This is not an article about C3 Corvettes, although it could’ve been. Rather, it’s about how a particular car’s small, unique characteristics can draw you inexplicably toward it. Sort of like that person you meet who you know is all wrong for you that you can’t get out of your mind and hope you’ll run into again so she’ll wreck your life ...
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A C3 with a small block can be the most fun you can have with your clothes on, if the chassis components and running gear are up to snuff. The two that I have had were both four-speeds, and that meant that I could kick the tail out on command and zip through ninety degree bends with a silly grin. The biggest problem I had was keeping up with the myriad of vacuum-operated everything not wanting to work. Beyond that, few cars that you can buy will be as much of a pleasure to wash as an early 'Vette. Those lumps, bumps and curves felt through a wash mitt remind you why you bought it. Great story!
“No thanks,” is a surprising reply from a seller. I too would be a catfish in the caste sociology stratification of automobile connoisseurs. I date, never marry my cars. I’m always looking for my next hook up. I look at many more cars then I buy. When I’m looking for my next one to pick up, I start a conversation with the seller because my curiosity and interest was aroused by them. Because of my Perrier tastes and filtered tap water budget I usually have to sell something for my next fling. I assume when I do market one of my cars that I’ll meet far more wonderful people then will actually buy my car. When someone responds to a car I have for sale for whatever reason. I want them to come look at it, touch it, smell it, talk about it, drive it, or write an article about it. It’s fun. I assume they’re like me and are only coming “just to look” and not buy. I also assume, like me deep down where people don't talk about, they want to take that little number home with them however inappropriate. It’s up to the seller to seal the deal. If I’m selling a car come on over let’s talk, please write an article about it and you might get lucky and take it home too.
For me the early C3 was like a sore tooth you keep probing with you tongue but never get round to having extracted. When it appeared in '68 I was immediately smitten but i only finally got round to 'extraction' a couple of years ago at the age of 77 - I figured if I left it any later the grim reaper would beat me to it.
Having made the trip across the pond, this '71 350 convertible...
....did at last put my 'tooth worrying' to rest and despite the foibles to be found in any 50 year old car has turned out to be a memorable drive.
It makes that 'Now the sun's out, what to drive today?' decision.....
....even more difficult.🙂
Someone who was seriously considering a last year Z3 at the time, I love everything about your description of the Z4. I ended up buying neither, and waited until 2007 when the Solstice GXP came out to finally get a two-seat convertible. I would find room in the garage for a C2, 67 Big Block would be fine
It seems to me he owner of the Corvette reacted exactly as I would have reacted; I don't need someone wasting my time who is not interested in what I am selling. Full Stop. Life is too short to being chased by people who have no intention of making a serious offer the car you are selling. If you wanted the car, you should have looked at it to buy; Not to study under a microscope and probably pick it apart piece by piece. People like that just piss me off. Enough said. BTW, that price was more than fair for the car.
I had a ‘68 C3 Corvette when it was about 5 years old and very much as you describe, it instilled both lust and hate. Vacuum problems (headlights, wiper door), grounding problems, difficult to replace clutch, leaking T-tops, crappy Quadrajet carb - the list goes on.... But, I’d buy it back in a minute! The heart (or other body parts) wants what the heart wants and who cares about the trouble to come.
Mine was a 1989 BMW 635 CSI, Alpine white, with cream interior. When I bought it, all the dash warning lights were on, portending the two month rebuild right after purchase. But those curves, that way it's sharklike nose turned up in the air as if to say "you automotive mortals need not compare yourselves to the gods". Suffice to say it was a bittersweet day when it passed to a new owner (when the thought of facing dirt and gravel roads with my move from Silicon Valley to semi-rural Oregon was too much to subject its flawless exrerior to). But on any sunny day, do I miss my obsession with that car.
