Saturday, November 7, 2015

#$%&*! Again!?!? Flat tire ...

Got another nail in a tire ... the same (long string of expletives) tire I replaced last time ... right rear passenger tire.  Grrrrr.  I will NOT go through that damn neighborhood again ... for years if need be.  That's the same tire, replaced, in four months and since the Vette did fine yesterday until I went back through that neighborhood on my way home I can only guess that's where I picked up the nail.

The good news: luckily the tire would still hold air so I aired the tire up and drove up to Walmart.

The bad news: the nail was almost in the sidewall and couldn't be repaired.

The good news: I still had an almost brand new tire in storage, left over from the last time when I replaced both rear tires so I didn't have to buy another tire this time.

The really good news: I'm not sure how or why it happened but Walmart changed out the tire FREE and didn't charge me ... at all.  I walked in to pay for the service and they said no charge and handed me the receipt.  Since I think I've lost a lot more money at Walmart than I ever needed to lose I didn't ask twice.  If they make a mistake every now and then and let me have something for free then don't worry, Walmart is still way ahead when it comes to having taken more than they give.

Sometimes you catch a break ... but now I've got three Fuzions on the Vette and a Firestone.  It'll have to do until I get some other stuff taken care of like the AC programmer module which will give me climate control again.

Life with a Corvette and this Corvette seems to be a nail magnet.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Road Trip

I had a business meeting in Jackson on Friday so I took the '91 Vette since I was going to be gone most of the day and I wanted to put some road miles on the car.  My last '91 (six speed, 3.45 rear end, Z07) got almost 31 miles per gallon on the highway in sixth gear double overdrive.  I was curious what the '91 four speed automatic with 3.07 rear end would get ... and I wanted to blow the soot out of her.

One thing I have found in owning this car is that she likes to be driven.  If you don't drive her she pouts and throws a tantrum.  It's almost like owning a Vette version of John Carpenter's "Christine" and it's something I've gotten used to.

Resetting the fuel economy calculations, I managed a best of 26.8 miles per gallon round trip which is great for a 350 cubic inch small block Chevy that can run 157 plus miles an hour on the top end but not so great (I think) due to the overdrive and low gears.  Maybe the six speed spoiled me ... but since I don't know the history of this car and since I just got it and since it just turned over 100,000 miles and since it's almost 25 years old I'm thinking a tune up is in order.

Here are some pics from the road trip.

The view from the cockpit - Highway 13 North ... I love this stretch of road.

The forecast called for rain and there was a major storm front moving into the area promising to soak the area (again) with a lot of downpour.  The weather forecast made me decide not to take the '86 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am and instead take my '91 Chevy Corvette.  

I was a little concerned taking the Vette since the climate control is out of commission and that includes defroster and rear defroster.  Given the humidity in Mississippi and the increase included in rain, having to run with the windows up in a down pour and no air circulating it might have been a problem.  I took the chance and fortunately it wasn't a problem since the few times I went through some major bad weather the interior didn't fog up at all.

Back shot.  The weather was gray and misting from Columbia up to about 10 miles from Mendenhall.  Ipod cranked, playing through the factory stereo system.

Piloting the '91 Vette.  The adjustable suspension is nice but the steering feels a lot tougher than my '91 Z07 did.  This steering you have to fight and put some effort into, not at all like my '86 TA which is quick ratio and you can change lanes just by flicking your wrist.  Turning this '91 Vette in a parking lot is a two handed job with both hands on the wheel cranking it.  I read where Chevy wanted a more "European" feel to the Vette's steering ... if by "European" they mean "high effort / high suck" then they got it right.  If by "European" they meant "sure feeling and easy to turn" then they effed up bad.

Another view of this stretch of road.

Hard to see but 26.6mpg.  I got a best reading of 26.8mpg.  I've seen nearly 30mpg earlier so I know there's about four more mpg hiding in a good tuneup.

The office for the day ... well, the traveling part of the day.  Highway 49 north just out of Mendenhall, MS.  Ignore the tachometer, it's not working correctly.  At that speed, in a 3.07 geared rear end, I should be doing between 1200 and 1500 rpm.

And that's looking at Jackson straight ahead, maybe 10 miles to go.  There was a point where I dipped in under the clouds, the sun vanished completely and I felt the temp drop a good five to eight degrees almost instantly.  The side window was down and you could feel the storm front coming in, the drop in temperature was immediate and noticeable once I hit the edge of the storm.

I ate in Jackson out near the Promenade and then took the top off because it was sunny.  On the way back, I was chasing what I'd run into on the way up.  Somewhere near Magee I pulled off in a church parking lot and put the top back on the Vette.  Getting back on Highway 49 South I was glad that I did because a mile and a half past the church I literally ran into a wall of water coming down and that lasted for the next fifteen miles.

The last of the storm moving out.  It's after 4pm and I'm heading towards Sumrall which will put me out near Bellview and then onto Highway 98 West towards Columbia.  I thought I'd head back to the office for the afternoon but with 8 hours of clock time for the day I just headed home at Seminary.

The view heading back to Columbia.  Parts of the storm still lingering in the area but I didn't get any more rain.  Overall it was a great trip and the Vette did really well.  

