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Old 07-12-2008, 11:28 PM   #1
chstitans42
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Default Please Review: Ten Rules For Buying Your First C3 Corvette

Please review my list. Feel free to leave comments and suggestions for improvment or addition.


Ten Rules for Buying Your First C3 Corvette

RULE #1
Before you even think about buying a C3 Corvette, you must know two VERY important facts:

1.No matter what condition of car you buy, no matter the amount of money you spend, your car WILL eventually need work.


2. NEVER NEVER buy a Corvette with out looking at it in person. EVER! If you must (like if you live overseas) only buy a car that you have recived sufficient picture documentation of the problem areas listed below. If you dont have positive proof, stay away


Do not expect just because you spent $50,000 on a vette that you will never have to put more money into it. Remember, the newest C3 Corvettes are still 26 years old. If you can accept the fact you will have to put additional money into your Corvette, continue reading.

RULE #2

Decide what kind of C3 Corvette you want before you buy your first one. If you don’t, you will always wish you had bought ‘that chrome bumper car’ or ‘that ’75 vert’ you always wanted. Decide which year Corvette speaks to you.
Here are some general examples:
Chrome bumper VS Rubber Bumper
All Original VS Custom
Big Block VS Small Block
Coupe VS Convertible
Automatic Transmission VS Manual Transmission
Flat Rear Glass VS Bubble Rear Glass

RULE #3
Before you buy your first C3 Corvette, you need to know your personal mechanical abilities. Are you a complete novice when it comes to turning wrenches? Do you have a mentor or teacher that can teach you skills if you can’t afford to have other people work on the car for you? It would be wise to purchase a C3 corvette that falls within your mechanical ability to restore. Many people buy a car, and then find out they are in over their head to complete their project. For example:
Buy a car that is what you want. i.e.
-Buy a show car if you want a show car.
-Buy a car someone drives every day if you want something to drive.
-Buy a project if you want something to work on.

RULE #4
Know your financial ability to pay for a car, and your financial ability to put money into the car on a monthly basis. How much can you spend on the car per month? Also are you able to put money into the car if something drastic goes wrong? It’s always a sad thing to see a project Corvette sit in the garage because the owner ran out of money to put into it. Of course some of these situations are unavoidable, but wouldn’t you want to avoid it if you could?

RULE #5
When you find a potential project Corvette, there are a few main condition related items that your car should have if it is to be considered for purchase. Your car should ALWAYS have a solid frame, birdcage, and suspension. First let’s talk about the birdcage.
Birdcage:
Here is a picture of the Birdcage removed from a C3.
Click the image to open in full size.
In simple terms it is the metal frame that surrounds the cockpit area of your C3. It is vital that you have a solid birdcage because it supports a lot of your car. An easy way to check the condition of the birdcage is to remove the kick panels near your feet.
Here are some pictures of how the mounts SHOULD NOT look like:
Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.
If you find a Corvette with body mounts looking like this, RUN. They are a pain and expensive to fix, and there is always cars out there with sound birdcages for sale.
A second area of rust that you can find on the birdcage is around the windshield. These areas can be accessed by removing the chrome trim and weather stripping around the outside of the windshield.
Here are some pictures of what your windshield frame SHOULD NOT look like:
Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.
A simple test to see if the birdcage has rust around the windshield frame is to place a white towel in the foot wells of the car and **** the doors a few times. If there is major rust it will have fallen onto the towel and you will be able to see it.
Frame:
Another important area to check for rust is the metal frame that makes up the support for everything on your car. Find a car with a solid, rot free frame. This means less money and headache to restore the car. It can be very costly to repair or even replace a rusty frame.
Here are some pictures of what your frame SHOULD NOT look like:
Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.
A good technique to determine if the car you are looking at has a good solid frame is to take a coin like a quarter and give the frame a few good taps with it wherever you can reach. When you hit the frame, hear a metallic sound, and only put tiny nicks in the metal, than your frame is good. If you can gouge deep in the frame and/or poke holes into it, than the frame is not what you want. You can also put your fingers into the "eyelet" holes long the frame and feel inside for rust ans scale. The same technique can be applied to later model cars that have metal floors in them.
Suspension:
Since C3 Corvettes are so old, the suspension should almost always be overhauled as a safety measure unless you can verify it has been done recently. Get a reliable mechanic to check it out if you can. As a general rule to the suspension AVOID suspension that looks like this:
Click the image to open in full size.

