Classic Corvette Purchasing Tips, Part I
It is not the destination but the journey.
A case in point. Jay Leno, well known car collector, wrote a guest editorial in AutoWeek a number of years ago. He spoke about a problem that often plagues celebrities: "hangers on" that do odd things to attach themselves to famous people. In his case, they will call up in response to an ad for a classic car and pretend to be his "representative" and will say something along the lines of "Jay saw your ad and asked me to call for more information". Jay wrote that if someone gets a call like that they are definitely talking to an impostor. He never has anyone call on his behalf when it comes to classic car shopping; if he sees your ad and he is interested, he'll call you himself.
Beyond saying something about Jay as a person, the article said a lot about the car collector hobby. It is fun. Lots of it! Researching and deciding what collector car to buy is fun. Shopping for them is fun. Buying them is a real blast. Owning them, maintaining them, driving them, preserving them, showing them and yes, eventually selling them is a source of pleasure.
As the saying goes: "It's not the destination, it's the journey!" Enjoy your search for a Corvette as it is almost as much fun as owning one.
Where to look?
You are best off if you can limit your search to locally available Corvettes. The logic here is simple: investigating and purchasing is much easier if access to the car and the seller can be easily done in person. But that can limit you if
- You live in a sparsely populated area
- You are looking for a "special" Corvette, i.e. one that is not commonly available
Do 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 on 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.