The Bio on my 1992 Corvette
Here's the story of how I came to be the owner of my 1992 Corvette
Here's the story about how I came to be the owner of my 1992 Corvette, and why it was the worst car I've ever owned. This is a long, drawn out story, so make sure you're really bored before you continue.
After totaling my WS6, I used the majority of the insurance money to pay other bills and decided that I would hold off on getting another fast car until I was in a better financial position. That lasted about 6 months, and I finally decided that I needed another fun car. I also decided that it had to be somewhat practical in that I needed to be able to drive it everyday. I had always liked the C4 Corvette, and I had come close to trading my WS6 in on one several times. Since I was in a 'want' position as opposed to a 'need' position I decided that I was going to wait to buy a C4 until I found just the right one. I had a list of criteria; it had to be a six speed, it had to have black or gray interior, had to be between 1991 and 1996, and could not be white. I also wanted a car that was low miles and pretty stock. After hunting for a month or so, I found a car I really liked. It was a 1992 Corvette, red with gray leather, and a 6 speed. It had more miles than I originally wanted (121,000) but the car was immaculate. It was also advertised as bone stock, so other than the miles it was exactly what I wanted.
I called Chris, the owner of the 92 and spoke with him at length. After about 2 weeks, and half a dozen phone conversations I agreed that I would buy the car as long as it was as he described. I went to the bank and financed the money that I did not have in savings, and booked 2 airline tickets from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles, one for myself and one for my good buddy Tyler.
After booking the tickets, I called Chris back one last time to confirm arrival time, to make sure he could pick me up at the airport, and to give him my flight information. This is where things started to go wrong, here's the gist of the conversation:
Me- "I'll be there this coming Monday. My plane lands at 10 AM, it's flight number XXXX."
Chris- "Whoa, you'll be here Monday?"
Me- "Yeah, is that a problem?"
Chris- "No, uhhh... What are the emissions like there in Utah?"
What an odd question I thought to myself, why would a stock Corvette have problems passing emissions?
Me- "I'll be registering the car in Montana, where there are no emissions, so that's a non-issue for me."
Chris- "Well, the car has headers on it. I was going to re-install the stock manifolds before I sold it, but since you don't have to deal with emissions you have the headers if you want."
Right then I should have walked away. The deal was made; I had bought tickets, and financed the money. This was NOT the time for new details to be emerging. Full disclosure is supposed to come before this point. However, instead of walking away, I said-
Me- "Ummm... OK fine, I'll take the car with the headers."
Chris- "Listen, would you ever want to race, or modify the car at all?"
Another odd question. Why would he care what I intended to do with the car? There are some Corvette enthusiasts out there who emphatically believe the best a Corvette will ever be is the way it rolled off the assembly line from GM. This group is usually called, "The Purist's" and they usually shun any and all modifications. I have even heard of these guys not wanting to sell their cars to someone who they think will alter the car from stock. I thought perhaps this was the direction Chris was headed with his question, but he already told me he had installed headers so I didn't know what to expect. I decided honesty was probably the best policy right now, and I told him the truth.
Me- "Well, I am replacing a 99 WS6 with this car and I would like this car to run at least the same times as my WS6, so I'll have to modify it some."
Chris- "It'll run with an LS1, no problem."
I can't count the number of stock or lightly modified LT1's I killed in my LS1 powered WS6, so I knew there was no way an LT1 powered C4 with only a set of headers was going to outrun a healthy LS1 powered car. At this point I was almost sure the deal was dead, and I was annoyed at Chris. I decided again that honesty was the best policy, and I told Chris what I had experienced in the LS1 VS LT1 arena.
Me- "Look man, there is no way a stock LT1 Corvette will run with a well driven LS1, especially a 6 speed LS1." Right then Chris interrupted me.
