Poster Imperfect: 1986 Corvette Convertible

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A lot of Corvette enthusiasts felt like the new mid-engine C8 Corvette was too radical a departure from the norm.  However, those of us around for the change between the C3 and C4 can tell you that that particular changeover turned the world on its ear.  If the car on the poster in your bedroom in the eighties was a Corvette, then take a look at this rough but restorable 1986 Corvette convertible with a Greenwood body kit for sale on eBay.  Is this Staten Island, New York based Corvette convertible be worth the $12,500 buy it now price?  If not, what would be a reasonable offer?

Think for a minute about the C3 (1968-1982) Corvette.  The chassis design had been around since 1963 and the body design was a constant evolution of the 1968 model.  Add to that Corvette’s reputation at the time not as a sports car, but as a secretary’s hot rod.  Horsepower was down and luxury options were in.  Most cars were built with an automatic transmission.  Just because it had two seats, the Corvette fell into the category of sportscar.  In reality, was it had become just a sporty car.

As a car crazy teenager, the coming of the new Corvette was a subject of great interest for me.  My father worked at my uncle’s body shop, which specialized in Corvettes.  I also read and re-read every car magazine in the era and had grown quite tired of how the automotive press looked down their noses at “America’s sports car.”  All that was good in the automotive world was said to only come from Germany.  This didn’t sit well with a patriotic American such as myself.

So after the horror of having a year of no Corvettes whatsoever (1983), seeing the first 1984 model on the pages of Car and Driver was akin to witnessing Moses come down from the mountain with the word of God.  The car was beautiful, and it was such a technological leap from the C3 that everyone could scarcely believe it.  America finally had a cutting edge sports car, and Stuttgart finally had something to fear.  Posters of the new Corvette ended up on nearly every teenager’s wall.  Move over Farrah Fawcett…

It wasn’t long before the Corvette aftermarket began offering enhancements and body kits.  These ranged from exotic and unusual to mild and tasteful.  Companies like Ecklers offered the wildest fiberglass add ons, while racer John Greenwood provided Corvette owners with aerodynamic modifications that were function follows form.  It wasn’t long before modified C4s were a common site on the highways and on those previously mentioned posters.

The Corvette you see here is advertised as having a dealer installed Greenwood body kit.  The pictures show a car that is, to say it mildly, a bit rough around the edges.  It was stored for four long years and has been worked on by the (maybe) previous owner’s son.  It was this individual who installed aftermarket wheels, an incorrect battery, a cut off switch in the dash, and other dubious modifications.  The seller claims that work is being done to restore the car to its former glory, and that a lot of the rough spots you see now will be remedied.

Perhaps this will be a different car in a month or so.  The concern is the asking price.  Greenwood body kit or not, $12,500 is a bit over market value for a 1986 Corvette convertible in today’s market.  Even if that car were an Indianapolis 500 Pace Car version in mint condition, the market for C4 Corvettes has largely not made the tranformation from used car to collectible.  Add to that the expenses that come with a 1980s car that was cutting edge in the technology department, and you see there may be a problem here in regards to the buy it now price.

Hopefully the seller will have a closer look at the market, repair what is needed, and re-assess how to get this distinctive drop top to its next caretaker.  C4 Corvettes were an amazing car back then and a huge leap forward for the Corvette brand.  1986 convertibles have some of the cleanest lines of that generation, and the Greenwood kit is one of few aftermarket add-ons that actually enhance the beauty of the car they are installed on.  This could be a very nice car, but there are some steps to go before it is poster ready.

Have you ever owned a C4 Corvette?  Do you remember when they hit the market?  Tell us your thoughts in the comments.

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  1. poseurMember

    we had a couple 84’s, followed by a red 86 and black 87 convertible when they were new.
    the lowdown grunt of the L98 and traction from the ‘monstrous’ Gatorbacks meant i never lost a drag race.
    once we were halfway through second gear a quick look back would reveal smoke and sideways activity from whomever just got dusted.
    good thing too, cause the big jump to third gear slowed initial acceleration noticeably.
    the quantum leak in suspension, aerodynamics, brakes and overall performance of the C4 can’t be overstated.
    this one is a hard pass, there are many better examples available in the same price range.