RULE #6
Before buying your first C3 Corvette, another important area to look closely at is the condition of the fiberglass body. It can avoid you headaches in the future if you can find a body that has not had the chance to be poorly repaired by bubba. Tricks to seeing if you have a fiberglass body in good condition is to move your fingers around the inside lip of each wheel well. They should be smooth with no cracks. You can also look at the condition of the inside of the wheel wells. Also, check for cracks where to body mounts to the frame in the wheel wells.
Body mounts SHOULD NOT look like this:
Click the image to open in full size.
Also avoid cars that have large damaged areas on them. Yes, they could be easy to repair, but you never know what kind of botched past repairs lurk underneath the paint, especially if the car clearly shows it’s been neglected.

RULE #7
When searching for a car, try to avoid cars that have been left outside or in a field for a long time (especially if you live in the colder climates). Cars outside deteriorate very very quickly, plus 99% of C3s leak. Also avoid cars with windows that have been left open for extended periods of time. This will ruin any chances of usable interior parts, or and hope of a solid floor.
Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.

RULE #8
Familiarize yourself with the different options and small changes that occurred to C3 Corvettes over the years. It will increase your ability to determine what is stock or not, what has been replaced or not, and what has been “bubba’d” or not. A quick way to tell if bubba has visited your C3 is by looking at the engine compartment. Lots of vacuum plugs? Twist ties? Crusted on oil? I think its so simple to just pop the hood, and can pretty much gauge the "bubba"ness from what that compartment looks like.

DO NOT buy a car if it looks like this:
Click the image to open in full size.
Click the image to open in full size.

RULE #9
Write down the VIN number and also the trim tag information to determine some of the options the car came with, such as interior color, exterior color, and engine information. It is also a good idea to bring a Black Book with you to check the correctness of the VIN, trin tag vs colors and engine data. Also, compare the numbers on the block to the VIN to determine if the engine came with the car or not. This might be a deal breaker to some, but might be what some others want. Also, try your hardest to bring someone who knows vettes, especially C3s, and can be your second set of eyes while you look at the car.

RULE #10
After looking at the car you are contemplating about purchasing, make a list of items you think will need replacement. Take a look at catalogs and corvette supplier’s websites at prices for these items. This can give you an idea of what certain repairs will cost you. Also, after you go and look at the car, post real detailed pictures of what you saw so we can tell you if you should buy it or run away.


***If I used a picture that you as a forum member has taken personally, and would not like it shown on this guide, please let me know and I will gladly take it off.***
***The pictures that I used are worse case scenario pictures***

Last edited by chstitans42; 07-24-2014 at 12:05 PM. Reason: Added suggestions/Restored the pics...edits
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Old 07-12-2008, 11:36 PM   #2
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Good list ...should help a few people

Hammadown
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Old 07-13-2008, 12:08 AM   #3
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On number 9, the "casting numbers on the block" are not compared to the VIN. The casting number for example could be for an "010" block, which could be for a C3, or a truck. There is no VIN comparison, nor is anything necessarily corfirmed.

The stamp pad VIN derivative on the block is what is compared to the VIN to see if the numbers match. The stamp pad suffix will also tell you if the motor is correct for the car's application.

If I were writing the list, I wouldn't say "write down the VIN and trim tag info," either. I would say, "bring a Black Book with you and check the correctness of the VIN, trim tag vs colors and engine data."

