The wisdom of the purchase would be put to the test in a nearly 2,400-mile road trip, including several mountain ranges, between Seattle and Detroit. While I was sure that I had bought the right Corvette, I admit the prospect of hitting the road solo in a used car with known problems had me slightly spooked. I fretted about notoriously failing fuel-pump relays, for example, although it was more of a problem for pre-1990 cars that had them mounted under the hood rather than inside the car. Nevertheless, I ordered a couple spares and tucked them in my suitcase.
With a full tank of fuel, I pointed the Corvette’s nose east and headed up into the Cascades Mountains—and a typical Pacific Northwest deluge. The car’s ride was reasonably quiet but very firm; I found I had to remove the wallet from my back pocket to get comfortable in the thinly padded sport seats. I kept a sharp eye on the gauges and didn’t turn on the radio, preferring to listen to the car for any errant sounds that could indicate trouble. As the miles piled on without incident, I maintained my vigilance.
After a lunch stop in the town of Moses Lake, Washington, I blew through the skinny pan handle of Idaho, making my first gas stop of the day in Montana. I’d gone nearly 400 miles and was starting to think the LCD gas gauge wasn’t working quite right because it hadn’t gone down as far as I thought it should. But I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, despite the mountainous route, the car got an impressive 28 mpg.Over the next couple of days, as the topography flattened out, the fuel economy only got better. On a couple of stretches, the Corvette topped 30 mpg. That’s downright impressive for a 22-year-old car with almost 120,000 miles on it.
In fact, the more miles I put on the car, the more it impressed me. I can’t say it was as comfortable as a C6, but it was an effortless cruiser. Despite the worn tilt mechanism knuckle, the steering felt direct and the brakes were confidence-inspiring. The car felt tight and well assembled, too, with nary a shudder, creak or groan from the body or chassis. In short, there was little to suggest the age or mileage of this Corvette.
The L98 engine deserves mention, too. It was smooth, tractable and never skipped a beat on the drive. And what it lacks in the high-rpm horsepower of today’s LS3, it more than makes up for in satisfying low-end torque. Considering it is basically the same engine that debuted in 1985, it deserves all the kudos it has received over the years and affirms the Tuned Port Injection’s place in the pantheon of Chevrolet’s best-executed ideas.
After three and a half days and 2,375 miles, I arrived home in the Detroit area. My average fuel mileage for the entire trip was just a hair under 29 mpg. The Corvette gave me zero problems along the way. Zero. I simply filled up with gas every 400 miles or so and drove. It didn’t use a drop of oil, either. And those fuel-pump relays I stuffed in my luggage? Never needed them.