Chris- "It's not stock. It's a 383 stroker. Let me come clean and explain. I still have the stock LT1, and I was going to install it before I sold the car, that's why I advertised it as a stock car. I haven't had the time to get the stocker back in it yet, and now you've caught me with my pants down. I'm sorry."
I really didn't know what to say. My mind was kind of reeling at this point. I was going to eat the plane tickets, that was a certainty. Who knows what kind of fee the bank was going to charge me for paying off the loan within an hour of getting it and what about the time Tyler and I had taken off work?
Chris- "If you want the car with the stroker, add $3,000 to the price we agreed on."
Right then, I should have walked away. I should have taken my losses and just walked away. But, I didn't. This is what I said:
Me- "Give me a few days to think about it, and give the name of the shop that did the work."
After cooling off for a day or 2 I called the shop that built the engine. It turns out the engine was a pretty decent piece. Chris had spent close to $8,000 on the engine build and install. The engine was internally balanced, and built to take a pretty big shot of nitrous. The shop owner claimed to know Chris fairly well, and said that to his knowledge the engine had never been run on the bottle. The shop owner also said Chris had let him make some passes at the drag strip in the car; his resulting best out of three runs was a 12.2 at 119 MPH. While 12.2 is fast, it's not incredibly impressive by today’s standards, but the 119 MPH let me know the car was making good power, and with the right traction had the power for deep 11's. After some Internet research I came across a video of Chris running the car at the track. Chris's ET in the video was a paltry 12.8, but the MPH had climbed to 121. With the power to accelerate the car from a stop to 121 MPH in 1320 feet, I knew the engine was making some pretty decent power. I spoke with the shop owner again, and found out the engine was using an LT4 hotcam, so it idled well, and had no stalling/surging issues. That also led me to believe that engine was considerably under cammed and a swap to a larger bump stick might yield some considerable gains.
After discussing the car with some of my friends and family, I decided I was going to go to LA and at least drive it. After confirming with Chris that there were no more surprises awaiting me, I bought 2 more plane tickets and Tyler and I headed for LA.
Our plane landed and Chris was waiting. I hopped in the vette with Chris and Tyler followed us in a cab. We took a short drive to Chris's office, where Tyler and I started to look over the car. After a brief chat with Chris, Chris handed me the keys and went inside to his office. Tyler and I jumped in the red Corvette and started to head down the road.
We started the test drive in the normal fashion, checking electronic things like the radio and air conditioning. We discovered that the after market alarm system and remote door locks did not work properly, the radio would not play CD's nor pick up radio stations, it would play tapes though. The digital dash display had some flickering issues, and the parking brake did not work. After about 20 minutes of tooling around on the surface streets of LA, I finally had my first chance to ease into the throttle. The engine responded wonderfully and the car pulled very hard. In fact, it was easily the fastest car I had ever driven. The power was intoxicating, after several more full throttle blasts, Tyler and I returned to Chris's office. We checked the car for leaks in the parking lot, and all was well. There appeared to no major mechanical issues with the car. I called Chris back outside, we talked for a few minutes, and I bought the car. An hour later Tyler and I were on our way back to Utah in my new Corvette.
So far, the trip had been a success. The car was great, it was fun, powerful, idled well, got decent mileage, and seemed to be a solid car. We ended our first day of driving in Las Vegas, Nevada; which is where the car began to show its true colors. As I got off the freeway onto the strip, I rolled the windows down and laughed with Tyler about how awesome the car was. Once we got to the hotel, the windows would not roll back up. No matter what we tried, we could not get the drivers side window to roll up. We valet parked the car and collapsed in the hotel room, we had been awake nearly 22 hours at this point and were virtually exhausted. The next morning the window still would not roll up. We ended up driving 400+ miles in 100+ degree heat, at 80 MPH with the driver’s side window down. The rest of the trip was miserable. We couldn't talk because of the wind noise, and the AC did nothing to quell the sweltering heat with the driver’s window down.