I had a C3 moment in the early 90's. By chance I came across an early 70's Corvette while on a weekend trip. I know enough about Corvette to be dangerous and when I saw the LT-1 emblems on the hood I knew it was not a run-of-the mill car. I contacted a friend of a friend who was a Corvette expert, who told me what it was. Intrigued, I contacted the seller and we agreed to meet at Eckler's Corvette later in the week, not too far from where the car was, and I'd have the car checked out and appraised by a qualified third party. It turned out that the car had a lot of hidden damage and was worth about $7000, about half what the seller was asking. The seller stood there and sort of trembled, saying that people were trying to rip him off with everything he was selling. Apparently he was in some kind of financial trouble, but I didn't dare ask. As it was, he looked as if he would have shot both of us if he had a gun. I paid the appraiser $50, thanked him profusely for saving me thousands, and went on my way. The next Monday at work an announcement was made that the company was "right-sizing" and with the thought of choosing between a Corvette and mortgage payments, I chose the latter and got over my Corvette fever.
This article really hit home for me as the owner of a 1973 BMW 2002tii with 70k miles. Bought it for a thousand dollar in the late 80's and never have considered selling it. Add to that car my 69 L79 big block 4 spd convertible corvette picked up from a divorcee looking to shame her husband (sham on me? Bros before h---?) and I have my dream car from when I turned 16 in '69. Big differences between these two cars mean I get my "Ultimate" driving experience from the tii and 550 hp of brute force and admiring gazes from the vette. My future plans are to make my warhorse 1975 square tail light 2002 SCCA ITB road racer street legal with 15" wheels, 5 speed ( 4:11 diff) , and working lights / blinkers...ac maybe...all just for cheap driving fun.
I love this story, & the correlation with the animal hunger that can be overwhelming is definitely something I can identify with. My '82 C3 was one of those instant infatuation things that I thought I'd want to run away from, but the cool thing for me was the documentation collection that came with it. The seller's dad had spent a couple decades & $40K enjoying his fixer-upper, then he wanted a more dependable driver so put $4K in a new crate engine before finding that his daughter needed a car for college & a C3 wasn't a good idea for a kid. I was able to get a dependable driver that looks amazing for less than 1
30 years ago I had a torrid affair with the hottest thing you can imagine. She was too fast for me and moved on while I thought we were just getting started. Took 20 times longer than the whirlwind lasted for the wounds to heal and three decades on I reminisce more than is appropriate. I regret nothing and like Rob, still have the photos to enjoy.
Over the years, I've owned 2 Corvettes, a '58, and an '81, both triple black. I gave the '58 to a friend in 1969, and sold the '81 in '98 to purchase a new Camaro Z-28 for my wife. Fun cars, but as a card-carrying Moparian, I never got attached to them.
So now you know someone who has a later model (the ugly step sister C3's will paint one this motif to sell it..then another and by the time you know it....there are a bunch of cars that (if not done like this one) will look horrid and infact make the C3 less appealing...like SOO MANY have now with the C4 and it got NO LOVE......but is starting to...as C3 prices creep up! After 73 the only other C3 I like is the 80-81 model..but still the green house rear glass isn't as appealing.....and Z4 fogetaboutit Z3 much nicer!!
In late 2017 I was seduced but by a gorgeous one-owner, <17K miles, always climate controlled garaged 2004 C5 Corvette Commemerative convertible. Nearly three years later, she’s driving me crazy with one failure after another! First, it was the passenger seat lumbar/bolster control module, then the “over-engineered” 12-CD changer (replaced by a Bluetooth module), followed by the left folding headlight motor, and now (drumroll please...), the windshield-wiper motor died! All on a car with now less than 22K miles! This just goes to show mileage and age means nothing to poorly designed electromechanical and electronic components. With all her faults, she’s still a ragtop-down head-turning gorgeous ride!
You met a gin-soaked barroom queen in Memphis?
I look at cars all of the time I would never really want to own. It is, perhaps, a sickness. Welcome to the ward. When I was young and broke, I read Hemmings Motor News every month with a red pen in hand, circling cars and prices, knowing I would not call on a single ad.
