This was originally posted on Craigslist. As you can imagine, it garnered a lot of responses from folks.
2003 Chevy Corvette Z06, 104k miles, asking $14,000
Are you a dumbass? Does the prospect of fixing pre-bankruptcy GM crap excite you to no end? We both know the answer to both questions, and that’s “yes.” Otherwise, you wouldn’t be looking at this piece of shit C5 Corvette Z06 when you can find so many other perfectly working C5Zs for decent money. You’re thinking to yourself that you can fix all of the problems that this Corvette has for cheap and have yourself a turn-of-the-century plastic fantastic supercar for less than $16k all-in for the buy-in and repair.
If you’re smart, turn around and go find another Corvette to buy instead of this shitbox.
But you’re not. So let’s get down to the brass tacks.
History of the car
The car served the majority of its life as the daily driver of some woman down in Ohio. From there, it passed to a fellow autocrosser in Kentucky who prepared the car for SCCA competition in A Street, adding the Konis, front sway bar, and a trailer hitch. Then it passed into my hands, where I proceeded to continue beating the shit out of the car at autocross events and the occasional track day event.
So if you’re looking for a pristine driver, or a car that can be rescued into a pristine driver, this car isn’t it. The metal front protective radiator guards are gacked, the front rubber air dam bits are held on with zip ties, and there are two cracks in the front bumper from whacking pylons at speeds up to 65mph.
Ideally, this car would continue life as an autocross car, track day beater, or dedicated wheel-to-wheel race car. But if you’re a glutton for punishment, you can try to fix all the issues the car currently has and make it into a nice 15-footer for the street.
Things done to the car
Boy howdy, are there lots of problems with this car. When I go online to Google fixes for this car, what boggles my mind is how numerous and widespread the issues are, and most incredulously, the sheer acceptance of all these issues plaguing Corvettes reminds me of how Audi fanboys insist that their cars are reliable even while the interiors of their cars are lit by the warm glow of check engine lights.
Let’s first run down the list of things I’ve done to the car.
- Replaced the hazard light switch buried in the dash. As it turns out, asking a car to have working turn signals past the 100k mile mark is too much to ask for in a car built in this millennium.
- Replaced the front passenger DRL/turn signal socket so I could signal right turns.
- Removed the HVAC control unit in order to resolder the circuit boards and replace bulbs so I can actually read what temperature the climate control is set at. Another common issue with these cars.
- Replaced the radio with an aftermarket unit that also has bluetooth.
- The “hose clamp on the rotary seat back locks” trick in an effort to keep the seat from flopping back. It works most of the time, but still sometimes flops back during autocross or track driving.
- Replaced the passenger rear wheel bearing. I have a new spare front and a new spare rear hub that comes with the car.
- Oil catch can for the engine.
- Two oil changes with Redline synthetic motor oil.
- Added trailer wiring. The previous owner added a hitch for towing a tire trailer but didn’t, for some reason, add trailer wiring?
- New Continental DW tires on the wheels. Wheels are replica chromies and are pitted like hell, but they look okay from 20 feet away, and for fuck’s sake, you’ve got a new set of Corvette tires.
Things that were previously done to the car that I don’t have any paperwork for:
- Head was serviced by no one other than Danny Popp. Car was also corner balanced, if you give a shit.
- Car has single adjustable Koni Yellows on all four corners. One of them was installed with the adjustment window facing the wrong way, so you can’t adjust rebound while the car’s on the ground. You can easily flip it around, if you give a shit.
- Car has a hitch. Apparently, nothing brings out cell phone cameras faster than a Corvette towing a trailer full of crap. You’ll be the talk of the gas station towing tires or a motorbike with this thing.
- Dark tint that was probably okay in Kentucky that is now liable to get you pulled over in Michgian.
- Corsa cat-back exhaust was installed, though it is currently uninstalling itself as pieces drop off the car. I do have a stock OEM C5Z exhaust that goes with the car that you can install so you can have, you know, matching mufflers in the back.
- Car has a front sway bar, aka “Stranobar,” from Sam Strano of Stranoparts. Sam Strano of Stranoparts has Stranobars, say I as I strain to make Sam Strano of Stranoparts and his Stranobars into a tongue twister and fail horribly. This one is probably the smaller of the sway bars he offers.
Everything that is wrong with the car so far
I have learned very quickly that these cars don’t age well. Here’s what’s wrong so far that I know of. I’m sure that whomever buys this car will have something else fail immediately on the drive back home.
- Car leaks water like a motherfucker. Apparently, it’s a common issue that plagues many C5 FRCs, of which the C5 Z06 is an example. The solution is to remove a bunch of trim and seals, and attack the seams with a tube of silicon caulk. And here I was assuming that a watertight cabin was a fundamental engineering requirement for building a car. Stupid me. Passenger foot well accumulates water much faster than the driver side foot well.