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

She's back from the mechanic ... good news and bad news.

Well, mixed feelings here.  I put her in the shop back after Memorial Day in May ... with a list of what I wanted done to her.  I got her back last Wednesday, in October.  In his defense, my mechanic did ask if I was in a hurry to get her fixed and I told him no. 

Still ... four and a half months?!

When I got her back my mechanic had fixed the oil leak (bad oil pressure sending unit leaking down onto the exhaust) and tracked down the C68 climate control system problem where the air flow only exited the defroster vents ... it's a bad AC Programmer Module ... part number 16140190.  

Guess what?  

The part that I need to get my AC working is a one year only part, specific to the 1991 Corvette, incompatible with previous or later model years, discontinued long ago, no OEM stock left anywhere and the part itself is now rarer than an a full set of teeth in a meth house.

Thank you GM and Chevrolet for building such quality products.

The only hope to get the AC working again correctly is to find a replacement or rebuild this controller module.  I've priced them from Ebay to salvage yards (they get testy if you call them "junk yards") and some of them go for upwards of $600 rebuilt.  I did find a site which rebuilds these units for $189 with a 7 day turnaround.


Thinking that everything had been fixed except the AC controller, I told my mechanic that I'd just take the Vette back and get the module rebuilt myself since my source for rebuilding the controller was cheaper than his source and putting the controller back into the guts of the Vette was just a couple of screws and an electrical connection ... plus I really, really just wanted my Vette back again.

I missed that growl of the L98.

I missed having just one other seat beside me and I've been itching to drive MY Vette again.  I didn't really get to drive it very much before I put it in the shop and the only reason I put it in the shop was because I could get all of the work it needed done at once and because I was still recovering from my wreck and not able to swing wrenches like I used to.  Since (I assumed that) everything was done but the AC control module I could drive the Vette for a week or so with the windows down and top off ... like I usually do anyway.  It's getting cool enough now that I really don't need the AC but it won't be long before I'll need the heater.

So ... I got the Vette back ... with most of the dash disassembled and just laying loose in the passenger seat and passenger floor board and enough dust on the exterior and windows to qualify it as a recently discovered barn find.  The oil and oil filter got changed, the oil pressure sending unit got changed, the oil leak stopped ... and nothing else got done.



So ... now I've got to get her tuned up, get all the filters changed from front to back, service the transmission, change the serpentine belt tensioner and the serpentine belt itself.  I think I'm going to find a new mechanic for my Vette ... got two local garages lined up that want to give it a try so I'll let them handle anything that comes up in the future.  My current mechanic is good on stuff like my wife's '03 Grand Marquis and my old '86 TA but the Vette's obviously given him some problems.

This is how I got her back.  All the trim panels were removed from the center section of the driver's pod and just put in the rear cargo area.  Yeah, the gear selector "bar" isn't working on the shift indicator.  Maybe it's just not hooked up, maybe it's broken.  I'm going to see if I can fix it Saturday.  The C68 system controller is just stuck in the dash, not even secured.  It slides around when you're driving.  I think the trim screws are in the center console.  Several were on the floor.

Passenger side under dash ... wires and cables just hanging out.  Loyd's mat with weather cover.  The driver's side clear cover was wadded up under the driver's side dash.  I'm having to put weight on it to flatten it out.  How did that happen?

Driver's side under dash.  That big blue connector is for the C68 AC Programmer module.  I'm just going to tuck everything up under the dash and put the panels back on until I get the control module back.

Anyway.  It's been a while since I had my last '91 C4 and I've forgotten some of the quirks of owning these cars ... like the VATS.  I washed all the dust off of my Vette, filled her up with 93 Non Ethanol high octane, took the top off, windows down and cruised the long way around Columbia.  I blew the soot out of her a few times and just had a really good time getting reacquainted with the old girl.  I stopped by the hospital and hit the walking track for a workout session then went inside to see my supervisor.  He saw that my Vette was back and wanted to see it so we walked back outside and I showed him the '91.

Yeah.  I am.  Have to be with the kind of life that I have.

Back in her favorite spot at the ER.

Profile shot ... cleaned up.  I think the '91 was the best year of the L98 powered C4s ... last year as well so it took Chevy seven years to get it right.  After that, the LT1 was just ... bad.  Opti-Spark itself is something that will probably prevent me from ever owning an LT1 powered anything.  As for the '91, you got L98 power with the '90 interior makeover and the '91 restyling of the exterior plus the new sawblade wheels and a lot of equipment that was optional in the past few years was now standard equipment on the '91.  I miss the quicker ratio steering ... this thing can be a beast to one handed drive at low speed in a parking lot.

I reached inside, put the keys in the ignition and cranked her up.

She growled.

I reached under the dash, popped the clamshell hood, lifted it and ... the engine died.


I tried to crank the Vette again and she wouldn't crank.  She'd turn over and over and over but never catch fire.  Basic recipe of internal combustion ... you need fuel, air and spark.  I was getting air ... probably spark ... but ... I turned the key off and back on.  I didn't hear the fuel pump pressurize.


I get her back from the shop and the 24 year old fuel pump gives up the ghost in the parking lot of my hospital.

