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My Corvette Heartbreak


New member
Aug 26, 2014
El Paso, TX
I purchased my '87 Convertible a few weeks prior tograduating college. My reward to myselffor getting through UTEP while working almost full-time at dad's Corvetteshop. I'd grown up with Corvettes all mylife and was looking in particular for a yellow C4 convertible, when thiscopper beauty came along. It was adifferent color -- I like different. Turns out they only made 87 GM code 66 Copper Metallic (or Dark Orange Metalliccars depending what source you check) -- 52 coupes and 35 convertibles and thisone was a convertible! This Corvetteaficionado prefers a manual transmission and this gal had that too! So there I was, fresh out of college in thisshimmering beauty. She was two years oldwith just under 27k miles on her. Forthe first year she was my only driver but I soon got a SUV that would allow herto sit in the comfort of the garage to come out to play on weekends and specialoccasions.
Fast forward 25 years........ A weekend cruise is just what my husband andI had in mind. We would put about 125miles round trip on her to get a green chile cheeseburger at May's Cafe andmake sure she was ready for a 1300 mile trip we were planning to take her onthe following weekend. Everything wasgoing great, she was nearing normal operating temp, oil pressure was good,etc. I wasn't but a few miles from ourhouse, had just turned left onto the entrance ramp to I-10 east, hadn't gottenout of second gear and hadn't even reached 2,000 RPM and BAM!! She lurched to the left a bit and began acyclical thump. I first thought I'dblown a tire. We'd checked the tread andit was great but admittedly the Yokohamas were about 6 years old. I managed to limp to the next off-ramp. Pulling off to the side was not anoption. Two freeway entrance ramps cometogether right where this happened and auto collisions in this area areplentiful. Our lives were not worth therisk (although I did consider it for a minute).
She got us under the Dallas Street overpass and died. And then she bled. It wasn't pretty. What the?!? We hadn't even gotten to 65kmiles together! She'd been meticulouslymaintained! For God's sake in the 25years we'd been enjoying each other's company I had only put 38k miles onher. I sprung into action; 18 yearsworking in the Corvette business you get to know a lot of people. Being a gal in the Corvette business peopletend to remember you. It wasn't easygetting her to a secure location on a Saturday. I couldn't take her home, I live on the side of a mountain and a flatbed tow truck would never make it up the driveway. Monday morning she headed to a trusted mechanicshop. By 12 noon she was on a lift andin the air. My husband called me withthe news; there was a hole in side of the oil pan at #4. I was heartbroken. Had I lost a rod cap? Froze a bearing? I couldn't understand it. She was my baby. We cruised together. She wasn't raced. I never, ever even came close to yellow-linemuch less red-line. How did this happen?
When my guy was finally able to surgically remove her heart(it took some time as he had done me a favor and squeezed her into his shop),he dropped the pan. #4 rod was split ittwo. It broke about an inch above whereit connects to the crank. The rodbearing was fine; it spun on the crank, definitely not seized. The piston had slammed into the aluminumhead, bending a valve. But this isn'tthe worst of it. Because there was stillan inch of connecting rod attached to the crank and because the engine hadseveral revolutions after it broke, that rod came around the other side andyep, you guessed it..... cracked the block! And then another shocker..... remember I'd been in the Corvette business18 years..... When did Chevrolet beginputting 2 bolt mains in the Corvette? Not that a four bolt main would have helped in this situation but.....Aaggghhh!
I have spoken with several mechanics, machine shop operatorsand professional engine builders. Stufflike this doesn't happen under these conditions. Although he knows me and my driving methods,my husband said that if he hadn't been with me in the car at the time of thisincident he wouldn't have believed the circumstances under which thisoccurred.
My plea to you my Corvette enthusiasts is this........ Hasanyone heard of a similar plight? If so, was a determination made as to thecause? Or is it as simpleas.....sometimes S#!T happens?? I amtrying so hard to understand how this could have come about and what my optionsare. Don't misconstrue what I amsaying. Once a diehard, always adiehard. Corvette is my sports car ofchoice and they remain in my family. Myhusband has a 63 split and we also have a 94 daily driver. But my baby, she needs help. Suggestions?


Sep 24, 2004
Southwest Kansas
2007 Atomic Orange Coupe
So sorry top hear your plight. But first off I want to welcome you to CAC. We have a ton of top mechanics here who should be able to spread some light on the issue. Me, I'm just a no-nothing moderator. :D I can't explain "why", but I can give you the "what" needs to be done. And that is it appears you need a new block and maybe a new head. Sounds to me like the perfect opportunity to "upgrade" a bit. There are lots of people who have take those 350's and bumped them to 383's.

Something to think about. Again welcome to CAC.


Well-known member
May 15, 2010
Pittsburgh / South & Centrl TX
'98 Aztec Gold Coupe; '04 Millennium Yellow 'Vert'
Sorry to meet under these unfortunate circumstances, but welcome! :w

Part of my advice in looking for a cause for this would be to post your plight in the C4 area of the forum; the folks that hang around there might have better insight into this kind of catastrophic engine failure. Without seeing your oil pan, a thought that occurred to me is that you might have hit a piece of road debris that punctured the oil pan. After that, the rest would have been history, as they say. Pure speculation on my part, though.

My advice in general would be to do what you can to restore that rare lady back into stock form. Manual transmissions were kind-of rare in the C4's, from what I recall, so that's another reason to keep this one alive and stock. As owner of one of the fifteen '98 Aztec Gold C5's, I can say that these rare colors definitely capture the interest of collectors, who often want the car to be factory-original. You might be able to find an original '87 C4 engine block and rebuild that; or someone might have a whole engine squirreled away. It might take some leg-work, but in the end, I think you'd be happier.

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