1989 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe
1989 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe. Click image to enlarge

By Chris Chase

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When it comes to the ‘Great American Sports Car’, there are many candidates, but no other American-built car really evokes the same kind of passion as the Chevrolet Corvette. The name ‘Corvette’ is famous world-wide. If it could talk, it’d go around introducing itself last-name first, like “Bond, James Bond”.

Sure, General Motors has had hit-and-miss moments in recent years, but no matter what other cars its divisions were selling at any given time, the Corvette was always cool and always managed to stand apart from the rest of GM’s fleet. Not even the introduction of the fourth-generation ‘Vette – the C4 – in 1984 could change that.

The transition from the C3 – with the sculpted fenders that inspired the Stingray name – to the C4 was arguably the most dramatic yet. This new ‘Vette was thoroughly modern looking for its time, eschewing any stylistic relationship with any previous version. Compared to the sexy C5 and even hotter C6, the C4 looks dated, but in 1984, it was a big deal.

To hardcore ‘Vette fans, it still is. Check out the C4 section at www.canadacorvette.com, a Canadian Corvette classifieds website, where mid-to-late 1980s models often sell for around $15,000. That’s nowhere near Canadian Red Book values. According to that guide, a 1994 hardtop model in good condition is worth just under $16,000.

1984 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe
1984 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe. Click image to enlarge

The Red Book only goes back as far as 1991, and even the top-notch ZR-1 model from that year is only worth $15,250 if you go by book value. That’s for a car that was worth more than $70,000 brand new in ’91. The first ZR-1 was introduced in 1990 with a 375-horsepower DOHC V8; output for that model grew to 405 horsepower in 1993.

The number of C4 variants is too long to list here, but there are a number of good resources on the web dedicated to the car. One of those is www.idavette.net. Click on Corvette History for list of links related to the Corvette’s development and historical background, and as always, check out the Online Resources section at the end of this article for more links.

1986 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible
1986 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible. Click image to enlarge

Reliability is hard to gauge with a car of this vintage, though many enthusiasts will tell you that build quality was inconsistent at times. Need a car to commute in? Buy a Camry. Any C4 owned by a sensible Canadian will only be driven half the year at most, and some won’t even see daily use. That means lots of used C4s will have low mileage, at which point wear-and-tear on mechanical bits is less of an issue than things like dried-out engine seals and suspension bushings, as well as any number of other issues that can crop up in a car that doesn’t see regular use. For answers to questions on technical stuff or specifications, check out a couple of threads on www.corvetteforum.com. At http://corvetteforum.com/techtips/viewtopic.php?TopicID=2, you’ll find an extensive list of technical tips and repair procedures; click over to http://forums.corvetteforum.com/showthread.php?t=956100 for a great list of frequently asked questions (FAQ) on the C4.

1995 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
1995 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. Click image to enlarge

Are you really that concerned with crash safety? Hope not, because you’re not likely to find much scientific information to that effect: neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have C4 crash test data on their websites. If you’re that concerned with it, the information’s probably out there, but it’ll take some dedicated searching, on – and off-line – to find it.

Fuel consumption info is easier to come by. Expect an older C4 to use about 17 L/100 km in the city and about 11 L/100 km on the highway. By the end of the C4’s model run, the numbers had improved considerably to 14 L/100 km city and 8.9 L/100 km highway. Interestingly, the higher-performance ZR-1 models don’t exact a significant fuel consumption penalty, possibly owing to their being equipped with a six-speed manual transmission as standard equipment, while lesser ‘Vettes came with an automatic transmission, with the manual gearbox being an option.

1992 Chevrolet Corvette convertible
1992 Chevrolet Corvette convertible. Click image to enlarge

Just like today’s C6, a used C4 Corvette represents a tremendous sports car value, offering near-supercar performance for far less money than any German or Italian machine of similar vintage and potential would command. The Corvette’s use of common General Motors’ V8 engines means that maintenance costs should be far less expensive than those of many European sports cars. The Corvette may lack some of the prestige of a Porsche 911, for example, but it’s still one heck of a car with a lot of history behind it. With many used examples in good condition selling for well under $20,000, the C4 is a great choice for a true car enthusiast looking for a fun car on a finite budget.

Online Resources

www.corvetteforum.com – This site boasts more than 116,000 members, a huge number for any online community. One reason could be that this site covers every generation of Corvette, from the original C1, introduced in 1953, to the current C6 model. No doubt there are other Corvette websites out there, but this is a great place to start.

digitalcorvettes.com – another forum website that covers every generation of Corvette. The roughly 45,000-strong membership pales in comparison to that of CorvetteForum.com, but is nothing to sneeze at.

www.idavette.net/clubs.htm – Here you’ll find a list of Corvette clubs, mostly based in the U.S., but there is a decent list of Canadian-based clubs at the bottom of the page. Another list of Canadian Corvette clubs can be found here – http://www5.hamptons.com/licorvette/clublist/clubcn.htm – both online and otherwise, complete with contact information. http://www.netcorvettes.com/list1.html lists 50 Corvette-related websites.

www.canadacorvette.com – A Canadian Corvette classifieds website.


