Sale of the Week

Is this low-mile 2003 Corvette finally ready to be driven?

by Stefan Lombard
12 May 2023 3 min read
Bring a Trailer / northsideimports

Chevrolet fought the good fight with its C4 Corvette for a dozen years before giving America’s sports car an overhaul. It was as complete as remakes get, and really the only thing that carried over to the new-for-’97 Corvette C5 was the badge.

The aluminum-block 346-cubic-inch LS1 V-8 was new. Putting its 350 ponies to the back wheels via rear transaxle was new. The hydro-formed space frame, the suspension, the interior, the exterior—all of it clean-sheet new. All the meaningful dimensions increased, too—the wheelbase by 10 inches, the width by 3 inches, the track by 4.4 and 2.9 inches front and rear—which led not only to a more sure-footed Corvette, but also to actual space for real human-sized feet in the footwells. The result was the most revolutionary sports car Chevy had ever built.

By the time production gave way to that of the C6 for 2004, the Bowling Green, Kentucky, plant had churned out nearly a quarter-million C5s. Including this 2003 coupe, our Sale of the Week, which rolled off the line October 14, 2002. Radiant in Millennium Yellow, it sold May 10 on Bring a Trailer, after 23 bids, for $30,500.

This Corvette was outfitted with a black leather interior, polished five-spoke wheels (17-inch front, 18-inch rear), a four-speed automatic transmission, a limited-slip differential, Magnetic Select Ride Control active damping, removable glass and body-color roof panels, and a Bose sound system.

2003 Chevrolet Corvette low mile yellow dash gauges
Bring a Trailer / northsideimports

None of that exactly makes it a unicorn, but there are several interesting tidbits to consider about this Corvette. For starters, the mileage. The odometer shows just 812 miles, with the dealer-seller adding 20 of those and stating that the original owner only drove the car regularly to cars and coffee on the weekends (a 10-mile round trip) and to a few other car shows. It never knew a raindrop and spent the majority of its days in a climate-controlled garage in Texas. “He was all show and no drive,” the seller said in the BaT comments.

There’s also that color. Millennium Yellow found its way onto 3900 Corvettes in 2003, including 1041 coupes just like this one. It’s not the rarest color (that would be Speedway White), but it does bring a small premium in the market—a premium that will likely exist no matter how many miles get put on this car.

2003 Chevrolet Corvette low mile yellow front wheel tire
Bring a Trailer / northsideimports

Which brings us to the Corvette’s custom engine control unit (ECU) tune and an aftermarket exhaust that includes tubular headers, high-flow catalytic converters, a crossover pipe, and a cat-back system. A cold-start video provided to curious parties confirmed the car’s meaty resonance, while a recent dyno printout confirmed output at the wheels at 324 hp and torque at 355 lb-ft. The car was made to sound better and go better than stock, but who are we to judge an owner for upgrading the performance of a car when they had little intention of driving it?

Hagerty quote data tells us that C5 owners skew boomer, and the majority drive their cars an average of 1823 miles per year, which, 20-ish years on, theoretically makes many of them 36,000-mile cars. In that respect, sure, there is something special about this example. But special enough to keep it that way?

This is no precious Corvette; it is no double-digit, plastic-on-the-seats “wrapper car.” Certainly it would have benefited from such treatment, as the large, unfortunate stain on the passenger seat front bolster attests. As it sits, then, this Corvette presents the buyer with a serious question: Drive it or park it?

2003 Chevrolet Corvette low mile yellow engine
Bring a Trailer / northsideimports

The $30,500 price paid puts this C5 smack-dab in the middle of the range occupied by condition #1 (Concours) and condition #2 (Excellent) examples, which happens to be about the same realm as a #2 50th Anniversary edition or a #3 (Good) Z06 of the same vintage. But it is neither of those cars. It’s regular coupe with an automatic, which generally accounts for a 10 percent hit in the market.

Even adding ten times the current mileage, with proper care the new owner could still keep this car in excellent condition. As clean C5s have seen some upward movement in the market in the last couple years, it’s reasonable to think the owner might even recoup the investment a few thousand glorious miles down the road.

Cold-start idle videos are great and everything, but there’s a song to be heard from that LS1 and its sporty pipes. A careful strategy to drive and enjoy this Corvette could wring out every delightful note.

