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Looking to buy my first Corvette! Couple ?'s

OldSkool

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Jul 21, 2005
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51
Location
Newport, RI
Well, once again the nice weather has come to New England and my thoughts have turned to owning a Vette. I'm not looking for a collectible or investment opportunity with it, I just want a fun car to drive. Head the the beach, go to cruise nights, and drive to shows, maybe even take it back and forth to work once or twice a week (60 mile round trip), stuff like that.

Two summers ago I found this board, and did a lot of research because I wanted a C3. At the time I couldn't find one that I both liked AND could afford, (always the way, huh?) so I put it on the back burner for a while.

After thinking about it, and realizing what I want to do with the car, I've decided an LT1 C4 is the way to go. They have the comfort, driveablilty, economy, and performance I require in a car. I realized a C4 is pretty good right out of the box, while the late C3's I've been seeing will need alot of work to get to that level, if it's even possible. Most of the nicer 75-82 C4's I've been seeing are in the 7-10k range, which is where a decent LT1 C4 is. And I like the 300hp vs. the boat anchors in the C3's. Plus, this is definitely going to be a driver, so getting 20+ mpg with the AC blasting will be very nice indeed.

Plus, I've loved Vette's since I was a little kid, (29 now) and it seems like a great opportunity to get into one while they're still relatively inexpensive.

What I was wondering was if anyone had some tips for me on what to look for when looking at and driving a C4?

Are there any common problems or issues that I should specifically look for?

As far as I know, not much changed from 92-96, so the main concern would be mileage, right? Meaning, choosing a low mileage '92 vs. a high mileage '96.

Oh, and lastly, what's a good price range? I'd like to get one with under 100k. I'd probably rather have an auto, but I wouldn't turn down a nice 6-speed. Oh, and I'd like the removeable roof too.

I actually just saw one advertised, which I think I'm going to call on. It's a white '92 with the targa top and 59,000 miles, listed for 7,900 obo. Now that sounds pretty good to me, but I'm not up on the pricing of these things.

Thaks alot for any help, I really appreciate it.

Mike
 
Joined
May 29, 2002
Messages
8,669
Location
Missoura Ozarks
Corvette
2012 💯 4LT GS Roadster
YES - LT1 C4's are Great Corvettes...

My 1st Vette was a 96 LT4, what a performer it was. As far as I know the optispark was the only real issue with the LT1 engine.

Take your time and enjoy the hunt. :upthumbs

BTW - Welcome to the :CAC

Later . . . . . .
6 Shooter
 

XLR8

Gone but not forgotten
Joined
Jun 23, 2004
Messages
6,662
Location
Mississippi Gulf Coast
Corvette
2003 AE Convertible, 1998 LCRM Convertible
Mike,

The C4's are great Vettes and the price range for a low mileage one won't break the bank! My first was a 1994 Torch Red convertible and if I could afford 2 Corvettes, she'd still be MINE!

I'm posting a link to the Tech Center page titled "Buying a Corvette" because it has good information and a printable checklist you can carry along while shopping. Click here.

Good luck!
:w Jane Ann
 

OldSkool

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Joined
Jul 21, 2005
Messages
51
Location
Newport, RI
Jane, thanks for the link!

That's a great check list! I was thinking of making my own so I wouldn't forget to check certain things, but that one is perfect, very extensive!
 

jrzvette

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 11, 2005
Messages
287
Location
NJ
Corvette
1969 RED SB COUPE, 1993 BLACK ZF6 COUPE
"As far as I know, not much changed from 92-96, so the main concern would be mileage, right? Meaning, choosing a low mileage '92 vs. a high mileage '96."

Not necessarily. A well maintained higher mileage car (with service records) is more desireable than a low mileage, neglected car.

If you're thinking of automatics there was no real change from 92 - 96 except:

92-94 original opti-spark/ piece of crap
95-96 improved, vented opti/ better but not great. If either version has been replaced with an after market version (Dynaspark, MSD) you're much better off.

Speaking of optis, around 65,000 miles the waterpump is probably on its last legs. If it goes the opti goes with it. If you're looking at cars in this mileage range see if the wp/opti have been replaced.

Brakes - for 95 and 96 the upgraded J55 was standard, in 92 - 94 it was an option.

With a 6 speed, 1996 get you the LT4 (or is it the LT4 got you a 6 speed?)

Don't jump at the first car you see; buy with your head not your heart. If you can, try looking at a few well maintained, low mileage examples, even if they're out of your price range. You'll get a better feel for what these cars should be and can better judge what work the one you eventually buy might need.

Also, all coupes had the removable top panel.

Good luck in your search
 

OldSkool

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 21, 2005
Messages
51
Location
Newport, RI
JRZ, Thanks for the info. That was a big help.

