The Essential Corvette Lover’s Library
I have this theory that a Corvette fan’s favorite cereal is Post’s Alpha-Bits. Where did that conclusion come from? Gee, could it be Z06, L88, and P48? Those are just a few of the popular codes that have been a part of Corvette folklore since 1953. Some of those codes have disappeared over time, while others have been revived to harken back to the Corvette’s peak in another era. However, isn’t today the Corvette’s peak? At least in my opinion, those old monsters with 12:1 compression and no heaters really can’t compare to any of the late-model offerings with their new-fangled computers except, perhaps, with styling.
So do you have a favorite year that moves you? Is there an option that presses your button? Two stalwarts of the hobby have their own self-produced books that should tell you all you need to know about your favorite year (and then some). All together, they are a great way to avoid ending up being one of those guys at a car show telling his girlfriend about a Corvette, while those of us overhearing think, “That guy is full of it!”
“Since 1978, the genuine . . . “ proclaims the cover of the 2011 edition of Mike Antonick’s Corvette Black Book. And if you think back to 1978 – even if you may not remember those moments – people were paying WAY over sticker for a brand-new Corvette Indy Pace Car. As it turned out, 6,502 were built with engines ranging from 175 to 220 horsepower. There were an additional 15,283 Silver Anniversary editions, which was the most common configuration that year. The base price for a Corvette that year was $9351.89, and the rarest option was NA6 High Altitude Emissions Equipment with 260 built.
So maybe you’re thinking, “So what? Corvettes from 1978 are stones,” but what if you could have detailed information for each model year? You can get that and more in the Corvette Black Book. It is “intended to help you understand and enjoy Corvettes… by presenting useful and interesting data in a readily accessible format.” The intro continues to explain that the book is updated several times a year (although published once) based on Chevrolet records, documents, and personnel, then soliciting critiques from acknowledged Corvette experts. Even people like you and me have contributed by emailing the author to highlight a possible error or omission. It’s a process that has been refined over the years and will continue to be refined, giving you a book that other cars or brands wish they had.
If you like numbers, The Corvette Black Book should be your bag.
Each year’s chapter has the above organized in neat fashion, plus the following sections:
- Numbers – You’ll find VIN numbers from the first Corvette to the last in a respective model year’s sequence. Within that, you’ll discover that different plants have different sequences – remember, not all Corvettes were built in Bowling Green. And don’t forget that late-model Corvettes have more than one model to choose from, so they’ll have different VIN too. Suffix codes for motors are helpful (especially for the BBC crowd), and you can dig up block, head, carburetor, distributor, and alternator numbers. All these things will help you authenticate the correctness, if not originality, of a Corvette.
- Facts – Here are the details that make each year unique. For example, did you know 1962 was the first year since 1956 that 2×4 carburetion was not available? Or that 84 ZR-1 Corvettes were built in 1989 for evaluation and press fleets, yet they were not released to the public?
- Options – What options were available? Not everything was available in the beginning of the model year. Likewise, not everything announced at the beginning ended up in production. Here you’ll find what really was, how many were made, what their option codes were, and how much they cost.
- Colors – For most years, you can find out how many were built in a particular color. You may not be able to find out how many black Corvettes came with a red “Stinger” in 1967, but you will be able to discover how many Atomic Orange cars were built as coupes, convertibles, Z06s, and ZR1s for 2009.
All the above are compiled on two pages per model year, making it a quick and handy resource. While that’s the meat and potatoes of the book, you’ll also find a historical chronology and photos of each year with pertinent measurements.
If you don’t know who Mike Yager is, perhaps you know his company: Mid America Motorworks. Starting out as Mid America Enterprises in 1976, Yager went from an enthusiastic Illinois tool-and-dye maker selling Corvette merchandise to the owner of a company that offers parts, accessories, and lifestyle items for the Corvette enthusiast. The past 35 years have given Yager intimate knowledge of the brand and the market, which is the niche this book has carved. If you want a coffee table book on Vettes, look elsewhere as this book has a different take, though it makes an engaging read in its own right.
Each chapter covers a year, from 1953 to 2010, with Yager’s musings on model year changes, subjective opinions on those changes, and the usual facts that you’d expect in a book of this type. But there’s more than just Yager’s opinion:
- Facts – Certainly knowing the VIN for a respective year is important. He also lists the available engines, vital stats like price and measurements, and some “cool stuff” such as “1958 was the last year for the ‘cumulative’ tachometer.”
- Rating Graphs – Mike created this “to accommodate [the] broad range of typical circumstances that just about anyone can identify.” A certain specimen will fall into a category like BASKET CASE, AVERAGE DRIVER, or RARE/UNIQUE/ORIGINAL. Each of those has sub-categories that help you define your circumstances with a respective car, such as whether the Corvette has its original motor. Using this graph, Mike’s able to make suggestions such as COLLECT IT, DRIVE/SHOW/ENJOY IT, RACE/AUTOCROSS COMPETITIVELY, STORE FOR FUTURE PROJECT/INVESTMENT, CANDIDATE FOR RESTO ROD, OR RESTORE TO CURB APPRECIATION APPEAL. As you can imagine, each model year has different recommendations; Mike wouldn’t dare suggest a ’53 Vette to be a good candidate for autocrossing.
- “Mike Yager Says:” – This is a valuable collection of his observations based on his Corvette experience. There are CHEERS, JEERS, and GAME PLAN categories where Mike fills you in on what he thinks are the good and bad of a respective year plus his recommendation on what is the best car to buy. For example, for 1979 he says, “Look for the most original and untouched example you can find,” presumably because he wants you to maximize your collector value for a model year that tends to be less collectible than others.
Among the above, you’ll see photos of nice examples of each year’s Corvette. And as Yager has become a leading authority and successful business man, it’s only natural that he has collected some of the most interesting versions in the world.
If you want to learn all about the Corvette, both Mike Yagers’s Corvette Bible and The Corvette Black Book give you unique takes on this automotive icon that, when used together, will equip you with the knowledge you need when checking out potential candidates for addition to your personal collection.