Corvette C4 Forum 1984 through 1996

My Corvette Heartbreak

Old 08-26-2014, 01:02 AM
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Join Date: Aug 2014
Location: El Paso, TX
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Unhappy My Corvette Heartbreak

I purchased my '87 Convertible a few weeks prior to graduating college. My reward to myself for getting through UTEP while working almost full-time at dad's Corvette shop. I'd grown up with Corvettes all my life and was looking in particular for a yellow C4 convertible, when this copper beauty came along. It was a different color -- I like different. Turns out they only made 87 GM code 66 Copper Metallic (or
Dark Orange metallic cars depending what source you check) -- 52 coupes and 35 convertibles and this was a convertible! This Corvette aficionado prefers a manual transmission and this gal had that too! So there I was, fresh out of college in this shimmering beauty. She was two years old with just under 27k miles on her. For the first year she was my only driver but I soon got a SUV that would allow her to sit in the comfort of the garage to come out to play on weekends and special occasions.
Fast forward 25 years........ A weekend cruise is just what my husband and I had in mind. We would put about 125 miles round trip on her to get a green chile cheeseburger at May's Cafe and make sure she was ready for a 1300 mile trip we were planning to take her on the following weekend. Everything was going great, she was nearing normal operating temp, oil pressure was good, etc. I wasn't but a few miles from our house, had just turned left onto the entrance ramp to I-10 east, hadn't gotten out of second gear and hadn't even reached 2,000 RPM and BAM!! She lurched to the left a bit and began a cyclical thump. I first thought I'd blown a tire. We'd checked the tread and it was great but admittedly the Yokohamas were about 6 years old. I managed to limp to the next off-ramp. Pulling off to the side was not an option. Two freeway entrance ramps come together right where this happened and auto collisions in this area are plentiful. Our lives were not worth the risk (although I did consider it for a minute).
She got us under the Dallas Street overpass and died. And then she bled. It wasn't pretty. What the?!? We hadn't even gotten to 65k miles together! She'd been meticulously maintained! For God's sake in the 25 years we'd been enjoying each other's company I had only put 38k miles on her. I sprung into action; 18 years working in the Corvette business you get to know a lot of people. Being a gal in the Corvette business people tend to remember you. It wasn't easy getting her to a secure location on a Saturday. I couldn't take her home, I live on the side of a mountain and a flat bed tow truck would never make it up the driveway. Monday morning she headed to a trusted mechanic shop. By 12 noon she was on a lift and in the air. My husband called me with the news; there was a hole in side of the oil pan at #4. I was heartbroken. Had I lost a rod cap? Froze a bearing? I couldn't understand it. She was my baby. We cruised together. She wasn't raced. I never, ever even came close to yellow-line much less red-line. How did this happen?
When my guy was finally able to surgically remove her heart (it took some time as he had done me a favor and squeezed her into his shop), he dropped the pan. #4 rod was split it two. It broke about an inch above where it connects to the crank. The rod bearing was fine; it spun on the crank, definitely not seized. The piston had slammed into the aluminum head, bending a valve. But this isn't the worst of it. Because there was still an inch of connecting rod attached to the crank and because the engine had several revolutions after it broke, that rod came around the other side and yep, you guessed it..... cracked the block! And then another shocker..... remember I'd been in the Corvette business 18 years..... When did Chevrolet begin putting 2 bolt mains in the Corvette? Not that a four bolt main would have helped in this situation but..... Aaggghhh!
I have spoken with several mechanics, machine shop operators and professional engine builders. Stuff like this doesn't happen under these conditions. Although he knows me and my driving methods, my husband said that if he hadn't been with me in the car at the time of this incident he wouldn't have believed the circumstances under which this occurred.
My plea to you my Corvette enthusiasts is this........ Has anyone heard of a similar plight? If so, was a determination made as to the cause? Or is it as simple as.....sometimes S#!T happens?? I am trying so hard to understand how this could have come about and what my options are. Don't misconstrue what I am saying. Once a diehard, always a diehard. Corvette is my sports car of choice and they remain in my family. My husband has a 63 split and we also have a 94 daily driver. But my baby, she needs help. Suggestions?
Old 08-26-2014, 04:51 AM
Join Date: Aug 2013
Posts: 63
Default Died

As you say, sometimes crap happens. I've seen an engine spin a bearing just idling or throw a wristpin for no reason so it happens.
Being you had impact between the piston and head, I'd expect damage there too so looks like long-block time. Companies like Summit have many different engines available and would likely be good options assuming you plan to keep it a long time.
Good luck and hope it all works out.
Old 08-26-2014, 01:16 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: KC, MO area
Posts: 2,745

Welcome to the forum.

I believe the base Corvette engines have been 2 bolt mains for a long time, perhaps forever. But then this didn't have a bearing in your case. no pun intended.

Chevrolet also has crate motors that come with 3 year 36,000 miles warranty. These come in varying levels of performance. Compared to some of the other options, they are a good deal.

Last edited by 73shark; 08-26-2014 at 01:19 PM.

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