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Making the Case for the C4 Corvette


B Jake Moran
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I drive a lot for work with plenty of time to think.  I heard about the new Corvette coming out.  I remember the hub bub over the C4 Corvette made from 1984 to 1996.  Years later it is the dog of the Corvette world.  Obviously the C3 Corvette was long in the tooth and the 1976 to 1982 versions are less admired than the 1968 to 1975s, but because of the shape and design, most still agree the 1976 to 1982 Corvettes are fun to own and collect.  The C4's - the shape is considered by many to be lacking, styling is bland and interiors fair.  Build quality during the 1980's was hammered hard and if I recall from working at a Chevy dealership in 2005, deserved. 


I typically buy in the "value" grades of collector cars. I own a Buick Reatta and a Cadillac Allante, for instance.  I am not considering a C4 Corvette, because my garage and lot are full, but why not?   For a period piece of automotive collectability, it seems like a good fit.  And I would hate to see more of them be run down and sent to the crusher.  No, I never see them at the U Pick It Yard, but their prices are not outrageous. 

 

It's still a sports car, and it has cool features like the front flipping hood, wheelsets which were attractive and distinctive, great handling but what about the looks?  Like it or hate it?

 

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Above is a 1991 convertible with the updated rectangular taillights, and this one has less than 50,000 original miles (if the ad can be believed, which is likely) and for sale for $10,500 asking in mid October. 

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You see so many red ones, white ones, and black, I like this one.  Basic body shape unchanged, getting long in the tooth as the C3 did.  Perhaps seeing it over and over again without much change led to ambivalence to it's shape.

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I wouldn't mind a '92 in Polo Green.

I miss the '78 Silver Anniversary I used to own.

Even with the L-82 it felt under powered but the 4 speed and the handling made it a fun car to drive.

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I found very few cars in my search for 1983-1984.  Most offered are from the later years.  Here is a 1983 (1984) with only 39,000 miles offered on ebay for $12,900 or Make Offer.  Question is, would it satisfy your collector car itch, or would you park it at a festival car show and watch as the crowd walked by yawning? 

 

These early wheel sets are considered boring, and Chevy improved the visual cue later on (see above), but personally I like these.  They are a bit bland but this was 1984, and they are evolutionary from what we saw in the 1978 to 1982 Corvettes, while accommodating much wider tires.   I never drove one of these on the street, but I understand they corner like they are on rails. 

 

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Above is an early car base interior on a nice offering.  GM borrowed from the Camaro and pedestrian cars for interior tidbits but this interior represented the space age optimism of the mid 1980's.   I like it, and this one has been well maintained.  You would probably be one of the very few to show up at a car show with a clothe interior Corvette!

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1 hour ago, zepher said:

I wouldn't mind a '92 in Polo Green.

I miss the '78 Silver Anniversary I used to own.

Even with the L-82 it felt under powered but the 4 speed and the handling made it a fun car to drive.

 

Voila! Available right now for $10,900. One owner 1993 6-speed car. Don't stutter.

 

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The ONLY C4 'vette I would seriously consider would be the ZR-1; the first-year1989 model, having the most preference.  It had the squared-off taillights to distinguish it from the 'regular' Corvette line that year.

 

In fact, is it the very first car on the market to come with a 'valet key'?

 

Craig

Edited by 8E45E (see edit history)
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2 hours ago, Matt Harwood said:

 

Voila! Available right now for $10,900. One owner 1993 6-speed car. Don't stutter.

 

001.jpg049.jpg067.jpg072.jpg

 

3 hours ago, B Jake Moran said:

 

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Normally, I don't care for green cars but that Polo Green just looks so nice with that body style.

I have been in the market for a slightly older BMW as a daily driver toy but with the price Matt listed I may have to rethink my options.

 

 

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I noticed a few months ago in the local ads, you can buy one for the same price as a Camaro or Firebird of the same age, maybe less. It looks like a hell of a bargain to me. If you want one now is the time to buy one even if just for laughs.

For comparison I bought a 1974 Porsche 911 about 10 years ago for $2750 when they were considered the dog of Porsches. Now I could get $25000 with one phone call. I think the same parable applies to older Corvettes. A few years ago the 70s Vettes were dismissed as smogged up dogs. Look at them now. When you can buy a Corvette for the price of a used Toyota Corolla what have you got to lose?

