If you’ve bought a used car in the past ten years or so, you probably asked for a vehicle history report, such as a CarFax, Auto Check, etc. This is a good idea- it lets you know if the car you’re looking at has been serviced regularly, whether it’s been in any accidents, if it started its life as a rental car, etc. (By the way- I actually recommend Auto Check over Car Fax- it’s more detailed and less expensive).
Given the usefulness of these tools, it’s not surprising that buyers new to the classic car market often ask for vehicle history reports on the C3 Corvettes they are considering purchasing. Unfortunately, it is rare that a report can be provided on a C3 Ccorvette, and even when it can, the report is essentially useless.
Vehicle history reports such as CarFax, are generated using a vehicle’s seventeen-digit VIN number. Until 1981, cars in the U.S. had a thirteen digit VIN, so any car 1980 and earlier simply cannot be “CarFax-ed.” Technically, you can generate a history report for 1981 and 1982 Corvettes, but you won’t learn much from one of these. It was rare for any of the info you look for on a history report (maintenance, accidents, etc.) to actually be entered into the system until the mid-90’s when most states and insurance companies started to computerize their records. So while you might find some more recent info on a history report of a 1981 or 1982 Corvette, you certainly won’t see the full picture of the car’s history.
So what to do? Well, as always, I recommend relying on physically looking over the car’s condition and asking the owner about its history over any other method for determining its condition and value. I always ask how often the car was maintained if there has been any recent work done or any work that needs to be done, if it’s been wrecked, and where and how it was stored. I then inspect the car visually to check for signs of the same questions… is there significant rust on the frame, seams in the front end or wheel wells from repairs after an accident, parts in need of replacement, ect.? Anyone looking to buy a classic car should do the same, or buy from a reputable dealer who has done the same inspection on the cars in their inventory. You can learn more about what to look for in my Classic Corvette Buyers Guide.