I didn't realize all cars had the targa, I thought it was optional.

Thanks for the heads up on the Opti-Spark. I used to frequent F-Body forums when I had a '98 LS1 Formula, so I remember reading about Opti-Spark woes. Or "Opti-Crap" as I remember hearing it reffered to many times.

I actually read an article on this topic not too long ago in a Corvette Fever back issue that someone gave me, apparently MSD has a replacement unit out. IIRC, it had a list price of $499. I'm not sure what the price of an OEM one is, but I'd go this route either way.

I read that whan the water pump goes, it usually takes the opti spark with it, so I'll definitely keep a close on on that on any car I look at.

Are there any tell-tales that it's been replaced or upgraded, besides the seller's word?

Andis it a big job to replace the water pump and O-S unit on these cars? I like to do my own work myself. I had replaced the water pump on my '88 L98 GTA, and it was pretty easy. Is this much more involved?

As far as the brakes, and all other options, are they listed on a build sticker somewhere? My GTA had a sticker under the glove box lid with all the RPO codes on it, WS6, G80, etc. Where is this info posted on the C4's?

I found the RPO list on this site, so I'm going to print it out and keep it for a reference when I look at cars.

I've been looking online and in Auto Trader over the past few days, unfortunately I've only found 2 contenders, other than a few C3's that I like the look of.

Both '92 coupes:

One with 59k, auto, white on red, for 7,900 o.bo.

The other is black on black, auto, 90k miles, for 8,500 o.b.o.

I guess the black on black combo is more desirable to some people, but there's something about the white on red that I like. It reminds me of the first C1's, since that's the color combo they all came in. Plus, there's just something over the top about a car with a red leather interior.

The seller sent me a few pics, one of the interior, it looks to be in good shape, with the exception of some wear in the carpet in the hatch, and a broken trim piece. It's behind the driver's seat on the floor, it looks like some kind of latch. Not sure what it is. Top storage maybe?

Other pic is of the odo...yep, 59,xxx K.

So once again, thanks for all the info, and thanks in advance if you can answer any of these questions here.

Mike
 

oceangal

Well-known member
Joined
Jun 28, 2005
Messages
581
Location
Merrimac, MA
Corvette
1982 silver/claret
i don't much about the newer years but I wouldn't mind a 96 Grand Sport. If you check out this post from Elaine (GS Diva) you can see her '96 which is a beauty. She would be a great resource on vettes - she works here:

http://www.corvettemikenewengland.com/

they ar running an event today but its probably too late but it looked like fun!
http://corvetteactioncenter.com/forums/showthread.php?t=94258&highlight=joey+kramer

I bought my vette on ebay, but I would only do that if I could actually view it, I personally wouldn't do a long distance purchase.

Good luck!
 

aboatguy

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 1, 2005
Messages
424
Location
Slidell Louisiana
Corvette
AI head/cam/intake, Vig converter, D44, EM LTs etc
IMHO get a 95 or 96. By 95 all of the bugs were worked out. The vented opti is reliable, J55 brakes are standard and the squeek abatement was in full swing. As far as 95 vs 96, 95 is OBDI while 96 is OBDII. 96 has a better electronic suspension option compared to the earlier C4s FX3. I chose 95 because I did not want OBDII because I was modding my car and there's better tuning flexiblity in the C4s with OBDI (however, only because OBDII was 96 only on the C4s)
 

jrzvette

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 11, 2005
Messages
287
Location
NJ
Corvette
1969 RED SB COUPE, 1993 BLACK ZF6 COUPE
JRZ, Thanks for the info. That was a big help.

I actually read an article on this topic not too long ago in a Corvette Fever back issue that someone gave me, apparently MSD has a replacement unit out. IIRC, it had a list price of $499. I'm not sure what the price of an OEM one is, but I'd go this route either way.

I read that whan the water pump goes, it usually takes the opti spark with it, so I'll definitely keep a close on on that on any car I look at.

Are there any tell-tales that it's been replaced or upgraded, besides the seller's word?

Andis it a big job to replace the water pump and O-S unit on these cars? I like to do my own work myself. I had replaced the water pump on my '88 L98 GTA, and it was pretty easy. Is this much more involved?

As far as the brakes, and all other options, are they listed on a build sticker somewhere? My GTA had a sticker under the glove box lid with all the RPO codes on it, WS6, G80, etc. Where is this info posted on the C4's?

I found the RPO list on this site, so I'm going to print it out and keep it for a reference when I look at cars.

I've been looking online and in Auto Trader over the past few days, unfortunately I've only found 2 contenders, other than a few C3's that I like the look of.

Both '92 coupes:

One with 59k, auto, white on red, for 7,900 o.bo.