 

Next time someone starts crabbing about how overpriced collector cars have gotten we should refer them to this thread. No you aren't going to buy a Duesenberg for $10000 and drive it home, it's not 1965 anymore but you can still buy a nice old Vette cheap.

 

As for whether the Corvette is a better buy than a used BMW my feeling is the Corvette would be less of a headache to keep in repair although maybe not by much. Would like to hear some expert opinions on this point.

Edited by Rusty_OToole (see edit history)
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I know any BMW that is more than 6 years old is going to have constant issues but I also know that late 80's and early 90's Vettes weren't the most reliable cars out there, either.

It would be interesting to hear what people think about the C4's overall reliability.

The C3 I owned was very reliable, never had an issue.

But it was a very low mile, one owner car.

Car went to Australia with 34k miles on it.

 

Now I've got to widen my search for a DD / toy.

 

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Jake,

Having owned around 50 Corvettes over the years I can tell you, they all have their day. Then they become just old enough to be of little interest and the prices drop as newer models come out. This is right where the C4 is now. I have owned several C4's, one was brand new (86 Pace Car) the others were only a year or two old. I can tell you there is a mountain of technology in these cars and they are terrific drivers for the money. The only one to steer absolutely clear of is the 1984. It has the C3 generation Cross Fire Injection and they are plagued with trouble and poor performance and wretched electrical dashboards. The Tuned Port Injection offered from 1985 up, is eons better. The '84's are so bad, here in SoCal they sell for less than $2K in decent condition. Nobody wants an '84.

That being said, it wasn't all that many years ago the C3's were in the same boat. Just old enough to not be collectable and tons of them on the market. Now they have recovered and nice examples are bringing premium money. 

I agree with you, the C4's are a lot of car for the money, great looking, great performance. Get a nice one now, while they're cheap. Drive it, enjoy it and if you keep it long enough, the C4's will eventually rebound like the rest.

Best advice I can give is to buy a convertible if possible and you can find some VERY nice C4's way under $10K. If you pay over $10K in this C4 flooded market, you're simply paying too much.

Don't know where you're located but consider a car from Southern California. There are tons of them here and they are cheap.

Good luck with your search.

Greg

Edited by GregLaR (see edit history)
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I've owned several C4's. Getting in and out of them is a pain, styling is very bland, but still fun to drive for very little money. I'd suggest buying 91 and newer for the better dash, bumper covers and wheel options. I like the last of the L89 engines in the 91 models over the LT-1, but not a deal breaker.

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Might mention that none of the GM "exotics" from 1984 to 1993 get any respect even though over 25 now.

Fiero, Reatta, Allante (last year of each was the best), even a turbo GP or a GTP with DOHC-6 both were available with a five speed Getrag & all are all under $10k

 

So is not just the C4.

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12 hours ago, padgett said:

Might mention that none of the GM "exotics" from 1984 to 1993 get any respect even though over 25 now.

Fiero, Reatta, Allante (last year of each was the best), even a turbo GP or a GTP with DOHC-6 both were available with a five speed Getrag & all are all under $10k

 

So is not just the C4.

As a former 4 time Allante' 3 Fiero's and 1 time Reatta as well as a minty 90 Toronado owner I wouldn't recommend any of them over a C4. But for the price difference as noted a C5 is a better, more enjoyable car for not a lot more.

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6 minutes ago, 39BuickEight said:

My next car will be a C4 ZR1 in anything but red, black, or white.  

 

I very much want one of the 25 Dark Purple '95s. Or the 13 Bright Aquas. Like you, I want something uncommon.

 

While 405 horsepower doesn't seem all that amazing in today's world of 800 horsepower Dodges, the LT5 is a special engine. I have a lot of miles logged in various ZR1s and there's just nothing else like it. And stroked to a 383... Woo hoo! An exhaust note that sounds like a jet engine spooling up and a torque curve that just goes up and never flattens out? Nothing with push rods can duplicate that feeling.

