1984 Corvette

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1984 Corvette
Handsome from any angle, the 1984 Corvette was deliberately less flamboyant than the Shark. It was also more aerodynamically efficient, thanks to extensive wind-tunnel testing. See more pictures of classic cars.

In 1984, after many years of rumors and false starts, the Corvette's rabid legions of fans were more than eager to see an all-new model roll off the Bowling Green assembly line. Few cars have been more eagerly anticipated. This would not be just another freshened carryover model, but a completely new Corvette that was recast from top to bottom as a thoroughly modern interpretation of the classic American sports car. And the faithful would finally get their wish. Sure, it wouldn't be the swoopy mid- or rear-engine "car-of-the-future-here-today" that some may have hoped for, but it was to be a brand-new Corvette just the same, and that was reason enough to celebrate. The car was set to debut as an early 1984 model and not an '83 as had been widely predicted. This was because the mid-model-year introduction made certifying the car as an early '84 more convenient (if tougher) in terms of meeting emissions and fuel-economy standards. Unfortunately this meant the car wouldn't technically be in production for 1983, which would have been its 30th anniversary year -- thereby denying collectors and historians another special commemorative edition to mark the event.

Nevertheless, the new Corvette was finally at hand. It had been a very long time coming, so great things were expected of it.

But the automotive world had seen sweeping changes since the last generation Corvette was born. Fuel economy standards were now a fact of life -- and law -- and materials, labor, and petroleum products had become much more expensive. The marketplace was now ruled by imports, such as the Porsche 928, Ferrari 308, and Lotus Esprit, along with a raft of lower-priced performance machines like the Datsun Z and Mazda RX-7. Critics wondered how a new Corvette would fare against not only its contemporary rivals but its illustrious predecessors as well.

Work toward the C4 had begun in earnest in mid-1978, shortly after General Motors management canceled plans to replace the existing Shark with a production version of the mid-engine Aerovette show car. This development program involved the closest cooperation between the engineering and design departments ever seen at GM. The primary collaborators were Corvette chief engineer David R. McLellan and designer Jerry Palmer, then head of Chevrolet Production Studio Three. Their close working relationship was vital if the new model was to be built with a high level of quality -- which was important, because the new Corvette would sell for considerably more money than ever before.

To find out more about the engineering behind the 1984 Corvette, see the next section.

Learn about other Corvettes in this generation:

1984 Corvette
1985 Corvette 1986 Corvette
1987 Corvette 1988 Corvette 1989 Corvette
1990 Corvette


Looking for more information on Corvettes and other cars? See:

  • Corvettes: Learn about the history behind each model year and see Corvette photographs.
  • Corvette Specifications: Get key specifications, engine and transmission types, prices, and production totals.
  • Corvette Museum: The National Corvette Museum draws Corvette lovers from all over the world. Learn more about the museum.
  • Corvette Pictures: Find pictures of the hottest classic and current-year Corvettes.
  • Muscle Cars: Get information on more than 100 tough-guy rides.
  • Consumer Guide Corvette Reviews: Considering a Corvette purchase? See what Consumer Guide has to say.

1984 Corvette Engineering

 

1984 Corvette
The C4 made history as the first unit-construction Corvette, using this sturdy "birdcage" or "uniframe" structure.

The underlying mission statement for the 1984 Corvette design was "form follows function." While many automakers had paid only lip service to following that well-worn dictum over the years, both Corvette chief engineer Jerry Palmer and Corvette chief engineer David R. McLellan deemed it essential in order for the new Corvette to remain competitive with the latest sports cars from Japan and Europe. Specifically, their task was to eliminate the deficiencies for which prior versions had been roundly criticized, while still maintaining the traditional Corvette look and driving feel. The new car would have to cut through the air with superior aerodynamics, coddle its passengers with more interior room, and -- most importantly -- serve up even better handling than earlier models.

To that end, the C4 would have to be completely re-engineered -- a beefed-up Shark with new styling simply would not suffice. Both design groups began their tasks with the so-called "T-point," which is the position of the driver's hip joint relative to the interior and the rest of the car. This was raised an inch and moved an inch or so rearward, which opened up more legroom and also made for a higher driving position relative to the road. Further, the change enabled the car's revised chassis to sit higher than before for more ground clearance.

