C4 Seduction

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In the several months since my road trip, I’ve taken the Corvette on a couple of longer drives and many excursions around town, including a few cruise nights. I’ve also done more research on the car and decoded the glove-box build sticker, which shows it was equipped with Z51 suspension—which certainly explains the stiff ride—and the G92 Performance Axle, which is a 3.07 gear.

The car continues to perform very well and no other issues have popped up to date, except for an annoying tendency for the cooling system to puke a little onto my garage floor after a long drive. Before leaving Seattle, Bruce and I gave the car a final inspection and discovered the coolant recovery/fill tank was overfilled; this may have been the previous owner’s reaction to the inconsistent low-coolant indicator. I’m going to have the coolant-level sensor checked, and will have to have the coolant level itself corrected, too.

I will also tackle the worn tilt-steering knuckle, but from everything I’ve seen about what it takes to repair, I’ll probably seek professional help. A replacement knuckle costs about $140, but the installation is quite involved and could take most of the day at a repair shop. Estimating six hours at $75 per puts the labor charge at $450. So, when it’s all said and done, fixing the steering column will likely cost around $600.

I’m looking forward to working on the cosmetic needs of the car just as soon as I can set aside a Saturday or Sunday that doesn’t have me scrambling to meet a story deadline or photography assignment. In addition to the shift knob, I’ll probably replace some weather stripping, and I’ve noticed the engine is missing the valve-cover emblem, too. I figure between the steering column fix and sundry repairs I’ll be putting about $1,200 in the car. At least I don’t have to worry about tires, brakes or the clutch. I’ll also have to have the airbag-warning-light issue diagnosed.

Frankly, my expectations for this Competition Yellow coupe weren’t high. For the money, I thought I’d bought a good-running car, but expected problems and was prepared to deal with them. So I’ve been delighted with a glitch-free ownership experience thus far. Not only is this Corvette just plain fun to drive, I get positive comments and thumbs-up whenever I go. For anyone looking for a low-cost entry into the Corvette world, it would be difficult to think of a greater value than a well-kept C4.

The qualifier in the previous sentence is “well-kept,” because that’s the key to having a positive experience. There are literally thousands of beat-up C4s selling for $4,000 to $5,500, or even more than what I paid, but those neglected and abused cars can be rolling money vacuums. For only a couple of thousand dollars more—or even up to $10,000—you can find terrific examples that have been cared for and will return years of driving satisfaction. That’s not to say those niggling C4 problems won’t rear up—you can bet they will—but you’ll start from a stronger and financially smarter position.

If that friend calls tomorrow to sell me his C5 Z06, I’m going to have to pass on it. I’ve got my Corvette now.

Also from Issue 77

  • 2010 Lingenfelter Coupe
  • 1966 Convertible
  • Buyer’s Guide: $8K
  • Tech: Ramjet Injection
  • 1971 Big-Block Coupe
  • Peter Brock on Sting Ray Styling
  • Racing: Mid-Ohio
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