Good stuff. Probably a quote we should all live by, but when you buy a C4 Corvette, you can throw all that out the window.
Currently bringing up the tail-end of the Corvette hobby in value and desirability, C4s are still a great way to get into ‘Vette ownership without breaking the bank.
Also, people of a certain age will remember when Dave McLellan’s brainchild was the envy of the automotive world and left an indelible impact on the sports car business still being felt today.
Little did I know what was in store for me when I brought my recently purchased 1995 Corvette to Power Automedia headquarters. I was thrilled, yet when I told my fellow colleagues, their reaction was mixed at best.
For example, my encounter with co-worker Paul Huizenga, a brilliant guy with a very dry sense of humor, was a precursor of what was to follow.
“Hey Paul,” I said, “I bought a 1995 Roadster with only 34K miles!”
His response? “Hmmm, sounds like they hated driving it…”
Another co-worker quipped, “Looks like it came from Miami…Did it come with a couple of kilos of coke in the back?”
Even the big cheese bossman was flabbergasted and was rumored to have wondered aloud, “Why did he buy a C4?”
When your employee buys a ‘Vette with his own dough to promote Corvette brotherly love and the magazine, you’d think a “way to go,” would be in order…Or not.
PS, love you, man.
Only my bowtie brother, LSX Magazine editor, Chase Christensen, was onboard. He even drove me almost 200 miles round trip to pick up the car. We visited Petersen Auto Museum in LA a few months later and I let him drive the car back to south Riverside county. He admitted that “Even though I hate red cars and convertibles, it’s a nice car, ” and “it still makes you feel cool driving it…”
Here’s how the whole thing started.
As your humble editor of Corvette Online, I was not a plastic Chevy owner when I took the reigns of the magazine last year. I’ve owned two C3s in the past but at that particular moment, I was ‘Vette-less.
I remember going to the 2016 “Plastic Fantastic” car show last summer and when I introduced myself to the club president as the editor of the magazine, his response was “What year is your Corvette, Dave?”
I hemmed and hawed, mumbled and fumbled and finally said, “Um, I don’t own a ‘Vette…”
Yikes. I crept away with my tail between my legs, but leveraged and rationalized this event as a reason to buy a Corvette. Yes! That’s it! I have to buy a Corvette…It’s for work!
So I started looking around the Los Angeles area on Craigslist and AutoTrader and an interesting thing dawned on me.
C4 Corvettes are dirt cheap.
I had my sights set on a C3 but after perusing the online classifieds, my interest was piqued with C4s.
I could get a modern Corvette, one that straddled the line between the primitive C3 and the great, but blandly styled LS powered C5, hopefully for around $10,000. I had a ceiling of $15K. I wanted to find the best one I could and start with a clean, unmolested car.
As a general rule, I always say, buy the best car you can and get off on the right foot.
I looked for a few weeks, drove a couple of cars, and then found the low mile, red ’95 up in Lincoln Park, an old suburb of Los Angeles. A young guy had it tucked away in his grandmother’s garage. He loved the car but didn’t know much about ‘Vettes and was demonstrably melancholy about letting it go.
Nonetheless, we came to an agreement price wise and I drove off in the ‘Vette. If I overpaid, I was rewarded with an accident free, original car with no Opti-Spark issues and excellent cosmetics, something that would have cost me a bundle had I bought a car in lesser condition and then tried to fix and upgrade it.
The car was purchased new at Felix Chevrolet–the coolest Chevy dealer in LA, hands down–and had the aforementioned 34k miles on the clock and four previous owners. Sporting a Torch Red/Black interior, an automatic transmission and chrome “sawblades” with nearly new tires, the car showed and drove well.
The car tracks straight and true and is plenty powerful for me around town. It’s a tremendous touring car with a hell of a passing gear.
All was not hunky-dory though. After all the car is twenty-two years old.
The car had a 10-disc CD changer and controller installed which took up 30 percent of the already marginal “trunk” space. The convertible top protector on the tonneau was yellowed and cracked and turned out to be a mother funker of hassle to remove.
