How Much is a Piece of Paper Worth?


Yes, we admit to be somewhat laser locked on protecting the value of our Collector and Classic cars. And why not - with auction and sales values appreciating, who knows what the top end of the market will be? But we are equally focused on the organization, management and protection of automotive history, because ownership is not about price alone. 

Participation in the hobby always starts and ends with a sale, but all of the details, records, photos and stories which have been collected over time are what differentiates one Classic from another. Even worse, many of these documents get lost, forgotten about, accidentally even  purposefully discarded. When that happens the loss is irreversible. Which is one reason why we encourage all owners of Collector and Classic cars to collect, preserve and protect their vehicle's documentation that would supports future valuation.  So our story is about historical evidence, documentation and the impact a single error can introduce. 

When we recently noticed an airport newsstand magazine with the headline, “The Write Stuff”, we had to take a double take. Keith Martin’s “American Car Collector” Nov-Dec 2015 edition had as its lead article the story of a ’63 Split-Window Corvette 327/360 Fuelie Coupe. 

And regardless whether you are a fan of Corvettes, or Chevrolet or even GM for that matter, the important point applies to every Make, Model, Year or Country of Origin: obtain, preserve and protect whatever documentation and records you can for your Collector or Classic vehicle.

1963 was an exciting year for Corvette enthusiasts. For the first time, "America's sports car" was available as a coupe as well as a convertible. And what a coupe! The new Stingray design credited to Bill Mitchell and Pete Brock was a true fastback, notable for the unique divided rear window which added a lot to the car's dashing looks, but in real life proved detrimental to rearward vision. After just one year, that feature was replaced with a single-piece backlight, but would also make the 1963 one of the most desirable models for collectors. 

The new Stingray coupe also featured beautifully raised fender peaks, disappearing headlamps, and aircraft-type doors that cut deeply into the roof to ease entry and exit. Underneath the sleek fiberglass shell, there was a new independent rear axle with transverse leaf spring, control arms, multiple links, double-jointed half-shafts, and trailing radius rods. Even base-model Corvettes were nicely equipped, and buyers had a wide range of engine choices based on the new 327-cubic inch V8. The most powerful option was the 360hp engine with Rochester fuel injection, making this the first American car with a higher horsepower figure than engine displacement. A three-speed manual transmission was standard, but options included a four-speed manual, a Positraction rear end, and a variety of rear axle ratios. 

The Stingray could be ordered in any of seven exterior colors. The new Stingray was an impressive performer, capable of 0-60 in 5.9 seconds and 0-100 mph in 16.5. The 1963 Stingray proved a sales hit, and Chevrolet sold 10,594 coupes and 10,919 convertibles. Source: Bonhams   

The article by Tom Glatch, tells the story of how a fully restored vehicle that suffered reaching the top-end of the price range because it was missing some of the details and documents that support premium price points. And while Garagistry has no dog in the hunt concerning the valuation of any specific Collector or Classic vehicle, (except maybe our own pride and joy pieces of automotive history…) we believe Glatch’s story is worthy to note because it supports and encourages the collection, preservation and protection of your vehicle’s history and provenance. 

If you missed the article, which may still be on some newsstands, here it is in it’s entirely: 

“This 1968 Sting Ray coupe was built in the third week of December 1962 and left the factory wearing 916A Daytona Blue paint over an 898A Saddle leather interior. 
The car was equipped with the optional L84 360-hp engine package, M20 4-speed manual transmission, P48 knockoff aluminum wheels, A31 power windows and N11 side exhausts. Its first owner was a 16-year-old Florida teen named Sherry Morris, whose father promised to buy her any car she desired on the condition she sell her flame-painted 1956 Chevy sedan. Ms. Morris held her father to his promise, and would enjoy her blue Corvette for some 20 years before ill health forced her to sell it in August 1983 to its second owner, Jay Smith. 

The car then went to Corvette expert Scott Marshall of Bountiful, UT who performed a four-year, body-off restoration that encompassed some 1,300 man-hours of labor and a cost of $33,000. Interestingly, Marshall did not find it necessary to rebuild the engine which has never been apart.

Bruce and Ralene Strauss of Irvine, CA purchased the restored car in May 1989 for $50,000. The Strausses kept the car until early 2009, when Tony Hart bought it thru Corvette Mike in Anaheim, CA. Hart says this fine Corvette, which has accrued just 27,621 miles at the time of cataloging, has phenomenal power and torque. 

