Last Of The 454s: 1974 Chevrolet Corvette

The 1974 Chevrolet Corvette is the one C3 that stands out in my memory for several reasons. Some consider it memorable for the wrong reasons, i.e the soft bumpers, front and back, and the downward progression of power output but I recall them for different reasons and I’ll later elaborate on that matter. This Corvette coupe is located in  Los Alamitos, California and is available, here on craigslist for $17,500. Thanks to Pat L. for this contribution.

The Corvette did surprisingly well in 1974 with about 37K copies finding new homes. The convertible was still part of the line-up and comprised about 5K units. What’s surprising is that 1974 was a recession year, much brought about by the OPEC enacted oil embargo of October of ’73. In spite of the resulting fuel price run-ups, prospective Corvette buyers weren’t phased. New, was the two-piece rear, soft tail cap that covered a 5 MPH bumper beam. It was done in compliance with the Federal 5 MPH bumper standard, ’73 for the front and ’74 for the rear. The 454 big-block engine sung its Corvette swan song in ’74 as it was the last year for its availability in the two-seater. About 3,500 buyers selected the LS4 big motor option. After ’74 the Mark IV “rat” motor was never to be positioned between the Corvette’s frame rails again. Other lasts included a true dual exhaust system as the ’75 model used a Y-pipe incorporating a back-pressure inducing, bead-type catalytic converter.

This Corvette’s 454 engine produces 270 net HP and was capable of moving the 3,400 lb. coupe through a quarter-mile run in about fourteen and a half seconds, pretty good get-up-and-go for the era. And the four-speed manual transmission just adds to the excitement. Curiously, this engine’s cooling system is apart, reportedly due to a radiator replacement – and that’s exactly how it’s being sold. The seller states, “Reassembly required but drivable for loading onto trailer“. It seems logical that this car would do better as a sale candidate if it were together and running and it doesn’t sound like there’s much keeping that from happening.

There are only a few images of this Corvette in the listing so it’s difficult to get a thorough look at the car in its totality but what can be spied looks good. The seller states that it’s a repaint in its original shade of Ontario Orange and there are no indications of seam separation, cracking, or crazing – it shows really well. Note the soft tail cap, it is a two-piece item with a vertical seam in the middle between the letters V and E; in ’75 it was swapped for a seamless, single piece component.

The interior is a surprise if for no other reason than its silver hue. It is a “custom interior trim” option, recognized by virtue of the faux wood accents and carpeted door cards. It also means that the upholstery is leather. What’s surprising about it is that it doesn’t go all that well with the Ontario Orange exterior. It’s OK, just not what immediately leaps to mind when one thinks color coordination. All-in-all, it looks pretty good, with no signs of significant wear. The mileage claim is 50K miles, though there is no documentation, so the interior may be in the correct condition for a car of this age and mileage. It could be a trick of the light but the passenger seat, passenger armrest, and console look a bit discolored.

One of my most surprising memories about the ’74 Corvette was its pricing. That year, I worked for a large Chevrolet dealership and they always had a big blow-out sale over the fourth of July, it was called the 2001 Sale but I never know what the reference meant. It was an attempt to move existing inventory as well as order up some of the last of the current model year production and send that off to new owners too. In ’74, the dealership owner ordered up a batch of 454 powered, four-speed manual transmission-equipped El Caminos as well as a slew of Corvettes, all in fairly basic form but a good smattering of coupes and convertibles. While trying to figure out where to put all of those cars, and glancing at the price stickers to see what we had, I realized that the Corvette Convertible was actually base-priced about $300 under the coupe. We had a bunch of $6,700 coupes and $6,400 convertibles, all carrying a few basic options but pretty stripped otherwise. When was the last time that pricing arrangement happened?  I have more respect for this version of the C3 now than I used to and the engine, in this case, is the star attraction. There are those that claim the extra weight of the big-block motor throws off the handling – maybe it does and maybe it doesn’t, that’s a debate for another day. I do know this, that one item would definitely not dissuade me from owning this 1974 Corvette, how about you?


  1. Moncton(was Winnipeg)carnut Member

    I think you would have to dye the interior. Black or dark brown. Unless it’s possible to make the silver become tan or saddle.

  2. 8banger 8banger

    Yes, the interior is god-awful. And if anyone would peek into its thermostat housing, they would want to rip the mill out and hot tank it.

    Like 1
    • JoeNYWF64

      Funny no one complains about the “colors” inside new cars today, let alone boycotts buying them(tho i am). I am sure most younger buyers have NO IDEA how many color & option choices there were inside & outside cars in the ’60s & ’70s, let alone what a base car truly is.
      Here I would start out replacing the carpet to perhaps black & see if that makes a difference. Not sure how durable redying is. & to change the color of the interior properly would no doubt be very expensive.

      Like 4
  3. AW

    In 1974, that Orange paint color is called, fittingly, “Corvette Orange” (code 980), and it could be had with a Silver custom leather interior (code 407). It’s not the best paint color/interior color combination, but it’s likely the original combo on that car.

    Like 6
    • Frank Sumatra

      For those who value rarity, I can’t imagine a rarer color combination on a 1974 Corvette.

      Like 8
  4. Steve R

    It’s a factory big block 4spd Corvette with factory air conditioning and leather interior that doesn’t have any rips or tears, who cares what color it is.

    Steve R

    Like 27
  5. George Mattar

    I agree with Steve R. Who cares what color? This is a fairly priced. I show my silver 73 coupe and people question the code 415 interior, medium saddle. My build sheet removed from the gas tank and trim tag prove it. Last year 454 and no automatic. Last year true dual exhaust. And probably no rusted bird cage or frame. Certainly makes more sense than buying a rotted 68 Charger for $35,000 as we see on this site.

    Like 16
  6. George Mattar

    I agree with Steve R. I work at a Dodge Jeep dealer. The interior choices are about two shades of baby poop and what today’s car makers call black. At least in the 60s and 70s you had a choice. People question the medium saddle code 415 in my silver 73 Corvette. Well guess what it was available. Anyway, this is fairly priced considering Mecum just sold a 75 coupe for $46,200 a few days ago. Last year 454. 4 speed, air and last year true dual exhaust even in GM added resonators that model year.

    Like 7
    • Frank Sumatra

      Any idea what was special about the $46,200 1975 Coupe? There is absolutely nothing about even the most highly-optioned 1975 that could bring that kind of money.

      Like 4
      • David

        Frank, I took the time to look it up. The $46,200 ‘75 coupe was a burgundy with black leather, L82 with 4-speed and A/C and 2,000 miles. To me, way too much paid.

        Like 2
  7. Desert Rat

    Love the outside color since I have a 69 Camaro in Hugger orange, as for the inside I could live with it the best part is the BBC and 4 speed. This would be a fun Vette combo that you don’t see everyday.

    Like 1
  8. Jack Dieter

    i h ave a 73 vett bought new orange matillac with dark blue interior all matchingnumbersit is a rare car

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