, but no one’s perfect. I’d leave the paint just as is, rework the suspension and brakes and smile with glee as the Corvette Registry put a mark on my head for such blasphemy.
Found on Craigslist.

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  1. P161911 Avatar

    That price really isn't that crazy for a 4-speed, numbers matching, early C3 convertible, those are three really big pluses. It is only missing a big block to screw up the handling and make it even more desirable. Looks like all the important bits are there. For that money a hardtop should be included too. Restored the car would probably be worth high 20s to low 40s, just a guess.

  2. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    Some time in the last 5 years C3s went from cheesy crappy discomobiles to loveable classics. For me, at least.
    I'm totally with ya on the "only fix what's broke" restoration. Hell, here in LA, I wouldn't even bother with the top.

    1. P161911 Avatar

      I think part of that is that C3s finally reached the point, that to keep it on the road you had to restore it. Now I really want to dig my 77 Vette out of the basement.
      Stock these cars aren't much (great for the time, not so much now), but any flavor of Chevy V-8 is pretty much drop in and suspension tweeks improve the handling and there are lots of kits to drop in modern 5 or 6 speed manual transmissions.

  3. diesel_speedy Avatar
    diesel_speedy

    any vette over 1990 is definitely loathsome…but this one is patinatastic!

  4. CptSevere Avatar

    I'm with you. There is a dumbass here who had a Corvette roadster about this same vintage, I think a '73, and he let it go to hell. It looked just as bad, and I think it went for cheap, about four grand. Yeah, I had the same idea of turning the thing into an insane bastard of a crusty desert hotrod, and the best part is there is a Corvette Club meet here in Tombstone every fall. They of course are nice folks with seriously badass Corvettes, but it would be cool to have a skanky old thing like that to horrify them, especially if it could roast the tires on demand.

  5. acarr260 Avatar
    acarr260

    I definitely share your disdain for the typical ‘Vette owner, but I also have seen the light lately as to the value proposition of these cars. I heartily agree regarding the patina. I work in Auburn (home of the classics – A, C, and D). A guy showed up a year or two ago with a Cord that had been chopped up along with a SBC conversion. He was viewed as a heretic by most and a hero by a select few. He also wasn’t allowed back the next year (they changed the rules to keep his “abomination” from “sullying” the activities – which only made me like him more).
    /what happened to the intensedebate stuff?

    1. acarr260 Avatar

      maybe the page didn't load fully.. .now I see the login button. weird.

      1. thomasmac Avatar

        I had that once, sometimes the browser doesnt load the intense debate stuff because of your internet connection but it usually shows up if you refresh it

      2. Tim Odell Avatar
        Tim Odell

        If things are slow, it loads the standard WordPress comment engine. Both intensedebate and WP can work in parallel with all the same comments.
        I've found IDC is very sensitive to cache/cookie weirdness. If it's misbehaving for you, clear all, shut down browser and restart and it usually plays nice.
        Usually.

  6. Corvette Poncho Avatar
    Corvette Poncho

    Not to dump in your Cheerios, but that thing is a wreck. Do a little research on C3s before even thinking about buying one. Likely the birdcage or windshield frame is rusted out and getting that interior into some type of useable state will cost a ton. Did I mention that C3s handle and ride terrible? Granted, 71 is about as desirable as a C3 gets, but prices are down across the board so other bargains on nicer cars can be found right now.

    1. Zach Bowman Avatar
      Zach Bowman

      Call me crazy, but I like this car because it's such a piece. I wouldn't own a perfect (or even near-perfect) C3, but this one's been ridden hard. I can respect that.
      You are right on that price, though. You could get a much nicer example for that kind of coin.

  7. engineerd Avatar

    Over on BaT last week they had this:
    <img width=500 src="http://rover.ebay.com/rover/1/711-53200-19255-0/1?type=2&campid=5336606281&toolid=10001&customid=&ext=300405394921&item=300405394921&quot;
    I actually thought it would be cool to buy it, leave it as is, drop in the cheapest engine I could lay my hands on (extra irony points for a Geo Metro 3 cylinder) and then try to join the local Ferrari club.
    http://bringatrailer.com/2010/03/11/faded-and-gut

    1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

      Dead link. So how much was this well ridden pony?

      1. MarionCobretti Avatar
        MarionCobretti

        I assume he's talking about the gutted 308. The bidding is currently just a bit over $7200: http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/FERRARI-308-SHELL_
        That one doesn't make any sense to me. Mint, they're worth 35 grand, and you can get a nice one in the high 20's. You'd spend more than that just getting this car roadworthy, let alone cosmetically perfect.

