1 Of 1500: 1989 Chevrolet Corvette Z51 FX3

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Before you say “Yuck, a C4 Corvette?” let’s look at it before you pass judgment. It’s listed here on craigslist in Perkasie, Pennsylvania for $6,300 but considering offers. What’s so special? Read on to find out!

The fourth-generation Corvette was met with high expectations when it was released for sale in 1984. Corvette enthusiasts will recall that there was no Corvette for 1983, which is a whole other story in itself, so the automotive world was eager to see what Chevrolet had up their sleeve. C4s were technologically superior and handled better than any of their predecessors, but left horsepower enthusiasts a bit let-down. In later years, electrical gremlins plagued them all, in one way or another. All in all, though, they were ahead of their time and, come the late ’80s, were banned from SCCA Showroom Stock competition because nobody else could catch them- which spawned the Challenge Car series, but that, too, is a whole other story.

This particular car is special, in that it is well-equipped, including the L98 350-ci V8, power everything, the then-brand-new ZF 6-speed gearbox, the Z51 handling, and the FX3 Selective Ride Control. According to Vette Facts, only about 1,500 cars, out of 26,000 total, were equipped with the FX3. Specific to this car, it has seen better days but isn’t necessarily a total pile. From the seller and the pictures, we learn that it has had recent repair work, but needs a bit more TLC. It even has a current Pennsylvania Safety Inspection and runs/drives fine, so that’s one less hassle.

Looking back now, who remembers that automatically-adjustable shocks were even a thing in the ’80s? In 1989, all anyone was talking about was the new ZR-1 that essentially doubled the sticker price of a normal Corvette but jacked up the output by 100hp. I had a red 1987 with the Z52 handling, automatic trans, and a few “quirks” that needed working out. It had an aftermarket performance chip in the engine computer and ended up with performance heads when the head gaskets went. It was the fastest, best-handling vehicle that I’ve ever owned (which says quite a bit about my vehicle choices in the past) but I really, really had fun with that car. I know enough about C4s now. that I can tell you this one is worth a second look. Joke about using C4 to fix a C4 if you must, but the ’80s and ’90s cars and fashions are increasing in popularity with the younger crowd, and the youngsters are the key to the future of the Automotive hobby. So, would YOU consider taking on this project?

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  1. brianashe

    Raise your hand if you get sad every time you see directional wheels mounted backwards.

    Like 32
    • Oingo

      Do tires count too?

      Like 4
      • Ike Onick


        Like 2
  2. LARRY


    Like 3
  3. 86_Vette_Convertible

    Being C4’s are the red haired step child when it comes to Corvettes, many can be gotten for a good price. With the work that needs to be done on this one along with the mileage the price is high to me. C4’s handle very well the curvy roads and even with some minor work can surprise many C5’s and C6’s in their handling. Yes they don’t have the horsepower of the LS equipped but horsepower isn’t a factor in handling IMO. Additionally because it does not have a transaxel it’s far easier to repair at home than the newer models do.
    There are some things that are not easy to find any more, things like the DM flywheel, it’s no longer available and very few places that can successfully resurface them but there are some SM flywheels that have been used successfully. The big issue is the top and body damage. Both can be taken care of at a price.
    IMO this is more a $4K car but that’s my opinion.

    Like 4
  4. Superdessucke

    So, how well does a 30 year old GM electronic ride system work anyway?

    Like 1
  5. Superdessucke

    The thing that would stink about this, as cool as it is, is that a set of those special FX3 shocks and struts will set you back nearly a grand.


    Given the market’s disdain for these, that’s about 20% of the car’s value just in shocks. And if you have to soon add in tires, actuators, and other things that a car of this mileage and age might need, you’d be way upside down in a big hurry!

    Like 2
    • Danton J. A. Cardoso

      Hmmm… isn’t this the same year that the dreaded “skip shift” to avoid a gas guzzler tax? Ridiculously stupid engineering.

      Like 0
    • Joel S.

      Thanks for the link, did not realize this many parts are available for my FX3 system on the ZR-1.

      Like 1
  6. gbvette62

    Considering the issues this car has, I’d say it’s overpriced. Actually, considering the issues, I’d run from it.

    The transparent top will cost anywhere from $600 for a basic re-glass, to $1000 for a full restoration with new glass, weatherstrip and a refinished frame. The sport seats are very expensive to get repaired, if you can find the parts. The gas gauge sending unit is over $300. Add the body damage, non functioning sound system and oil leaks, and this car could get very expensive fast. And this is assuming that the FX3 is functioning properly, FX3 shocks run $250 each, and the actuators are $350 each.

    I always tell anyone considering a C4, to spend a little extra and buy a 92-96. They have far fewer issues, have much a much nicer interior with better seats and dashboard, and come with the far better LT1 and LT4 engines.

    Like 7
  7. Wayne

    Having grown up with a Corvette in the family. I always wanted one for myself. But the C4 was the first one that I really liked the driver’s position, room and handling. I also still like the body style. I still have never owned one myself, but since the C4s are so cheap right now. A track car might be in order. ( get did of all the problem areas and a lot of weight at the same time)

    Like 0
  8. 427vette

    Good write-up, but the ZR-1 was 130 HP more than the base Corvettes 245 HP. These are phenomenal road cars, but like others have pointed out are the Rodney Dangerfield of Corvettes in the market right now. One of the best performance buys in Corvettes is the ZR-1. They run like a scalded ape, and will leave many drivers of “faster” cars gobsmacked after they get spanked by one. Too bad you can’t find any replacement parts for them or I would consider having another one. 😀

    Like 0

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