I was tired.

I was beat.

I put the top on, put the windows up, locked the Vette and went to Wendy's with my family.  Just another problem to solve later.  Changing a fuel pump on a C4 isn't hard ... it's just time consuming and fortunately you can do it standing up at the rear of the car ... unlike the '86 TA which requires you to drop the rear differential, drop the gas tank and put the fuel pump in through the top of the gas tank.

I went home, looked up some reasons why the fuel pump would suddenly die, some solutions, priced a fuel pump just for kicks and went to sleep.  The next day at work was a long day, thoughts of the Vette, of having to work on her in the parking lot of my hospital made it even longer ... Finally, I got back to her around 7:30 PM that night.  It was dark.  I had my code scanner and some spare fuses, hoping, praying that it was just a blown fuel pump fuse or, failing that, I could pull some code that would tell me more about what happened.

Why can't it just be something simple?  

Just once?

On a whim, I opened the '91, stuck the key in the ignition, cranked her and ... she growled to life ... and didn't quit.

There was a brief period of "WTF?" followed by an equally brief period of "IT EFFING RUNS!" followed by a shallow laugh at myself when I realized what I'd done.  The fuel pump hadn't died ... I'd triggered the VATS which shut down the drive train to prevent the Vette from being stolen.

I hung my head and laughed softly ... man I must have been really tired to not have thought of that when it happened.

Last night, when I was showing my supervisor the Vette, I'd forgotten that I'd locked the door when I shut it ... muscle memory and old habit.  Locking the door, even with the windows down and the top off, activates the Vette's factory security system (and it's a pretty good system, considering).  When I reached in and cranked the Vette without opening the door with the key, VATS kicked in and when I reached in the Vette, again without opening the door with the key, and popped the hood VATS killed the engine and shut down the whole car.  If I had just waited 20 minutes the Vette would have reset and everything would have been fine.  If I had just come back from Wendy's and tried the Vette again I could have driven her home.

Instead I left her all night at the ER and worried about something that wasn't.

Lesson learned.

Rule out the simple stuff first.

I'm still getting used to this Vette ... again.

Silly, stupid mistake but one you can laugh at because all it cost me was a little embarrassment and some time.

So, I took the Vette home, parked it, went to bed, got up, threw all of my gear in the Vette and took it to Hattiesburg to work.  She did fine all the way to lunch and then after lunch she started idling rough, surging, almost dying several times and it felt like she was running on six cylinders sometime rather than eight.


No codes are getting thrown up on the dash but she definitely is down on power and feeling rough.  I'm guessing it's time to change the fuel filter (which was on the list of things to be done but didn't get done) and throw some fresh plugs into her this Saturday.  It feels like maybe I fouled a couple of plugs.  While I'm at it, I might just replace the distributor cap and rotor.  Maybe I just got some trash sucked into the fuel system and it will eventually work its way out in daily driving tomorrow.

Fingers crossed but if not then I'm looking forward to spending some quality time swinging wrenches on her Saturday morning, just getting reacquainted with the old girl and getting used to all of her quirks and idiosyncrasies all over again after the long absence.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Long overdue update - pics heavy

Sorry for the long time between posts ... life ... what can you do?  I offer you new pictures of some old pictures.

The '91 arrives on a gloomy day, bringing its own amount of sunshine into my life.

This C4 came from a town about 30 miles NW of where I bought my '86 TA.

Low to the ground C4 makes unloading a chore.

Yeah ... I was partial to red but white is beautiful as well.

C4 lines are classic.  I prefer the updated '91 front and rear as well as the new for '91 wheels.

Unloaded and ready for a test drive.  She really needed the soot blown out of her ... sitting up for almost 4 months in a climate controlled warehouse without being started or run wasn't good for her ... or for any Corvette.

Filling her up with 93 non-ethanol high octane.  My toys get the good stuff.

Here's the list of her options ... FE1, FX3, G44, G92, JL9, KC4 ... things I look for.

At home in the garage with her two stable mates ... my '04 Honda CBR600RR and my '86 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am.

Long view shot ... space is getting cramped in the garage.  CBR makes opening the Vette's driver's door and TA's passenger door an act of contortion and contrition.

The '91 in her new home, clamshell hood raised and battery tender hooked up for trickle charging.  I'd completely forgotten how wide those 17x9.5 tires were.

Well, after the Vette arrived in my life I spent a few weeks sorting her out ... driving her as a daily driver and just getting used to being in the saddle of a C4 again.  Initial impressions:

Tachometer - the factory tachometer is reading wrong which is the first car I've ever owned where the tach read wrong.  I depend heavily on gages instead of idiot lights to tell me what is going on with my car so when something major like the tachometer is showing erroneous information it gripes me.  Basically the tachometer is worthless as it reads over a thousand RPM off and any amount of throttle just sends the needle all the way into the red (which is obviously not accurate since I can hear and feel the engine running at much, much lower levels of revolutions.  Researching the problem indicates that I'm looking at either a tach filter replacement (yes, there is a RF filter on the tach line, especially with the high tech dash) or a rebuild / refurbish of the instrument cluster.  I'm going to try the tach filter first (located near the firewall / distributor) and if that doesn't work I might send the instrument cluster out to be repaired / refurbished.

