Finding today’s Corvette hasn’t started well. I’m at a dealership in Anaheim only to find that I wouldn’t be able to afford or drive the C6 I was there for. This was compounded by the fact that it’s Sunday and most of the local used car lots are closed. Fortunately, salvation came in the form of the cheapest C6 I’ve seen in the Southland.
Over time, I learned that the automatic in a C5 shifts like a Peruvian taxi driver – early and often. Fortunately, unlike a Peruvian taxi, the engines are a lot more fun at 2000 rpm. However, I also know that Corvette power plants are a ton of fun throughout the whole rev range. And to add to that, the first year of the C6 generation comes with many improvements over the C5 with the exception of the transmission which I’ll get to.
So far my time with slushbox Corvettes has been, let’s say, checkered (getting stuck in one, and having the roof almost blow off another). So, it’s almost superstition that has me suspecting that I shouldn’t expect much from this car. And so far, my wariness is justified. This car’s torch red paint is terrible. With orange peel and irregular fade, no two panels match. The interior wasn’t much better. It looks as though she was just rescued from a junkyard with missing trim and plenty of dirt ground into the carpets. In that spirit, I have decided to call her Fiona (for you Shrek fans) as she is a princess freshly rescued.
Looks aside, out on the road, she tells a different tale. Fiona pulls with the same smooth eagerness I’ve come to love Corvette V8s for. Better still, Fiona was the first Corvette hatchback I drove with the roof off and I found minimal body shaking and flexing. If I end up getting a Corvette, I think I know how I’ll be driving it…
Truthfully, even though this C6 drives like a Corvette should, even with the terrible four-speed transmission, there is a much more interesting catch to this particular car. The story of Fiona’s rescue once again led me down the rabbit hole of automotive wholesale and salvage markets. The owner operates out of his house. He tells me that he usually buys mildly damaged Mustangs one at a time at wholesale to fix ‘n flip. This time ‘round, he found Fiona with a hole in her nose cone at the local Co Part for $6,500. After performing rhinoplasty, he’s now selling the once damaged C6 for almost twice the price.
Despite the salvage title, it drives just fine. Great, in fact. Now I find myself wondering: how much trouble would it be to get a dealer’s license? How could I find myself a $6,500 wholesale C6? Are salvage title cars worth the discount? I wonder about this and later in the day call Fiona’s owner back only to find that the car’s been sold for full asking price.
I wouldn’t have seriously considered buying this one without a full independent inspection and factoring in the cost of a repaint. (The automatic trans is still a big negative to me.)
Definitely a good idea Dan. It’s a bit optimistic for the seller to think he will double his money with so many Corvettes around, many with clear titles. Not sure about your insurance but I think it can be challenging to insure a salvage title car.
On the other hand, if it checks out OK mechanically, and you can get it for way closer to $6500, it may be a nice knock around car as Scotty Kilmer says. You won’t worry about it in parking lots and still have a nice car to drive around in. Heck, maybe you could get it wrapped for a few K if the paint really bugs you.
I had expected a reference to Fiona from the old Burn Notice show, but this works too.
I am starting to discern a rule: There are cheap Corvettes and there are good Corvettes, but there are no good cheap Corvettes.
I thought these Corvette reviews would be more of an evaluation of technical and performance aspects rather than just a mini storytelling exercise. And if you are really shopping for a Corvette, why are you looking at the ones that have seen better days and have salvage titles? Plus, some of us readers have posted questions about the cars, of which few, if any, have been answered.
I don’t know if he chooses one in the end but he’s definitely looking, nobody drives to the various outer reaches of the Los Angeles area and some of these dealerships/locations just for fun or for something to write about. I expect that some (most) have something obviously unappealing about them that wasn’t obvious in the ad and once there if a drive is offered, he’d take it just as a data point for future reference if nothing else. It seems like there’s a fairly hard price ceiling that may perhaps be just a bit too low to get into the Corvette Champagne Room…He did say though in the first one that Corvettes haven’t been on his radar much, and he’s curious if he could find himself warming up to them.
I think most of these Corvettes that we’ve seen so far have probably also been owned by at least one if not more owners that couldn’t recite much in the way of specs back to anyone asking, plenty of people own them for the image and the performance, which is usually strong for the era that they were new in, but that doesn’t usually translate to either good maintenance or caring ownership.
It would be helpful if at least the model year was mentioned in the title. Some people do use these posts for some kind of reference in the future, if I ever decided look at a C6 Corvette I probably wouldn’t start searching the archives for a Fiona and offhand don’t know the exact model years that a C6 was available.
The C6 and Caillac XLR shared platforms. The C6 began production as a 2005 model. The 4 speed automatic was available during the 2005 model and then I think replaced by a 6L80 for the 2006 model year.
The XLR started production in 2003 as a 2004 model. I think on a separate production line. The XLR might be a useful car to consider too, but may be too expensive.
As much as I love the XLR, how it looks, etc…. after reading this story and the cost of replacement taillights… hard pass for me.
I’m enjoying this series, trying to find the best of the worst on the just always out of reach quest everyone seeks for good cheap fun. Late model corvettes really never have been on my radar but there’s something alluring to the runts of the litter to me, and you’ve certainly found a few.
Personally if the price is right and the chassis is straight(ened) salvage titles don’t bother me. I’m the run the car into the ground and keep it for a decade type, not an investor worried about resale. I’ve never looked too deep into it but there are online auctions anyone can register to to buy damaged cars, and prices are usually low because most bidders are dismantlers seeking parts profit.
Salvage title cars have their place, and it’s not always in your driveway! Just remember that the car was damaged to the point where the repair bill exceeded the value of the vehicle. Usually both front air bags have been deployed. Replacing these is a very large expense. Unscrupulous rebuilders will often not replace them . There are fake air bag steering hub covers and the passenger side dash is just “patched up.” Just something to be very aware of. The expense of air bag replacement and front end repair and repainting is often enough to total the car.The vehicle doesn’t have to be damaged enough to affect the frame.
Money can be saved on labor costs, and and selection of used parts in the rebuild. This is where body shop entrepreneurs and DIY guys can buy and flip. There is money to be made for the thoughtful rebuilder/seller.
The buyer can often get a pretty good car at a pretty good price. It sounds like this Vette may fall into this category. The buyer has to go into the purchase with eyes wide open. If the car is going to be used and owned for a lot of years then the reduced value is not going to matter that much. However if you buy a car like this and have it repainted, add a new set of tires, and do some routine repairs you’re are going to be deeply underwater if you try to sell the car in a couple of years.
The biggest problem is that no “serious collector” will ever consider buying a commonly available car like a regular Corvette over a clean title alternative. I bought a salvage ’70 Mustang for a good price, invested another few thousand into it before I realized that I was just throwing good money after bad. I could have easily spent another ten grand on a car that was never going return more than a fraction of that investment.