The old perimeter-type ladder frame was replaced by a steel backbone design not unlike that pioneered by England's Lotus. In the Corvette, the "spine" took the form of a C-section beam rigidly connected to the differential and carrying the driveshaft. This arrangement reduced weight and opened up more cockpit room by eliminating the transmission and differential crossmembers, and by permitting the exhaust system to be run beneath the driveshaft instead of alongside it.

Welded to the backbone was what Chevy called an "integral perimeter-birdcage unitized structure" or "uniframe," making the new model the first Corvette to employ modern unit construction instead of the old body-on-frame configuration. The "birdcage" formed the windshield and door frames, lower A-pillar extensions, rocker panels, rear cockpit wall, and front subframe. It also included a "hoop" above and behind the cockpit, both for additional rigidity and as a hinge point for the lift-up rear window. Galvanized inside and out for corrosion resistance, this structure effectively comprised a skeleton onto which the fiberglass outer panels would attach. Completing the basic assembly were an aluminized bolt-on front suspension carrier and a bolt-on extension for the back bumper.

 

1984 Corvette
The C4's one carryover component was the L83 V-8 with "Cross Fire Injection" as fitted to the final Sharks. Engineers placed it slightly behind the front-axle centerline for optimum front/rear weight balance.

This more rigid platform allowed McLellan's staff to rework the suspension for greater handling precision. In front remained the familiar unequal-length upper-and-lower A-arm arrangement, though with a new twist. Instead of a coil spring on each side, a single reinforced-fiberglass leaf spring was mounted transversely between the two lower arms, as at the rear. A 20-millimeter anti-roll bar was standard.

Even bigger changes occurred in the rear, where Zora Arkus-Duntov's old three-link geometry gave way to a more sophisticated five-link design. This comprised upper and lower longitudinal links between the body and hub carriers, twin lateral strut rods tying the differential to the hub carriers, another transverse plastic leaf spring (of the type used since 1981), and the customary U-jointed halfshafts and rear tie rods.

Steering was now a rack-and-pinion design, changed from GM's usual recirculating-ball mechanism. It had a forward-mounted rack for greater precision and a standard high-effort booster for better directional control at high speeds. Normal ratio was a constant 15.5:1, which was quite fast for an American car. A tilt/telescope steering wheel was made standard.

A Z51 Performance Handling Package included heavy-duty shocks and lower-control-arm bushings, upgraded front and rear springs and stabilizer bars, plus 13.0:1 quick-ratio steering, among other features.

As before, stopping power was supplied by large ventilated disc brakes at each wheel. The brakes themselves were a new design created by Girlock, an offshoot of the British Girling company. Making extensive use of aluminum, they had large 11.5-inch-diameter rotors and featured quick-change semi-metallic pads (held by a single bolt) with audible wear indicators.

With improved handling being a major consideration, the car was originally intended to ride on larger 16-inch wheels and Pirelli's P7 performance tires, then the state of the art. But the rubber ultimately used in production was Goodyear's Eagle VR50, specifically designed for the new Corvette and sized at P255/50VR-16.

The "V-rated" tires were designed to withstand a maximum speed of over 130 miles per hour, which was a hint of the car's performance potential. These tires were notable for their "gatorback" tread design -- a deep V-pattern with horizontal slots perpendicular to the sidewalls, all of which suggested the appearance of an alligator's back. Evolved from Goodyear's Formula 1 and Indy-car rain-tire program, the design was said to shed water more effectively to resist hydroplaning, which is a perpetual problem with wide, low-profile rubber. The tires were mounted on cast-alloy wheels that were 8.5-inches wide up front and 9.5-inches wide in the rear. These were among the first of the so-called "unidirectional" wheels, in which the radial fins were shaped to scoop in cooling air to the brakes only when turning forward. This, in turn, necessitated specific left and right wheels front and rear, none of which were interchangeable.

More evidence of the Design and Engineering departments' teamwork was found under a new "clamshell" hood, which was part of the design concept from the very beginning. Recalling Jaguar's famed E-Type and various mid-engine Corvette experiments, the design integrated the hood with the front fender tops and lifted to a near-vertical position.