        1. engineerd Avatar

          Yup, that's the one.
          Here's the BaT link: http://bringatrailer.com/2010/03/11/faded-and-gut
          I wouldn't restore it. It looks way too far gone to make it worth it unless you could get the shell for under $5k. That's why I'd leave the body faded, drop in any old drivetrain, and cruise around like I'm a big shot.

          1. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

            A big shot with no garage and a pigeon problem.

    2. soo΄pәr-bādd75 Avatar

      VW flat four, with dual Webers FTW!

  8. JeepyJayhawk Avatar

    Offer half for the "what the hell died in here" stink and run it like your high on coke and just stole it. You're right on for rough shell, hardcore running gear.
    I have similar daydreams about a massive '85 vintage that I will hoon the hell out of one of these days.

  9. dculberson Avatar

    I found a C3 project I was very excited about… the frame looked absolutely perfect and the body was salvageable. The front clip looked like it had been put on wrong, though, so after checking it out and making an offer – which the owner had to think about but said he would probably take – I did some research. It turns out the misaligned front clip is due to the "bird cage" being rusted out; I had found a lot of rust in the front body mounts. Replacing the bird cage is a ridiculous project – involves removing the entire body, clip, windshield, everything. What I read led me to believe that it wouldn't be worth it except for the most rare of vehicles. A body shop would charge $10k+ just for the bird cage. (No cosmetic work at all!) I had to rescind the offer.
    Now, if this thing is straight enough to drive, then great! But don't plan on it lasting forever if it's got any rust in that area. It's impossible to treat, too; I think you pretty much have to replace it if you want to fix it.
    I would totally drive it with the body as-is. The only reason I didn't buy the project I found was that with the front clip sagging, it was already about to hit the doors, so it wouldn't even be a "fun for a season" car; it would be a "sitting in the garage making me sad" project.

  10. dolo54 Avatar
    dolo54

    I've known a couple owners of these cars and they all say the same thing. The handling is terrible and going fast in these things is more frustrating that fun. With these cars it's all about the looks, cruising with the t-tops off. So if it looks like crap then you got nothing. I love the look of these, a porn star chariot from the 70s, but I would leave it alone.

  11. Tim Odell Avatar
    Tim Odell

    Lieberman's Road trip is one is definitely worth reading:
    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/400-miles-in-a-1
    http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/400-miles-in-a-1

    1. zachbowman Avatar

      It's possible Dr. Lieberman and I were separated at birth, a decade and a continent.

    2. skitter Avatar

      I didn't know forgot he used to write for TTAC.
      There goes my afternoon.

  12. qvrb Avatar
    qvrb

    If drop-top C3's are your flavor of the day, have a look here:
    http://albuquerque.craigslist.org/cto/1643634456….

  13. superbadd75 Avatar
    superbadd75

    I can't see rolling that 'Vette as-is. I know I am in the minority in saying that, but the greatest appeal of a C3 is its looks. They don't exactly handle well, and more straight line speed can be had for much less money. These cars are just dead sexy, with curves not seen since Marilyn Monroe, and style that Detroit could never touch these days. To me, having one in this condition would be about like having Marilyn in her current condition. I don't see that as being desireable. I would want this car in its prime, shining like a freshly cut diamond, V8 rumbling, and the smell of leather all around me.

    1. Cynicist Avatar
      Cynicist

      I'm part of your minority on why the C3's appealing. This thing was the only especially interesting/attractive American car they've ever made, but it's still an American car under the bodywork.
      While I don't think any especially old/rare car deserves anything but an honest restoration attempt (especially when they were sports/"special" cars back then), here's an idea for a "numbers-not-matching" abomination:
      RENESIS NA engine up front, modern multilink/MacPherson struts in the front, IRS conversion in the back, roll CAGE, MOMO steering wheel, stripped interior.
      I await the pitchforks and flaming clubs.

      1. Tim Odell Avatar
        Tim Odell

        C3s had IRS.

        1. richie Avatar
          richie

          If you want one, I have a 71 numbers matching convertible , that runs great, interior is original(clean & in one piece)
          The car is half stripped, Just needs paint.
          All the gaps are right on and I don't think this car has ever been in an major accident. With a little effort, this car can be made into a real nice driver.

          1. pj134 Avatar
            pj134

            Link?

  14. Frank Avatar
    Frank

    Good parts car!

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