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Every hobbyist should have a vette at least once.  My 71 was a little ratty but then again so was I back in the day. 🙂  I would cross shop against C3s myself.  If hp is your priority go C4, styling, preference but I think the C3 is more stylish in general.  I think the 73 can be had for same money as 74 - 77 and you get steel bumpers out back.  Still a lot of these cars out there for short money.

Edited by Steve_Mack_CT (see edit history)
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1973 Corvette is my favorite C3 and can be had for under $10k needing work. This car had been sitting in a local garage undisturbed for over 25 years and is very nice underneath.

Has a fresh 383 stroker, original 4 speed, code 952 Corvette Yellow

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1 hour ago, padgett said:

Agree the '73 is the best looking C3 with the body color front bumper and chrome Kammback rear. The block off plate where the AC vent is supposed to be doesn't help.

Canadian ordered car, no A/C was the majority of them sold here in the early 70's. Hot in the summer, but better than the 78-9's with the microwave rear glass!

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Some of the early C3s had a removable rear glass but think it was gone by '73. No vent windows either. When I came into the pits with my fuelie, crew had two things: quart of chocolate milk (was before energy drinks) and a pail of water to dump over my head.

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4 hours ago, padgett said:

Some of the early C3s had a removable rear glass but think it was gone by '73. No vent windows either. When I came into the pits with my fuelie, crew had two things: quart of chocolate milk (was before energy drinks) and a pail of water to dump over my head.

Yes, the rear removable window was gone after 71 or 72 along with the fiber optics on the console. Both were good features for the cramped, usually hot  C3 cockpit 

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On 10/11/2019 at 9:53 PM, 8E45E said:

The ONLY C4 'vette I would seriously consider would be the ZR-1; the first-year1989 model, having the most preference.  It had the squared-off taillights to distinguish it from the 'regular' Corvette line that year.

 

In fact, is it the very first car on the market to come with a 'valet key'?

 

Craig

 

Craig

 

I was looking for this kind of comment.  Not picking on you, but as I understand it you don't want a C4 Corvette unless it has the 405 hp ZR-1 engine, providing a higher level of performance.  99% of C4's are not ZR-1's.  I appreciate they are more collectible and prices warrant that out.  But, the rectangular taillights came along late to freshen the old body.   If a person needs an enticement to buy a model, then overall - they don't like the model.  That's my take, and this is maybe why the C4 remains an under appreciated market place dog, relatively speaking.  

 

The ZR-1 seems like a good choice until someone notes that subsequent Corvettes, C5 C6 all came out with performance packages and even base packages that blew ZR-1 performance away.  This happens all the time now.  A modern sports car is always faster and handles better than previous generations.  The new Mustang GT comes tock with hp in the high 300/400 range.  0-60 times probably beat the ZR-1, but it's just another modern muscle car.  

 

This is part of the reason for the phenomena witnessed at festival car shows and show n shines at drive ins. 90% of the cars are less than 5 years old, many less than 3 years old.  Why buy a C4 Corvette, meh!   

 

I have 3 collector car now so am not in the market for a C4 Corvette but if I were I could (would) buy Matt Harwood's Polo Green convertible for $10,000 ish and a coupe for the same scratch.  That would put 2 reasons to smile in a garage for about $20,000 when we all know how expensive some old "classics" can get.  Just seems like a good alternative in the marketplace.  

 

But needing a ZR-1, as much fun as they are, implies a general dissatisfaction with the body and interior.  Not enough joy in the shape to justify a purchase. 

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34 minutes ago, B Jake Moran said:

The ZR-1 seems like a good choice until someone notes that subsequent Corvettes, C5 C6 all came out with performance packages and even base packages that blew ZR-1 performance away.  This happens all the time now.  A modern sports car is always faster and handles better than previous generations.  The new Mustang GT comes tock with hp in the high 300/400 range.  0-60 times probably beat the ZR-1, but it's just another modern muscle car.  

See my comments here---------->https://forum.studebakerdriversclub.com/forum/your-studebaker-forum/stove-huggers-the-non-studebaker-forum/110181-i-need-a-gas-station-attached-to-me-69-charger-promo-vid  when I provided the times of a new Dodge Challenger Demon vs. a '69 Charger.