Residing beneath the clamshell was the 5.7-liter (350-cid) small-block V-8 carried over from 1982, with twin throttle-body electronic fuel injection and "CrossFire" manifolding with dual ram-air intakes. Though still designated L83, it now produced five more horsepower -- a total of 205 at 4,300 rpm -- and five extra lbs/ft of torque -- 290 at 2,800 rpm -- via a more efficient radiator fan and accessory drive. It sported a flat-top die-cast magnesium air cleaner created by Palmer's crew. Separate vacuum-modulated doors molded into the underside of the hood regulated incoming air flow; the ducts mating with the air cleaner assembly when the hood was closed. A single air intake below the front bumper fed air to the underhood ducts, making the '84 a "bottom-breather" like the Shark before it. The engine compartment was color-coordinated in silver and black. Palmer even persuaded GM's AC-Delco Division to develop an appropriately styled battery.

A welcome return for the new model was a four-speed manual gearbox as the Corvette's standard transmission, but it was nothing like any seen before. Called "4+3 Overdrive," it was basically an orthodox four-speed with a second set of three planetary gears attached at the rear. When signaled by the engine's Computer Command Control electronics, the auxiliary gearset engaged through a hydraulic clutch to provide a stepdown or overdrive reduction of 0.67:1 in each of the top three gears. The intended result was improved part-throttle fuel economy, though in practice testers noted little difference between the manual and the automatic transmissions in that regard. For best performance, engagement was electronically inhibited at wide throttle openings, but this was quickly supplemented by a console-mounted manual override switch. Standard final drive was 3.07:1, with 3.31:1 gearing available for better standing-start performance.

Production delays postponed deliveries of the 4+3 Overdrive until early calendar '84, however, so the first of the new Corvettes were equipped only with an automatic. Returning from 1982, but as a no-cost option now, was the GM 700-R4 four-speed overdrive automatic, still with a lockup torque converter clutch effective in all forward ratios except for first.

Despite Chevy's considerable effort to keep weight as low as possible, the new Corvette emerged heavier than expected -- by a good 300 pounds -- though it was 250 pounds lighter than a comparably equipped '82. Numerous subtle tricks contributed to this, not the least of which was the extensive use of lightweight materials. One of these was a driveshaft and supporting yokes made of forged aluminum, welded together. Another was a radiator support made of plastic sheet molding compound (SMC). The twin transverse reinforced-fiberglass leaf springs weighed half as much as four steel coil springs of comparable size. (They were also claimed to be more durable, capable of withstanding five million full jounce/ rebound cycles, versus about 75,000 for the steel coils.) Plastic was also employed for the cooling system's twin expansion tanks, radiator fan, and shroud.

Aluminum figured extensively elsewhere. Front-suspension control arms and knuckles as well as the rear lateral arms were all aluminum forgings, as was the chassis's C-section "spine." The automatic transmission's torque converter housing was formed from sheet aluminum. Brake splash shields were aluminum rather than steel, and calipers were made from an iron-aluminum alloy that provided greater strength with less weight.

See the next page for a closer look at the design of the 1984 Corvette.

Learn about other Corvettes in this generation:

1984 Corvette
1985 Corvette 1986 Corvette
1987 Corvette 1988 Corvette 1989 Corvette
1990 Corvette


Looking for more information on Corvettes and other cars? See:

  • Corvettes: Learn about the history behind each model year and see Corvette photographs.
  • Corvette Specifications: Get key specifications, engine and transmission types, prices, and production totals.
  • Corvette Museum: The National Corvette Museum draws Corvette lovers from all over the world. Learn more about the museum.
  • Corvette Pictures: Find pictures of the hottest classic and current-year Corvettes.
  • Muscle Cars: Get information on more than 100 tough-guy rides.
  • Consumer Guide Corvette Reviews: Considering a Corvette purchase? See what Consumer Guide has to say.

1984 Corvette Design

1984 Corvette
Against the Shark, the C4 was a bit wider, but a whopping 8.8 inches shorter overall and two inches trimmer in wheelbase. It also boasted more glass and better outward visibility.

While engineers busied themselves with technical intricacies of the 1984 Corvette, the design staff was shaping the car's appearance. The design brief was imposing. First and most obviously, the new generation had to look like a Corvette; in other words, it couldn't break with the model's traditional styling cues. Drivelines would be carried over, and though the new model could be a bit smaller outside, it had to offer more interior room. Improved outward vision and less aerodynamic drag were additional goals.

