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1987 Corvette

Overall rating:  Product Rating: 5.0

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Everything you need to know about a 1987 Corvette Hot Rodding for a Hot Price

by Blazer_Bob:      Feb 4, 2001 - Updated Feb 4, 2001

Product Rating: 5.0 Recommended: Yes 

Pros: Fast, ABS, Reliable, Resale, Easy to work on, gas mileage
Cons: Price of Tires, Paint, Insurance
The Bottom Line: This car is solidly built, and holds its own against brand new sports cars. If you want a sports car, and you want the best, go with the Corvette!


When I was in the market for a Sports car this summer, I knew I wanted the best. And what could be better than a Corvette? So that’s what I got. A 1987 Coupe, with automatic transmission and 2.59 rear end

This Epinion is best suited for people looking for Sports cars that only have $9,000 to spend.

Why 1987?

A lot of research went into this car. When buying a Corvette, you want the newest car you can afford, starting at 1987. Why not 1984-1985 you ask? The 1984 is a completely different engine, with a throttle body injection. In 1984, it was an excellent sports car...but in 1985, the new Corvette blew it away. In 1985 the Corvette was refined very much, and most of the electrical problems from 1984 had been shut down, an engine with more torque, and a much better fuel delivery system(the Tuned Port Injection). However, the 1985 was still leaning heavily on old technology, Anti-Lock brakes were not an option, and cast iron heads weighed the front the car down. In 1986, Cheby implemented Anti-Lock brakes on the Corvette, and started to use some aluminum heads. However, not all of the 1986 cars got aluminum heads. You also have to understand that all sorts of little things were updated in this time period also, such as better relays, a better steering rack, and many other things. By 1987, the Corvette was a refined sports car. The Anti-Lock Brakes, and aluminum heads were always standard, and the car still sells for about the same price(although blue book is higher).

Why an Automatic?

That is a good question. I love manual sports cars as much as the next enthusiast, but the Corvette doesn't suffer much with the automatic over the manual transmission of the time. Doug Nash implemented an overdrive unit behind the regular four-speed transmission, effectively giving the car 7 speeds, and referred to, as the 4+3. To shift the transmission, you go from 1-2-3-4, then turn on the overdrive, and go from 2-3-4. In 1984 through 1986, both the transmission and overdrive were very prone to failure, and each carries a $1,500 price tag to rebuild. In 1987, the overdrive and transmission were rebuilt, to much better standards, and have a much better reliability record, although it is still not perfect. In 1989 Chevrolet abandoned the idea and started putting a 6-speed in the manual Corvette's. Many people don't like the 4+3 due to its long throw shifter. This is an easy and cheap($50) with a short shifter, from Mid-America Corvette's.(See the bottom of the page for links)

On the other hand, the TurboHyrdramatic 700R4 found in the Corvette from 1981-2001(although in 1992 it was switched to computer control, effectively changing the name to 4L60E, but don't be fooled, it is still basically a 700R4). Though the years, the 700R4 has been updated with better clutches, and generally better things. If the transmission goes out in your older car, always have it rebuilt with modern parts, as they are always better. It is not uncommon for the THM700R4 to go over 150,000 miles without any problems at all. However, hot-rodded Corvette's often see rebuilt transmission around 100,000 miles.

How about that engine?

From 1985-1991 the Corvette was powered by the 5.7 liter, 16 valve(two per piston) V8, named the L98. The L98 engine has been affectionately named, "Torque Monster" due to its somewhat small, 230-245 hp crank output, but monstrous 330 ft. lb. of torque output. These numbers equate to about 211 rear wheel horse power and 285-rear wheel torque. This will effectively push the Corvette to 60 in about 5.5 seconds, and down the 1/4 mile in 14.0 seconds at 100 mph. Not too shabby for a 14 year old car.

It is not hard to improve the power of the L98, by simply adding a freer flowing air filter, pressurizing the fuel pressure to about 47, as 38-42 is the stock number, and a free flowing exhaust. With these simple modifications, that will cost you about $1100, you can race the 1/4 mile in 13.5 seconds. There are many other things to do for even more power.

