Everyone can appreciate a really great deal—and, for car enthusiasts, getting a great deal on a cool old vintage car is the dream. And the ultimate dream? Buying a vintage 1963 Corvette Split Window Coupe for just $50. There’s a popular story in circulation about a woman who sold her deceased son’s mint-condition sports car for almost nothing, partly because of her grief but partly because she had no idea of its true value.
Is there any truth to the story? Let’s find out.
Did someone snag the steal of the century—a $50 mint-condition vintage Corvette?
“’63 Chevy for sale. $50. As is.”
As the legend goes, a young man purchased a new sports car in 1963 and only drove it for about a year before being called to the army by the draft. He did all the necessary work to get the vintage Corvette Split Window Coupe ready for storage, but was tragically killed or went MIA in Vietnam.
After some undetermined number of years, the young man’s mother listed the vintage Corvette sports car in the local paper, using the phrasing above, for just $50. It obviously sold quickly, according to the tale, and some lucky car enthusiast enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime deal.
There are no receipts for this sale, so we have no solid proof that this wild story actually happened. However, some variation of it might have happened.
The story about the dirt-cheap vintage Corvette could be decades old
Snopes labeled this story as a “Legend”—not necessarily false, but probably not entirely true, either. There likely have been stories of people selling unique, vintage, or rare cars for far less than their value, but this particular story, and variations on it, has been circulating for decades.
According to Snopes, “this legend was first reported in print by folklorist Jan Brunvand in a 1988 newspaper article. One of the versions he’d collected placed this legend as being in circulation in 1961.”
For context, the 1963 Corvette Split Window Coupe retailed for about $4,257 when it was sold new in the same year, according to NADA Guides, the National Automobile Dealers Association. If the car was sold for $50 in 1970 or so, that would be the equivalent of scoring a mint-condition vintage Corvette for about $376 after inflation today.
How much would a mint-condition 1963 Corvette Split Window Coupe cost?
NADA Guides provides retail estimates for cars based on average data. However, these figures may not take into account just how rare and iconic this car is. How much would a 1960s Corvette cost today?
In the video above, the buyer offers around $40,000 for the car, but it’s in dire need of a lot of work. NADA provides the following estimated retail prices for a vintage split-window Corvette coupe:
- Low Retail: $53,700
- Average Retail: $86,400
- High Retail: $117,900
If you’ve ever casually browsed classic-car listings sites, you probably did a double-take at these figures. While the pricing estimates above are probably accurate for an average ‘63 classic car, you have to remember that a vintage Corvette split-window coupe is incredibly rare, and that drives up the price. This Corvette is not cheap, with some going for almost $500,000.
How to value a car before you sell it
While this legend is just that—a legend—there’s a good lesson behind it. It’s important to make sure you get an accurate value on your car before you sell it privately, even if it’s not a vintage Corvette.
Your used car, regardless of make, model, year, or icon status, might be worth a lot more than you think. Knowing how to find the actual value of your car can make sure that you don’t end up as the starring character in an urban legend. It helps to compare estimated prices from NADA vs. Kelley Blue Book (KBB), do research to see what similar cars are selling for in your area, and get quotes from multiple dealerships.
While you’re at it, check out these simple things that could be destroying your car’s resale value.