The other is black on black, auto, 90k miles, for 8,500 o.b.o.

I guess the black on black combo is more desirable to some people, but there's something about the white on red that I like. It reminds me of the first C1's, since that's the color combo they all came in. Plus, there's just something over the top about a car with a red leather interior.

The seller sent me a few pics, one of the interior, it looks to be in good shape, with the exception of some wear in the carpet in the hatch, and a broken trim piece. It's behind the driver's seat on the floor, it looks like some kind of latch. Not sure what it is. Top storage maybe?

Other pic is of the odo...yep, 59,xxx K.

So once again, thanks for all the info, and thanks in advance if you can answer any of these questions here.

Mike


An OEM 1st gen opti (92-94) is about $600, a 2nd gen (95-96) about $350. The MSD unit came out about a year ago so I don't know much about it. I replaced the opti in my 93 with a Dynaspark (cost about $600) and have been very pleased with it.

Replacing the wp/opti is more involved than a waterpump replacement on a rebular small block Chevy. The opti sits below and behind the waterpump and is not waterproof (great design idea :eyerole ). If you plan on working on your car get a set of Helms Service manuals. These are indespensible. Just keep in mind that they are model year specific so wait until you've bought your car then buy the manuals.

The RPO sticker is either under the center console cover or the cover in the rear passenger side compartment.

This site as well as Corvette Forum have For Sale sections. There are also several sites,. CorvetteTrader, Corvettes4Sale, etc. Google corvettes for sale and I'm sure you'll find others.

Black is beautiful (it's what I have) but for a daily driver it's a real pain to keep clean.
 

Toms007

Moderator
Joined
Sep 24, 2004
Messages
6,489
Location
Southwest Kansas
Corvette
2007 Atomic Orange Coupe
OldSkool, I wouldn't worry too much about miles. These cars seem to thrive on being driven. I bought my 94 with about 94k on the clock and now it has almost 110K. I wouldn't hesitate to jump in and drive across the country. However mine came with very good maintenence records, which is important.

As far as the opti goes...don't let the early versions scare you off. I just replaced mine (my choice for preventative maintenence) and the water pump, together I paid about $430 for them shipped to my house (NEW GM parts, not remanufactured units, BRAND NEW). I've never done one before so it took me about 6 hours. I could do it much faster now. It's not that bad if you have some mechanical know-how and have a desire to learn.

I would agree to the Helms manuals they are really nice to have. And I am a fan of White/Red too. It is a stunning combination. Good luck with the hunt and keep us posted.
 

OldSkool

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 21, 2005
Messages
51
Location
Newport, RI
Thanks alot for the info, you guys are really being a big help.

JRZ, I hear you about black. I have a black Jeep, and my Formula was black. The Jeep I could care less about, but I damn near drove myself crazy trying to keep that Firebird looking good. I spent almost as much time washing and waxing it as I did driving it. Never again!

Does anyone know if the GM Performance Parts Gen I Opti is at all updated? Or does it has the same problems as the original? I ask becasue I saw them advertised in Summit.

When the Opti goes, is it a gradual process, or does the car just die one day?

I'm sure this is a dumb question, but is it possible for one to seal up their own Gen I unit?

And Tom, great looking Vette in your avatar. Do you have any more pics?

Thanks again!
 

jrzvette

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 11, 2005
Messages
287
Location
NJ
Corvette
1969 RED SB COUPE, 1993 BLACK ZF6 COUPE
Thanks alot for the info, you guys are really being a big help.

JRZ, I hear you about black. I have a black Jeep, and my Formula was black. The Jeep I could care less about, but I damn near drove myself crazy trying to keep that Firebird looking good. I spent almost as much time washing and waxing it as I did driving it. Never again!

Does anyone know if the GM Performance Parts Gen I Opti is at all updated? Or does it has the same problems as the original? I ask becasue I saw them advertised in Summit.

When the Opti goes, is it a gradual process, or does the car just die one day?

I'm sure this is a dumb question, but is it possible for one to seal up their own Gen I unit?

And Tom, great looking Vette in your avatar. Do you have any more pics?

Thanks again!

The OEM Gen 1 of today is the same as the original, no improvements were made. The Dynaspark and MSD are improved versions of the original; better material, better machining, etc. Do a web search on both for information on each.

If an opti is starting to go it will exhibit rough or missing at idle and high rpm's. If it gets wet it can just die.

I guess you could seal the unit with rtv, but there are three small vent holes at the bottom of the unit that you would want to keep open (they really don't do much good, but you don't want to seal them off)
 

Toms007

Moderator
Joined
Sep 24, 2004
Messages
6,489
Location
Southwest Kansas
Corvette
2007 Atomic Orange Coupe
Thanks alot for the info, you guys are really being a big help.