 

Craig

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I've owned 6 Corvettes over the years, all as daily drivers. I bought the first one, a red 78 model used. The other five were all brand new cars. The last two were Z06 models, and were really fast. ALL of them were really comfortable drivers (not so much for entering and exiting the car, but once inside, it was like driving an easy chair). The first new one was a 97, I think, and the last one was a 2002 or 2004. I loved them all, but every year seemed better than the previous one. The 78 didn't handle or ride anything like the newer cars, but in fairness it was used with 50-60,000 miles, if I recall. 

 

I drove them all every day, rain or shine, dry or snow. They were leased cars, and I knew I would be trading them in after 3 years. So while lots of other guys were parking them carefully away in their garages and trying to keep miles off of their odometers, I was DRIVING them all over the place. I miss those days. Great times! 

 

The photo below shows the one day that I had TWO Vettes at once. My new Z06 was delivered the day before my previous one was picked up. I couldn't resist a photo, and I spent the whole day driving first one, and then the other. LOL

Corvette pair 2.jpg

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This is my favorite generation of Corvettes. When I was young and just getting into cars, these were current...I grew up with them being among the most prestigious, exciting cars. Unfortunately, I grew up and out and sincerely doubt I could fit into one, although I've never actually tried. I know getting into a new Corvette at this year's New York International Auto Show was a challenge at best and the top of the windshield was right at eye level; I couldn't see a thing.

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About 8 years ago, I took my brother with me to look at a 1988 Covette Roadster.  Maroon with a new tan top and new tires, 58,000 miles,  a one owner golf course garage kept and pampered car.  $8,000.   Drove like a truck to me, so my brother bought it.  He spent a fortune on the electronics in the dash an sold it for $6500 a year later.   We were both  disappointed in comparing it to our former 57 & 58 Corvettes.

Was higher tech but a lot lower fun value.

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On 10/11/2019 at 5:50 PM, B Jake Moran said:

I drive a lot for work with plenty of time to think.  I heard about the new Corvette coming out.  I remember the hub bub over the C4 Corvette made from 1984 to 1996.  Years later it is the dog of the Corvette world.  Obviously the C3 Corvette was long in the tooth and the 1976 to 1982 versions are less admired than the 1968 to 1975s, but because of the shape and design, most still agree the 1976 to 1982 Corvettes are fun to own and collect.  The C4's - the shape is considered by many to be lacking, styling is bland and interiors fair.  Build quality during the 1980's was hammered hard and if I recall from working at a Chevy dealership in 2005, deserved. 


I typically buy in the "value" grades of collector cars. I own a Buick Reatta and a Cadillac Allante, for instance.  I am not considering a C4 Corvette, because my garage and lot are full, but why not?   For a period piece of automotive collectability, it seems like a good fit.  And I would hate to see more of them be run down and sent to the crusher.  No, I never see them at the U Pick It Yard, but their prices are not outrageous. 

 

It's still a sports car, and it has cool features like the front flipping hood, wheelsets which were attractive and distinctive, great handling but what about the looks?  Like it or hate it?

 

 

 

I have had every era of vette and like things about each one, and the c4's are very good looking, and with the z51 suspension, they handle like a go cart. the quality of some of the parts is unfortunately sub par, however, if one doesn't abuse the car much, they aren't really unreliable.

 

 

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I'm a Vette guy through and through.  I've only owned two, a 78 and an 02Z.  Still open the Z.  I would absolutely love a C4.  I grew up in the 80s, so those are the cars that hooked me in the Vette.  When I had the money to spend on one, I decided to get the most I could for the money I had to spend, which landed me on the Z06.  The 78 was a desired project.  I considered a C4, but C4 projects scared me.  This was my first real project car and did just about everything you could without seperating body and frame.  Now that I've done that, a C4 doesn't seem so scary.  I just don't have time (3 kids and a 36 Plymouth gifted from Grandpa).  But one day I would like to own one, an 85 I think.

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+1 as a technophile I tend to agree. The electronics have issues and are hard to repair. Headlamp actuator rollers got to dust and the crossfire ignition is a pair of Throttle Body Injectors that never worked well (had a single on my '84 Fiero.

 

That said they are basically attractive: replace the dash when breaks and drop in an LS and you have a decent cruiser. However are now at about 2X the current value. For instant gratification best buy something later.

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