I've heard that Tuned Port Injection isn't that good?

Alas, you've heard right. It is a wonderful fuel injection system, based on reliability. However, if you were trying to make your Corvette go faster, the TPI will limit your available horsepower to about 350. However, there are several relatively inexpensive (Between $900 and $1,600) fuel injections that will be fine until your car is outputting more than 600 hp.

If you are just looking for a fun daily car, or a relatively fast sports car, don't let the TPI scare you away.

They have fiberglass bodies, right? How much do they weigh?

The Fiberglass body certainly lowers the weight of the car, while still maintaining a tight car. An excellent point is that it resists denting even with hard hits. With exceptionally hard hits, it will shatter, but it takes a lot of stress away from the occupants. With an empty car, minus driving essentials like the spare tire and provisions, with all fluids topped off, and no gas in the tank, my car weighed in at 3,052 lbs.

How good are Corvette’s in accidents?

Corvette’s fair exceptionally well. The seatbelts stay very firm, and the occupants are fairly safe. Front and rear crumple zones(called energy pads in 1987) absorb much of the hit, reducing injury to the passengers. After accidents, they can almost always be put back together, usually just as good as before. When looking for Corvette’s though, make sure it has no frame damage(e.g. ripples, welds, or bends), as that could seriously diminish its cornering stability.

All these options! Which one's can't I live without?

Luckily, Chevrolet implemented a lot of things as standard equipment in Corvette's. The Corvette has always been Chevy's Flag Ship(it is Iron that Corvette is named after a small French Sailing Ship), and it gets all of the goodies.

Standard, you will find:

Power Door Locks
Power Windows
Power Mirrors
Removable Roof(fits nicely in the back of the car)
Telescoping/Tilt Wheel
Digital Dash

But, there are something’s you can't live without, and others that are simply unnecessary.

What do I absolutely need to have?
There are two types of Corvette's. There is the Non-Z51 cars, and the Z-51 cars! The Z-51 option is a must. You will read this from the center consol, under Z. If it is not there, you better get a screaming deal on the car to still get it.

Z51 includes so many good things. The Corvette is first and foremost a road racer, so turning is what you are looking for. This is where the Z51 comes in. Instead of 23 mm sway bars front and back, you get a 26 mm sway bar in the front. You get Bilstein AutoX(the X stands for cross) shocks. And your steering is noticeably faster. Instead of turning the wheel 2.75 times to go from full left to full right lock, you only need to turn the wheel 2.25 times. Along with the turning factors, you get extra cooling features, such as an Oil Cooler, and an auxiliary fan.

For about $700 you can turn a non-Z51 car into a Z51, but it is much easier just to buy a Z51 in the first place.

Next on our list is the G44 Performance Axle. Believe it or not, in 1987, this code was a $22 option. Instead of getting the standard 2.59 axle you get the sportier 3.07 rear axle. I opted for the 2.59 rear axle, thinking that since I couldn't afford to rebuild an over-revved engine, the 2.59 would be better for my applications. But, after doing more research, the 3.07 only increases highway rpms by 300, and really livens the car up at lower speeds. It lightly hampers the top speed, to 154 with the manual, and 147 with the automatic. All manuals came with the G44. The automatic with the 2.59 will hit the same speed.

So, again, unless you get a screaming deal on the 2.59, go for the 3.07. It only takes about 2 mpg off of the Vette's incredible 30 miles per gallon fuel economy. If you choose a 2.59 and decide you would rather have a 3.07, you'll be paying about $1,400 to convert!

How about those sport seats? They are nice, and offer lumbar. But they are certainly not a must. I do not have sport seats, and I have no problem without the lumbar, as it is a very supportive seat. And yes, I do have problems in other vehicles without Lumbar, so it is not just me. I *think* that the car came with power driver seat standard. It is really an unnecessary item...as too would be the dual power seats. The passenger is always sitting all the way back, and legroom is not an issue. The Corvette has legroom to spare even for the tallest people.

So, sport seats and dual power seats are not necessary, however, they are a nice addition if you do happen to find a car with them.

