The vast majority of the world’s population can’t remember where they were from November 30 - December 1, 1982, as most weren’t born. If you are involved in the world of Corvettes that’s a Tuesday and Wednesday that should be on the all-time list of important dates. (Besides, it makes a great piece of barroom trivia!)
In the interim, I can remember this midweek gathering as if it was last week. This editorial came about as I read Drew Hardin’s From the Archives column entitled “The “1983” Corvette” as it brought forth a flood of memories. I too went into the archives, only this time they were my own. I was at that gathering, and spent time rummaging through all the pictures and all of the other “goodies” that I brought home.
Although I do have to take a moment to recall the events of that two-day gathering it was special as we were about to see the newest Corvette … the 1983 Corvette. It would feature breathtaking (for the day) design, far-out instrumentation (digital), Delco Bose sound system, Goodyear Eagle GT tires, performance seating, Bilstein shock absorbers, the lowest wind-drag coefficient of any Corvette with its world class numbers and Cross-Fire fuel injection engine (twin throttle body with 205 hp, oh well).
I could say it was a day like any other at Riverside International Raceway … but it wasn’t! The world’s automotive press was there to see the new 1983 Corvette, be served free food (so you know I showed up), and we were going to be given a full day of driving and photo ops. It didn’t take long before we realized Chevrolet General Manager Bob Stempel wasn’t kidding when he told all of us that there wouldn’t be a 1983 Corvette. There were a handful of reasons but suffice to say everyone was bummed. The 1983 Corvettes that we were to drive and photograph were part of the 43 that were made. Approximately a dozen of them were there in Riverside. (Only one is left and it’s in the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.)
There were memorable happenings over the two days but one that stands out were the 1983 model cars that were given to us. It turned out that George Barris—yes, the late-great customizer of all things automotive … and some not—had managed to get the rights to reproduce the 1983 Corvette as a model car for sale in the U.S. The problem was by the time he had imported the models the edict came down from corporate that there wouldn’t be a 1983 Corvette and George’s nifty model cars couldn’t be sold. I’m not sure what happened to the thousands brought into the country but I do know Chevrolet handed out these model car kits to the working press. Yep, right there on the box it states in big bold numerals … “1983 Corvette.” Put away in all of my years of automotive memorabilia are two 1983 Corvette models that never did see the light of day. I also tried to talk Stempel out of the “Oscar” (a fullsize profile drawing of the 1983 Corvette with all of the measurements) but he wasn’t about to let that about of his sight.
Arguably, the best time spent was the half-day hot shoeing it around Riverside International Raceway. Each of us was allowed to drive any or all of the Corvettes around the fabled racetrack. I can remember vividly going down the back straight with the digital speedometer touching 127 with me wishing for 130 mph as the horseshoe turn rapidly approached. Of course, anyone with any driving skills could get the new Corvette to touch 130. Alas, I lacked the skills but that still didn’t stop me from drawing everyone’s attention.
I managed to “lose it” mid-turn and enthusiastically found myself “mowing grass” and filling the wheelwells with mud. As I came back into the pits onlookers could see steam coming from the Corvette’s undercarriage as well as the brakes. Of course, there was also the beautifully “painted” upsweep pattern of mud on the body that came off of the four Goodyear tires. It was exciting. Chevrolet pulled this black (of course!) C4 out of the running as they bolted on a fresh set of wheels and Goodyear rubber and gave this 1983 Corvette a well-deserved washing and detailing.
It was about as good a midweek exercise I have ever had with a Corvette, or at any automotive press function for that matter. Those two winter days in Riverside gave birth to a lifetime of great memories and a handful of memorabilia that will forever give me pause to realize what could have been if the first of the C4s would have come to fruition on that day. Vette
A memento handed out to the working press at Riverside International Raceway on November 30 and December 1, 1982 was this plaque depicting the 1983 Corvette (C4) as well as the 1953 (C1), 1963 (C2) an 1968 (C3) forbearers. (Check out the date in the lower right-hand corner of plaque.)
This line drawing of the 1983 Corvette is dated April 14, 1982, and is page 1 of the complete set of program schematics.
The “devil” is in the details. I was given the complete set of 83Y (1983 Year) program schematics for the “new” Corvette, dated November 5, 1982. I still have it and it’s in pristine condition. It makes for some fascinating reading.
The sole surviving 1983 Corvette rests comfortably at the NCM in Bowling Green, Kentucky. I would thoroughly enjoy taking it for one more spin!
Photos by Brian Brennan