Unusual Suspect

In which John Woods finds that, contrary to popular belief, being caught in a Cross-Fire is no bad thing

May 11, 2017
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Many colorful descriptions have been lobbed at the 1984 Corvette in the more than three decades since the car’s debut, but it seems likely that the phrase “ideal drag-racing platform” is not among them. On one hand, the first-year C4 incorporated revolutionary advancements in the areas of handling, braking, aerodynamics and interior packaging, handily making it the best all-around Corvette to that date. Crack open the big clamshell hood, however, and it was 1982 all over again.

Thanks to delays in the development of a new, sequentially fuel-injected engine, the fourth-generation Corvette initially relied on the same L83 “Cross-Fire” 350 that had first appeared in the outgoing C3 two years earlier. Though generally reliable, the Cross-Fire induction setup—which used a pair of throttle bodies mounted vertically on an aluminum intake manifold—offered neither the precision fuel metering of a proper fuel-injection system nor the power-generating potential of a conventional carburetor, and as such it did little to further the new Vette’s stated role as a performance and technology leader.

It’s safe to assume that none of these factors weighed all that heavily on the mind of young John Wood back in 1992, when the seventh grader accompanied his father to check out a Medium Blue Metallic ’84 Vette the elder Wood had spotted in the classifieds. The trip was the culmination of a process that had begun years earlier, one that found the pair poring over local advertisements in search of just the right performance car.

“For as long as I can remember, Dad and I would wake up and look at the car ads in the Saturday newspaper,” recalls John, now 37. “We looked at Camaros and Trans Ams, but we knew that if there was any chance to own a Corvette, that was what we would get. We were a one-income family, and it honestly didn’t make sense for us to have a car like that…but Dad and I still dreamed.”

Wood was immediately smitten with the blue-on-blue C4 his dad had found near their home outside Houston, even if the car didn’t turn out to be exactly what he expected. “Being 12 or 13 years old, I was thinking it was a curvy model like a [C3],” he says. “When I saw that 1984 Corvette parked in the garage, I was speechless. All those years of searching, and now we were looking at a car that was almost identical to a brand-new one. I was blown away.”

Apparently his father was, too, and it wasn’t long before Mr. and Mrs. Wood were sketching out a fiscal strategy that would allow them to bring home the car. Eventually they were able to make the numbers work, and the ’84 became the newest member of their family.

It’s something of an auto-writing cliché to overstate the significance of the bond between a car and its owner, but in the case of John Wood and his C4, the relationship seems genuinely profound. “There were many nights and weekends when [my father and I] worked on the car,” Wood relates, “and the life lessons I learned then continue to help me to this day. Having the Corvette in my life kept me…on the right path as cars became my hobby.”

Also from Issue 114

  • Sunray '67 L88
  • Buyer's Guide: C4
  • Restored "Airbox" '57
  • Supercharged C5 Z06
  • History: The V-8 Revolution
  • Greenwood/ACI '78 Turbo
  • C7 Z06 Euro Tour
  • Racing: Victory at Sebring
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