It was 1984 (sounds like a title for a book?) and the new Corvette finally made it to the showrooms across America in March 1983. Because of an assortment of hiccups, the 1983 Corvette model run was nothing more than 43 cars that were built and serial numbered, but never offered to the public. Over the course of time these cars met with various fates, but the only one remaining is on display at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green. A handful of press types did get a chance to experience the ’83 at Riverside in December 1982. I wrote about that experience right here in the March 2018 issue.
The ’84 was a “clean sheet of paper” design as the expression goes. Everything about this car was fresh, innovative and breathtaking. It had a dashboard that was from the future, complete with digital instrumentation; analog was gone for the time being. The windshield was unlike anything the world had seen to that point, featuring a 64-degree rake, making it the most pronounced in the automotive empire. Even the rear window was special, with its compound curves, as it was the largest (for its time) piece of glass in any American car. This car also ushered in the era of aluminum radiators with plastic tanks. (I still want my copper/brass radiator!) If you liked aluminum then you were a fan of the new Girlock (Australia) calipers.
There was also something novel (again, for the time); the Doug Nash four-speed transmission with overdrive, controlled by a center console switch, that featured overdrive in Second, Third, and Fourth gears … hence the “4+3” trans. It was primarily a late-model year option.
Everywhere you looked, the ’84 (C4) Corvette featured exciting and innovative ideas that made this Corvette stand apart from its predecessors and, for that matter, many of the world’s other sports cars. To wit, the suspension was really something to behold and an optional feature were the Delco-Bilstein shocks (RPO FG3). Of the 51,000-plus coupes made, only 3,729 came equipped with these nifty performance shocks. However, it should be noted that nearly 26,000 were outfitted with the optional Performance Handling Package (RPO Z51). While this package included a number of items it also included the Delco-Bilstein shocks. Interestingly, all of the ’84s came with the 16-inch wheel and tire package (RPO QZD) so whether or not you ordered the Z51 package you were getting the trick wheels and tires (255/50VR16).
What the ’84 Corvette lacked was the proverbial elephant in the room … horsepower! Whether it was a Federal emissions car, a California emissions car or an export you were going to get the oh-so-familiar 350-cubic-inch V-8 but it would have an anemic output of 205 horsepower. It’s embarrassing to use “Corvette” and “205 horsepower” in the same sentence, but, alas, those were the times.
But there was one place the ’84 Corvette was on a pedestal: the racetrack. At home where emissions were not a consideration, the newly minted Corvette was a force to be reckoned with. Because of the car’s superb handling, skidpad numbers measuring 0.9 g, the outstanding handling package with superior brakes made this Corvette the “King of the Hill,” so to speak, within the SCCA Showroom Stock GT racing. It dominated from 1985 through 1987, easily pushing aside its Porsche 944 Turbo competition.
The Corvette Challenge series was created because of the Corvette’s dominance for those three years. It was a spec series so each car was identically prepared, making the series one truly dedicated to driver excellence. These cars (first 50 available through Malcolm Konner Chevrolet in Paramus, New Jersey; at the time the largest Corvette dealer in the country) were specially built under option code B9P, which included the 4+3 manual, Z51 handling package, six-way power driver’s seat, Delco-Bose stereo (normally RPO UU8), blue-tint glass removable roof panel and side window and mirror defoggers. (Someone must have felt that if you are going to be going that fast and working that hard you might as well be comfortable.)
As for power, the 245hp L98 engines were dyno-tested and each engine had to be within a 2 1/2 percent variance to be installed in a B9P car. Once installed, the engines and transmissions were sealed to prevent “hot rodding.”
To drive your car in one of these Showroom Stock races, the cars’ owner would have to fork over $33,043 for the B9P option and an additional $15,000 for a rollcage, racing seat and harness, onboard fire suppression system, Bilstein shocks, special wheels, racing brake pads and etc. It was Protofab out of Michigan that converted 48 of the 56 B9P cars built. Records report that 46 were raced, two were backups and the eight remaining were sold in factory form. T he year was 1984 and the Corvette had once again found a way to get to the top of the heap. Vette