Crapwagon Outtake: 1991 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn

Here’s a fun game for those of us with petrol-addled minds: Go to eBay Motors, and type in “Project” in the search field. Marvel at the sea of rust. When I’m feeling forlorn about the enormity of the project I have on jackstands, seeing the guy who exploded his Ferrari V8 on the way home from buying it tends to cheer me up in a perverse way.

This sobering look at the bottom end of the classic-car spectrum also reminds me that I’m not exactly swimming in cash. Yet, there are automotive desires that must be met someday. My wife, for example, has only two cars that she has dreamed of owning: A lifted, large-tired, full-sized pickup (a remnant of her childhood in Appalachia, I’m sure) and a Corvette convertible.

So, when I played my eBay game this morning, I spotted this 1991 Corvette for under $4,000 and knew it required further attention. First, the metallic teal is a relic of the Eighties that really doesn’t need to return. There are some flaws in the fiberglass that will need attention. I’m sure the soft top will need replaced sooner, rather than later.

But that L98 engine is pretty much bulletproof. I’m sure there are minor flaws that the B&B will point out to me, but they can likely be easily and cheaply remedied using off-the-shelf aftermarket parts. The car looks basically straight in pictures, and the aftermarket for Corvettes means there are plenty of ways to upgrade everything that needs it. Really, this might not be a money-losing adventure if done right.

I won’t be buying this Corvette. I already have a rusty shelf in the garage that needs work before I bring home another boondoggle — but I’m sorely tempted.

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in eBay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He is a member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, and he's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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  • Jacob_coulter Jacob_coulter on Sep 09, 2015

    Soft spot for C4s, you had to grow up in the 80's. Reminds me of a fighter jet. I want one as a project, but setting aside nostalgia, they weren't great cars. They became decent in the last few years but the C5 model really was a giant step up from these.

    • DenverMike DenverMike on Sep 09, 2015

      Because beating on a C5 and driving it like it's stolen just wouldn't feel right. This '80s machine is beggin' for a good spanking, after swapping in some 4.11 gears, with zero traction nannies, just hold on to your sh!t.

  • Mandalorian Mandalorian on Sep 09, 2015

    Out of every car on the road, the C4 Corvette has the highest % of sleezeball drivers. Every single one seems to fit this description: Middle-aged, sunburnt white man. Receding hairline, acceding chest hairline, stained undershirt below with stained Hawaiian shirt on top. Beer-belly. Gold-chain. Pack of cigarettes hanging out of chest pocket. 2 angry ex-wives, working on the third. There is a special sleeze-multiplier if it's a white exterior with maroon interior.

  • Mopar4wd Mopar4wd on Sep 09, 2015

    My father has an 89 convertible burgundy 6 spd. Bought from an "engine guy" engine runs great and has some tuning done (cam etc)but it needed a lot of suspension and brake work when he got it and corvette parts are not nearly as cheap as other GM parts. But not a bad looking car for 6-7k. His has a battery drain issue which is common problem with C4's looking at the forums he has 4 other cars so it doesn't get driven much and he threw in a battery disconnect.

  • Irvingklaws Irvingklaws on Sep 10, 2015

    Sold my 95 Miata few years back to buy a 94 C4 in "Polo Green" (the best and only color I considered) with body color targa top, 36k miles, and zero factory options. Looked at a lot of crappy dilapidated cars before finding a clean one without a crazy price tag. Great 2nd/hobby car. Tough but not terrible to work on. Months of evenings in the garage disassembling, fixing, cleaning, re-assembling, etc. Replaced the optispark and water pump when it started running rough. Removed the entire interior, fixed all the wires and vacuum hoses mice had chewed through while it was in storage. Learned all about SMC (sheet molded compound) to repair a crack in the floor. Added layers of sound deadner/insulation. Replaced the stock AM/FM cassette with a modern stereo/nav system, speakers, and amp. Replaced a few cracked/broken plastic parts and put it all back together. A set of longitudinal frame connectors really helped with the rattles and squeaks, especially with the top off. Lives in the garage, comes out on sunny days and starry nights (I prefer the latter). Comfortable, cool, a blast to drive. These cars are made as much for looking at as driving. The clam-shell hood and engine compartment layout are fighter-jet cool. For someone who'll likely never sit in, let alone own, a Ferrari or other such exotic pointy super car, it's as bang-for-the-working-class-buck-awesome as it gets.

    • Redmondjp Redmondjp on Sep 10, 2015

      That's perfect! If you don't drive it often, may I suggest using a battery tender or similar battery maintainer (either on-board or off-board)? This will keep your battery at 100% state-of-charge and make it last years longer, as well as minimize the recharging load on the alternator.