It's a good list for beginners.
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Old 07-13-2008, 12:41 AM   #4
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I'd be a little surprised if a seller of a corvette would allow you to stab the frame of his corvette and possibly put a hole in it. I know I'd probably grab you by the seat of your pants and throw you out of my garage. There are many gaps in the frame that you can slip a finger up into and feel for either a build up of rust flakes, or a very solid piece of steel.

I like #8, and I think a quick way to tell if bubba has visited your C3 is by looking at the engine compartment. Lots of vacuum plugs? Twist ties? Crusted on oil? I think its so simple to just pop the hood, and can pretty much gauge the "bubba"ness from what that compartment looks like.

Also, I think its very, very important to set one of the most important goals early: custom or all original. I think this will drastically affect #4.

Good write up, wish I had it 10 years ago.
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Old 07-13-2008, 05:19 AM   #5
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For a newbie....this is very usefull & interesting !
Thanks a lot
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Old 07-13-2008, 06:40 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chstitans42 View Post
Here are some pictures of what your frame SHOULD NOT look like:
Click the image to open in full size.
No $hiat

I like your checklist. Even if much of it should be common-sense stuff.

Wanna put a note on there about buying sight-unseen? People seem to do this and for some of us there's no choice, but you could help by suggesting which photos to ask for from the vendor to determine the condition of the car.
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Old 07-13-2008, 09:06 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vettebuyer5869 View Post
On number 9, the "casting numbers on the block" are not compared to the VIN. The casting number for example could be for an "010" block, which could be for a C3, or a truck. There is no VIN comparison, nor is anything necessarily corfirmed.

The stamp pad VIN derivative on the block is what is compared to the VIN to see if the numbers match. The stamp pad suffix will also tell you if the motor is correct for the car's application.

If I were writing the list, I wouldn't say "write down the VIN and trim tag info," either. I would say, "bring a Black Book with you and check the correctness of the VIN, trim tag vs colors and engine data."

It's a good list for beginners.
Added your input. This is the kind of feedback i wanted when i posted this. I just hope i can save some fellow future corvette owner from getting burned. I got lucky when i bought mine, but i know some others are less fourtunate.

Quote:
Originally Posted by foxymophandlpapa View Post
I'd be a little surprised if a seller of a corvette would allow you to stab the frame of his corvette and possibly put a hole in it. I know I'd probably grab you by the seat of your pants and throw you out of my garage. There are many gaps in the frame that you can slip a finger up into and feel for either a build up of rust flakes, or a very solid piece of steel.

I like #8, and I think a quick way to tell if bubba has visited your C3 is by looking at the engine compartment. Lots of vacuum plugs? Twist ties? Crusted on oil? I think its so simple to just pop the hood, and can pretty much gauge the "bubba"ness from what that compartment looks like.

Also, I think its very, very important to set one of the most important goals early: custom or all original. I think this will drastically affect #4.

Good write up, wish I had it 10 years ago.
I guess you could use your knuckle... this is just what i have been told to do...Other suggestions?

Quote:
Originally Posted by BenUK View Post
No $hiat

I like your checklist. Even if much of it should be common-sense stuff.

Wanna put a note on there about buying sight-unseen? People seem to do this and for some of us there's no choice, but you could help by suggesting which photos to ask for from the vendor to determine the condition of the car.
Added that under rule number one

Thanks for your input guys, keep it coming
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Old 07-13-2008, 09:17 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chstitans42 View Post
Added that under rule number one
Actually, what you've added wasn't what I was saying

I live in the UK. If I want to buy a Vette from the US then I would consider buying unseen. For some of us there's no economical alternative.

What I was suggesting you could add was something like:

"If you must buy a Corvette without seeing it in person, these are the photos you need to demand from the vendor to get an idea of the condition of the car..."