4 Speed Automatic - This is the first automatic C4 Corvette I've ever owned.  My initial impression was two fold: 1) REAL Corvettes have sticks in them and 2) with my back healing up and the heavy traffic I get into on a daily basis I just really didn't think that I wanted another six speed stick.  I especially didn't like the previous stick car I owned, a '91 Z07 with 3.42 rear gears.  The first gear ratio of the ZF-6 speed matched to the deep gears in the Dana 44 meant that getting to sixty took three shifts.  I expected more from a Corvette than that ... I expected with a six speed manual transmission that getting to sixty might take two shifts, at most.  I didn't like the six speed ... personally I liked the Doug Nash 4+3 speed transmission in my '88 better than I liked the ZF-6 speed in my '91.  

Your opinion may vary and probably does.

The four speed automatic in the '91 put the Vette, IMHO, in the same realm as the third gen F-bodies that got the bigger L98 / B2L 350 TPI motor and were limited to the four speed 700R4 as their only transmission choice.  I'd owned several 5.7 liter TPI / 4 speed automatic third gen F-bodies and wished that I'd had a stick behind that big motor.  Now that I have a '91 Vette with a four speed automatic I can tell you that the difference in a four speed automatic Corvette with a L98 and a four speed IROC-Z with a L98 is night and day, in the Vette's favor ...

Pushing the long skinny pedal to the floor in the '91 four speed automatic Vette reminds me of an old documentary on the X-15 rocket plane that NASA once flew.  The test pilots commented that once the rocket engine was lit it was amazing how fast that experimental rocket plane left the immediate area.  The same can be said of my '91 Corvette ... several things happen when you drop the hammer in this Vette:

  • You better be pointed in the direction you want to go.
  • The rear end sits down and the nose raises up ... both very noticeably.
  • Things under the hood (L98) and right behind you (aftermarket exhaust) get a lot louder and drown out anything but basic instinct.
  • Your vision narrows to tunnel.
  • You are pushed back into your seat in such a way that you are reminded of just what a glorious thing a port fuel injected small block Chevy V8 is.
  • The Corvette leaves the area with a quickness ... the digital speedometer rapidly counts upwards in a way that, if the rest of what is happening hasn't brought a smile to your face, then what you see on the digital speedometer definitely will.

Long story short ... if you think that an automatic L98 Corvette is slow or that a Corvette with an automatic transmission is a girl's car you'll be pleasantly surprised and mistaken on both counts (I know I was ...).  In fact, after owning this '91 automatic L98 Vette for just a few weeks I'm wondering why I ever owned a C4 with a stick in it to begin with.  


The long skinny pedal isn't so much a "gas pedal" as it is a "throttle" with "full afterburner" option there when the pedal is fully depressed to the floor.  Pushing the long skinny pedal flat to the floor in this Vette feels like you went beyond full military power and right into the afterburner indent ...

since I'm a big sci-fi guy, dropping the hammer in this '91 Corvette is as close as you can get to knowing what it must have felt like when Starbuck or Apollo stabbed the "TURBO" button down on the joystick of their Colonial Vipers in the old "Battlestar Galactica" television series.

Yeah ... it feels a lot like that.

I love this automatic transmission!

FX3 Adjustable Suspension - this '91 Corvette came with the rare and optional FX-3 adjustable suspension which basically consists of four adjustable shocks, the electric motors required to spin the selector knobs of those shocks through three different positions via a remote control knob in the center console and all the hardware and control processing system to operate the hardware.  Much has been written about the FX-3 suspension, not a lot of it good but I like it.  Mine works and unlike other owners and stiff upper lipped car magazine test reporters, I can actually feel my FX-3 when it engages.  The console knob allows you to change the suspension from Tour to Sport to Performance (or soft, medium and hard).  I don't ever take mine off "Performance" unless I'm on a really long trip when I want the Delco Bilstein shocks to keep a lot of the road shakes instead of allowing them to be transferred to my back and posterior.  When I'm driving this Vette and I switch modes, I can feel a "ghost wave" move through the Vette.  I used to feel the same thing with my '88 Toyota Turbo Supra that was equipped with the TEMS option (even though that system only had two settings, soft and hard).  Honestly, it's kind of a gimmick but I like it.  It's a bit of bragging rights to say that you can adjust your Vette's suspension between "tour" and "race".  I just leave it on the hardest setting all the time but even on the smoothest setting this Vette is still a corner carving tool with an exceptionally keen edge.

Steering wheel - big and grippy.  I like big, thick steering wheels and the positions for your fingers / thumbs are right for long trips.  The third generation Chevy Camaro IROC-Z and the 1986 Dodge Daytona Turbo Z were some of the worst designed steering wheels I'd ever put my hands on.  This '91 steering wheel?  Good.

Steering - quick but not as quick as the quick ratio found in my '91 Z07.  Chevy changed (slowed down) the steering in the '91 because they thought that the slower steering was more in line with European steering speeds.  I, for one, don't want my American sports car to have the kind of steering ratio / speed that a BMW 4 door luxury box has.  Nothing I can do about this but the steering feels ... precise and ... slow.  A tad bit slower than I'd personally like but ... what can you do?

