C4 Corvette Buying Adventure: Tales From SEMA 2017

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Bryan McQueen's 1985 Chevrolet Corvette C4

When life gives you a lemon, you road-trip it eight hours in a single day.

This is a story about my friend Bryan. He bought an extremely ill-advised C4 Corvette on Craigslist, and it’s definitely one of the best things he’s ever done. This car is terrible in so many ways, but it was only $1,800 dollars, and that’s the best reason to buy. Bryan and I were in Las Vegas for the SEMA Show a few weeks ago with a group of friends. He’s a member of the Driving While Awesome! podcast¬†(also known as DWA!) and they were recording live episodes from the floor of the show. On Thursday morning, Bryan had a horrible idea that turned out to be a pretty good one. He had his mind set on buying a C4 Corvette. DWA!, in addition to running the podcast, also hosts an annual Coastal Range Rally and is part of the crew behind Radwood. Bryan wanted a car he could take to both, and decided on a C4.

The morning of the big day, Bryan called the seller at 7:30 a.m. and was promptly hung up on for calling too early. The car was listed in Pahrump, which is about an hour outside of Vegas, for just $2,500. Once he’d organized a time to meet to check out the car, he organized an Uber to take him out to potentially purchase the Corvette. Once he saw the car in person, he told the Uber driver he could head back to Las Vegas, not considering the fact that Pahrump doesn’t have many Ubers around. A cab ride was around $250, and a plane back to Santa Cruz, CA (where he lives) was a few hundred on top of that. Considering that he’d be able to drive this Corvette back to Vegas for the remainder of SEMA, and then onward to the California Coast later that night, Bryan talked the seller down to just $1,800, and traded cash for Corvette.

The car is far from perfect. The passenger headlight won’t go down. The paint has been coated over with a rubberized bedliner material. The interior is held together with a combination of glue, duct tape, and self-tapping screws. The tires were at least a decade old, and housed quite a few dry rot cracks. There’s no radio, no heat, no A/C. All of that said, it’s a running, driving, stick-shift, V8 American sports car for less than you spent on a nice 4K television this Black Friday. It’s solid, all of the panels are intact, and the replacement parts Bryan needs are relatively inexpensive.

Leaving SEMA, Bryan headed southwest across the Mojave before swinging back on a northward trajectory to get home. Along the way he had to deal with shoddy tire installers, cold desert nights, and taking cat naps in the car at rest stops to fight off fatigue. Prior to leaving the safety of the city, he stopped at an automotive parts store and purchased a few items (jack, jack stand, tools, towels, zip ties, and duct tape, among others) to make the trip a little less fraught. He, smartly, kept the receipt in order to return what he didn’t need at the end. As it turns out, the car ran perfectly, and he only had to use the towels and the duct tape.

I can’t tell the story nearly as well as Bryan can himself, so if you want to hear the full tale, go check out the Driving While Awesome! podcast on iTunes. You’ll want to listen to the buying experience as recounted in Episode #292, and the road trip home as recounted in Episode #294. In the end, Bryan got an inexpensive sports car that works pretty well, even if it is a bit ugly at the moment. And more than that, he earned an experience that he’ll never forget.

Bradley Brownell is a regular contributor to Corvette Forum and 6SpeedOnline, among other auto sites.

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