Despite all the demands, the styling job went quickly. A full-scale clay model based on a Palmer sketch was completed in September 1978. By mid-November of the following year -- a scant 14 months later -- the design was more or less final except for taillamps, front-fender trim, and nose contour.

A key development affecting room, drag, and visibility was engineering's decision to mount the steering linkage farther forward than originally envisioned. By allowing the engine to ride lower in the chassis, a correspondingly lower hoodline was achieved, with better vision forward and reduced frontal area. The latter was a big contributor to reducing effective aerodynamic drag, which is not the drag coefficient (Cd) alone but the product of the Cd multiplied by the car's frontal area.

What emerged was unmistakably a Corvette from front to back. And while its basic exterior dimensions were now slightly smaller, it still looked like a considerably large car, thanks in part to its long hood and altered proportions. Overall length was down a significant 8.8 inches despite a mere two-inch cut in wheelbase -- from 98.0 to 96.0 inches -- and just a 1.7-inch reduction in front overhang. The secret was the 5.2-inch chop in rear overhang, which gave the effect of a longer hood even though it was actually shorter. Another contribution was a 64-degree windshield angle as measured from the vertical -- then the steepest of any American production car. The base of the windshield was 1.5 inches lower and a bit farther forward than before. This, in turn, allowed the beltline to be dropped, giving the 1984 Corvette a slimmer, glassier appearance.

Probably the biggest change in the car's appearance came from that increase in width. The old pinched-waist midsection was gone, along with the bulged front and rear fenderlines, replaced by a smoother, more organic contour. The car retained its predecessor's flared wheel arches, which combined with the fat tires to accentuate the hunkered-down look. Fenders no longer conflicted with the beltline, which rose uninterrupted from the windshield toward a near-vertical Kamm-style tail (a modified throwback to 1968) with the traditional quartet of lights. In profile, the shape was a discernible wedge -- which was pleasing and functional in the GM idiom.

1984 Corvette
The '84 Corvette's tilt-up "clamshell" hood allowed no-strain engine and front suspension access. Out back, a glass hatch opened onto a much roomier trunk.

One styling element that was new to the C4 Corvette was a full-perimeter rub strip at roughly mid-body height. This not only tied the front and rear bumpers together visually but concealed the one major seam in the new bodyshell, as well as the shutlines around the clamshell hood.

After 15 years of selling Corvettes with T-tops, Chevrolet could hardly revert to a model having a fixed roof. But this time around, the T-bar was gone, replaced by a one-piece removable panel with four attachment points -- two on the windshield header and two on the rear roof hoop; this was the "targa" treatment originally planned for the C4. As on early Sharks, the panel stowed in special slots built into the top of the luggage bay. For added protection against at least casual vandals, the top could be removed only with a special wrench.Buyers had a choice of either a body-colored panel or a tinted transparent top made of scratch-resistant acrylic, the latter an option that was delayed until well after the car's introduction. Either top was far lighter and easier to handle than the awkward glass panes that preceded them.

Chevy boasted that the '84 Corvette was partly shaped in the wind tunnel. One new wrinkle in that aspect of development was the use of a sensor to compare pressure differences at various points on the car against pressure in other parts of the tunnel as the car sat in a moving airstream. While the resulting drag coefficient was not exceptional for the day at 0.34, reduced frontal area made the new Corvette much more slippery than that often-misleading value suggested. And even at that, the Cd number represented a useful 23.7 percent reduction compared to the 1982 Corvette's 0.44.

With its striking new exterior, the Corvette needed an equally arresting cockpit. Created by GM's Interior Design group under Pat Furey, it was dominated by a space-age instrument panel and the usual tall center tunnel/console. With a seating position that was slightly lower than before, the revised cabin definitely felt more spacious and open than did the prior generation's. Despite the shorter wheelbase and a 1.1-inch reduction in overall height, the 1984 offered fractional gains in head and leg room, plus a welcome 6.5-inch increase in total shoulder room, an area where the old car was decidedly tight. Cargo capacity was also greater this time around, by a useful eight cubic feet or so, and this storage was more accessible thanks to the lift-up hatch window.

