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“4+3” Manual! 1985 Chevrolet Corvette

Peeking out from a storage container in Berkeley, California, this 1985 Chevrolet Corvette features an interesting technological advance of the 1980s, the Doug Nash “4+3” transmission, a four-speed with optional overdrive in the top three gears. The spartan listing here on Craigslist asks a reasonable $5000 for this running project car. Say what you want about the C4 Corvette, but in a world emerging from some of the slowest and most poorly performing cars ever, Chevrolet’s new-for-’84 fourth-generation Corvette held its own on the world stage, besting some expensive European machinery, as celebrated in the sales literature of the day. The sub-six second 0-60 would bore today’s V8 performance drivers, but still rates well among modern “sporty” cars, and (unlike your Grandma’s Versa and your neighbor’s Hellcat) this Chevy has a clutch pedal. Thanks to reader Pat L. for spotting this California classic.

Go ahead and laugh at the fluffy seat covers, but they might save your life when you plant your wedge-shaped ’80s sports car in a snow bank on that cross-country trip. Plenty of requisite ’80s squares and rectangles offer driver controls and information. The glorious digital dashboard delivered driver-selectable display options and spaceship-looking graphics. See the instruments in action in this YouTube video demonstrating the 4+3 transmission.

Name that tread pattern! I’m guessing these deep-lugged tires are the BF Goodrich Comp T/A HR4, the best high-performance four-season tires going some decades ago, and a choice I fitted to a number of vehicles during my years in Pennsylvania. This view also shows the nifty flip-over headlights. Instead of lifting a square piece of the nose into the air stream, these units flip over completely, maintaining an aerodynamic profile whether up or down.

Beginning with a more-or-less conventional Borg-Warner Super T-10 four-speed manual gearbox, hot-rodder Doug Nash helped Chevrolet graft an overdrive unit to the rear. In normal operation, each gear change begins with overdrive off, then engages the fuel-saving OD when you let off the gas pedal. A cockpit-mounted switch defeats the system for normal four-speed operation. Thanks to Jalopnik for some details. When high school or college gear-heads weave their epic tale of “smoking a Corvette,” it’s often one of this vintage, but these classic ‘Vettes owned the top of the food chain in their day, and represent a sweet entry-level sports car with style and handling. With modern tires and an excellent driver, this ’85 will embarrass 95% of today’s techno-babied drivers on a twisty two-lane or on-ramp. Not enough? Building the 5.7L (350 cid) V8 from (cough) 230 HP to 400+ HP with your favorite credit card. Do you consider this mid-’80s Corvette a classic?

Comments

  1. CCFisher

    I can smell that interior from here. A mix of cigarettes, cheap bourbon, Aqua Velva, and mouse pee.

    Like 22
    • oldskool55f100

      Drakkar Noir or Polo Green would be more like it..

      Like 13
      • Todd Fitch Staff

        Wow oldskool55f100 That’s a definitely +1 and a genuine LOL for Drakkar Noir. I might still have a bottle from about the time this Corvette’s seat covers were all the rage. I’m stealing that for a future article. Happy motoring!

        Like 6
      • CCFisher

        You’re thinking Thomas Magnum. I’m thinking Ralph Furley.

        Like 3
    • Sam61

      You forgot old spice

      Like 5
    • Charles Atlas

      I love Aqua Velva – Ice Blue!

      Like 4
    • oldskool55f100

      Mr. Furley… ROFL I always thought Stanley was a trip…

      Like 2
  2. tomm

    Could be a fun first car for somebody

  3. Mike's 84 Corvette

    Thanks for linking to my video!

    Like 4
  4. Nick

    My dream car! Love the style and personality (not too many nanny’s in those days). Yep, beat Porsche enough that the SCCA relegated Corvettes to their own Corvette only series. Some day

    Like 1
  5. Troy

    If this was closer I would snap it up for a flip because I know that I could dump about $2k into it and sell it for $10-$12k in my area but going to Cali to get it or having it shipped would eat to much of the profit margins

    • Jim in FL

      See, I would have thought this was a bit high, but I guess the prices are heading north. I understand why they don’t, but if the owner had spent $300 on a detail, probably would have paid off in 3x the money. I didn’t want to spend one minute on my 75 Pontiac when I sold it because it reminded me of my dad.

