Without a financial stake in the Corvette, my friend’s assessment was frank and not swayed by the excitement and nervousness a buyer typically feels. Bruce crawled inside and under the car, starting it and letting it idle long enough to ensure the cooling fans kicked on, and then he took it for a test drive. His unbiased inspection report delivered the bad with the good.
First the bad: The Corvette’s steering wheel jiggled on bumps and pulled down and to the left. That was a telltale sign of a worn tilt-steering knuckle. This common problem is usually caused by drivers who use the steering wheel to help hoist themselves out of the car. Other issues included airbag warning lights that wouldn’t go out, a low-coolant light that seemed to stay on longer than it should, a very worn leather shift knob, a couple of minor rock chips in the windshield and some paint chipped off the underside of the left-side headlamp housing. The rear fascia’s finish had faded a bit, too, when compared with the rest of the car, which was likely related to the original paint issue that killed the color in the first place.
Attributes in the Corvette’s favor included essentially brand-new tires and brakes with only a few hundred miles on them—including drilled and slotted brake rotors—and an almost-new clutch. The black leather upholstery, while showing some wear, was still in very good condition, with no splits or major cracks. There were no apparent issues with the dashboard, either. On the test drive, Bruce reported excellent performance from the 245-horsepower L98 Tuned Port Injection engine. The car started, drove and stopped as expected, with no vibrations, noises or unwelcome surprises. It had been fitted with an aftermarket short-throw shifter and aftermarket radio, but the seller would include the originals with the sale of the car.
Before proceeding with the purchase, however, I researched the issues Bruce reported. After crunching the numbers, the cost of repairing them seemed reasonable, especially since I could do some of the work myself. I was more swayed by the recent brakes, tires and clutch. All are expensive items on their own, which could add up to several thousand dollars if they needed attention after the purchase, potentially flipping the low price of entry for the C4 on its roof.
Before giving the green light, I performed a CarFax background check on the Corvette. Anyone purchasing a used Corvette should do the same, because even if it doesn’t reveal information contradictory to the seller’s story, it provides a confirmation of it, as well as some inexpensive peace of mind. In this case, the CarFax showed a lot of bouncing back and forth between Washington and Montana, but no reported accidents and mileage commensurate with the odometer’s reading.
Confident in my friend’s assessment and the car’s history, I called the owner to move ahead with the purchase. After a little negotiating we agreed on a price of $6,000. Then I took a leap of faith and mailed a payment to a seller more than 2,000 miles away that I’d never met. I paid via an official bank check; as soon as it cleared at the seller’s bank, he delivered the car and the signed-off title to Bruce’s home in suburban Seattle. In the end, it was an easy and straightforward transaction that went off without a hiccup. Then I made arrangements to fly out and pick up my Corvette.