Which Corvette to buy? C4 edition
A while ago I did an article for my buddy Dave over at Finance Super Hero. The article was basically a whole lot of preamble to the following advice which I adhere to wherever possible:
You want something cool
You already have something cool
If you want to avoid guilt, get on with your life, and buy something totally savage all at the same time, just sell something first.
At this point I have sold my Lincoln, which was taking up a lot of resources in my life to keep improving it and driving it. A labor of love to be sure.
So here I am and after thinking about my love for obscene amounts of torque on the street I have decided that I want a Corvette. For various reasons I have settled on the C4 variety (1984 - 1996.) Many people do not eve recognize these vehicles as Corvettes, they are merely weird long cars which disappear into the sea of new flashy things that came out after the year 2000. Me on the other hand, I have owned an '84 automatic and loved the thing. I bought it around 2004 for 2500 bucks. Thing was so fun that even the myriad of electrical problems didn't deter me from driving the hell out of it as much as possible. I bought that one for 2500$ it needed a catalytic converter installed to smog and luckily, it came with one I just had to install it!
I had also owned a C3 1976 Burgundy back around that time frame. It was not much of a driver even with the 350 and the TH350 underneath, but it looked and felt awesome. I bought this one for 3500$ it needed ball joints and bushings in the front and a smog pump went out when I owned it (damn SMOG.)
Upon careful reflection I realized I was always happiest with a corvette in my hands. Maybe because since those long gone years I have had to get a real 8-5 job and be there every damn day, but I like to attribute happiness to things that I can control and cars are definitely more fun that being morose about the hand we are dealt! I digress....
After a quick review of Craigslist it quickly became apparent that the C4 corvettes were priced accordingly to changing market conditions. There were many with less than 70k miles going for 6-7k Impressive! Also there were plenty of stick shifts! I am never going to buy an automatic corvette ever again whats the point, especially when they hold their value so well when they are sticks!
Note that there is a chance you can find any of these cars in the sub-10k price range with a few decent add-ons. This price bracket is competitive! Here is a comparison of the actual cars I ended up driving that week:
The red 1984 above didn't make it into any sort of actual comparison because it was a huge pile of shit. Transmission had so little feel I couldn't tell if I was in 1st or 3rd until I gave it gas. Also the interior was thrashed. I know enough about cars that I would only pay this guy about $1,000 for this thing because of all the un-enjoyable work it would need. I wanted to be able to drive my car and enjoy it while I did work on it, so this one was out of the question.
The other 3 followed in the days later. I drove them in this order : 1985, 1996, 1992.
General impressions of the cars are below:
- 1985 Gray with 4+3 trans: The L98 engine in the 1985 blew the other 2 out of the water in terms of feel. Yes it Felt better to drive. I am 100% sure the LT1 and LT4 cars were faster in 0-60 times, because this engine was completely out of steam by 5k RPM. The 4+3 Nash unit shifted well but the overdrive wasn't working. The transmission will need to be gone through, or more likely just the overdrive unit. I was pleasantly surprised to see very low CO emissions on the smog sheet and reasonable HC's for such an old L98. I also was intrigued by the fact that the exhaust appeared to be custom with flowmasters (or knockoffs) which may also indicate newer catalytic converters which would explain the nice CO emissions. Keep in mind this guy was asking 3500$, near half the cost of the other 'vettes in this comparison.
- 1996 Red LT4 with 6 speed: The LT4 really got up and went, right where the L98 left off at 5k this engine picked it all up and RIPPED to redline. Car was fantastically clean and low mileage. Had exhaust cutouts remote controlled, NEW catalytic converters, new shocks, sway bar bushings, ball joints, ZO6 rims, new tires, everything worked. This was one impressive vehicle. It was everything I had to walk away from this car and go think about my other options before I heaped his asking price into his hand. The A-arms were wet sanded and polished. Let that sink in for a minute. The A-arms were polished and wet sanded. The differential and carrier were painted red like the rest of the car and clean enough to eat off. The brakes were drilled/slotted/ceramic monsters, no way these were stock I have seen kits like this go for 3k plus.... He was asking 9500$. I know the add-ons probably cost at least this much.
- 1992 Red LT1 with 6 speed: The LT1 was noticeably less fiesty than the LT4, and less torquey than the L98 with TPI. The transmission in this car however, made up for it in driving feel, this is without a doubt the best feeling 6 speed in the 'vettes I tested. Great on-center pressure and gear feel. Made the Doug Nash 4+3 feel like stirring dogshit with a broom handle in comparison. Made the 1996 6 speed with LT4 seem vague. I don't know what the differences were, but maybe it was just magic or something. Guy was asking 7,000$. Oh and by the way, everything worked and was stock, and also was incredibly clean.
I will tell you this: I had other cars scheduled to see, but I cancelled the appointments and picked one the day after I finished looking at all these beauty's. Ok guys, which one would you go with and why? I really don't think you could go wrong with any of them. Except the '84, at least it had TPI instead of Crossfire like my first one back in 2002.