Fuelie Project: 1961 Chevrolet Corvette

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This 1961 Corvette “fuelie” is a classic that needs its share of TLC. It has fallen on hard times, so the person who tackles the restoration will need to be dedicated and ready for some hard work. If you think you could be that person, you will find the Corvette located in Beverley Hills, California, and listed for sale here on eBay. The owner has set the BIN at $39,950, although the option is available to submit an offer.

There’s a lot to think about with this Corvette, and it is hard to know where to start. It is finished in Ermine White, while the coves wear what appears to be Roman Red. The vehicle has undergone at least a partial repaint because Ermine White was only offered with coves in Silver. As we will see, this may be the least of the issues for the buyer to consider because this classic will need plenty of other problems addressed. The supplied photos aren’t as detailed as I would like, but the fiberglass appears to be free from significant issues. An in-person inspection would be a must in a case like this because it might reveal minor flaws that aren’t visible in the photos. The frame for the soft-top is present, although the top itself has seen better days. Most of the external trim is present, and while some of it would respond well to restoration, there are a few pieces that will require replacement.

When I saw this shot, I’m not ashamed to say that my heart sank slightly. If there was ever any doubt that this restoration would represent a frame-off proposition, it removes those doubts. The entire frame wears a heavy coating of surface corrosion, but it’s hard to tell whether there is any penetrating rust. My biggest concern is what might be hidden between the floors and the top of the frame because this is an area where moisture can sit and do its worst. Once again, this is an aspect of the Corvette that will require a thorough inspection to determine how bad things are.

The engine bay of this Corvette features its original 283ci V8 that is backed by a 4-speed manual transmission. Once again, there is plenty for potential buyers to consider. This car rolled off the line as a “fuelie,” but the system is long gone. The fuel injection made the Corvette a more pleasant vehicle to live with as a daily driver, but it did confuse many mechanics when faults occurred. Therefore, it wasn’t unusual for owners to scrap the system in these cases and to substitute a regular intake and carburetor. I would be willing to bet that this has been the case here, and it will leave the buyer with a decision to make. They could retain the existing intake system and remain resigned to the fact that the vehicle is no longer a true fuelie. Alternatively, they could hunt for the correct system to bring the car back to its original specifications. This latter option will not be a cheap proposition because original systems for ’61 Corvettes aren’t thick on the ground. Only 1,580 buyers selected fuel injection in 1961, and even if you allow for Chevrolet retaining some maintenance spares, they remain a rarity. I performed a search and found a complete system that has been freshly rebuilt and thoroughly tested. However, the price was an eye-watering $10,000. That’s not exactly pocket change, and the next owner will have to decide how important it will be to perform a faithful restoration.

As with every other aspect of this Corvette, the interior trim has seen better days. Nothing here will escape the buyer’s attention, and it is likely to consume a few dollars. The good news is that apart from the carpet, it does appear to be essentially complete. A few items might be salvageable, but all of the upholstery is headed for the nearest rubbish skip. The saving grace with these classics is that interior trim is readily available. When you consider what is facing the buyer with the rest of the vehicle, reviving the interior could be the least expensive part of this restoration.

I’m not going to kid you here because restoring this 1961 Corvette will be a significant undertaking. However, there will be a few things for the buyer to consider before getting too carried away on this one. If a faithful build is not a high priority, then there are aftermarket fuel injection systems available for a touch over $1,000 that would make this a civilized daily driver. As we’ve seen, an original system will carry a five-figure purchase price, which begs the question of whether the expense is justified. Potential values could provide an answer to that. If the next owner of this Corvette performed a meticulous restoration but left the drivetrain as-is, the Corvette has the potential to command a value of around $90,000. However, if the buyer can return the vehicle to its fuel-injected glory, that figure could soar as high as $120,000 on a good day. That represents a 300% return on investment for the injection, and it makes it an option worth considering. Before you even ventured down that path, you would need to decide whether you would be willing to commit to such a significant restoration. I’ll be interested to hear what you think.

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  1. bobhess bobhessMember

    This car went to the beach and got driven into the ocean. The rusty gear shift lever didn’t get rusty up to the top basking in the humidity in Beverly Hills. Was a nice car once.

    Like 4
  2. Alan Brase

    I think the early Corvette market peaked 5-10 years back and values are heading to that of Model A Fords. I think it will be a cold day in hell any but the most perfect big brake car will be bid over $100k.It will take over $50k to make this one worth $100k. That 283 has to be an absolute slug with a big 4 bbl. on it. Factory dual quads would put it very near 270hp specs and would give good driveability.

    Like 0
  3. Claudio

    Well, i dont know anyone that likes to spend all his free time at the dentist !
    And sadly nowadays s, restoration shops and owners think that they can charge dentist fees as they think that all customers are full of cash
    And spending 250k on a 130 k car doesnt make much sense to most
    And if you are lucky ;they may finish it in less than 10 years !

    Like 5
  4. T

    An upper midwest car that made it to the coast.

    Like 0
  5. MikeG

    What a shame. Hey Grandpa! Can I sit in the old convertible? Sure kid, it’s under the rotting tarp behind the barn.

    Like 3
  6. chrlsful

    awww, 1 yr too new.
    I like the dash, binnacle, cove, everything but the duck tail’n motor. ’56/60 & ’63 splitie R the only ones 4 me…

    Like 0
  7. Frank

    So could you make a profit after a restoration? Nah! You could find a nice one completed without going thru the Restoration cycle pains. Some of us have been there and done that.

    Like 2
  8. tiger66

    Just FYI, the Beverly Hills Car Club is not located in Beverly Hills, but in an industrial area of East LA. It is well known as a high-volume classic car dealer that buys cars and resells them immediately — that is their business model. Buy a car and get it on the website (and sold) as rapidly as possible. Judging from the online inventory, some cars need extensive body and mechanical work while others might be in decent shape or even previously restored. If you are looking for a project, they could be a source but you should do your homework on the specific car you are looking for and be aware of what you are getting into. Rusty cars are not uncommon here as the stock comes from all over the country.

    Like 1
  9. tiger66

    Just to clarify: Contrary to the description here, this car is not “located in Beverly Hills.” It is at the Beverly Hills Car Club, a dealer in East LA.

    Like 1
  10. losgatos_dale

    Math lesson:
    spend 10 grand, get 30 grand back is a 200% return on the investment,
    not 300%

    Like 0

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