What inspires a man to build a fast ride and take to the road? Is it raw passion or wanderlust? Perhaps it’s the pulse-quickening excitement of brute acceleration on a vast stretch of American highway and the thrill of being able to manage real power when the road gets twisty. Whatever the reason, Ron Koehler understands what it feels like to grab the wheel of an ’85 Corvette coupe and take to the open road.
The architecture of such a grand American sports car is what Ron has dreamed of for most of his life. When Chevrolet reinvented the Corvette for 1984, it was so far ahead of its time that it remains in style three decades later. Chevrolet called it “The Rebirth of a Legend” and so it went. At the time, it was the hottest Vette in American automotive history.
Before you is a slippery arrowhead design with a wind tunnel demeanor born for a new era 34 years ago. It was fast and it was slippery. The C4 Corvette was a rapid departure from everything it had been for 20 years, with state-of-the-art engineering and assembly technique in a new plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
We asked Ron what inspired him to buy his Corvette at the cusp of the 1990s. “I had wanted a Vette for as long as I could remember. It didn’t matter what year, color, style or condition. It was the ultimate sports car,” Ron goes on to say. “The car had just 30,000 miles on it when I purchased it in Indiana. Soon afterward I relocated to South Carolina and enjoyed fair weather driving for a while. From there I moved to Hong Kong for five years and the car sat in controlled storage in Michigan.”
When Ron was living in Hong Kong, the Corvette was always on his mind. He had plans for a 383ci small-block stroker with a broad powerband, which went to plan when he came home. Ron enjoyed the 383 for a while. However, like a lot of us, he just had to have more power. He pulled the engine and opted for a fresh ProCharger-inducted 383 that delivered a lot of bang for the buck until the bottom end gave out and left Ron rolling to a stop.
Ron decided to put his faith in Big 3 Racing (B3R) in Hinckley, Ohio, which built him a seasoned ATK 383ci small-block sporting four-bolt mains, a 3.750-inch Scat 4340 steel crank with 5.700-inch H-beam rods and forged 4.040-inch pistons with a 16cc dish to get the compression suitable for supercharging. Bumping the lifters, pushrods and valves is a Comp Cams custom-grind hydraulic roller camshaft.
On top are Edelbrock Performer RPM heads joining forces with a Lingenfelter SuperRam plenum, BBK 58mm twin throttle body and port-matched intake. Compression is 9.2:1 in order to handle the aggressive boost of an intercooled ProCharger 600B supercharger with an added dash of nitrous from an NOS spray bar. This thing is badass.
What this all means in the real world is 472 hp at the rear wheels with 403 lb-ft of torque. A Pete Kane 700-R4 transmission handles the horsepower and torque offering crisp power shifts and a solid connection with terra firma.
On the ground, the Big 3 Racing-prepared C4 chassis continues to prove it was a winner from the factory three decades ago. Aside from a lowering kit and Edelbrock IAS dampers, the Z51 suspension and steering system remains as Chevrolet engineers intended. The damned thing still holds its own against the European exotics. Those are 17-inch AFS chrome ZR1 wheels wrapped in Sumitomo HTR Z Ultra HP stickies. Baer Track4 13-inch disc brakes with drilled and slotted rotors provide ample stopping power.
Eye candy is what makes this Vette captivating. Dave Kulka of Brunswick, Ohio, laid down the Midnight Blue finish. That’s an ACI Stalker Wide Body kit accompanied by a Greenwood C4R windshield fairing, ACI mirror caps, functional Vader hoodscoop, modified nose and intakes for the intercooler, and NACA ducts at the hood’s trailing edge where the NOS system vents its noxious fury.
Inside, there’s plenty of fresh black leather wrapped around you along with true intimacy with a Momo race wheel, Black Performance carpet over Dynamat sound deadening, AutoMeter Phantom instrumentation in an Elio Martin custom-made dash and a JBL and Clarion sound system designed to keep the entertainment rolling. Jason’s Custom Trim tackled the lion’s share of this interior.
Each of these assets stands on its own in an awe-inspiring C4 Vette built for the serious, yet carefree business of aggressive driving. And when it’s time to relax and attend a concert or head to the mountains, this is a modern American classic that’s as in style as it was when Chevrolet pitted it against the exotics at .91 g in a commercial decades ago.
It can be safely said each of us needs to have something to believe in. Ron has acted on a lifelong vision of Corvette ownership and pursued it with raw tenacity. He never lifted. And when Ron hits a rural stretch of country road he quickly understands the joy of perseverance, knowing he can act on a passion whenever the road beckons. Vette
Photos by John Machaqueiro