Transport Canada Recall Number: 1991126; Units affected: 10,758

1984-1991: Note: owner self-inspection – repair only if problem occurs. The seat belt may lock-up or jam in the retractor. If this occurs, vehicle occupants will be unable to use the seat belt. Thus, in the event of a vehicle crash, unbelted occupants will be more at risk of injury. Correction: vehicles will be inspected and any retractor side belts locking up or jammed will be replaced.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1983072; Units affected: 538

1984: The insulation of the positive battery cable may rub against the engine wiring harness bracket or ground stud. If the insulation wears through, it could result in rapid battery discharge and loss of headlights. Sudden loss of headlights under severe weather or night driving conditions could result in vehicle crash without prior warning.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1985037; Units affected: 1,658

1984: The cruise control vacuum solenoid valves may malfunction at any- time the engine is running with the cruise control engaged, resulting in unexpected engine acceleration.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1985105; Units affected: 1,701

1984: Loss of retention of the mechanism utilized to retain the differential cross shaft in its proper position in the rear axle differential case assembly may result in a rattle complaint at low speed and possible lock up of rear wheels, resulting in a vehicle crash without prior warning.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1986092; Units affected: 4,497

1984-1985: Certain Camaro, Firebird, Monte Carlo and Grand Prixs equipped with a 5.0L engine, and 5.7L Corvettes. High ignition coil temperatures combined with the stress of higher voltage may break down the coating of the high output ignition coil secondary windings. Declining ignition voltage may lead to engine misfire, hesitation sags or no re-start. Depending on road condition, this could result in a significant safety hazard. Correction: High output ignition coil will be replace, spark plug gap will be revised and a spark plug gap revision label will be installed.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1983062; Units affected: 390

1984: The front brake caliper bracket to steering knuckle attaching bolts may loosen and fall out. The front brake caliper may then become partially detached from the knuckle assembly and may cause the wheel to lock. Should this occur while the vehicle is in motion, it could result in loss of control and vehicle crash without prior warning.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1985101; Units affected: 1985

1985: Corrosion and deterioration of an electronic component within the mass air flow sensor results in a low signal voltage to the electronic control module reducing fuel delivery. This causes stalling at engine idle or a no-start condition.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1986051; Units affected: 23,158

1986: The push-pull headlight switch may have been manufactured with electrical contacts which allow an intermittent headlight circuit. An intermittent circuit could cause the headlights to suddenly go out. Under severe weather or nighttime driving conditions, driver visibility could be reduced, possibly resulting in a vehicle crash.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1986095; Units affected: 659

1986: Certain severe and unusual braking conditions may cause damage to the brake master cylinder centre valve. If sufficient damage accumulates, loss of front brakes may occur with accompanying increased pedal travel and reduced braking ability. A reduction of braking ability at a time when minimum stopping distance is required could result in a vehicle crash without prior warning. Correction: dealers will install a brake master cylinder piston kit on all involved vehicles.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1988017; Units affected: 308

1988: On vehicles with 17-inch wheels, the weld attaching the wheel centre to the rim may be missing. Depending on conditions, the weld centre could separate from the rim or rotate within the rim. This could result in partial loss of steering control and brakes, loss of tire air pressure and sudden change in vehicle direction, possibly resulting in a crash without prior warning. Correction: wheels will be inspected and those with missing welds will be replaced.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1990020; Units affected: 2,478

1988-1989: The rear wheel tie rod assembly may fatigue and fracture at the inboard bearing due to high inner-joint rocking torque. A fracture in this assembly could result in loss of vehicle control and a crash without prior warning

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1993075; Units affected: 2,478

1988-1989: These vehicles may not comply with C.M.V.S.S. 1105 – Evaporative emissions. Two (2) suspect evaporative emission hoses may deteriorate, crack and leak. Correction: suspect evaporative emission hoses will be replaced with improved hoses which will be secured with hose clamps.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1990014; Units affected: 19

1990: The fuel feed and return lines on these vehicles were built with the incorrect line end flare configuration. If these lines are left uncorrected the line ends could crack, causing a fuel leak and a risk of an engine compartment fire. Correction: new fuel lines with the correct end flare configuration will be installed on affected vehicles.

Transport Canada Recall Number: 1992137; Units affected: 79

1992-1993: The power steering inlet hose may fracture causing power steering fluid to spray out of the hose and, in the presence of an ignition source, an engine compartment fire could result. Correction: power steering gear inlet hose will be replaced on involved vehicles.

Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.

For information on recalls, see Transport Canada’s web-site, www.tc.gc.ca, or the U.S. National Highway Transportation Administration (NHTSA)web-site, www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.

For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.

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