    Like 17
  2. Ike Onick

    Jeff- Apparently you have never had the pleasure of seeing the image of Farrah Fawcett posing in and on a 1978 Corvette that I believe my have been hers.

    Like 1
    • Ike Onick

      Sorry. Looks as if the link is not valid.

      Like 1
    • Don Leblanc

      Link not working

      Like 1
      • Ike Onick

        Google “Farrah Fawcett Corvettes”. You might have better luck than I did. Worst case is you will have wasted your time. That was my first try at adding a link and it was an epic fail.

        Like 0
      • Ike Onick

        “have not wasted your time”

        Like 0
    • Mario Salgado
      Farrah and her Foxy Vette!

      Not sure if this really was hers, but she can dress up anything.

      Like 0
  3. Jim in FL

    78k miles, ratty, needs interior parts, goofy woodgrain dash appliqué. It’s about double the value. That said, the listing is closed, so maybe It was a deal for someone. The listing was pretty optimistic, I would be curious to see what it went for.

    Like 4
    • Marshall Belcher

      The car is dry but the driver side window inside is wet with heavy moisture saying to me this vetted leaks water an carpet is very wet. Altering these cars with big wings an kits are a turn off to me kills value. Nothing intended but I would say 3500. Is all I see.

      Like 0
  4. David Smith

    I owned a 94 coupe with automatic. Never took the top off. Owned it about 6 years from 08 to 14. It was my therapy car. When I had a bad day would jump in and go driving. Worked great.

    Like 10
  5. Maggy

    When I was in my late 20’s one of our customers at our repair shop bought a 94.I couldbarely get in and out of the damn thing back then. Never was a vette guy. Give me an Impala or Caprice any day over these.To each their own though.I think the price is WAY too high.Better examples can be found for a lot less.The add on kit looks like poo to me.Looks better stock.

    Like 5
  6. Jay McCarthy

    Nobody jumped at $12K, not surprised

    Like 6
  7. BruceMember

    Find sold, and the gentleman got his price

    Like 3
    • Marshall Belcher

      The buyer has my sympathy. Must have never owned a vette before. Wait till the instrument panel goes out. His wife will have him on the chopping block soon when the repairs start..

      Like 1
  8. Gordo

    This listing was ended by the seller because there was an error in the listing.

    Like 5
  9. PRA4SNW

    Not Sold, pulled because of an “error” in the listing.

    Seller should not have posted the picture of the driver’s window – that moisture indicates a leaky roof.

    What in the world are those dash switches supposed to do – fire up the nitrous system or something? Ridiculous!

    Like 5
  10. steve

    I had a new 87 convertible, red with a white top. I thought it was the best car ever….until I really started driving it. It looked good and I got lots of compliments, but the darn thing couldn’t get out of its own way. No power at all, and no good sounds coming from the tailpipes. I finally sold it 3 years later, and I still consider it the worst car purchase I’ve ever made.

    Like 3
  11. Troy

    I’m in my 50s and have never been in a corvette I like the style of them but I tend to avoid them because of my history of other GM cars and trucks that I have had over the years being money pits and hard to work on so now I just avoid them, its funny how that works because my son in law is a big Chevy fan he buys one and has little problems, so I’ve come to the conclusion that GM vehicles hate me

    Like 5
  12. Don Leblanc

    I’ve had the pleasure of owning 2 C4 Corvettes, 1985 & 1994. As a Corvette purist, I’m not really knocked out by the new C8 but I understand that GM has to cater to a new crowd of customers (younger). I just recently retired, and plan on getting another Corvette for cruising. The greenwood kits are ok I guess but not my cup of tea, I think the Corvette design team did a beautiful job on the C4. Yes, the price on this one does seem a little high, maybe if it was an Indy car and in better condition. What’s up w/ the passenger side of the dash anyway ?

    Like 1
  13. Chuck Foster Chuck Foster

    All 1986 Corvette convertibles were considered Indy Pace Car replicas, I think they came with the decals. I thought the C4 was so cool when they came out, but they didn’t age well. Never had one, my 1st was a 1978, and 2nd a 99 C5 convertible, which is the pinnacle of Corvette design to me, even though now I have a 2008 Indy Pace car.

