Introducing the LT-1
BY: Bob Kroupa of Vette-N-Vestments
The 1970 Corvette was unique in many factors. It was a somewhat limited-production Corvette due to a labor strike at the manufacturing plant during 1969, thus the introduction of the 1970 model was delayed. The 1970 Corvette did not reach dealer showrooms until February of 1970, thus production was the lowest since 1962. A total of 17,316 Corvettes were manufactured with 10,668 T-tops and 6,648 Roadsters. The late introduction did not hamper any changes that were programmed for the 1970 Corvette.
The 1970 Corvette body and interior changes can be classified as fine-tuning; however, they were also functional. Conservative fender flares were added to prevent stone chips to the lower body - a common complaint of the 1968 and 1969 model owners. A new square, egg grate design grill was added, larger side marker lights were introduced, front fender vents were changed to a checkered design, and the dual exhaust outlets were changed from round to rectangular. A new deluxe interior package was also introduced and included leather seats, wood trim and special carpet. The shoulder belts received inertia storage reels that provided a cleaner look as well as a degree of functionality. The seats in the 1970 Corvette were reshaped to provide improved lateral support, as well as being lowered one inch to provide additional head clearance.
Standard equipment included a first for the Corvette, a 4-speed transmission or an automatic transmission was included as standard equipment. Also added as standard equipment were tinted glass and positraction.
The big news was the introduction of two new motors, the 454 and the LT-1. The 454 replaced the 427 motor, and was available at an option price of $289. Approximately 25% of the purchasers selected this option. Today, the 1970 454 motor option commands an additional $2,500 on the price of the Corvette.
The real "sleeper" was a new solid lifter small block that developed 370 horsepower and was designated the LT-1. Only 7% selected this option at a price of $448. Today, the LT-1 motor option adds $5,000 to the value of the 1970 Corvette. Not a bad choice!
The 350/350 motor, also an option, was a carryover from the 1969 model year. It remained a popular option with 4900 units sold at $158. Today, the 350/350 motor will add $1,000 to the 1970 models. The base motor, the 350/350, was ordered by 39% of the buyers.
The 1970 Corvette T-top was introduced at a base price of $5,192. As with virtually all early model Corvettes, a modest depreciation took place during the years following introduction. After the leveling off period, the appreciation spiral started. We looked back to 1985, when the average price of a 1970 T-top was $8,000 and reflected an 11% appreciation factor. During the same period, the low price was $5,000 and the high price was $14,000.
Today, the average price of the 1970 T-top is $16,100 with an appreciation factor of 6% when compared to the average price of one year ago. The low price today is $8,500. The high price was $39,000, which went to a restored T-Top with the LT-1 motor option and Bloomington Gold and NCRS Top Flight Documentation.
The 1970 Roadster had a base price of $4,849. This was approximately $400 over the pricing of the 1969 model. Looking back to 1985, the Roadster had an average price of $8,200, which was only $200 more than the T-top. The low price was $4,000, while the high price was $17,000. The appreciation factor was 9%, which was 2% less than the T-top. Through the late '80s, the price spread between the T-top and Roadster was $1,000, with the Roadster commanding the top dollar.
Today's pricing continues to reflect the popularity of the Roadster, not to mention the fact that 4000 fewer were built. Our database shows an average price of $19,500 with an appreciation factor of 7% over last year's average price. The low price was $14,000 for a base motor Roadster on the downside of average condition. High price honors went to a LT-1 Roadster at the Mecum Chicago Auction last November. It had NCRS Top Flight documentation and sold for $41,500.
In the rare-option department was the introduction of a special high-performance package... the ZR-1. It consisted of the LT-1 motor, heavy-duty 4-speed close ratio transmission, heavy-duty power brakes, transistor ignition, special aluminum radiator, special springs, shocks, and front and rear stabilizer bars. Only 25 of the ZR-1 packages were built. At the Bloomington Gold auction last year, a 1970 T-top with the ZR-1 package sold for $39,000 which was a bargain considering only 25 were produced with this package.
We found the buyer profile in 1970 to be of interest. Corvette buyers in 1970 were 93% male. The majority were single - 56%. The median age was 27. Approximately one third had jobs which can be termed professional or managerial. The family size was 2.4 and the average income $15,500, with a new Corvette in 1970 costing about one third of that figure.
Today, the median age of the Corvette buyer is 48. It's still a predominantly male crowd; however, 18% are female, a number that has gradually been increasing. Today's buyers' statistics indicate that 59% are in managerial or professional positions. A change from the 1970 statistics indicates that 74% of the buyers are married. The median household income is $112,500. Currently the cost of a 2002 Coupe is at the same ratio to household income as that of the 1970 model, approximately one third.
The 1970 Corvette was advertised as "It's still a car that's built for the person who drives for the sheer excitement of it. For the driver who enjoys the true feel of the road!" And for those who have owned a 1970 model, you do experience the true feel of the road!
As we look into the future, the 1970 model is an excellent one to own. The later models in the series, 1971 and 1972, had lower compression ratios to permit the oil companies to introduce lower burning octane fuels. As stated earlier, the low production numbers add value to the 1970 Corvette. In addition, we - along with many others - predict this series will become the next wave of special interest Corvettes. Many individual cars in the series are undervalued, especially those with the 454 and LT-1 motor options. We look for continued appreciation for the T-top in the 5% range, with average prices approaching the upper teens. Roadster appreciation should continue in the 7% range, with the average prices approaching the $20,000 mark.
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