Posted: Monday, June 4, 2012
Alright, here’s another question for you. What baby boomer hasn’t dreamed of someday owning a Corvette? Okay, maybe there’s a handful, but I’m just sayin’.
The Corvette was conceived about the same time us “boomers” were, and we grew up together. As a kid who didn’t miss an episode of the weekly TV series Route 66, I can say that the program which featured Martin Milner and George Maharis (for the first two and a half seasons) as two young, care-free guys who roamed the country in a brand new Corvette, certainly solidified my yearning for what was to become the icon of American sports cars.
My father, a mechanic and later car salesman, tried to throw cold water on my dreams by vividly describing every Corvette crash he heard about, telling me that there was nothing left but a chassis and engine by the time the smoke settled. That argument was perhaps a bit more valid when traditional cars were made of battleship gauge steel and the Corvette, as it remains today, was made of fiberglass.
All of dad’s warnings never once made me pause in my dream to one day owning a Corvette… a dream which remains unfulfilled to this day.
Corvettes, for those whose dreams haven’t run the same as mine, are categorized in generational groups marked by significant changes in styling, chassis and/or mechanical specifications. The first group is the C1 Corvette, produced for model years 1953 through 1962. This was followed by the C2 (1963-1967), C3 (1968-1982), C4 (1984-1996), C5 (1997-2004) and C6 (2005-present). Now it’s not that I may not at one time had the money (or credit) to buy a Corvette, it’s just that, by the time that day came along, other things had come along as well that made a Corvette just too frivolous of a purchase… things like a wife, two kids and a dog. (Although I have seen a customized Corvette station wagon that probably would have served my needs at the time. But it just wouldn’t have been the same.)
Anyone who has at one time dreamed of some day owning a Corvette, must have asked themselves the question (as I have on numerous occasions) “If I could have just one Corvette, which generation would it be?” That’s a toughy, because of the significant differences that exist in a car which, by next model year, will have survived for half a century. How does one weigh the choice between a 1953, with its historic significance as being the first, to a 2012 which is a technological marvel of engineering and performance. As far as looks goes, you can always argue, but in my mind, every one ever made has been beautiful in its lines and overall aesthetics.
One Fin Man fan, who I ran into at a recent Ranken Jordan Childrens Hospital event, is particularly fond of the C4 generation and asked that I do a story about that model. Here’s an all-too-brief overview for those who may share his interest.
The eagerly-anticipated, fourth generation C4 (1984-1996) was introduced amid much fanfare, as it was truly all new. From the standpoint of styling, the C4 was definitely the most streamlined Corvette yet, boasting a 64 degree windshield rake and the lowest drag coefficient of any Corvette to date at 0.341. Car and Driver magazine called the new ‘vette “the most advanced production car on the planet”. Numerous other automotive rags of the period heaped similar praise on the new Corvette.
Fourth generation firsts included aluminum brake callipers and suspension; a one-piece lift off ‘Targa’ style roof with no center support rail; liquid crystal, digital speedometer and tachometer displays; the 230 bhp L98 engine (1985) with tuned port fuel injection; the B2K twin turbo option (1987) and ZR-1 engine (1990-1991); Passive Keyless Entry System (1993) the first GM car to have this feature; On-Board Diagnostics and run flat tires… just to name a few.
By the time the C4 came to showrooms, the bottom line sticker price was a cool $5,000 more than the previous model, making that dream of ownership just a bit further out of reach for many. Nonetheless, orders outpaced production for much of the year-and-a-half model run.
If you’ve reached that point in your life where you are ready to make the plunge and the C4 is your choice, you can expect to pay just under 30k for a show quality, early C4… that according to the Old Cars Report Price Guide. Values will vary widely, however, depending on limited production models and special options. The production total of 51,547 for the 1984 model, more than doubled the previous year’s total of 25,407!
If you made it to the 4th Annual KlasAct Corvette Club Car Show held last Saturday on the riverfront, you saw some great (mostly late model) Corvettes on display. This is a great event sponsored by a great Chevrolet dealer — Johnny Londoff. Visit www.klasactcorvettes.com. We can all dream can’t we?
Don’t miss the Horseless Carriage Club of Missouri’s Fathers Day Car Show at the Museum of Transport. We’ll be there supporting SEMA’s Take A Kid To A Car Show program, and The Fin Man has been asked to participate as a judge for the event.
1. Martin Milner (the blonde guy) played Tod Stiles and George Maharis played Buz Murdock.
2. The C4 series was planned for introduction for the 1983 model year but quality issues, parts delays and EPA certification hang ups kept the deadline from being met. Only 84, 1983 prototype models were produced and all but one, which went on display at the Corvette museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky, were destroyed.
3. The stunning 1963, Sting Ray, split-window coupe was the first Corvette which could not go topless.
4. Head lamps literally disappeared (rotated out of sight) on the 1963 models and did not reappear in a fixed state until introduction of the C6 generation in 2005.
For more on the Corvette, pick up any of the numerous books dedicated to the American sports car or visit Wikipedia.org on the web. While you’re at it, visit my web site at www.thefinman.com for more on this story plus some reader’s comments.