    Like 4
  14. Robert Liivoja

    I have never driven a C4.
    After reading comments about them, especially the performance (or lack thereof), I am very happy to own a C5, 2004.
    Not only is it a great looking car, but the performance is really good, more power than I will ever need.
    I say that as a guy in his late 60’s. Not sure that I would have said the same thing when I was a 20 something year old!

    Like 3
    • PRA4SNW

      Robert, moving from a C5 if you like it, to a C4 would feel like a big step down in comfort, reliability, and performance. Handling would still feel good.

      Now, moving from a C3 to a C4 would be a different story.

      Like 2
      • Don Leblanc

        I would have to agree with you, especially when it comes to that door sill entry on a C4.

        Like 0
  15. JBD

    I’ve had a C4 for three years now. Initially it was a partially restored car with weatherstrip seals, digital dash and paint done. Since then I’ve done the Rack & Pinion R&R, PS pump & lines, water pump, balancer replacement, front seal, etc, etc, etc. Initial cost is low but these cars are approaching 25-40 years old now and tend to need lots of parts including power antennae which is $400 from GM, if you can find it.

    Like 2
    • Jim in FL

      Try googling antenna masts r us. They have a rebuild kit that will save you on the power antenna.

      Like 2
  16. Robert Liivoja

    PRA4SNW I appreciate your comment.
    Having said what I did in the previous post, there are many cars that I would love to have from the past. Realizing that handling will rarely feel as good as most newer cars. The older cars were just cooler!
    I love it when you see a SUV on the road today. With no emblems on them, I would not know what make it is.

    Like 3
  17. John Phillips

    I had an ‘85. Great launch from the hole and wicked auto shift into second. A pain for an old guy to get in and out of. First Bose radio was a big improvement over radios from that day.

    Like 2
  18. 86_Vette_Convertible

    I have an 86 Convertible with a Tremec 5 speed. No, it’s not a rocket, rather it’s a cruising car IMO. I hate those Greenwood body kits, especially that spoiler. The interior on the shown car is trash IMO. It’s overpriced and in poor condition from what I’m seeing here, it would be a pass for me.
    I’ll keep and drive my 86 and enjoy the heck out of it, it’s in good condition and a joy to drive for me.

    Like 3
  19. JBD

    As I remember the DN 4+3 was a super T-10 4 speed with 2 speed Powerglide tail shaft. They were tough but leaks that weren’t addressed burnt up the DNE unit, and parts are not supported. I liked the concept, not sure if it lived up to it’s hype.

    Like 1
    • Jim in FL

      JBD you are correct. It’s a fun feature, and works fine if you change the filter and fluid in the overdrive pretty often. I’m a little more obsessive than most, I think about it every 5k miles and usually actually do the work around 6k. When I had dropped the trans for a new clutch, I considered putting in a Tremec but the cost scared me off.

      Like 1
  20. JMB#7

    Excellent write-up Jeff. IMHO, the C3 was a dark period for the Corvette especially toward the end of its run. The C4 showed that GM wanted to return it to a true sports car. I was in college when the C4 hit the market, and remember checking out the suspension design on one in the showroom of Frank Z Chevrolet on Brown Street. Yeah, I’m funny that way, a new body style, and I’m peeking underneath, and around the engine compartment.

    Like 2
  21. Frank Sumatra

    It is a given that every Corvette generation is a step-up from the previous. It is no surprise that the C4 was an improvement over the C3 and so forth and so on. I have owned two C3’s and two C4’s. I am very pleased with my 1995 LT-1, 6-speed. I do not care fot the looks of the C5. A C6 ZO6 would be interesting but is priced out of my budget, plus my C4 provides ample performance and it has been trouble-free over my four years of ownership. I will also share my secret of satisfying Corvette ownership- Join NCRS for $60 and buy your Corvette through the NCRS Classifieds. Three of my four Corvettes were bought that way and the cars have been exactly as represented. The one I did not buy from the classifieds was purchased through an NCRS chapter connection.

    Like 0

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