Should I or Shouldn't I?
I own a '91 C4 and do not have a lot of experience concerning C3 models. My wife and I found a '71 Corvette we are interested in purchasing, but I have a few questions I'm hoping you can answer. The Corvette is a low-option car that has a 350/275hp engine with automatic transmission. It has air conditioning and four-wheel disc brakes with no power assist. The engine compartment has been detailed and is very presentable. The car was originally silver, but has been painted red. The paint is above average with no cracks or cob webbing. There is a subtle appearance of possible body repair or a manufacturing seam running from fender to fender behind the pop-up headlights. Is this normal? the fiber optics work, but you need to be in total darkness to see they are illuminated. I do not understand this feature. One last question: the tach and speedometer work, but the speedometer needle dances a bit. any major concerns?
No Name Given, via e-mail

All sharks have a metal reinforcement running across the area between the headlights and front of the hood that the headlight assemblies mount to. Early sharks used aluminum rivets and bonding adhesive, but later on the rivets were not used. Thus, bonding adhesive was solely relied on to keep the reinforcement in place. The '72 has the rivets, and by now, most of them have had enough corrosion to make the rivets grow, causing dimples in two rows: one close to the headlights and the other at the front of the hood. If you see a seam instead of the dimples from the rivets, work has been done on the rivets or the nose may have had a repair piece patched in, possibly from a collision.

The front surround is one complete piece that goes from the windshield pillars forward to the bumper. The side fenders are bonded to the upper surround about 2 inches down along the side fender crown. You can see the seam on the fenders of original cars as shrinkage takes place. The reason for the info: In some cases, pieces are replaced instead of the recommended complete upper surround panel. Replacing the entire upper surround is recommended because the same shrinkage eventually occurs when repair pieces are bonded together. Look inside the fenders and the surrounding area of the suspect seam for fiberglass strips that are used to bond the pieces together. You may have to feel the area near the headlights for the strip or globs of adhesive. Those areas are hard to access and can tell a story. Sometimes the bodyman can't get a grinder in to clean up the area, and most people don't know where to look. There should be strips of fiberglass about 2-inches wide behind the seam for the upper surround mentioned earlier running from the door area to the front of the fender. Any other strips would indicate repair work. This is also the case at the rear. The strips would be in the same area from the rear of the door to the bumper.

The fiberoptics system was way ahead of its time. The purpose of the option was to inform you of failed bulbs, and during night driving, it works well. With the top down or in full sunlight, it's hard to see them even when everything is clean and working properly. The fiberoptic strands connect to each exterior light with a lens and rubber mounting grommet. Many times when paint or bodywork is done, the wiring and fiberoptics harnesses are left unprotected, and the ends of the fiberoptic stranded cables and lenses are covered with primers and paint. The fact the car had recent paint would be a good reason why the lights don't have a strong light. The fiberoptic stranded cables are delicate. Bending them sharply breaks the strands, so over the years the cables get damaged and this limits light travel to the console-mounted indicators. My '69 has a few working well, and in the near future, I'll take each grommet out and clean and polish the lens to see if that fixes the issue with the ones that aren't working quite as well.

The speedo probably needs to be serviced, or it could be as simple as a dry speedo cable or worn driven gear causing the bounce. My concern would be the odometer. While you're out test driving the car, check the odometer for movement. It's common to find the speedo working and the odometer not working. The odometer has the extra load of the trip meter. The added load eventually wears out the jackshaft that runs the odometer and trip meter, while the speedo keeps working. The bouncing needle would indicate possible odometer failure or imminent failure.

Any steel bumper Corvette in decent shape is worth $20,000 considering the cost of parts and labor today. With the car being an A/C coupe, it helps, but the convertibles are more sought after and, accordingly, the price goes up with the convertibles. You can expect to spend a minimum $1,000 and up to $5,000 on repairs and enhancements. My theory is good solid frame, minimal crash damage, and all other obstacles can be overcome. My only real concern would be the seam near the headlamps. Is it from crash damage? The damage repairs usually take six months to a year to show up as unexplained seams from panel repairs. If I felt comfortable with the frame and body condition, I would offer $2-3,000 less than the asking price because of the obvious repairs necessary, including the gauges and possible unforeseen items that may crop up later.

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Shark Bites
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