Vintage Corvettes can be restored—and many have been over the years, to a condition just like they were when they rolled out of Flint Assembly in 1953, or St. Louis Assembly from 1954 to 1981, or Bowling Green from late 1981 onward.
But a Corvette is only original once, when it wears not only its original colors and options, but still bears the markings that went on when it went down the assembly line.
Such is the case with this ’70 Corvette Stingray coupe, the 28th one built during the abbreviated 1970 model run. (A strike at St. Louis Assembly from May to August 1969 caused Chevy’s then-General Manager John DeLorean to extend the ’69 model run by four months, to clear a backlog of unfilled orders before the change-over to ’70 specifications began in December.)
There was plenty new for 1970. The shark’s body got a new “egg-crate” grille and fender vents, fender flares, and rectangular-shaped exhausts. Formerly optional features such as tinted glass, Positraction, and the M20 four-speed manual gearbox were now standard, and the M40 Turbo-400 automatic was now a no-extra-charge option.
Corvette’s engine lineup also got a makeover for ’70, with the 327- and 427-inch powerplants disappearing from the equipment list. Replacing them was a choice of 350-inch small-blocks—the base, 300-horsepower ZQ3, the 350hp L46, and the new, solid-lifter, 370-horse LT-1—and one factory big-block, the 390hp LS5 454. The (likely underrated) 450hp LS6 and 465hp LS7 454s that had been intended for RPO duty in the ’70 Vette were available as crate engines only that year, thanks to the 14th Floor overruling DeLorean’s approval of those options.
Though built on the first day of ’70 Corvette production, this shark wasn’t sold to its first owner until July 22 of that year, per the invoice from Prince Chevrolet in Princeton, New Jersey. Equipped with the ZQ3 350, Turbo-400, power steering, standard interior trim with “Comfort Weave” knit-cloth seating surfaces, whitewalls, and a Delco AM/FM radio, the sticker price came to $5,679.80, plus a $125 destination charge. The original owner traded a ’66 Sting Ray coupe (for which Prince Chevrolet gave an allowance of $3,179.80) and a cashier’s check for $2,625, and he drove his Mulsanne Blue C3 home that day.
That original owner drove the car until 1973, then garaged it until 1995, when the second owner bought it. This C3 had been bought and sold again (but not driven much) when Mark Rudnick entered the picture in November 2000, after seeing it at an NCRS judging clinic held at a Corvette restoration shop.
“I’d always liked the shark cars, and I became enamored with the chrome-bumper sharks,” he says. The ’70s factory color also appealed to Rudnick.
Though this 28th-built ’70 had moved ahead in time three decades, it had only covered 13,805 miles on the road during that time, and that odometer reading spoke loudly to Rudnick.
“When I saw this car, and realized that it was an original, unrestored car with that kind of low mileage, that’s what made me want to buy it.” Soon, he had the C3 in his garage, where two previous sharks (both of them ’77s) had resided, as well as a ’95 LT1 convertible that he’d bought new.
In just over a decade, Rudnick has put less than 1,700 miles on his ’70.
“I don’t drive it very much at all, and I need to start doing it a little bit more,” he says, adding, “That’s the problem with a very-low-mileage, original, unrestored Corvette. You’re so fearful of anything happening to it, and then—all of a sudden—it’s no longer that ‘virgin’ car.”
Still, he’s shown the car and earned an NCRS Regional Top Flight with it, as well as an NCRS “3 Star Award” recognizing the shark’s preservation. Rudnick adds that even more special recognition comes from those who see it and recognize its significance.
“People who really know and like Corvettes are just blown away by it,” he says, while adding that their reaction is especially keen when they see the original markings on the car from St. Louis Assembly, and when they spy other telltale signs demonstrating how The General built Corvettes way back when.
What’s it like to drive? “This one’s a lot of fun,” says Rudnick. “Because there’s no smog equipment on it or catalytic converters, it still has the higher compression, and it’s still a fun ride.”
If Rudnick had the chance to go back in time and get another ’70 Corvette, would it look anything like this one? Possibly. It would still be painted Mulsanne Blue at St. Louis—but there’d be one big change underneath that acrylic lacquer.
“My ultimate would be for it to be an LT-1. A ’70 Mulsanne Blue LT-1 coupe.” Rudnick says it would be easy to tell apart from this ZQ3-powered C3—by the distinctively-striped LT1 hood, “and its awesome power difference,” he adds.
Maybe you’re one who’d like to find a low-mileage original Corvette of any vintage. If you are, Rudnick has this advice: “Keep looking! They’re few and far between, but for people who like original, unrestored cars, they’re in a class by themselves.”