Instrumentation was now directly ahead of the driver; no more secondary dials in the center of the dashboard. In fact, there were now no dials at all in the usual sense; following the fashion of the times, there was a high-tech all-electronic display supplied by AC-Delco. Road and engine speeds were monitored by both graphic analog and digital displays; between them was a sub-panel with digital engine-function readouts, including a vertical-bar-graph fuel gauge. A quartet of switches, to the left of a bank of warning lights in the center of the dash, allowed the sub-panel to display up to four additional readouts. These could include instantaneous and average miles per gallon, trip odometer, fuel range, engine temperature, oil pressure and temperature, and electrical system voltage. The displays could be changed from American-standard to metric values at the flip of a switch.

The console also housed the heat/vent/air conditioning and audio-system controls. A Delco AM/FM-stereo radio was standard, while a similar unit with cassette tape player was optional. But the audiophile's choice was the $895 GM-Delco/Bose system. Similar to systems offered on other recent GM cars, it featured four speakers in special enclosures that were shaped and placed to match the interior's acoustic properties. While such audiophile systems are relatively common today, the Corvette was the first sports car to pay such attention to the entertainment aspect of motoring.

New standard seats were specially designed highback buckets with prominent bolsters on both the cushion and backrest; they offered manual fore/aft adjustment and -- at long last -- reclining backrests. Full cloth trim was standard, with leather upholstery optional. Also offered at extra cost was the latest in seating technology supplied by Lear-Siegler. These optional seats added electric adjustment for backrest angle and cushion bolster in/out, plus a powered three-stage lumbar support adjuster using inflatable bladders that could be individually air-bled to achieve the proper contour.

The new Corvette was publicly unveiled in the early spring of 1983, and the general reaction from both the press and the public was a mixture of relief and unbridled enthusiasm. The C4 was, thank goodness, still a Corvette in appearance and mechanical layout, yet was startlingly and entirely new with a full complement of high technology residing under its fiberglass skin.

1984 Corvette
Handsome from any angle, the '84 Corvette was deliberately
less flamboyant than the Shark.

Several running changes were made shortly after the new model was announced and sales began. An engine-oil cooler was made standard equipment, and the originally standard 15-inch wheel/tire package was deleted, making the 16-inchers the only choice.

Meanwhile, regular production versions of the new Corvette were being subjected to their first full road tests, which cooled the initial euphoria of some reviewers in the enthusiast publications. The buff books predictably praised the car's acceleration and roadholding abilities, but criticized its relatively rough ride, especially with the optional Z51 suspension package; while superior on the track, it was judged as being too harsh for daily driving. The interior earned low marks for excessive exhaust and road noise, and the digital dashboard took a sound thrashing for its "Las Vegas at night" appearance and poor legibility, particularly in bright sunlight. Most reviewers pined for a return to good-old-fashioned analog gauges.

The 4+3 Overdrive manual was received with mixed reviews, and most testers agreed that it worked better with the manual override switched to the "off" position. Aside from the difficulty of trying to out-think a computer when left in auto mode, a clunky, high-effort linkage made stop-and-go driving tedious, which was aggravated by an equally unpleasant high-effort clutch. The transmission would also prove less than reliable, so it's no wonder that most Corvettes left Bowling Green with automatic in 1984 -- and would continue to do so through 1988, when the car would finally be given an acceptable manual gearbox.

Needless to say, the excitement of being able to buy an all-new Corvette for the first time in 15 years made the 1984 Corvette a fast sellout. Helped by an extra-long model year, volume zoomed back over the 50,000 mark, the total coming to 51,547 -- the second highest in Corvette history. There was even another production milestone, observed in November 1983 with completion of Corvette number 750,000.

Check out our final section for 1984 Corvette specifications.

Learn about other Corvettes in this generation:

1984 Corvette
1985 Corvette 1986 Corvette
1987 Corvette 1988 Corvette 1989 Corvette
1990 Corvette


Looking for more information on Corvettes and other cars? See:

  • Corvettes: Learn about the history behind each model year and see Corvette photographs.
  • Corvette Specifications: Get key specifications, engine and transmission types, prices, and production totals.
  • Corvette Museum: The National Corvette Museum draws Corvette lovers from all over the world. Learn more about the museum.
  • Corvette Pictures: Find pictures of the hottest classic and current-year Corvettes.
  • Muscle Cars: Get information on more than 100 tough-guy rides.
  • Consumer Guide Corvette Reviews: Considering a Corvette purchase? See what Consumer Guide has to say.

