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.


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