We already got more than 500 responses from you to the question of daily driving a cheap C4 Corvette, and here’s some first hand experience on what’s it like to live with one of these beasts.
For starters, let’s go back in time a bit to see what it was like to hoon a C4 in period, driving it to school and back in 1994. The microphone goes to Justin, who still has the keys:
I owned an ‘87 C4 Corvette as my daily driver while a Junior in High School in Michigan in 1994. It was a black 4+3 that I bought with 20k miles. I loved that car to death and went through tires like you wouldnt believe.
I was 17 and was one of the first in my class to get a car. I used to slide it sideways through McDonalds and do burnouts in the drive thru. I went way faster than I should have down some of central Michigan’s back roads and to this day I still wonder how I didn’t put it into a tree and 100+.
I fit 7 people in that car one night, 4 girls in the hatch in the back and a friend with his girlfriend on his lap in the front. Our journey only lasted 5 miles as I blew a tire from the added weight.
The car had some intricacies that only a mid-80’s Corvette could have. Like the windshield wipers would pop off and slap the windshield at anything over 70 mph. I loved to drive with the roof off but that meant I had to have the windows all the way down as well cause the car would buffet with them up and it you just slightly cracked them then the windows themselves would buffet.
The roof was quick to put on as long as you were parked on a flat surface but if the car was even tweaked just a little...as I learned after 2 hours of bitching, swearing, and throwing the wrench...the top will not fit.
I drove the car to Sandusky Ohio with my girlfriend at the time who loved standing up out of the roof and flashing the truckers on the highway. On the same trip, we had a can of paint fall off the back of a truck and splash the entire hood of the car. We made it to a car wash in a little town off the highway to wash it off before it dried.
Daily driving a Corvette in Michigan had its own set of problems. The car itself was fiberglass so it wouldn’t rust but it also would not hold the heat in for shit. Traction with the wide rear tires was always a problem and being a lazy high school kid i hated to shovel the driveway. I would throw it in reverse in my moms garage and barrel backwards down the driveway at full speed hoping to plow through the pile of snow that the snow plow had left at the edge of the driveway and pray to hit the street. Sometimes it worked. The flip up headlights liked to freeze close which is probably why they have a switch to pop the headlights up with the car turned off and left over night...but that just didn’t look cool so I never did it...hence the frozen headlights.
I drove the car cross country from Michigan to Reno to Florida. I climbed mountains in snow storms outside of Salt Lake City when I thought there was no way it will make it....but it did. I drove the car until it had over 80k miles and I finally blew the tranny outside of a Ford Dealer in Panama City, FL. I pushed the car in to the lot from the traffic light and traded it right then and there on a new 1996 Ford Mustang Cobra.
That little C4 was a hell of a car for a high school kid and I would not trade the memories for all the world. I still have a set of keys for her.....cause she is still out there .....somewhere.
That might be true, but Axiel certainly didn’t end up with Justin’s car despite purchasing not one but two C4s straight away:
I do daily drive a C4 Corvette, two of them, in fact! One is a 1990 ZR-1 in red and the other is a 1996 LT4 in black.
They are very different animals. The ZR-1 is a heavy, deliberate, but precise instrument. It makes everything you do feel effortless, and the power that brings is intoxicating and dangerous if you don’t keep your head. The LT4, on the other hand, is a more tactile experience; it doesn’t spin as freely and lets you feel the strain, but the car is lighter and more “tossable.”
Perhaps the most entertaining Corvette story I have is the most recent one, concerning the ZR-1. I decided to take it out to a friend’s birthday event, and during that trip everything was swell. So, we hang out, have lunch at his place, and then it’s time to go do some karaoke. We were going to split us between his loaner Altima and two of his other friend’s cars, but that friend could not find his keys and we were on a schedule. So, I tell him “it’s your birthday, how about you ride with me in style!” And he does just that. By this time it’s raining. I start the car and notice low voltage and a battery light. Hmmm, I say, maybe I left the lights on? As we drive down the highway, my lights are getting dimmer. “Shiiiiit, alternator is busted!” By the time we get to the parking lot, the car is on its last legs and it sputters out. Poop! So we do some karaoke, because we’re already there, and after we’re finish I call for assistance. That assistance involves my father in his truck charging the battery for 45 minutes, us driving for 15, and then repeating the procedure two more times. All told, it took us three hours to make what should have been a 40 minute trip. In the rain. At night. Exciting!
It now has a new alternator. Took the liberty of replacing the factory oil cooler lines, which have a known tendency to leak. The car was $14,000 and she has her flaws, but I have no regrets.
While FullSpectrumPotato isn’t this positive, he says evolution was kind to the C4:
I already have. I wouldn’t again, but the late models were good. I don’t know where all the hate for them is coming from. Corvette guys? First they hated the anemic C3, then the 80’s C4, then the plastic and boring C5, then the too-European boohoo C6, and now the C7 has an ass that makes Kanye West do double-takes.
istillhaveatapeplayer agrees that living with a C4 is pretty much a mixed bag:
Actually had a crossfire injected ‘84. It was horrible and awesome at the same time to daily drive. The crossfire injected 350 is totally gutless. The digital dash kept draining the battery. The car needed a re-ring and cooked enough oil to leave you stinking fresh all day long. The targa top leaked. The air conditioning never worked, so if you like driving a sauna/greenhouse, this is the car for you.
However, there is nothing like the pure joy of letting this thing rip, especially since someone had put dual straight-pipes on it at some point. The handling of these things is still unbelievable.
Eventually we sold it for 5k. My sister daily drove the car for a few years, and then I used it doing contract sales and drove it a ton. My wife, a nurse, then used it after for home care appointments. So not only did we daily drive it, we needed it as reliable transportation for work. If you’re a car person, you’ll be able to ignore the nagging annoyances of driving a 25+ year old sports car around and truly enjoy every moment of it.
That’s not bad at all, but here comes Brian to settle this once and for all:
Last year I came up with a little extra money to get a project car, $3,500 to be exact. I wanted something I could HPDE Track day, autocross, cruise around in on the street, tinker with, and enjoy. RWD/Manual were requirements, smallest footprint was important with not a lot of garage space.
I considered Miata, very worn M3/323s, Camaro/firebirds, and anything else that was “performance” with a manual.
After all factors were considered I arrived at the 92+ C4 (LT1/ZF6) . It was built to go fast from the factory, so it had a sturdy enough chassis/suspension/brakes to handle track use. The car I located had been driven under a chain link fence, so cracked hood, and scratch’s from front to back. $200 hood and $225 in paint, plus a lot of buffing/sanding created the car I have today.
Its fantastic on the track, lapping PIR and The Ridge with confidence, its fun on Auto-X, its great on country roads, and its Open top for summer cruising! Seriously, someone please show me a faster car for the same money.
Brian, I agree, and would also drive the hell out of that three and a half grand.
Contact the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.