The seats are in good condition but, after 22 years, are due for replacement. The white convertible top is at the end of it’s life as well. The car drives great but could probably stand having the brake rotors turned and a new set of shocks at some point.
After owning the car for a few months now, I probably would have done a few things different.
I would’ve paid a mechanic to look the car over top to bottom and would have researched the forums more. I’ve bought a lot of cars–over 30–and have a “sixth sense” regarding old jalopys, and this one felt especially solid and well cared for. My gut instinct has been mostly vindicated as the car’s been relatively trouble free…
Except…I inherited the dreaded shifter interlock problem.
The shifter/brake interlock bugaboo can be a pain in the ass. When it gets stubborn, the interlock freezes up, you can’t shift out of Park and effectively renders the car inoperative. If I warm the car up, the interlock mechanism un-freezes and it’s fine until the next morning.
One day it just plain refused to move out of Park. So I had a buddy come to my rescue and he jacked it up and disconnected the linkage in order to drive the car.
The transmission shop told me that other than removing the interlock, there is no replacement part currently available to fix this problem from Chevrolet or the part catalogs.
The tech told me he cleaned the contacts, re-assembled the thing and sent me on my way. It’s better now, but’s still a worry. I think I’ll have the whole stinkin’ thing removed and be done with it.
I have since spent a lot of time with the car and I can report with a straight face, it’s a solid, old ‘Vette. Although it looked fairly clean, it was actually filthy. A thin coating of LA soot was all over the exterior and in every nook and cranny of the interior.
I spent the better part of a day cleaning it and had a pile of dingy, brown cloths to show for it. I’m just anal retentive enough to get off on that kind of thing. If I smoked some pot–hey it’s legal now–I would have busted out some Q-tips and spent all day. I didn’t but that hasn’t been ruled out as an option…
Speaking of crazy, another thing a prospective buyer would be wise to do, is to ask the seller if it would be okay to wash the car before you buy it. I know it sounds ridiculous. A lot of sellers might balk too, but only when you handwash a car, do you get an accurate assessment of the cosmetic pros and cons of the rig.
By running you hand/mitt over every square inch of the body, you can see and “feel” the condition of the paint and body panels.
My car is mostly solid, but after wiping the car down, I see evidence of daubed on touch-up paint and a minor ding here and there. Nothing earth shattering, but washing it would also be a way to find paint overspray, or other anomalies that might indicate bigger issues that might be overlooked in poor lighting or in the excitement of the moment.
My plans for the ’95 C4 are to make a good car, great. Not reinventing the wheel or getting into a “wiener fest,” pissing match. It’s fast enough for me “as is” and as the old saying goes, “they’re only original once.”
Instead, the goal is to take this nice, pure old C4 and tie up loose ends, do routine maintenance and some cosmetic tweaks and gently return it to excellent, “driver,” condition.
The following is the current “To Do” list:
- Oil/filter change and tune up the car i.e., new plugs, wires, etc.
- Replace seat upholstery – I’ve had good luck with Mid America Motorworks.
- The sun visors are limp and worn out – They are hard to find, but there are new units out there.
- Ashtray door is broken on console. An easy fix.
- Bring interior up to date with hydro-dipped carbon fiber dash pieces.
- The white top is shot and needs replacement. I will switch over to a black top at that time.
- The car is sporting a “tippy toe” factory stance, so lowering the car is in order.
- Explore bringing the car visually into the 21st century with modern wheels and rubber.
- Removing a 10 CD changer in the “trunk” area and extract all wiring that was fished through the car.
- Remove the yellowed and cracked deck lid film/appliqué.
- Remove the shifter/brake interlock.
- Assess carpet and do a deep clean or replace.
Lastly, Meguiar’s has offered to correct the paint on the car. It had swirly towel marks all over it so I placed it in the capable hands of Meguiar’s at their facility in Irvine, CA. Together with the techs, we brought the paint back to 90 percent good.
Amazing what happens when you use the right tools and techniques and Meguiar’s really knows their stuff. Look for a full article on the paint correction with Meguiar’s and the rest of the loose ends listed above in Corvette Online soon.
In the meantime, this little ‘Vette is itching for some top down cruising. Springtime’s here, with summer just a few months away.