Classic Corvette Purchasing Tips, Part IIDo not buy a Classic Corvette unless you have inspected it personally.
Avoid the temptation, no matter how busy you are or how good the deal looks. To start with there is the constant possibility of fraud. There have been cases of sellers "fixing" body damage by way of modifying the images with Photoshop (yes, we are serious!). There is always the possibility that while the seller is mostly truthful, they still leave out some negative information. This, in our experience, is what happens most of the time.
Weeding out the Turkeys
While it is not possible or practical to tour the world looking at every available Corvette, you can still do a lot to check out a car even if all you have is a web page and an email contact. Here is what we recommend:
- At your first contact, tell the seller you will be visiting the car in person before you actually purchase it. If the seller balks at this idea, drop the car from consideration immediately.
- Ask the seller to forward to you copies of any documentation they have. If this is a problem, find another car.
- Beware of massive amounts of sales talk, such as "The car is in perfect shape" "You won't be disappointed" and so on. A good car doesn't need that.
- Sellers that profess to not know much about cars in general are a bad sign. Often they know a lot about cars, including the fact that what they are selling has problems.
- Deals that are too good to be true almost always are. Avoid the temptation to go for a "bargain" including "barn finds" and "secret, special deals". While it is true that they have been known to happen, such stories are rare and usually without merit. Other signs of trouble: if the seller is pushing you to act quickly or demands a deposit before you've decided to buy the car.
- Stay away from people who will find you a car for a fee. While there are competent and reputable classic car brokers out there, and they often are an excellent source of cars, they should only be collecting fees from sellers, not buyers.
- It is impossible to list all the steps you need to protect yourself from fraud as the bad guys are constantly refining their techniques. Your best bet: stay in touch with the Web message boards or the various club email lists to learn about the latest scams.
This is good advice for any used car purchase, including a classic Corvette. Have a mechanic look over a purchase candidate and make sure they are familiar with Corvettes; since they are a common enough car finding a qualified inspector should not be difficult. There also are professional auto appraisers qualified to assess older Corvettes; click here for a listing.
If you are paying top dollar for a particularly rare or special Corvette, then doing a PPI is even more crucial. If it turns out that the car is, shall we say, "not quite" what it was represented as, then the value will drop dramatically. Let us put it another way. Even when an expert is considering the purchase of a classic Corvette, they will often have another expert look over the car and it's history to prevent them from missing something.
Ideally the seller will be able to offer complete documentation for their car. This would include original sales receipts, receipts for all maintenance and repairs and information on previous owners, etc. Photographs backing up the car's history should be available. Documentation of a car is very important and you'll see this reflected in selling prices.
As with other aspects of classic Corvette buying and selling, the subject of documentation has some controversy. There are reports that fake documents have started to appear, complete with various techniques to "age" the material. Encouraging this practice is the fact that buyers put a premium on a good record trail.
It is possible that a good purchase candidate will only have minimal documentation; this can happen if previous owners were not aware of the value of good documentation or for any number of other reasons. The older the Corvette, the less likely that all the records were maintained and passed along. This is particularly true of Corvettes with many owners. But it is also possible that the lack of documentation is purposely done to hide problems.
Although it is reasonable that the early documentation of an older Corvette may have disappeared, its recent records should be available.
Do Your Research
Find out as much as possible about the type of Corvette you are interested in. Do more than just read the message boards and various Corvette email lists; post your questions to them. Find out the weaknesses and various "things to look for" regarding the Corvettes you are considering .