Loyd's Mats - front and back.  Nice.  Black colored.  Even nicer when contrasting with the gold interior.

Dual Sport Seats - very nice.  Infinitely adjustable, driver and passenger.  Too bad they're not heated ...

Sound System - Delco Bose - the factory sound system is adequate.  I've never been much of an audiophile or a debutante when it came to stereo systems.  If it worked, I liked it.  This stereo is not the original '91 stereo but it is an original Corvette radio with CD player and cassette player.  The speakers all still work, all the amplifiers still work and the stereo sounds pretty good.  It has the option to adjust the volume automatically in response to engine / road noise but I find that option bothersome so I just leave it on manual adjustment.  I can tell that the radio is from a different year because the graphics on the radio are in white while everything else in the Vette is in golden hazard yellow.  However, when the radio is lit at night, the lights are the same amber color as the rest of the dash lights so I'm guessing that the radio is a '92, maybe '93 model that was transplanted into this Corvette by a previous owner since the build codes indicate that the original factory radio was only an AM/FM stereo cassette unit.  Where the original radio is I have no idea nor do I really care.

Mileage - I was worried about this because after all, my new Vette is going to be my daily driver with 5 days a week of commuting over 75 miles each day round trip.  I was curious what a four speed automatic transmission was going to give me in fuel economy.  My deep geared '91 Z07 with the six speed (top two gears are overdrive) gave me about 20 miles per gallon combined driving and 30 miles per gallon on the highway with the AC blowing wide open and I got spoiled with that kind of fuel economy from a big 350 cubic inch V8 that can propel this car to 14 second quarter miles and a top speed of cheek flapping 157 miles per hour.  

After a few weeks of breaking her back in (after months of her sitting up in a climate controlled storage building) I'm happy to say that, according to the onboard calculators for this Vette that I'm getting about 21 miles per gallon combined (sometimes 22 if I feather the throttle a lot) and 29 to 30 miles per gallon on the highway so ... double overdrive not needed.  I can live with the gas mileage that this lady is knocking down and I'm hoping once she gets tuned with all new fluids, filters and plugs in her that she'll do even better.  Fingers crossed.  On a long trip with steady driving in cruise I expect to see 30 miles per gallon.  Part of that is the lower (or higher) gear ratio in the rear Dana 36 differential ... 3.07 (which is the standard C4 high speed / pursuit / interceptor gear ratio ... as one designer said ... the 3.07 was only there for running flat out in a C4 ... that's all it was there for and this Vette I'm happy to say has the high speed gear ratio).  Compare the 3.07 in my white '91 Vette with the 3.42 in the '91 red Z07 and you can see a difference in fuel economy potential.  I didn't like the 3.42 in the Z07 ... it felt too "deep".  

The 3.07 feels "right" for this car.

Aftermarket exhaust - not sure who makes it but it looks like two tennis ball cans instead of mufflers / resonators and it has rectangular tips like the later LT1 cars.  The exhaust has a nice throaty note to it, not annoying like a ricer or sack grabbing in public like most Ford Mustang aftermarket exhausts.  This exhaust sounds ... mellow.  It sounds ... right.  I like it.  When you get down on it and put your foot into it the exhaust tends to drone some, maybe a little more than I'd like it to but for now I'm leaving it like it is.

March 20, 2015 - How to blow $600 in 10 minutes ...

Took the '91 to breakfast ... hit a screw in the road ... deflated the tire enough that driving about three miles on it destroyed the sidewall.  Had to jack the Vette up in the parking lot of a local convenience store, called a fellow officer to give me a ride to the local tire shop.  Got a tire, got the tire mounted, got a ride back to the Vette, put the tire on, drove the Vette to the tire store, got a second tire of the same kind mounted.  $600 and some change all because I wanted a $5 breakfast.



Jacked up in the parking lot of the gas station / convenience store.

Thinking about dropping the 406cid Lingenfelter in here.  Tag bracket has since been replaced with the "Deal's Gap Dragon Slayer" tag bracket.  Personalized tag is self-explanatory and yes, I am.

I've always loved the design of the C4 ... the mechanical parts are art.

Here's the destroyed tire ... the trench around the sidewall is where the tire is destroyed.  The shiny bit in the tread at about the 1:00 position is the roofing screw that did the deed.

Roofing screw that I picked up ... you can see how the sidewall got destroyed.  I've never seen a tire deflate and disintegrate like that from a simple wood screw.

Jacked up at the tire store and getting the second brand new tire mounted.

Another view of the C4's rear brake and suspension architecture.

Later that day on duty at the local ER.

Hard to believe that less than 5 months ago my '89 Dodge Daytona Shelby was occupying this spot.  I miss that Dodge ... that was a fun car to drive.  The '91 Vette is a fun car ... but not nearly as fun as the Daytona was ... and yes, the '91 would have smashed the '89 easily and effortlessly ... but I still miss my '89 Dodge Daytona Shelby and I'd trade the Vette dead even for another Shelby like I had.

On duty.

