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Buying First Corvette



I've posted before about buying my first Corvette. I'm still looking and I may have found a winner. I was wondering if I could get some opinions on this car.
It's a 1976, L82, automatic transmission with 40000 miles. The body is in great shape and the paint only has a few minor dings. The interior is in good shape except for a few rubbed out places on the drivers side. The engine runs strong and the current owner has done a lot of upkeep in the past 4 years - power steering pump, exhaust, tires, front bumper. As best as I can tell, the only non-functioning item is the AC - which I believe only needs to be charged up. Without having seen or driven this car, can somebody tell me if $13K is a good deal?

Thanks for the help!!!
Are you sure on the mileage? Is it documented? With only 40,000 there should not be rub spots on the drivers side of the interior.

The A/C "could" be expensive to repair depending upon what is wrong.

Any rust? Is the frame, cowl, and windshield frame rust free?

The NADA on line price guide show a Low Retail of $6,425, Average Retail of $11,950, and a High Retail of $16,700. So the $13,000 sounds a little high to me. The High Retail would be for a perfect car. This one sounds in the line of Average Retail. And don't forget the differences between Retail and Trade-In (or Wholesale). I would try to get the seller down to the $10,000 range, $11, at the most.


...the only non-functioning item is the AC - which I believe only needs to be charged up.
If I had a million dollars for every time I've been told this, I'd be a millionaire. :L Remember that if the owner hasn't upgraded to R134A, it's going to be real expensive to get some R12, if you can find it! Usually, the compressor is bad or the lines are leaking at the fittings. Most shops won't find the leaking fittings, because it only leaks when they aren't looking. At least it seems that way. The high pressure line goes for about $100 or so, and a remanufactured compressor shouldn't be too high. $13,000 does sound a bit high, IMHO. Without looking, it's just an opinion. --Bullitt
Re: A/C

Bullitt said:
If I had a million dollars for every time I've been told this, I'd be a millionaire....it's going to be real expensive to get some R12, if you can find it! Usually, the compressor is bad or the lines are leaking at the fittings.

Good call Bullit, I couldn't agree more. The worse part of that is finding those leaks is really expensive, you can end up recharging mulitiple times and end up spending twice the cost of 134a conversion just trying to get a bad r12 system running right.

I have to agree on the price too, sounds a little steep. If you really want it, walk away and call back with a lowball offer. He's probably hoping for someone with stars in their eyes and money in their pockets. I've also seen many owners put a car on the market who don't really want to sell it but are feeling spousal or financial pressure. They ask an unreasonable price and when it doesn't sell, they still have their car.

Don't worry, you will find the one that's right for you. It took me over a year and well over 1000 miles but I found one I knew I would be happy with. If you have even the slightest doubts, think long and hard. Keep us posted and best of luck.
Get'em down a bit


$13K does sound high for a "less than mint" '76. The A/C could be the "gotcha" in this deal. First, R12 isn't that hard to find, just not cheap if it's only a recharge. However, depending on how long it's been "not working" you could end up spending $800-$1K on parts and labor to fix. Got a Bro-in-law that will attest to that "gotcha". 40,000 miles huh? You'd really like to see documentation, service records, anything to validate that. Seat wear is not unreasonable on a 25 year old car regardless of the miles. Can depend on a lot on how the driver ingressed and egressed out of the car. Easy to repair, not too costly. But mostly don't get the fever. If it doesn't jump out at you, don't pull the string. If you are willing to pay $13K for a Vette there are some spectacular rides out there. Be patient. Otherwise, if you've done all the homework and still want it; Go for it. There is a tremendous amount of technical experience at this site that is ready, willing and able to help you through any issues you may encounter.

Keep us informed and welcome to the CAC Community.

Regards........... Nut
I was over at the L81VetteRegistry earlier and ran across THIS. It even got my attention :J

Just more food for thought ;)
Rare81 said:
I was over at the L81VetteRegistry earlier and ran across THIS. It even got my attention :J
That looks pretty tempting Bud. From the looks of it, a little carpet and someone's in business.

ds - If you've never owned a silver car, they're great. I've owned three and they always look clean:upthumbs.

- Eric
Thanks for the help!

Thanks for all your help. I do need to get a bit more info about this car.