I have owned a 1968 Shelby KR Mustang convertible and a Ferrari, but even when I had those, I was still looking at everything from Alfas to Thunderbirds. To run with your cars/women trope, it is like looking at other girls even when you are dating a supermodel. It's OK, you just have to sit with the feeling until it passes.
Rob, Rob, Rob...
You shoulda bought it! Who cares if it only lasts a year. That year would've given you a lifetimes worth of memories. Much like that smokin' hot young lady at the Honky Tonk. I'm not a fan of the C3 vette either, but I agree that has "it". Those stripes remind me of the Baldwin Motion corvettes. Very Gooovy baby, YEAH!
I owned a brand new 1969 Corvette convertible with the 390 hp, 427 engine, and a 4 speed. I'd always wanted one of these in college; and when I graduated with a couple of degrees in mechanical engineering, I bought one. I owned it for about 15 months and 17,000 miles. I couldn't stand it any longer than that. I am 75 years old have owned quite a few cars. It was the worst car I have ever owned.
Right off the car hauler, it had a cracked master brake cylinder. When I finally was able to pick it up (at night), I discovered it had no rear brake lights. This was traceable to someone dropping a screw behind the fuze block during assembly. Then, in the course of 17,000 miles, i experienced the following (in no particular order): water leaks, two broken valve springs, upholstery stitching that opened, a tachometer drive that chewed itself up, headlights that would hang up on the body work when I tried to raise them at highway speeds, a faulty alternator connection, vapor lock at high summer temperatures after a stop and restart, a hood that would pop open when the body twisted going over entrances to driveways, parking lots, etc.
And then we have the driving characteristics. It felt like it had no suspension. Like the wheels were bolted directly to the frame. Driving on anything but a smooth road was unpleasant at best. The body shake was annoying. The engine needed a fresh set of plugs to run well. Get a few thousand miles on the plugs, and misfiring would occur at high rpm. And then there was the 9 mpg around town and 13 mpg on the road.
So, I traded it in on a 1970 Olds 442, which provided a much better experience for the next five years. I have never had the desire to even look at a Corvette since then. I will end my comments by noting that a local lawyer bought my car from the Oldsmobile dealer. Several years later, my newspaper had a short story about this lawyer's car catching fire in his driveway and destroying itself. Seemed liked a fitting end to me.
Back in 1968, when the C3 was new, my brother in-law owned a tri-powered 427 Canary Yellow Corvette. My sister and he went out with another couple so the took the F85 Olds.
What if I need to go to the store? He tossed me the keys to the Vet! What a great trip to the store!! Fell in love with the C3's.
Well I can understand the siren song of 70's Corvettes. I have wanted a '71 since I was old enough to drive. Somehow I know one is going to end up in the driveway at some point. Yes, cars can reek havoc with your life, but why have a boring life! I recently bought an '05 Jag XJR after buying an '08 XJ and finding it a pleasure to drive. The only problem was that I hadn't sold the '08 yet. Stared at the '05 for several months while until that happened. Now that I have experienced the extra hundred horses of the supercharged XJR I keep staring at XKR convertibles. Horsepower and the top down....yup its going to happen eventually. Last year I saw an 01 Mercedes E430 with 50K miles at an auction. The interior looked like it had never been sat in, the engine bay so clean it looked new. It was so nice that I couldn't get it out of my mind. I didn't need it and didn't really have money for it. I couldn't take it.....I put what I thought was a low bid on it just so it wouldn't bother me as much when it sold. I ended up winning it. The conversation at dinner with my wife was "how was your day?" "Oh it was good honey, I won a Mercedes at the auction today" Bear in mind that I had never even mentioned the car to her. Well in the 30 years we've been together she's had 3 cars and I have had over 20. She just looked at me and all she said was " You are something." (God I love that gal!) I enjoyed it for a couple of months and sold it for what I paid. Now on to that supercharged convertible!