Many times, when I'm idling with the AC on in traffic, this light starts to flash, especially if my foot is on the brake pedal.  I'm thinking it's the alternator or maybe battery as this indicator lights when low voltage is detected.  I'm probably going to get the alternator rebuilt.

Broke 100,000 miles on her!

The '91 performing its duties as a daily driver ... shot from my office, 2nd floor, at work.

Zoomed out.  24 years old and she still looks great ... even standing still.

In the driveway all cleaned up.

I really like the '91 restyle of the C4.  It got everything right all at once and in addition, because it is a L98 TPI car, the 406cid Lingenfelter will drop right in with plug and play ease.

C4's are just tough looking, even standing still.  Future aesthetic mods include black stripes in the fender vents to accent the vents and painting the recesses of the tail lights flat black

Now the bad ... if you can really call it that.

Right after Memorial Day I put the Vette in the shop to get some problems sorted out.  My list I gave to my mechanic included:

Check EVERYTHING ... tires, brakes, pads, wear and tear, etc.  Give it a good recon and let me know if anything is about to give up the ghost or needs to be replaced.

Filters and fluids, front to back, change them all.  I like to start fresh when I buy a car.

Oil leak.  The Vette started to leak oil, not much, but enough to concern me.  It looked like a valve cover gasket might be leaking since the oil was dripping on the driver's side exhaust pipe and that was a concern for me since oil plus hot exhaust pipe equals fire.  That and I didn't like pulling up to a stoplight or parking spot and smelling burnt oil.

Air conditioning only blew out the dash defroster vent.  It's a vacuum thing, I thought, but it could also be a control module up inside the dash.  Since I didn't feel like digging around in the dash, I felt like paying someone else to do it for me.

My mechanic asked me if I was in a hurry to get the Vette back and I told him no.

Nine weeks later ... I stop by to check on the Vette and it's almost ready which is good since I've been driving the hell out of my '86 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am and I don't like using that rare car in a daily driver capacity so ... first of next week, my mechanic said.

She should be ready the first of next week and I can't wait.  So far the Mississippi summer has been brutal with high humidity and heat indexes in the 100 plus range.  I'm going to enjoy having the air blow out the dash vents instead of just the center vent in the dash and I'm going to look forward to doing some serious cruising in this lady.


Saturday, February 21, 2015

And so it begins ... again.

Life is funny strange sometimes, especially my life.  You get to a point where you think you have what you want, you get your life set up so it is just ticking along smoothly and at the right pace and then ... bam!  Someone comes and knocks it all down and you have to start stacking your blocks back up all over again.

That's what happened to me in the last year.

I got my life just like I wanted it, even thought I was going to get ahead for a while ... like really ahead and ... nope, time to start over and try again.  Here's the story.

Sometime about a year ago I decided that I really didn't like my '99 Lincoln Towncar, realizing that I really wasn't a four door car kind of guy.  I'm also not a truck guy or a luxury car guy or the kind of guy that likes to drive mediocre, boring cars ... especially any kind of car that everyone else drives.  I hate seeing myself coming and going in traffic ten times each way on my way to work or where ever it is that I'm going to.

My Towncar had 170,000 miles on it and was pretty much reliable to a fault.  It had all power, air conditioning, it rode well (though I hated its tendency to follow ruts in the highway), got high teens / low 20's in fuel economy and it had a satellite XM radio.  It kept me dry in the rain, warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  It rode like a hover panzer and it was comfortable.

It was also ... boring.

Mind numbingly boring.

A Lincoln Towncar is a great A-B car.  It gets you from point A to point B, just like a Plymouth Neon Espresso will ... but with a lot more style and you can keep your dignity when you drive the Lincoln.  Not so with the Plymouth Neon (not that I'd know, I have a set of testicles, big ones, so owning a Neon is kind of beyond me).  The Towncar is a really nice car if you like really nice cars.

I don't like really nice cars.

I like really fast cars.

I wanted something with more excitement, something that I would wake up to in the morning and look forward to getting behind the wheel of because I like driving and driving is a large part of my work week with a 70 plus mile round trip commute each and every day.

I like driving.

No, I love driving.

I've been driving since I was 13 years old (I was big for my age) and I got my driver's license in 1984 at the young age of 15 (back when 15 year olds could get their driver's licenses).  I love cars but not just any cars ... I love sports cars and not just any sports cars but I'm kind of partial to the sports cars of the 1980's.  I've owned a lot of 1980's metal in my life, everything from Mazda RX-7s (I'm partial to the first gen GSL models), Toyota Supra Turbos, Pontiac Firebird Formulas, Pontiac Firebird Trans Ams, Chevy IROC-Z Camaros, turbo Dodge Daytonas and two C4 Corvettes (both red stick cars).  I have to say that looking at the Towncar it was a radical departure from what I was used to and although I tolerated it for a long time (years), the need to drive something more exciting kept gnawing at me in the way that a five pound tumor will gnaw at you if you ignore it for too long.