JRZ, I hear you about black. I have a black Jeep, and my Formula was black. The Jeep I could care less about, but I damn near drove myself crazy trying to keep that Firebird looking good. I spent almost as much time washing and waxing it as I did driving it. Never again!

Does anyone know if the GM Performance Parts Gen I Opti is at all updated? Or does it has the same problems as the original? I ask becasue I saw them advertised in Summit.

When the Opti goes, is it a gradual process, or does the car just die one day?

I'm sure this is a dumb question, but is it possible for one to seal up their own Gen I unit?

And Tom, great looking Vette in your avatar. Do you have any more pics?

Thanks again!

First off I'd say just don't wash the engine, at least with a power sprayer. Simple green and a scotch brite pad are probably a better choice.

As far as pictures, I have some I'll post a couple here.

This one was taken last summer in Colorado.
DDjune06013.jpg


Here's one taken in the driveway.
corvetteZR1wheels008.jpg


And a shot of the interior...hope you like RED.... I do :D
Corvetteseatredye019.jpg



I have added the ZR1 wheels, Corsa exhaust, 1.6 Roller rockers, a K&N open lid and redyed the seats so that they look (and feel) like new.
 

OldSkool

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 21, 2005
Messages
51
Location
Newport, RI
Thanks JRZ.

I've been doing alot of research on it, actually. I found a few articles on both the MSD and Dynaspark versions.

I also found an article in GM Hight Tech Performance where they were rebuilding a LT1 with 120k on the stock Gen I Opti, and a post on another board where a guy had close too 100k on his stocker and said he frequently drove it in the rain and washed his motor.

Looks like it's kind of a crap shoot as to when the trouble will pop up.

Also, some guys recommend going the OEM route for replacement, others advise the Dyna or MSD units.

I'm wondering if a OEM unit will be adequate on a car that will never be driven in the rain.

I guess on any test drives I'll make certain to check for any of the driveability problems that I've seen mentioned, by you and on other posts.


Tom, the car looks great!! Thanks for the pics.

I love the ZR1 wheels. And yeah, I DO dig the red. In fact, the one I'm going to look at this week is the same color combo, just with the stock wheels. I think they're called "sawblades"?

Did you notice any difference with the rockers?
 

Toms007

Moderator
Joined
Sep 24, 2004
Messages
6,489
Location
Southwest Kansas
Corvette
2007 Atomic Orange Coupe
Not so much on the rockers yet, but i haven't put that many miles on it since the change. I did that in November and we had one heck of a winter and didn't get to put many miles on it over the winter. I beleive that she has a bit more "poop" and maybe she revs a little quicker, but that is just "seat of the pants" dyno. If you like red then the white/red combo is nice. Keep us posted on the search results.

Mine had the sawblades on it when I bought it, but I like the five spoke wheels so much better I bought these and sold the stock sawblades.
 

o2bnkc

Well-known member
Joined
May 3, 2004
Messages
450
Location
Carson City, Nv.
Corvette
2002 M.Y. convertible
Forget about a c4 and get a c5. After about a year of rattling around in a c4, you will want a c5. Trust me. It will be worth the extra dollars.
 

OldSkool

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Joined
Jul 21, 2005
Messages
51
Location
Newport, RI
Forget about a c4 and get a c5. After about a year of rattling around in a c4, you will want a c5. Trust me. It will be worth the extra dollars.

Are the C4's really that bad?

The C5's are basically out of my budget, it's either a late C3 or a LT1 C4. If the C4's are bad, I can't imagine how bad a C3 is.

At least a stock LT1 C4 can get out of it's own way though.
 
Joined
Apr 18, 2002
Messages
1,441
Location
Staten Island, NY
Corvette
1999 Torch Red Coupe
The C4 is still a great car but the C5 has all the C4 has to offer and more.

I wish I had room for both. The ride in the C5 is far better, just drive a bunch of both and see for yourself.

The LT1 C4s are great cars and there are a few replacement systems out there for the infamous optispark.
 

OldSkool

Well-known member
Joined
Jul 21, 2005
Messages
51
Location
Newport, RI
The C4 is still a great car but the C5 has all the C4 has to offer and more.

I wish I had room for both. The ride in the C5 is far better, just drive a bunch of both and see for yourself.

The LT1 C4s are great cars and there are a few replacement systems out there for the infamous optispark.

I'm afraid to drive a C5, because I don't want to fall in love!

I've never driven a C4 either, but I'm looking forward to it. I figure if it rides as good as my 88 WS6 GTA did, I'm all set. That car rode hard, but not unbearably so, and it handled like a MoFo.

I'm going to take a look at one on Wed, hopefully all goes well.
 

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