Great article...thanks for putting my thoughts on the C3 into words that my limited writing experience was not capable of doing. I'm 37, but have always loved "older" cars than most people my age..first dream car was a '57 Chevy, then a '69 Camaro, and finally a '69 Corvette....I just thought it was an incredible combination of power and beauty. I was recently able to acquire my dream--a '69 Lemans blue, 427 coupe with black leather interior named Veronica...it is all I dreamed it would be and more. To me, it is the sexiest and most beautiful car in the world. Her bark is worse than her bite compared to today's modern muscle cars, but you can't beat the sights, sounds, and smells of a vintage muscle machine. I love how the car changes with each angle you look at it, and new curves seem to emerge as you walk around it. While the C2's get more attention, it doesn't get any better for me than the '69 Corvette!
C'mon, Rob. Be honest with yourself (and with us). The reason you really weren't ever a serious buyer for the car is that it was just soooo easy to run home to your BMW comfort zone. I hope you break out someday. There's a whole universe of fun and interesting cars (and motorcycles) out there for the tasting, and life is short.
count your lucky stars;
remember, the C3 was a rushed out version of all that GM could do wrong to the C2, even after forestalling its introduction by a year;
it rode like a howitzer, rusted like East German bloc dental fillings and could get tail-happy at the most inconvenient moment;
many had wood in the floors like a Morgan and the overhang and unsprung weight over both axles made it generally handle like pig, albeit a very fast one;
i, too, lusted for an owned both an E-type and a C3;
i always want to buy another, til i get up close enough to remember the daily living nightmares;
I resurrected a C3 1977 Corvette that had been a victim of auto theft. Left running in a fast food restaurant parking lot in Macon, GA, it looked like easy pickin's for the thief who jumped in, sped off & was spotted by Macon's finest. At an intersection he ran a red light & was t-boned by a truck. He jumped out & ran off leaving the Vette in two pieces. When I got it (1986) a frame shop had sectioned in another frame up front & reinstalled the motor & transmission. There were no body parts ahead of the windshield so all that had to be sourced. With a salvage GA title I managed to get it inspected & retitled in SC w/o a salvage title, found all the parts & had it restored. Traded it in the next year for a 1987 Buick Grand National. They gave me $8500 trade in for the Vette & I came out good moneywise. It was a low mileage Corvette & the interior was like new. My plans were to wake up the 350 with a 350HP/327 hydraulic cam but the Grand National call was too strong.
Not much sexier than a C3, and great handling for the day, I got to ride around in a Daytona yellow LS5 back in the 70s, the XKE also one if the most beautiful ever made .. but alas I had to settle for a 68 Charger
I loved this article. I consider myself to be a disciplined person to a point, but I have lost control of myself a number of times when it comes to cars and motorcycles. This is especially true when there is an empty space in my garage. There have been a number of times when I have become obsessed with a certain model of car and every day was a battle for control. I would search the automobile auction websites, telling myself that I was just looking. Occasionally, I would find a car that would cause barely controllable obsessions. I would watch it until it was purchased by someone else, or by me.
My most recent obsessions have been German cars. I have lost it over a 993 911 and an E30 BMW. Most recently, I became obsessed by a 1988 Mercedes E Class Coupe. I had always kind of liked classy old Mercedes, but it wasn't until a pretty sedan showed up for sale at a local used car lot that I became obsessed. The lines of the car did something to me. But the sedan had been driven in salt, which killed the deal for me. But I started searching the internet and stumbled on the 300CE coupes. The shape of the car blew me away. I also love in-line, overhead cam six cylinder engines. These couples sold for big money when new. Mine had sold for $53K back in 1988, but they sell for peanuts today.
I bought one from Kentucky for $5,500 and had it shipped to me. Every car that I have ever purchased on-line has turn out to be something ranging from disappointing to disastrous. This coupe was rust free, straight and a good drive train, but the suspension, brakes, interior and paint all needed work.
About 200 hours and $20K later, I have a restored car. The driving experience isn't as exciting as the E30, but it's a nice driving car. I still love to look at it in the garage.