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Old 07-13-2008, 09:25 AM   #9
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lol i guess i mis read your post. tell me what you think now
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Old 07-13-2008, 11:59 AM   #10
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I purchased my car sight unseen, I did however get a classic car loan and with a lien securement comes a free inspection and report where most of the above are checked. Once the loan company (hagerty) approved the car. I made my decision to purchase. It's everything and more than reported. So if you are unable to see a car you can use that option.
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Old 07-13-2008, 12:08 PM   #11
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Agree it is a good list for beginners. I would add the obvious, but often overlooked fact, that you must make sure you have the necessarry funds available and that you have permission.
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Old 07-13-2008, 12:12 PM   #12
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I think the list is very good. The pictures are very scary. I think you could add a note that says a car could have problems less severe than what you show but should still be walked away from.
Regards,
Alan
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Old 07-13-2008, 03:32 PM   #13
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how about if the seller is trying intentionally to rush the sell, you should probably walk away
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Old 07-13-2008, 03:46 PM   #14
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You might mention something about checking the date of tires even if they look good.

This thread: http://forums.corvetteforum.com/show...light=tire+age

made me realize the tires on my recently acquired '73 are actually 11 years old even though they look brand new.

Old tires shouldn't keep anyone from buying an otherwise sound Vette but it would let you know what needs to be added to the priority list of things to do.

DC
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Old 07-13-2008, 04:12 PM   #15
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Excellent post ! I wish I read that BEFORE I bought my corvette .
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Old 07-13-2008, 05:09 PM   #16
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Great Post!

You might want to explain a little about the trim tag. Where it is located and what it tells you. It's an easy way to tell if it is the original paint color and interior. Here is a pic you can use if you would like.

Click the image to open in full size.
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Old 07-13-2008, 09:40 PM   #17
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I would add (from personal experience), "NEVER buy the first Corvette you ever look at." It's an emotional decision at that point and will lead you to some very skeptical decision making.

I'm gonna spend the rest of my life making Sasha what she should have been when I bought her. Oh well, could be worse. I could be driving and repairing a Mustang II!?!?!
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Old 07-14-2008, 12:17 AM   #18
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A couple more things:

-I wouldn't say ALWAYS replace the suspension. That's like saying you or your mechanic isn't smart enough to figure out if the springs are new. MOST times they need a suspension. Most often you assume you will need suspension work... but if the last few C2s and C3s I sold had the new owners replacing the suspension just because they ALWAYS do, they would have wasted thousands of dollars. I know this list is for the very newest of beginners, but this is too basic.

-I taught the "How to Buy Corvettes" class at Bloomington Gold for years and years. At the end, I always said, regardless of your expertise level in buying cars, whether it was your first or your 50th, ALWAYS bring someone with you.

The rookie desperately needs a mechanically-inclined or more importantly, a Corvette-experienced eye to tell them what they are looking at. The pro still needs to have a "second set of eyes" to pick up on stuff the buyer just might miss. Corvettes buyers are emotional animals, and quite often that split window gleaming in the sun just right or that perfect favorite color paint refects just right.... enough for you to miss the spliced section in the frame rail. Trust me... I've been buying Corvettes since the 70's and I always try to have another set of eyes with me whether its a proven Corvette friend or just a trusted ally like my wife who is smart enough to remind me, "don't get too excited just 'cause it's black."
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Old 07-15-2008, 08:55 AM   #19
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Click the image to open in full size.

It's all in here.

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Old 07-15-2008, 09:15 AM   #20
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Oh do you make me feel lucky! My car rocks and I had no idea until AFTER purchase of all the little things you make mention of as to what can eat your lunch and make you cry with these things. Luckily I'm solid.

If I had it to do over again I'd def want your guide!

You just forgot to mention one thing that most folks almost always do (if you mentioned and I just didn't read then I apologize),,,,

LEAVE YOUR EMOTIONS AT HOME! Don't go looking a buying on feeling (which is hard). Be objective 'cause there's lots of the C3s out there and always another pretty one around the corner,

just my two cents!
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Old 07-15-2008, 09:15 AM
 
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