Thursday, November 29, 2012

How Much Would You Pay for the First Production C7

by Rick Tavel ©11-19-2012  All rights reserved  Do not use without permission. 
As many of you probably realize, preparations for Barrett-Jackson's world famous January collector car auction are already underway in Scottsdale, Arizona.  This year’s auction is January 13 through 20. The magnitude of this auction requires Craig Jackson and his team to begin preparing for their flagship Scottsdale auction almost a year in advance. This event is a must for any car enthusiast and for those of you who have never attended a Barrett-Jackson Auction you have to put it on your Bucket List. It is one of the top ten auto based events in the world and you need to know that you don’t have to spend a fortune bidding on a car.  You don’t need to bid at all because the greatest enjoyment of Barrett-Jackson for those of us who do not have a couple million dollars to drop on a car is to enjoy inspecting, arguably, the largest great collection of diverse collector cars in the west.  Guaranteed you won’t see a larger assemblage of cars west of the Mississippi the entire year.  Of course there is a side benefit of spending days inspecting the myriad of cars displayed in several tents, some larger than a football field, that benefit is you could become the owner of any one of them, if your bank account is large enough.   Sure all cars are not “showcars” but most would qualify. 
       This year in addition to their usual offerings of outstanding sports and muscle cars they will also be offering their “Salon Collection”.  This is a special exclusive offering of very rare, award-winning collector cars with great historical provenance, many of which have not been up for sale in quite some time.  In their tradition of bringing top grade collectables to the collector market and devoting a portion of the prime time auction to this segment of the car collector hobby illustrates Barrett-Jackson’s commitment to excellence and diversity within the collector car community.  As most of you know  their focus over the past years has primarily been top grade American muscle and sports cars, but what you may not know is that years ago the cars typical to the Salon collection are the type and era of car that Craig Jackson’s father focused on as he was building the business.   
Barrett-Jackson's Iconic 1/4 Mile Tent

             But there is another side of Barrett-Jackson aside from auctioning  some of the finest collector cars in the world. That part is giving back to the community – helping raise money for charities.  Partnering with General Motors, other automotive manufacturers and dealers, Barrett Jackson has raised millions of dollars for charity.  Who could forget last January when Chevrolet and Hendrick Motorsports teamed up to offer the first 2013 Corvette 427 Convertible offered to the public.  That car sold  for $600,000!  The proceeds were donated to the AARP  Foundation’s Drive to End Hunger initiative.  Just imagine, $600,000 for a C6 427!  Granted it was the first “427 Convertible” sold to the public with a VIN of 001.   Forget that the seven liter, LS7 engine produced a mere 505 horsepower.  And even forget that it’s  a car that can do 0 to 60 in under four seconds,  it’s still a bunch of cash to come up with!  Pardon me, but even for a Corvette!                                                                                                                                    
The 1st 427 Corvette Auctioned at Barrett-Jackson
 So by now you probably have figured out where I’m going with this.    As all Corvette enthusiasts know, 1-13-13 is a very special day, the day Chevrolet will formally introduce the 2014, completely new C7 Corvette to the media and public at the Detroit Auto Show.  Coincidentally 1-13-13 is also the first day of the Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction.   What marketing executive worth his weight in platitudes would not jump at the chance to utilize the biggest automobile event of the first half of the year to market his product to hungry enthusiasts with pockets full of cash, all in the name of charity!  Absolutely the best idea since someone put bikini-clad girls on new car model’s turntables back in the fifties. 
              So on one hand we have Barrett-Jackson with a track record of creating unbridled excitement, setting world-record auction prices, with a 120,000 square foot tent packed full of cash-laden, hungry buyers and almost non-stop national cable TV coverage throughout the entire auction from Speedvision.   This may sound politically incorrect, but even the “Helen Keller” of marketing whizzes could see the obvious opportunity before their eyes.  It is what is known as “low hanging fruit” in the industry.  There for the taking.   The only problem for Barrett-Jackson’s and Chevrolet’s marketing people was it could keep them awake at night wondering  just how much someone would be willing to pay for the number one C7 ever offered for sale to the public.  That would most likely be serial number 2, assuming that number 1 would go to the National Corvette Museum. 

The $600K 427 Auctioned by Barrett-Jackson
Now we are talking about the number one car offered for sale of an entire generation of Corvettes, not “just” a special model!  Imagine it!  Understand I am not minimizing the importance of or undervaluing the “427 Convertible”, I’d love to own one and am envious of those that do, but I am speaking “relatively”.  Would the first C7 available for sale to the public bring  $750,000, a $1,000,000, $1,500,000 or even more? I am not sure anymore where this could shake out.  If it were 2007 I might be able to see two million dollars, but with the volatility of the collector car market since 2008 I am not sure.  The market has made a comeback but it, hasn’t made it all the way back to the market where an Oldsmobile prototype topped four million dollars at Barrett-Jackson during the peak.  But when you consider the fact that the one hundred and fifty tickets the National Corvette Museum offered sold out almost overnight at $995 a pop, just to be at the C7’s introduction in Detroit on 1-13-13.  A thousand bucks to be a part of the media introduction gives rise to all kinds of price possibilities.   Whatever, the prospects are more than enticing for both Barrett-Jackson and Chevrolet . 

