If you're a habitual consumer of car magazines, you're no doubt familiar with the tale of the highly desirable classic automobile found socked away in a barn or storage unit, typically by a disinterested owner with no knowledge of the vehicle's pedigree or sense of its value. As the story goes, some savvy automotive speculator purchases the car for a mere fraction of its worth, painstakingly restores it to its former glory, and ultimately makes a moderate fortune on it through a no-reserve auction at Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale.
The story of the "barn find" classic may be a moldy cliché at this point, but, like most overused literary devices, the trope has its basis in reality. And while the crop of hidden muscle-car treasure has been pretty well picked over at this point, that doesn't mean there aren't still a few jewels out there, just waiting to be unearthed.
As evidence, we present the LS4 '74 convertible you see here. The '74 model year marked the end of the line for both the topless C3 and the big-block-powered Corvette, potentially enough to make this cannily optioned shark a bona fide collectible, if not a full-blown dream machine. Of course, collectibility is inextricably linked with originality, and many a would-be restorer's hopes have been dashed by evidence of an ill-advised engine swap or other post-purchase modification. Would that be the case here?
Before we go any further, a little background. This car came to our attention through longtime friend of the magazine Greg Lovell, who owns and operates Seffner, Florida-based Corvette-tuning shop AntiVenom. Though Lovell's involvement with Vettes tends to focus primarily on their performance capabilities, his status as the local "Corvette guy" makes him a prime target any time someone needs to offload a restoration gone awry or a partially assembled project car.
In this case, the seller described the car as a '74 convertible with an original 454/four-speed drivetrain and only 46,000 original miles. Though he had planned to restore the Vette to as-new condition, he had recently been laid off and needed money to relocate to south Florida, where a new job awaited. His asking price of $1,800 seemed suspiciously low for a car equipped with such a desirable menu of options, but as a veteran of the classic-car trade, Lovell knew from experience that not every too-good-to-be-true deal truly is. When the seller's claims proved accurate, Lovell quickly made the deal, and his diverse collection of muscle machines welcomed its latest member.
Since the car is in fundamentally good shape, we thought we'd take the opportunity to walk you through some of the steps involved in verifying the originality of any third-generation Corvette. And since we're entertaining the idea of adding it to our project-car stable at some point, this article will also serve as an introduction of sorts. Follow along now as we take a closer look.
So what do you think we should do with this car? Restore to it as-delivered condition? Convert it into a straight-axle gasser? Push it off a cliff? Log on to www.vetteweb.com and let us know what you think.