In finding out about the history of a car this old, is there any way to do a VIN trace? Or do I need to try to find the previous owner(s) for records, etc.?
No way to trace VIN

CarFax only goes back to 81 when VINs were standardized. The only way to trace owner history is to start with current owner and work your way back. Not easy. People move. People forget. When I was looking, obtaining "owner history" was very high on my list. Not specifics, per se, but if the current owner knew at least something about all the previous owners, then that was a good sign. If a car ever goes through a dealer, forget it, you'll never be able to find anything about the owners prior to the dealer.

You should be able to find a 76-77 "driver" in very good overall condition for around 8-9k. Anything higher and the owner is trying to recoup expenses like paint and other work, or the car is in pristine original condition. In my opinion only a pristine original can demand top dollar. If thats the case, then it could be a good deal.

You need to confirm the L82 engine, too, by checking the block stamp against the VIN. Its too easy to tack those L82 emblems on the hood. I caught one guy who did that, but he had bought it that way himself! Boy did he feel stupid.

And, you really need to confirm the miles. I would never believe anything under 60-70,000 for a 25 year old car, unless it was documented. Think about it. 40000 miles in 25 years is only 1600 per per year! For a Corvette? And, its not good for these things to just "sit" year after year. Rigamortis sets in! Seals break down, rust sets in. Bad news. Only a properly stored car can sit for years and not go bad.

Bottom line, take your time and enjoy the "hunt". It will make it so much more rewarding when you find that perfect car for the perfect price.

Tracing VIN

I agree with Tom's assessment of the VIN situation. It used to be that you could do a trace through the DMV, but not anymore. Laws have changed for some reason. If you know anyone in law enforcement who owes you a favor, squeeze them for it. This problem has attributed to "fakes" that have proliferated in the "rare" car market. Ask a Yenko or Shelby owner how bad this situation has gotten out of control. At least there are groups who can identify wheter it's legit, but trying to document a Berger car is almost impossible, unless you find a guy who actually worked on them. Insurance companies, I would think would have some information that might be helpful if the car was always insured, but I don't know if you can access this information. Thinking further on the price, if there's no documentation, hit this guy with a really low offer. All he can say is, "no." Dsosborne, are you partial to this car for some reason, or are you willing to hunt for a better deal/car? I suspect that you do want a/c, right? --Bullitt
First Vette

I can only agree with everything said so far. All good advice, but mosty of all, IMHO take your time. Although a CORVETTE, your SHOPPING for a used 25 year old car, don't forget that.
I remember when I was looking, and almost jumped (more than once) trying to purchase a Vette. Can I suggest before you take the plunge to start reviewing current used auto mags, such as AUTO TRADER to give you a "Heads Up" about reasonable asking prices, but more importantly, UNreasonable asking prices.
Do some searching on line at this web site: www.collectorcartraderonline.com
This is a GREAT resorce for finding an acceptable range of prices and car condidtion.
With all that said, do your "HOMEWORK"
When you find your Vette, YOU'LL know it when you see it.

Unreasonable Prices

such as AUTO TRADER to give you a "Heads Up" about reasonable asking prices, but more importantly, UNreasonable asking prices
It seems that everyone thinks they have a true classic, nowadays. Sure, 427 Corvettes and Hemi cars are always going to demand big bucks, but the average seller won't admit what their car is worth. Some jacka** is selling a Ford Falcon with no engine, no transmission and it badly needs restoration. He wants $3,000? :L :L :L I'm sure he's sitting by the phone wondering if anyone will ever call. I believe the market has shifted to a buyer's market and some sellers are barely realizing it. Remember, that this time of year people are willing to give up on some projects, so good deals are going to come your way. I waited six months to finally decide to buy a Corvette and another two months to buy one. Good luck! --Bullitt
Definitly not a smoking deal , but its in the ball park, Depends on how you feel after a thorough look over and take out on the road.

like nutmegbronze81 said, I would definitly think about the possibility of a pricey AC fix, that way you wont feel burned if it ends up 800+ to get it back working correctly. Maybe bring up that possibility onto the bargaining table too..
Also , anticipate some ongoing maintenance money into the car from the getgo, I dont know anyone who puts miles on their car without something going wrong, Youve got a good car if those expenses turn out to be minor. My 2centavos
Good luck..
PS, Ive found that C3's are worth what a seller can get for them, that sounds right to me so long as the car is not misrepresented. Im glad my car is not a bargain item, I have no plans to off mine, but if I did I sure want a valued item market price for it, not a devalued price.

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