Rejuvenating a Legend
Given the foregoing exceptions that prove the rule, how do you count the cost of a restoration project before proceeding? Taking a hard look at the market value of a non-restored versus a restored car depends on a number of factors. For some perspectives on this aspect, we touched bases with Patrick Krook of Show Your Auto, who has handled some of our auction coverage in previous issues. An expert at separating the wheat from the chaff, Krook's firm helps people build personal collections of Corvettes and rare muscle cars, and also helps to market and sell them. In the process of assessing vehicles, he does a fair-market valuation, weighing variables such as condition, research comparables, online sale dates, private sales of similar cars, and auction values. This last aspect is not quite as important as the others, however.

"I don't dismiss auction results, but I do qualify them," he admits. "Auction money is seldom reproduced in the private market." Instead, he focuses on originality, condition and desirability, and last, and—most important—authenticity.

"These are the four legs of the bar stool, and authenticity is the most important leg—if you can't tell if a car is real or not, the others don't matter. Unless you have good docs, you're sunk," Krook says.

Keeping that caveat in mind, you need to keep an eye on the potential ROI (return on investment). "Restorations can be cost prohibitive if you need to find the correct parts," Glass says. In the case of the black Z06, he figures the job would take a year and cost about $75,000 to $100,000, even though all the parts are there.

On the other hand, the silver/blue Z06 seen here had been slightly restored already, so it was in a bit of a gray area. This California car has only 31,000 miles on it, and when first spotted, "It took my breath way, it was just so beautiful," says Glass.

While the car is probably due for a mild freshening, Glass feels it could also qualify as a Survivor, since it's more than 50 percent original. "It was restored so long ago, probably 1984 or 1985, it's almost a Survivor," he asserts. "On an older resto, it's hard to tell what's been done."

We're not one to split hairs over labels, but instead provide some guidelines about what to do and when. From Krook's experience, he feels that, "If a survivor is clean and pristine, leave it alone."

But when a Corvette is highly valued, "yet highly tired, and everything needs attention," he adds, then restoration obviously makes good sense (assuming it's not a masterpiece or historical artifact like Yager's '57, which would lose value by merely cleaning it).

Still, you don't necessarily have to take the project to a level that's 106 percent better than original. Instead, Krook suggests the approach of a "sympathetic resto" that doesn't alter the traditional patina. Instead, do a mechanical rebuild, refurbishing the car so you can drive it from New York to Los Angeles, if you so desire, to relive your Route 66 recollections. That's called a "preservationist approach," as opposed to an exacting restoration. There's one big proviso in either situation, however. "There's a five-year shelf life on a resto. You either have a concours show car or a concours driver, and you'll have to make excuses for mellowing and losing crispness," he adds.