ACC Analysis

This car, Lot 79, sold for $209,000 including buyer’s premium, at Bonham’s Quail Lodge Auction in Carmel, CA on August 14, 2015. 

The 1963 Corvette Sting Ray was universally acknowledged as one of the most advanced vehicles of the time. Road & Track stated, “As a purely sporting car, the new Corvette will know few peers on road or track,” while even the stodgy British publication Motor opined, “In most respects the Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray is equal of any GT car t be found on either side of the Atlantic.” Well, almost universally acknowledged – Motor Trend named the AMC Rambler their 1963 Car of the Year. 

Without Equal While not quite as advanced as the Jaguar XKE, for a mass-produced sports car, the 1963 Corvette was without equal. The striking body was penned primarily by Larry Shinoda. Countless people fell in love with Corvettes because of the Sting Ray, and as an impressionable 7-year-old I was one of them. 

It was the first front-engine American car with independent rear suspension, and the first since the iconic 1937 Cord to feature retractable headlights. The only advanced technology missing was four-wheel disc brakes, and those would come two years later. Only the engine was a carry-over, but the 327 small block that the Sting Ray used was new the year before, and the L84 version, with Rochester mechanical fuel injection, produced an amazing 360 hp. 

Of course, 1963 was the only year of the “Split-Window” coupe GM VP of Design, Bill Mitchell, loved the divided window. Corvette’s Chief Engineer, Zora Arkus-Duntov, hated it, feeling it was superfluous and reduced rearward vision. The automotive press agreed with Zora, and Duntov eventually got his way with the 1964 model-year cars. 

Convertibles slightly outsold the coupes in 1963, 10,919 to 10,594, and combined they sold almost 7,000 more units than in ’62, which was also a record-smashing year for sales. A total of 2,610 Sting Rays, both coupes and convertibles, came with the L84 engine in 1963. 

Best Options Our featured 1963 Corvette has everything a collector could want: the unique Split-Window body, the legendary 360-hp Fuelie engine, “off-road” sidepipes and power windows. It also has just 27,621 documented miles. Yet there are a few items that could have reduced the sale price. 
One might have been the Daytona Blue paint, which, with this car’s Saddle interior, side exhaust and allow wheels, I find quite attractive. But the most popular color still seems to be Riverside Red.
Another issue is provenance. This car’s history is well documented, but proof of the vehicle’s as-sold options is missing. A window sticker, bill-of-sale, or build sheet would offer proof of how the factory built the car. The P48 knockoff wheels on this Sting Ray, for example, probably were not delivered from the St. Louis factory. Outside of some of the Z06 racers in 1963, few if any Corvettes were sold with these wheels due to manufacturing issues – and they most likely would not have been on a car built in December 1962. 

Later on, these wheels were popular dealer add-on, and that could be how they got here. But a build sheet found on this car, or a window sticker, would verify that. 

There was also no mention of the NCRS Top Flight or Bloomington Gold awards with this car. Although those organizations don’t claim to guarantee originality with their awards, having them does put buyers at ease while boosting the bottom line at sale time. 

All In The Details  
Contrast this sale with a nearly identical Daytona Blue ’63 Fuelie coupe that RM Auctions sold for $236,500 in Phoenix in January 2014 (ACC# 232253). At the time, our ACC analyst said. “Equipped with L84 Rochester mechanical fuel injection Positraction, metallic brakes, off-road exhaust and correct T-3 headlamps. Restored to perfection with correct chalk markings and tape holding shims on the frame. Fully documented with NCRS Top Flight” 

Although that car had many more miles on the odometer (81,646), it had what was missing here – docs and certifications to drive that price much higher. 

This is not to slight our Corvette in any way. No, just the opposite. This Sting Ray was missing a few details that typically drive a sale price sky-high, but it brought the money anyway. All in all, I’d call it a very strong car that was very well sold.”  

Our Conclusion -
Not every Collector or Classic car will bring six or seven digit sale numbers at their time of sale. But what can help you (and your future buyer) obtain the best value for your vehicle is to have as much of the vehicle's history readily available. That is just one of the benefits associated with having a Garagistry Registered Classic vehicle. If your Collector or Classic isn't already registered, why not register it today? Start here.