- Frame-off restoration
- Original LS5 454cid V8
- Muncie M20 4-speed manual
- 10-bolt rear / 3.08 gears
- Factory air conditioning
- Manual steering
- Power four-wheel disc brakes
- NCRS historical paperwork
By now, you've probably memorized most of the Corvette story. From Zora Arkus-Duntov to the Mako Shark to the bailout years, each of the six generations has its own key moments and cast of characters. At this point, the third generation of Corvette accounts for the middle section of that story and, looking back, is a remarkably appropriate car to hold that place. With visible nods to both the car's heritage and future, examples like this 1972 coupe are finding a firmer footing in the collector market that will inevitably grow stronger as time goes on. The subject of complete restoration, this numbers matching LS5-powered C3 features options like a four-speed manual transmission and factory air conditioning that make it both fun to drive and surprisingly comfortable. There is never a bad time to buy a good Corvette, so if you're thinking about adding a C3 to your collection, don't miss out on this one.
GM made distinguishing the LS5 cars a pretty simple task. All you have to do is take a look at the VIN.
37: Two-door coupe
S: Assembled at Chevrolet's St. Louis factory
551632: Production sequence number
As confirmed by a letter from NCRS Historic Document Services, this Corvette rolled off the line on January 18th, 1972. The engine had a seven-day wait after being assembled but the body was hot off the press. Peak at the driver side A-pillar and you'll find a trim tag dated January 17th – just one day before final assembly. These tags don't reveal a lot on C3 Corvettes but they do specify that this car showed up to A&C Chevrolet in Ft. Montgomery, NY dressed just as it is today – Code 946 Elkhart Green paint on the outside with a code 417 Dark Saddle interior. Fully restored in the early 1990s, the car presents well but has that authentic feel that can only be created by time. The paintwork is free of noteworthy issues and its richness and depth are both testaments to a quality restoration. Panel gaps are done to factory standards and the panels fit together exactly the way a brand new 1972 Corvette would have if you bought it off the showroom floor.
The 1972 model year was the final round for the slender chrome bumpers - a look many Corvette fans prefer to the heavier plastic-clad bodies that followed. Below that front bumper, “egg crate” grilles introduce a shape repeated on the sides of the front fenders. In the middle, a bulged hood features “454” badging before drawing the eye back towards the raked windshield which is framed with showroom quality stainless. Above, the body-matched removable tops fit well and do a great job at keeping the elements out. Follow the wide tapered C-pillars back and you'll find a chrome luggage rack atop the decklid, adding a little extra chrome to the package. At the rear, signature round taillights with integrated reverse lights frame a “Corvette” badge just above the license plate frame. Split bumpers define the lower portion of the car with square exhaust tips jutting out of cut outs in the rear valence. From chrome to stainless to glass, every piece reflects the overall quality of the car.
Car and Driver magazine called earlier big-block C3's “extraordinarily fast and marginally civilized”. They could have just as easily been talking about the '72 model. Lift the hood forward and you'll find the original LS5 454 V8 still producing its signature wall of torque – 455lb ft according to the console plate. The block itself wears a 3999289 casting number, and timely December 13th casting date. Coupled with the January 10th assembly date, CSR suffix code and matching partial VIN, there are no questions about the authenticity of this engine's core. The block, intake, heads and valve covers wear a traditional coat of Chevy orange while a chrome-lidded dual snorkel air cleaner cover conceals the Carter four-barrel carburetor. At the front, a Frigidaire compressor provides cool air to the cabin while an OEM style radiator and fan provides a similar service for the engine bay. From the chrome distributor shield to the GM-branded hoses, the bay has an authentic look sure to please most Corvette enthusiasts. Best of all, the car starts without hesitation and sounds great through an OEM-style dual exhaust system.
Peer underneath the low-slung Stingray and you'll find a clean undercarriage with a solid coat of satin black. In the middle, a Muncie M20 offers the driver a little extra control over the big block. GM doesn't break down the exact numbers for coupes and convertibles but, in 1972, only 1638 Corvettes were equipped with four-speed manual transmissions making this car somewhat of a rarity. Power is sent to a 10-bolt differential packed with highway-friendly 3.08 gears. Around the drivetrain, the stock suspension remains in place with A-arms and coil springs up front while trailing arms, toe links and a transverse leaf spring keep the rear end planted. Steering is a manual effort but braking is power-assisted with disc brakes at all four corners. BF Goodrich Radial T/A's wrap around 15-inch Rallye wheels, connecting the chassis to the road in vintage style.
Slip into the restored code 417 Dark Saddle interior and settle into one of those leather bucket seats. With some age on the restoration, the leather now has a comfortable broken-in look to it that a brand new build simply can't recreate. The materials and patterns are all as original, with the stainless inserts in the headrests. The carpets were replaced, even in the cargo area, where you'll also find a fresh battery nestled into its compartment behind the driver's seat. The center console makes room for the shifter, which sits behind the cool wheel-style HVAC controls. Above, an updated Pioneer AM/FM/cassette stereo adds a modern touch to the dash without breaking up the classic look. From the driver seat, an aluminum three-spoke steering wheel connects the driver to the chassis while a set of factory gauges keep tabs on speed, revs, oil pressure, alternator output, temperature, fuel and even time thanks to a factory clock. It's a simple, comfortable place for driver and passenger, and one befitting a performance oriented car like the Corvette.
Documentation includes an original owner's manual as well as an owner and title history so you know the car's full story. That story is validated by the aforementioned paperwork from the NCRS Historical Document Service as well as build photos and receipts from the restoration.
As C3 values continue to grow, this is the kind of paperwork you want behind your investment.
With a strong color combination, a numbers matching big block and enough creature comforts to keep passengers happy, this C3 is both a fun car to own and a great example of its generation. Regardless if you're a seasoned Corvette owner or a potential first-timer, don't miss the chance to put this Elkhart Green '72 coupe in your garage today!
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