What to Look for in an Early C4

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There’s a Lot of Cheap C4s Out There. Here’s What to Look for to Avoid Getting Hosed

Many Corvette enthusiasts — and car enthusiasts in general — are beginning to appreciate the C4 Corvette for the tremendous performance bargain it currently is. For well under $10K, you can get yourself a pampered, well-maintained car with a phenomenal performance pedigree. Like any other car, there are strengths and weaknesses to different models, as well as things to know before plunking down your hard-earned cash.

Recently, Corvette Forum member NS_Carguy inquired about potential dealbreakers on early C4s. Since these cars are frequently found for sale below $5,000, the difference between a great car and dud isn’t much money. So it’s worthwhile to buy the nicest one you can find. To that end, many forum members chimed in to offer advice.

Since these cars have gotten less expensive over the years, many C4s have been used and abused by less careful owners. Avoiding obvious signs of neglect and poor maintenance is one way to avoid potential disappointment. Torn seats, worn paint, fluid leaks, and non-working electrical equipment are good superficial signs that an owner just stopped caring at some point.

As far as more esoteric, C4-specific advice, it’s a good idea to avoid 1984s with the troublesome Crossfire injection system. Every subsequent year used the far-superior Tuned Port Injection system, which is much easier to live with.

CHECK OUT: What Forum Members Are Saying About Buying a C4

Furthermore, early C4s feature a lot of one-year-only parts that can be difficult to source. For 1986 and newer cars, check that the ABS system still works, since the ABS unit and wiring are no longer available.

Another gremlin to watch for is the stereo system. Rear speakers and amplifiers are often blown out. And replacements are expensive.

The classic smallblock Chevy drivetrain and fiberglass body are typically not an issue with older Corvettes. But it seems like everything else can be a headache if you don’t do your homework.

Although the fiberglass body can’t rust, the steel frame can, and will. Get the car on a lift and check the frame to ensure that it hasn’t turned to brown dust.

Do you have any advice for potential C4 Corvette owners? Chime in on our forums!


Cam Vanderhorst is a contributor to Harley-Davidson Forums, Ford Truck Enthusiasts, Corvette Forum, and MB World. He is also a co-host of the Cammed & Tubbed podcast.

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