Flash back to almost a year ago today.  I decided that I was going to find something more exciting than the '99 Lincoln so I began throwing ideas out there to myself.  I already had a 1986 Pontiac Firebird Trans Am in my garage that I'd spent the better part of nearly a decade restoring to factory showroom stock condition and I had a 2004 Honda CBR600RR sport bike in the garage as well ... but sometimes weather doesn't favor riding a motorcycle 70 plus miles a day and when you spend a lot of time restoring a classic Pontiac that might be the only one in the state left you tend to not want to put it on the road everyday as well.  That was where the old Lincoln came in and pulled duty but I was tired of the Lincoln and wanted something ... faster, sportier, something with two doors less than the Lincoln ... something with T-tops.

I thought about finding another 1987 to 1989 Pontiac Firebird Formula but couldn't find one.  I looked at a lot of cars, maybe even a classic Monte Carlo SS with T-tops (my wife hates those cars ...) but I went back to remember how much fun that I had with my 1986 Dodge Daytona Turbo Z back when I was in college.  That car had been a blast to own and drive.  Good performance, good fuel economy, classic looks ...  So I spent a few months tracking down a 1989 Dodge Daytona Shelby with T-tops and the awesome 2.2 liter Turbo II engine with the heavy duty 5 speed Getrag geared transmission.

I bought the '89 Daytona in June of 2014 and sold the Towncar in July of 2014.

Man, I loved that Daytona.  

It turned heads.  

It was fun to drive.  

It ran like a raped ape and it got me 35 miles per gallon on the highway.  

It was everything that I wanted in a daily driver and more ...

... and then five months to the day that I bought it some 24 year old kid, not paying attention, slammed into the back of me at a red light in Hattiesburg.

The wreck.  

I was sitting still.  

The kid, in a Chevy Colorado pickup truck, hit me from behind.

I never saw it coming.

I don't remember anything of the wreck ... except waking up in the median of the highway, facing the wrong direction, with my '89 Dodge Daytona Shelby crushed up all around me, with EMT and rescue personnel reaching into what was left of my car, cutting the roof off to get me out, loading me onto a backboard and transporting me by ambulance to the local trauma center where I spent four days in the hospital and three weeks at home recovering.

In the blink of an eye ... my '89 Dodge Daytona Shelby was gone through no fault of my own.

Now it's been three and a half months since the accident.  I spent a lot of that time trying to find a replacement for the Daytona.  It wasn't easy.  Daytonas are rare cars and finding one a year ago was luck ... finding a replacement would be impossible and that proved out fairly quickly.  Daytonas, especially in the shape that mine was, aren't found very often, if at all.

I thought about what kind of car I wanted to have as a daily driver ... and the more I thought about it the more I leaned back towards another C4 Corvette.  I started out wanting a 1986 Corvette, Z51, 4+3 speed Doug Nash transmission, red in color with a red, tan or black interior.  I searched high and low for one of those but never could really find one I liked.  I wanted the '86 TA to have a '86 Vette, kind of two cars from the same year of my high school teenage life.

My first C4 was bought in 1992 and it was a 1988 Z51 coupe, 4+3 speed, red with a tan interior.  I loved that Vette but sold it to get something more practical.  My mistake and I've regretted it ever since.  My second C4 was back in 2008 and it was a '91 Z07 with six speed, red on tan again.  I didn't like the gear ratios of the 6 speed ... it had four forward gears, double overdrive (5th and 6th) and 3.45 cogs in the Dana 44 rear pumpkin.  Getting zero to sixty was steep and took three gear rows to do it.  Even though it got 30 miles per gallon on the highway (amazing for a 250 horsepower V8) it just didn't feel "right" and I sold it to put my time, money and effort into restoring my '86 TA.

Now, after a lot of bullshit of dealing with people on the Internet who think that because they have something that I want to buy that they can make me jump through hoops to hand them my hard earned money I finally found the Vette I was looking for ... a white on tan '91 with the FX3 suspension option and ... gasp ... a four speed automatic transmission.

My first automatic Corvette but I felt it was time and in all of the magazine articles and road tests the automatic Vettes were about a half second quicker to sixty and in the quarter mile than the stick cars were so ...

... So I found a '91 Corvette, my first white Corvette (tan interior), my first automatic transmission Corvette and for those of you who know how weird my life gets sometimes this Corvette is a North Carolina car as well.  In fact, it comes from an area 30 miles northwest of where I bought my '86 TA just 9 years ago.  

What are the odds?

So, I've got a 1991 Corvette because I'm eccentric, I love driving, I don't like driving what other people have and I like 1980's sports cars.  That's strange, you may say, since you're driving a 1991 Corvette in and of itself clearly a sports car of the '90's.

Yes ... and no.

1991 was the best year, IMHO, of the fourth generation Chevy Corvette.  The C4 Corvette was a decidedly 1980's icon with its video game dash and its exotic material construction.  A Corvette turns heads like a poll dancing nun and it would hang (or out perform) the best that Europe and Italy had to offer at the time (still does today).  The 1991 Corvette has several features which made me favor it ... sure the 1985 to 1989 Corvette has some classic '80's styling but the 1991 got all of everything of the C4 "just right".

The 1990 redesigned interior which created a distinct driver and passenger "pod" area similar to the very early Corvettes.  It even had a glove box (again) and the Atari dash was gone now in favor of a digital speedometer and analog gauges (I like swinging needles on clocks to tell me what I'm doing).  

