1965 Corvette 396/425 Convertible

Here’s the provenance:

  • Bloomington Gold Survivor Certification, June 28, 1997
  • Bloomington Gold Certification, June 29, 1997
  • Bloomington Gold Benchmark Certification, June 29, 1997
  • The coveted Benchmark Certification has been awarded to less than 100 Corvettes
  • The only Benchmark red/red big-block convertible
  • NCRS Top Flight award, October 25, 2008
  • Original engine and transmission
  • Matching-numbers 396/425 HP
  • Matching-numbers 4-speed
  • Original Protect-O-Plate
  • Complete ownership history with current contact info
  • Pictures of the car when new
  • Original Rally Red paint
  • Original red interior
  • Auxiliary hard top
  • AM/FM radio
  • 43,985 miles

Assembled on July 24, 1965 MSRP as built: $5,161.50

analysis}This Corvette, Lot S65, sold for $199,280, including buyer’s premium, at Mecum’s Kansas City Auction on March 12, 2011. If you missed watching this 1965 red/red Corvette cross the block during the—“Nobody sells more muscle than Mecum”—Kansas City auction, there’s no way of knowing if it will be years or decades before it is offered for sale again. Although the car was declared a no sale at $195k when it crossed the reserve auction block, just 30 minutes later it was shown as a post-block sale. This is the type of “collector’s Corvette” that attracts serious buyers who keep their cars, not “flippers” just looking for a quick profit.

Why is this car a rare sight?

This is an original, unrestored red/red, hard top only, big-block, 4-speed, 40,000-mile convertible. It is now and will ultimately be the single point of reference for 396-ci Corvettes. There is a simple reason for the significant premium paid for this ‘65 over a body off/frame off restoration—cars are only original once and this is the best of the best. As we are fond of saying: How many have you seen, let alone for sale? This is the finest example of an original 1965 396/425 convertible in existence. The 425 horsepower Turbo-Jet shows less than 44,000 actual miles—that’s less than three miles a day in 46 years. The red exterior paint is totally original from the day it was sprayed—except for a small issue on the right front fender. The red vinyl interior is all original.

The engine, transmission, suspension and chassis are all original. It has received the most prestigious Corvette awards in the world: NCRS Top Flight, Bloomington Gold, Benchmark and Survivor. The original warranty book and Protect-O-Plate are still with the car, along with significant other paperwork, a documentable chain of title and ownership.

Many of the engine parts are exclusive to this L78 396 and are made of unobtainium. Two examples are the original, correctly dated and part-numbered carburetor and starter motor. The current price of these two items combined could easily approach the original selling price of the entire car when new.

This is an investment-quality car that will always be sought after by Corvette and auto enthusiasts, regardless of marque interest.

This car was offered for sale in the NCRS Driveline magazine during the early 1990s as an original car. I believe it was being offered for $50,000, and there were no takers.

At the time, both NCRS and Bloomington did not recognize or honor original or unrestored cars. When they finally did, the ’65 owner who placed the ad—a Gulfstream pilot in Texas for Continental Oil—sold the car. Other owners have been very serious and nationally known collectors in Nevada and Texas.

Scarcity and unique features

A total of 15,226 1965 Corvettes were convertibles, and only 1,409 of that number were 396/425 cars.

The 1965 Corvette was the turning point of the mid-years. It was the last year for Rochester mechanical fuel injection—which was installed in the 327/375 cars. It was the first year for 4-wheel disc brakes, the power bulge hood associated with big-block engines, and it was the first—and only—year to offer the 396/425 big-block.

The 1965 model year also saw a configuration change in the convertible top-bow, retractable seat belts and a tire size increase from 6.70s to 7.75s. It was also the first year of other options, such as side-mounted exhaust pipes, teak steering wheels and wire mesh braided plug wires on radio-equipped 396s. It was also the first year that a power radio antenna became standard equipment.

This car is one of less than 100 Corvettes to win Bloomington Gold Benchmark Certification, and its stunning originality makes it a time capsule in American automotive history. That, combined with its outstanding condition and rarity, is why this car brought almost $200,000 in Kansas City this year. As such, this Corvette was fairly priced for both seller and buyer.{/analysis}