2003 Chevrolet Corvette low mile yellow front three quarter
Bring a Trailer / northsideimports


  • Brad Morrill says:

    Drive it! GM made a ton of these. It’s not a rare collector. This car is like finding a “new original stock” part. If this is your style/era Corvette, buy it and drive it, in my opinion. I’ve owned two C5’s: a 2002 and a 2004 Z06. I thought I wanted a garage queen when I bought the ’02. Too many defects on that one once I got it home and I was dissatisfied. Sold it two years later and bought a museum piece in the ’04 Z06. Awesome car and the one I should have bought originally. However, after two years of having it sit in the garage and rarely driving it on sunny days only (in MI), I was dissatisfied that I wasn’t geting enough driving enjoyment out of it. Got figured out that what I really wanted was to enjoy a daily driver Vette instead. Sold the ’04 to a collector where it belongs. Long story short, I’m a fan of finding a car like this one that someone else has babied and then enjoying the heck out of it like you bought it off the showroom floor yourself 20+ years ago. What a riot!

  • Jody Fitzmaurice says:

    I’ve had two C5’s a C6, and a C7. I’ve put over 420,000 miles on all of them combined and I drove them like I stole them everyday. Fantastic cars, I’m sorry I missed out on this one.

  • Paul Ipolito says:

    Drive it, drive it again, and then, drive it some more.

  • hyperv6 says:

    Having just navigated the C5 market here is what I have found.

    Low miles do not often make for a good deal. I saw a number of low mile cars that were just parked and had things piled on them and not driven.

    One local car 9K miles on a 2002. It had paint damage cracked leather, needed new tires and that does not account of things that may happen because of the old gas and the lack of running.

    Low mile cars are often as bad or even worse than high mile cars as they are often maintained.

    The sweet spot is 25K to 50K ,miles as they were driven enough to have been maintained. Most will have new tires and maybe even like a new roof like the one I found. The seats will be cared for and few cracks.

    The car here is an accretion but $30K is a stiff price for a copupe you could buy with 26K miles for $19K.

    The C5 is a great over looked performance buy. It is a major jump over the C3 and C4 and really is the same under the skin as the C6-7 just with less power. These cars are easy to add power due to the LS1.

    The are stiff lighter than the later cars too. There are a number of good examples out there and you can find a car that needs little for a great price.

    No there are no COPO cars and only some special editions or tuner cars. This is about having a great car to drive.

    The prices are up about $5K from 5 years ago. The Z06 in good shape will command about $10K more. It is the collectors car as fewer were made and even fewer are unmolested.

    The market is just waking up here and these will be another $5K higher soon.

    No it is not the next Cobra but it is a car you will not lose money on as it has already bottomed out.

    • Jody Fitzmaurice says:

      Great insight. Although I’m tempted by this car, logic has to take over and it all leads down your path.

  • Tim W says:

    I agree Jody, drive those Chevies like you stole ’em!! Drive them hard and take care of them. Make Zora proud!!

    • Jody Fitzmaurice says:

      One of my C5’s was a CE Z06. What a beast! I had so much fun in that car it should be illegal. (probably is in many states) I believe her build number was 1628. Anyway, I put 100,000 miles on that car smiling all the way.

  • Gary Bechtold says:

    I do not understand why this car was purchased to basically sit and do nothing. It is not a special edition and mods were done. I guess the mods made it accelerate quicker to the sitting stage in the garage of it’s career. Looks nice but I would be cautious personally.

    • hyperv6 says:

      People often buy these late in life as a trophy for what they always wanted.

      Then health age and the fact other things get in the way and they stop driving and let it sit.

      In this case I suspect this was a car that was part of a collection. It appears cared for vs many that sit.

      This guy may have been driving a C7 or 8 or even a Ferrari.

      I have a friend that has a collection of exotics, he is not afraid to drive them but with the number of cars he has the miles just don’t roll up like if you only have one car.

      He has a Mira he is not afraid to drive that is telling of his intent to enjoy them all.

  • CAL KING says:

    My yellow 01 Z06 has been around since 2003 with me, 27k miles, probably a quarter on the road course on track days.
    I will buy another for my winter home. A ball to drive, virtually no maintenance aside from brakes and tires. Still gets attention from cops, kids and old guys!.
    I have an Atomic Orange 07, quite an update but hate paddle shifters, thus “go to golf club car”, with a few burnouts and straight line blasts.
    Two 90 L98’s still fun to drive, the seat gets smaller as my ass gets bigger!
    Bottom line, just get one and drive it. If you don’t love it, you need to move on and sell it to the next guy!!

  • Heather Binns says:

    I’d drive her in a heartbeat! The C3 and C5 are my faves and I already have my C3 beauty. This C5 in Millennium Yellow needs to be SEEN and FELT on the road!

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