In 1991 the C4 got its first (and only) redesign combining a new front cap and rear cap and it looked fantastic so IMHO, the 1991 Vette was what the 1984 Vette should have looked like (and been like) all along ... you just had to wait 7 model years to get it.

1991 was the best of the L98 powered C4 Corvettes ... and the last because in 1992 Chevy started dropping the LT1 powered 2nd Gen small block V8 between the front fenders and ... I've never been a fan of the LT1 because parts don't interchange and for one really big reason after that ... Optispark.


So I've got a 1991 Corvette ... again.  

White with a tan interior.

Something about ... white ... and that tan interior.  I like that combination and the glass roof as well.  My '88 had a glass roof (smoke), my '91 had a body color roof and I found that I missed the glass roof greatly when driving or cruising and I look forward to having a glass roof again over my head.

Targa top!

All C4 Vettes had targa tops which is like T-tops only better since it is one piece and there's no center bar to get in the way.  I'll admit that I have a T-top fetish for my sports cars.  
Call it partial claustrophobia but I can't stand a solid roof car.  I feel ... confined.  I know, cutting out huge sections of the roof decreases structural rigidity especially in cornering and handling but I don't take my sports cars to the track every weekend and I've often thought of the people who drive solid roof '80's cars as either just not lucky enough to own a T-top car or kidding their selves that they are that good at driving that they actually need a solid roof car to get the most out of their skills at driving.  

T-tops are cool.  If you think otherwise, YCGFY.  

In fact, I just like to cruise in these cars and when you cruise there is nothing like taking a large part of the roof off, lowering the windows and just ... driving.  The roar of the engine in front of you, the cry of the wind over the aerodynamic body ... bliss.  If you've never cruised around the city or roared down the highway in a car with T-tops or a targa top you've missed something in your life ... your really have.

Here's a shot of the interior with the "pod" type seating.  I like how the driver is semi-encapsulated in the driver's seat with all the controls relegated to within arm and finger reach.  The steering wheel is super thick ... I like thick steering wheels that you can grip and grab when you're driving hard.  The passenger only has access to their power seat functions and their power window and door lock controls without "crossing over" the divider on the right side of the center console.  A few years later that divider vanished from the design and it was a pity since I really liked how the '90 redesign of the interior kind of put everything there for the driver and relegated the passenger almost to an after-thought ... like an extra piece of luggage.

So, for $7900 I got a 250 horsepower tuned port fuel injected 350 cid small block Chevy V8 that will do zero to 60 in under six seconds, quarter mile in mid 13's and a top speed of 157 mph while getting mid to high 20's on fuel economy.  It has two seats that are fully adjustable with inflatable supports.  High end AM/FM stereo with CD and cassette.  Power steering.  Power windows.  Power door locks.  Power seats.  Air conditioning.  Four speed automatic transmission.  Heavy duty Dana 36 Positraction limited slip rear end with 3.07 high speed rear gears.  Targa top.  Dual electric cooling fans.  Engine oil cooler.  Finned power steering cooler.  Four wheel disc brakes with ABS.  Air bag.  Leather interior.  Thick padded steering wheel.  Perimeter frame impact cage.  Big glove box.  Adjustable FX3 suspension system and hardware.  17 x 9.5" aluminum wheels and accompanying rubber.  Alarm system.  Variable wipers.  Rear window defogger.  Lift back hatch.  Flip up headlights.  Driving lights.  Cruise control.  

All of that for $7900 is a bargain.  You can't find all of that in some econoboxes priced twice that much.  A C4 Vette is a really good deal right now and mine came with a high rating of prior ownership; no wrecks, no damage, no major ownership issues.

So, with paperwork flying back and forth between me and the seller, and with me still recovering from my injuries (long, slow road there) I think a '91 Vette, automatic, with sport adjustable seats (lumbar, etc.) is going to be a good replacement for the Daytona I lost.  I won't say "great" replacement because the only great replacement for my Daytona would be another Daytona but the Corvette is what I'm looking for and it's on the way.

Oh, I'll miss dancing on pedals and rowing through gears but right now I'm doing good to sit for long in any vehicle behind the driver's seat so not having to constantly move my feet and arm to change gears might be a blessing right now.

I can't wait for the call from the transport company.  I would have loved to have flown over to North Carolina, bought the Vette and driven it back 800 miles to Columbia but my doctor wouldn't clear me for that and so I guess this is an adventure of a different sort.  I've never NOT bought a car on the Internet and gone and gotten it myself.  Now I'm waiting on someone to bring it to me from another state.

Kind of like waiting on a mail-order bride.

Give it two or three weeks and I'll be back in the saddle again giving the new '91 Vette a really good shakedown on a daily basis.

I'm not sure how the fuel economy of the four speed automatic is going to be but since I drive mostly highway during my commute and I tap the cruise at 55mph in a 65mph zone I'm hoping for mid to high 20's.  It won't be as miserly sipping gas as the Dodge Daytona was but for a big cubic inch 350 small block Chevy that can run 157 mph on the top end, stock, high 20's for gas mileage might just be as incredible as the rest of owning the Vette is.

Stay tuned.