Disco Vettes are the Move: Why the Late C3 Corvette is Ideal for Restomodding
Looking back across all generations of the iconic Chevrolet Corvette, each model has its own strong points and character. There are the timeless C1s and C2s of the '50s, the techy C4 of the '80s and the incredible bang for the buck of performance of the C5 generation and newer.
But one of the more under-appreciated and affordable Corvettes out there are the later C3s, sold through the mid 1970s and into the early '80s.
A Forgotten Era
Its basic look and platform is the same as the early C3, which debuted at the height of the '60s muscle car period and had the performance options to back up its radical new look.
The later C3s, though, represent an era in which emissions regulations lead to so some pretty pitiful performance, both by modern standards and by the standards of the '60s Vettes.
The big block engine was no longer an option, and even in its hottest performance trim a late '70s Corvette only made about 220 horsepower, with a quarter mile time over 15 seconds.
This wasn't the fault of the Corvette's engineers. That's just how things were in the late 1970s and early '80s. Performance across the board was down, and the Vette was still one of the fastest cars you could get at the time...
But its surely that choked-down performance that has long kept later C3s as one of the more affordable Vettes you can get. And few classic American cars offer more potential today.
The Budget Choice
If you are looking for a decent running project, it isn't hard to find one in the $7,000 to $10,000 range. And super nice examples can still be found for under $20,000.
Or if you are looking for a non-running project that needs some work, you can find them as cheap as $3,000— and they might actually be the hot ticket.
Because, if you can get around the lackluster stock power, the late C3s are actually very cool cars. Their styling takes the traditional C3 shape and injects it with some Boogie Nights attitude.
Want More Power? No Problem
The stock performance of a late C3 will only be adequate for those who just want to cruise the boulevard. But at the end of the day it's a Corvette with a small block Chevy under the hood and the upgrade potential is endless. And just about anything made for the earlier, more desirable C3s will go right on.
Want to go LS swap? It's a great car for it. And with less weight than your larger muscle cars, it doesn't take a whole lot of power to make a C3 very capable.
Ditto that for the suspension. There are lots of modified C3s out there that are very fast around an autocross course or race track, with no shortage of options for suspension and brake upgrades.
C3 Corvettes can also handle some very wide tires beneath their flared out fenders. And that will help to transform both the handling and the looks.
If you are looking for the best bang for the buck Corvette performance out of the box, the C5 is still the go-to choice, and will likely be for a while.
But if you are looking for something with some more old-school charm and lots of potential without breaking the bank, give the mid '70s to early '80s Vettes a good hard look.
More From Driving Line
- Want to see a nice example of a modified C3 Corvette? Check out this Lamborghini Yellow-painted masterpiece.