Ten Corvettes, Ten Days: Day 10 – C4 “Ruth” – The Author Makes a Momentous Decision

Upland, California

Over the course of driving 10 Vettes in 10 days, I have learned that defining a good deal is the most difficult part of buying a car as all of these cars have been a lot of fun.

For my last Corvette test drive, I decided to give the C4 one more chance. This particular C4 was in much better condition than Emily the yellow C4 I’d driven early on. First, unlike Emily, this jet black C4 looked the business with chrome C6 wheels. It has only 88k miles. It has a 6-speed manual gearbox. Critically, the roof was bolted down all the way.

If this car were a person, her name would be ‘Ruth.’ And like Ruth Langmore from the Netflix series Ozark, Ruth wasn’t dealt a good hand in life. However, like her namesake, this C4 is not satisfied with a life of shotgun weddings, cheap beer, and trailer parks. No, she showed me she’s on her way to a better life.

For starters, the clutch – my God! – the clutch is one of the smoothest I have ever experienced.  Better still, this car has had its notoriously unreliable Opti-spark distributor fixed (rebuilt – as it was positioned underneath the water pump where it would invariably get leaked on), so it runs great. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the shifter. The throws are long, numb, and laborious in action. However, unlike the porn star Z06 from the earlier story, the C4’s power is far more manageable. I feel this car has something to teach me! I’m learning how to be in-tune with the Corvette without fear that the Corvette will kill me in the learning.

Better still, beyond the C4, Jim, the very chill owner of the dealership is cool. We chat and he recognizes that I’m on a quest. He takes the time to show me all of his eclectic inventory (spread across several buildings) in addition to letting me try out several other cars to determine which might be the best fit. He explains the purchasing process with simplicity and minimum pressure, the likes of which I haven’t seen in any other dealership so far. Jim is the kind of salesman we all hope to do business with.

But back to the C4 and Corvettes in general. I’ve decided that the C4 is a kind of postmodern American E-Type – it’s an accessible pinup.  Next, the C5 is the most versatile sports car I have ever driven. They can be built for straight-line speed but manage to return decent gas mileage. And then the C6 which represented the start of a new era for Corvette. The C6 was such a leap forward in refinement and ergonomics. Lastly, the C7 epitomizes what General Motors is really capable of when production cost is not the first consideration.  As for the Z06, that designation will always hold a special place in my heart as my first experience with true supercar power.

This said, 12 days later, I have determined that I really can’t see myself living with America’s premier sports car.  I’m not sure if an American car – with convenience and ease of use being paramount to all other factors- can really satisfy my automotive passions. There is something to the precision of German engineering and the romanticism of Italian performance that really speaks to me. Raw American power is thrilling – but – how often and where can we use it on a daily basis? This is where it would make sense to add a Corvette to a car collection. A Corvette represents Team USA proudly in an international garage.  But by itself, as my one daily driver, it’s not for me. And if I’m honest, well, there was this old Alfa that I got to experience while I was in Sacramento…

Special thanks to Gunnar Heinrich for inspiring me with this 10 Corvettes in 10 days series and helping me find my voice.