1984 Corvette Specifications

The first redesigned Corvette in 15 years was more sophisticated and more practical than the beloved Shark, yet every inch Corvette for style and sizzle. Here are the specifications for the 1984 Corvette:

 

1984 Corvette
This view highlights many new C4 features. Among them is a revised all-independent suspension with a transverse, fiberglass-reinforced leaf spring at the front as well as the rear, plus more sophisticated five-link rear geometry and forged aluminum front A-arms.

 

 

Vehicle Specifications
Hatchback
Wheelbase, inches
96.2
Length, inches
176.5
Width, inches
71.0
Track, inches
front: 59.6 rear: 60.4
Height, inches
46.7
Curb weight, pounds
3,200

Mechanical Specifications (2-door hatchback)

Suspension
front: Independent; unequal length upper and lower A-arms, transverse fiberglass leaf spring, tubular hydraulic shock absorbers, antiroll bar
rear: Independent, upper and lower trailing arms, lateral arms, tie rods, halfshafts,
transverse fiberglass leaf springs, tubular hydraulic shock absorbers, antiroll bar

Wheels/Tires
P225/50VR-16

Brakes
front: 11.5-inch disc
rear: 11.5-inch disc

Transmission
4-speed automatic
4+3-speed manual (4-speed manual with overdrive in 3rd and 4th gears)

Standard axle ratio
2.73:1 (auto) 3.07:1 (manual)

Engine Specifications

Type ohv V-8
Displacement, liters/cubic inch
5.7/350
Bore X stroke, inches4.00 X 3.48
Fuel management
Cross-Fire Throttle Body Fuel Injection
Horsepower @ rpm
205 @ 4,300
Torque @ rpm, pound-foot
290 @ 2,800

Published Performance Numbers

Acceleration205 hp, 4-speed automatic
0-60 mph, second
7.0
0-100 mph, second
NA
1/4-mile, second @ mph
15.5 @ 88

Vehicle Production and Base Prices

Car Type
Production Price
2-door coupe
51,547 $21,800.00

Options and Production

Option Production Price
Power Driver Seat
48,702
$210.00
Sport Seats, cloth
4,003
625.00
Sport Seats, leather
40,568
400.00
Power Door Locks
49,545
165.00
Removable Transparent Glass Roof Panels
15,767
595.00
Two-Tone Paint
8,755
428.00
Delco-Bilstein Shock Absorbers
3,729
189.00
Performance Axle Ratio
410
22.00
Engine Oil Cooler
4,295
158.00
Cruise Control49,832
185.00
4-Speed Manual Transmission
6,443
0.00
P255/50VR16 Tires/16 Wheels
51,547 561.00
Radio Delete
104
-331.00
AM/FM Radio Stereo, Cassette
6,689
153.00
AM/FM Radio, Stereo, CB
178
215.00
Stereo System, Delco-Bose
43,607
895.00
Heavy Duty Radiator
12,008
57.00
California Emission Certification
6,833
75.00
Performance Handling Package
25,995
600.20
Rear Window + Side Mirror Defoggers
47,680
160.00

Color Choices and Production

Color Choice
Production
White
6,417
Medium Gray Metallic
3,147
Light Blue Metallic
1,196
Gold Metallic
2,430
Dark Bronze Metallic
1,371
Silver/Medium Gray
3,629
Light Bronze/Dark Bronze3,693
Bright Silver Metallic
3,109
Black
7,906
Medium Blue Metallic
1,822
Light Bronze Metallic
2,452
Bright Red
1,2942
Light Blue/Medium Blue
1,433

Learn about other Corvettes in this generation:

1984 Corvette
1985 Corvette 1986 Corvette
1987 Corvette 1988 Corvette 1989 Corvette
1990 Corvette


Looking for more information on Corvettes and other cars? See:

  • Corvettes: Learn about the history behind each model year and see Corvette photographs.
  • Corvette Specifications: Get key specifications, engine and transmission types, prices, and production totals.
  • Corvette Museum: The National Corvette Museum draws Corvette lovers from all over the world. Learn more about the museum.
  • Corvette Pictures: Find pictures of the hottest classic and current-year Corvettes.
  • Muscle Cars: Get information on more than 100 tough-guy rides.
  • Consumer Guide Corvette Reviews: Considering a Corvette purchase? See what Consumer Guide has to say.