- Squeal coming from the engine bay. I think it might be the belt tensioners, but if it’s not, I’ve got a crank pulley and crank bolt that can go on the car. Crank pullies are advanced technology, you see, which is why it’s a weak point and all C5 Corvettes eventually need theirs replaced. Fuckin’ hell.
- Noise coming from the driveline. I suspect it’s coming from the torque tube. A good torque tube is included with the car — have fun swapping that in, either as-is or, if you’re smart, rebuilding it before you put it in. And if your luck is shit and it’s not the torque tube, it’s probably the diff. Have fun!
- Passenger side power window no longer goes up and down. Fortunately, it’s stuck in the up position, so it can provide some protection against the rain until the weather overwhelms the seams on the right side of the roof, trickles water down the A-pillar, and into the passenger foot well.
Good stuff about the car
Ah yes, the only reason why the car has stuck around in my garage for so long: it’s one of the best driving cars I have ever driven.
The car, being set up as an autocross car, is perfectly neutral and eminently catchable. I have never spun this car on an autocross course or on the track, and this is coming from someone who is well known in autocross circles for being able to spin a Miata multiple times in a single autocross run. There is plenty of grip, and the car is set up to rotate easily (read: it’s loose), which makes this car a fucking hoot and a boot to drive. The steering, while slow, is weighty and communicative, and there’s nothing like the throttle response from a naturally aspirated V8.
It’s too bad the driver seat is crap and that the car cooks its engine oil after 15 minutes on a road course, but that can be solved easily with a race bucket and oil cooler if you’re willing to take this car in that direction.
And when you’re done releasing your inner child with some fast driving on a closed course — because we’re civilized adults, dammit — the car is perfectly comfortable for cruising back home. The air conditioning blows cold and the heat blows hot. At highway cruise, the car gets about 28 miles per gallon. When towing a tire trailer loaded with 300 pounds of junk, the car gets 20 miles per gallon on the highway.
So I won’t blame you if you decide to fix this car and try to use it as a regular street car, because the car is a lot of fun to drive. Even as I’m ranting about everything that’s fucked on this car, there’s a small voice inside me that whispers that the car doesn’t need a lot of work to be awesome, and that I shouldn’t sell my 400 horsepower Fisher Price plastic toy.
All you really need to do is spend a couple of weekends putting on all of the parts that come with the car. As my time is currently being taken up by a ’66 Mustang and a ’67 Morgan, I simply don’t have time to do anything to this car, so it sits, forlorn, waiting for its Prince Charming to come rescue it.
I’m asking $14,000. Yes, the car is cheap. Did you just read all of the above? It’s cheap for a reason.
I’m willing to entertain offers in person. Don’t go trying to negotiate over the phone, text, or email. I want you to look me in the eye when you make an offer, so you can see me cringe or flat out laugh. But do make offers, because I want this car gone from my sight.
Once again, if you’re smart, you’ll have read all of this and decided that you should go look at a different car. That’s good. Get lost and continue making good decisions in your life.
For the rest of you, I’ll be waiting to hear from you.
Postscript – Added January 30th, 2023
The story doesn’t end with the ad, however. The person I ended up selling the car to was a friend of mine, Kevin.
I originally didn’t want to sell him the Corvette. “This feels like passing along an ex-girlfriend,” I told him.
“I read the ad. If anything goes wrong, I only have myself to blame,” he replied.
Fair enough. I sold him the car for the friends-are-suckers price of 11 grand. Kevin went ahead and added all of the caulk to make the cabin watertight.
And then the transmission had to be replaced as it was failing. He and Jason spent the better part of a month doing this work in a garage on jack stands. Oof.
Kevin ran the car in National competition for just over a year, and then was done with it. During that time, he called the car the Li-06. He told me later that he didn’t regret owning the car, but it was an ownership experience he only needed to have once.
After Kevin had his fun, the car made its way to another owner, one Devin whom I’d meet at local events in Michigan and Illinois and later on the National circuit. He had a whole bunch of drivers run the car with him, nicknaming the car the Whore-vette. I’d still see the car on a regular basis, and it was well known that this was the shitty Corvette that I had somehow dumped on respectable members of the SCCA Solo community.
Then the engine in the car blew up because of a mistake I made in installing the oil catch can during my ownership. Oops.
Devin replaced the motor, then sold the car to another driver who contacted me on Facebook Messenger that he had my car. He asked if it was possible to put the original stereo head unit into the dash. (The answer is no, because I cut the center dash mounting bracket to install the aftermarket head unit.) At that point, it was a few years since the car was mine; I politely reminded him that the statute of limitations applies to project cars, and I had nothing left to offer him in terms of advice.
Thankfully, I haven’t seen the car since.