      But if it’s running and driving, at 5k, you’ll at least walk with your money if you hate it. But they offer a lot of skidpad gs for the money.

    • Bick Banter

      Where do you live? Fairyland? The only way you’re getting $10,000 for a 1985 Corvette is if it’s a sub-15k mile original. And even then, you would need to find the right buyer.

  6. Melton Mooney

    If it weren’t for the fact that early naughts’ z06’s are becoming more affordable, and because Miatas, C4s might still be the best bang for the buck on the planet for a weekend autoX/track car. Even the stolid L98 is a viable platform given the alternative manifolds that are now commonly available. Just rig a tach and temp & oil pressure gauges, and go racing.

    Like 2
  7. Steve W

    I had a new ’87 convertible and it was the worst car I’ve ever purchased. It looked good, but it couldn’t get out of its own way. Plant your right foot and let the disappointment begin. Sub 6 second 0-60? The specs show 7 seconds. I sold it 2 years later with 4000 miles on it.

    • Bick Banter

      I first thought you got a lemon (or extra metal in your TPI runners). But I looked it up and the specs show mid 6’s for the 1987 convertible with manual and yup, close to 7 seconds with auto. I never realized they were that slow. A 350 IROC from the same year was in the mid/low 6’s, and it was automatic only. No wonder GM did not want to put the 350 TPI in the Camaro/Firebird!

  8. STEVE VISEK

    My brother bought an ’87 Z-51 coupe new and it had the 4+3 trans. It was a neat concept that eliminated some shifting need and was also useful on the highway. Shifting was pretty notchy though.

    My favorite aspect of these ‘Vettes were actual the gauges. On a long trip there were lots of different readings and levels that could be checked that you couldn’t see on most cars, and this aided the passage of time on the interstate. Also the styling of the ’84-’90 C4 is timeless, and it has held up better than the later C4s IMHO.

    Least favorite aspect for me was the endless creaking from the body just driving around town, and ride and handling that was a very tiring cross between and F-16 and a dump truck.

    Like 2
  9. gbvette62

    I don’t know that I’d call $5000 reasonable for this car. I think that’s about the top end of what it’s worth.

    Personally, I wouldn’t buy any 84-89 Corvette, especially not one with the 4+3. The 4+3 was an interesting concept, and not a bad trans when new, but it wasn’t trouble free, and today there are almost no parts available for them. When you factor in problems with the digital dashes, relatively high cost of replacement parts (and outright unavailability of some), how terrible the early C4’s ride, and how difficult they are to get in and out of, it all contributes to making them a less than desirable car. This is coming from someone who’s loved and owned Corvettes for over 46 years.

    If I’m understanding the writer correctly, he seems to be saying that when C4 headlights roll over, they’re still flush with the hood. This is not at all the case. When C4 headlights are open, they stick up over the hood, like a pair of bug eyes.

    Like 4
  10. george mattar

    Everything on these cars breaks and soon after they were new. One of my best friends was the chief diagnostic tech at Reedman Chevrolet in Langhorne, PA, one of the then largest Chevy dealers on the East Coast. I stopped to get parts for my Monte Carlo SS and saw him sitting in one of these outside ready for a test drive. I will never forget the quote, “All we do is fix these things. Job security”. They are horrible get in and out of. Ride like a 1940s truck, are slow and parts prices are just insane. Oh yeah, the cheap leather GM used dries out like an old catcher’s mitt. No matter how carefully you slid into the car, the side panels wore out in a few years. Total junk car.

  11. Bick Banter

    Ok, I need a vote here. Is this more 1980s than the 1976 orange Sunbird is ’70s? That’s pretty freakin’ close!

  12. Wayne

    I like the body style of these cars much better than the C3s and the C5s with the big butts. Also, once in the driver’s seat you are way more comfortable than in a C3. This is/was a transition car car between the C3 and the C5. Stick a regular 4 speed in it, strip out the interior install a crazy crate engine and you can have a fun track day car. (make minor suspension mods/improvements as you go)

    Like 1

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