              So I am asking you, “How much would you pay for the first C7 ever offered for sale to the public?”    And if you’re a little short this month and can’t quite swing it then, “ How much do you think someone else would be willing to pay?”  With all the hype and enthusiasm around the new Corvette’s introduction it is an interesting point to ponder.  Even Vegas could get in on the act and offer odds.  Maybe it’s not worth laying awake at night over, unless you have just checked your investment position, clipped a few coupons, liquidated a few stocks and transferred some money between accounts.  But my guess is something is being put together right now between Chevrolet and Barrett-Jackson, something that will top last year’s “427 Convertible”.  Something BIG – Barrett-Jackson only does things BIG in the collector world – and it doesn’t get any bigger than auctioning off a low production number C7 to be built.  I may be wrong on this, not likely, and you will have the opportunity to find out this coming January 19th, in the iconic quarter mile tent located in Scottsdale, Arizona.  I can’t be in Detroit on the 13th, but you can bet I’m going to be at Barrett-Jackson on Saturday, January 19, 2013, to find out.

Jalopnik's concept of what the C7 will look like

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Fixed Roof Coupe

The Hardtop for Hardcores
Introduction by Rick Tavel © Do not use without permission

Several weeks ago Hib Halverson shared an interesting story with me concerning the birth of the C5 Corvette and more specifically the FRC which I believe most Corvette enthusiasts would find interesting.  I asked Rob at The Corvette Action Center to resurrect Hib’s article so all FRC enthusiasts could enjoy it. Few of us have the insight and the access to the inner workings of GM like Mr. Halverson who was there, reporting on the FRC developmental events as they happened back in 1997-98. In some ways it was much like the debates and discussions surrounding the styling and performance capabilities of the new C7.   There was a great deal of speculation and heated debates about just what the FRC would be.  There were two camps among the enthusiasts and also within GM who each held their own very specific ideas of what the FRC would be and what its purpose would be. Marketing very clearly wanted a decontented, lower price Corvette that would help boost sales based on its lower price. Engineering disagreed and wanted the FRC to be a performance model that would take advantage of the new model’s lighter weight and stiffer chassis.  Leading that group, the group that wanted to build a street legal competition car, was Dave Hill, then chief engineer. The opposing camp was led by Brand Manager Dick Almond, who saw a stripped down, lower priced, Corvette as a way to capture those buyers who lusted for but couldn’t afford the ever rising price of America’s only real sports car.  Both sides had valid points to make.

It is interesting to read Hib’s account of not only what actually happened in the debate inside GM but also how the outcome affected the actual FRC that made it into production and how the car was marketed.  One of the most exciting aspects of Hib’s story is the short time frame in which this transpired -from the time the debate came to a head and the ensuing changes to the car that were nedessary in time to meet the introduction deadline. Those of you who have read "All Corvettes Are Red" have a pretty good idea of what it takes to get a model into production and the timing required to make it happen. The incredible "about face" that occurred in the time frame of less than six months is almost inconceivable and unheard of in the automotive industry. From Chevrolet's bungled release of the preliminary Dealer Order Guide in late April - early May, which showed the FRC as the decontented, base model advocated by Almond and the marketing people, compared to the actual model released in the fall which was Dave Hill's performance car, not the opening price point model that was detailed in the Dealer Order Guide. This is just one of the interesting and unique events that marked the birth of the FRC. And so it was in the case of the FRC.  In less than six months the FRC that the dealers and marketing department thought they were getting was completely transformed to Hill’s performance, lightweight Fixed Roof Coupe, the predecessor to the renowned C5 Z06.

 While doing some research for the FRC registry which I am working on, Mr. Halverson contacted me with some information that I had not uncovered regarding how the FRC had actually evolved deep inside of GM. He shared with me his story from the perspective of a journalist that was actually there documenting the launch of a new model C5 Corvette and the ensuing FRC a few years later.  Some of you may have read some of his articles about the Corvette over the past years.  He has written for all of the major automobile publications.  If you haven't it would be worth digging back through "VETTE" magazine's archives to read some of Hib's accounts of Corvette development.  Over the years Hib has been not only a supporter of the Corvette but an objective journalist who has honestly and fairly evaluated both the car and the company that makes it.

He is known as one of the most knowledgeable journalists on the Corvette (his background as an automotive service technician gives him a thorough working knowledge of what he writes about and enables him to ask the questions that many other journalists do not fully understand). He is also known as one of the more “controversial” automotive journalists for "pulling no punches" and ferreting out the real story. He recently wrote an article about his experience of building his own Corvette 427 engine in the GM Engine Build Experience program at the General Motors Performance Build Center in Wixom, Michigan. This experience was offered as an option for buyers of Z06, ZR1 and select GS models and he takes you through his personal experience and each step of building the 427 for his Corvette.  (You can read about his experience at the Corvette Action Center ). So now that I've shared a bit about his background go to the link below and let Hib tell the story he shared with me a while ago. As GM gets ready to introduce the new C7 read for yourself about the introduction of the new C5 model over sixteen years ago.  Hib's article was originally published  in the 1998 issue of Vette Magazine.  Read about the initial road tests and first impressions, and understand why the Fixed Roof Coupe (known then as the “hardtop) became known as the Hardtop for Hardcores.