We finally arrived in Utah, and I immediately went to work taking the drivers door apart to fix the window. I succeeded in fixing the window, and the next day I came out to the car with the idea of taking it to the local cruise in to show off my new toy. Imagine my surprise when there was a 2 foot puddle of oil under the car. Frustrated, I added oil and took the car to the cruise in.
Shortly after getting the car back to Utah I had it dyno tested where it produced 380 RWHP and 380 RWTQ. I was pleased with these numbers, and even more pleased with some mid 12 second ET's from the car. This was especially impressive in Utah due to the extreme elevation. Most cars run over a full second faster at sea level than they do in Northern Utah, so I was looking at a solid mid 11 second car at sea level, maybe even faster. Soon after dynoing the car and tracking it a few time, I installed a nitrous system. The engine responded wonderfully to the bottle, and shattered all my expectations on the dyno making 475 RWHP and an amazing 620 RWTQ. With the nitrous flowing the car was an absolute beast. At 55 MPH in second gear, if I were to arm the nitrous system and floor it, the rear tires never even stood a chance. Smoking the tires at 55 MPH is an awesome feeling, and it definitely gets the attention of everyone around you on the freeway! I loved the car at this point, but I hated the oil leak.
Over the next few weeks, the oil leak worsened. It eventually became so bad that in 2 hours worth of driving, I would have to add 2 quarts of oil. Finally, I caved to frustration and began to search for the oil leak. The leak was massive, and relatively easy to find. The engine was leaking from where the front cover met the oil pan. I bought some new gaskets, and prepared to replace the leaking seals. I also bought a much more aggressive cam shaft for the car. All of the labor to do the cam swap is identical to the labor required to remove the front cover, so I figured I would kill 2 birds with one stone, and swap out the pitifully small cam for a larger one while I was at it. The last new addition was to be some stiffer valve springs that would be able to handle the increased lift of the new cam.
The install took about 2 days, and went very smoothly. The only problems were associated with the front hub assembly, which is an absolute nightmare on a Corvette with an LT1. After many beers and lots of swearing the hub was finally conquered and the car was put back together. Immediately upon start up, the oil leak returned. As frustrating as that was, what was more frustrating was that the car didn't seem to be any faster with the new cam, in fact it felt a little slower. I knew the engine was going to need a new computer tune to take full advantage of the cam, so I ordered a custom tune from a mail order company and anxiously awaited its arrival.
While waiting for the new chip to arrive, I tore the front of the engine apart again, trying to stop the oil leak. Again, the leak returned within seconds of starting the engine. Over the next few weeks I would remove and install the timing cover and oil pan a total of 7 times trying various methods to stop the leak. All failed, and the leak seemed to actually be getting worse.
Once the tune arrived, I installed the chip and immediately went for a drive hoping to feel the fruits of the cam install. The car disappointed again and still felt incredibly slow compared to the way it was only a month ago. I also began to notice a lifter tick coming from the engine. After some investigating, I discovered that the new valve springs I had bought were too much pressure for the stock hydraulic lifters, and the springs were slowly collapsing the stock lifters. That explained all my performance problems, but still did nothing to explain the oil leak. The final straw came one day while the car was at work. I started it up, and the engine let loose an awful screeching sound. The front hub had spun on the crank, and the crank was actually spinning inside the hub. The metal on metal sliding was the horrible screeching sound. Out of frustration I put the car up for sale on the Internet for what I paid for it. I listed its accomplishments, and all its problems. I didn't really expect to sell the car, and I figured once I had saved enough money to fix the current problems I would take the for sale adds down.
Well, one afternoon a guy called about the car. I was 100% honest with him and explained the problems as I saw them. Finally, the guy came and looked at the car. After about 2 hours he handed me a check, and pushed the car onto a trailer. I was floored. He had just bought a non-running car.
I was grateful the car was out of my life, and I soon looked to the next speed toy, a 2004 Suzuki SV 650.