Next is the glass roof. The glass roof is just a fun addition. It also weighs a lot less. Many, many Corvette's came with both a glass roof and a solid roof, but they usually are separated by now. The glass roof is very prone to cracking, and they are certainly not cheap. Sometimes insurance will cover it, but usually not. The glass roof also adds some headroom. I don't think it is worth it, and if you get a glass roofed Corvette, make sure you get the solid roof too.

Bose teamed up with AC Delco(Chevrolet) to develop a nice sound system for these cars. And did they ever! Many people hate the Delco/Bose system, do to its complexity and prone to crackly sound. It is true, the amps do wear out after time. But they are easy to replace, and you can get an upgraded set from Bose for $56 a piece. The Bose cassette requires a $60 adapter when installing a CD player, and is DIN and a half, so only a select few CD players will fit. However, it is not hard at all to have a stereo shop make a regular din player fit, and for only a few extra bucks.

Option UU8 and UQ4 are a must, because when it is working, the 6 (only 4 are Bose amplified) speakers fill the cab with a beautiful full sound. However, if the car didn’t come with this sound system from the factory, many have been upgraded with better systems. Don’t rule the car out because it doesn’t have this, but it is a very nice addition.

And lastly, we come to option C49 and Z6A. Depending on where you live, these may not be necessary. For me, they are lifesavers. These are the rear window, and mirror defrosters. It is very easy to tell if the car has these by looking at the drivers mirror, if it has heat-waves, the mirror is heated(most are), and if the rear hatch has lines going front to back, it has a hatch heater. They quickly defrost the mirrors and hatch, and the windshield defroster also defrosts the side windows.

There are a few other options, such as cruise control, and obviously interior and exterior colors.

Try to get a service manual, but if you can’t get it with the car, they are $49, and an invaluable asset to have.

Now that you know what you’re looking at, how are you going to like it?

Drivability good-points
The 1987 Corvette, unlike most 14-year-old cars, is still very reliable. You can get in, and expect it to take you where you are going. They usually won’t leave you stranded. Fuel economy is excellent for a V8 powered car. If you need to pass someone, you can do it in a blink of an eye. The comfort is definitely there, and you can sit in the car all day(I have). Road noise is almost non-existent, and the car is generally comfortable.

Drivability bad-points
Being as the Corvette is a Sports Car first and foremost, it rides like a sports car. You won’t feel every bump in the road, but you’ll feel most of them. At first, it may be an annoyance. But all C4 drivers eventually begin to like the feeling. In the rain, your C4 will almost undoubtedly leak. It is a minor leak, but is right about your left arm, and your passengers right arm. Slightly annoying, and can also attribute to a swampy smell in the car. It is fixable, but at the price of about $200.

Reliability good-points
The engine almost always lasts well over 100,000 miles. Unless the car has been driven excruciatingly hard, most last well into the 120,000 mark, often much higher. One very telltale mark is a low oil pressure. If during your test drive, the oil pressure is not at least at 35 at standard driving, bypass that car. An engine rebuild will set you back about $1,800. The transmission almost always lasts over 100,000 miles, depending again on how hard the car has been driven. The transmission will also cost you about $1,800-$2,000. The suspension almost always needs to be rebuilt after 100,000 miles. It is fairly inexpensive, and a do-it yourself job. The digital dash is much more reliable than people think. They usually don’t have any problems until well over 100,000 miles. And even then, it is only a $200 piece to have rebuilt. The interior also holds up well, mine is at 100,000 miles and the drivers seat is only now starting to deteriorate, but not excessively noticeable. The rear carpeting is also showing signs of wear. But a carpet kit is only $300. Seats are more, but are much more inexpensive to get reupholstered rather than replaced.

Reliability bad-points
Corvettes spin alternators. It’s a known fact. Mine has had at least 8 in its lifetime. This previous time I decided not to mess with a lifetime warranty and have the alternator professionally rebuilt. It was the same price, and hopefully now I won’t have to replace it for a long time. Fuel Pumps are notorious for going out, they are perhaps the biggest reason that C4’s end up on flatbed trucks. Luckily, Chevrolet redesigned the fuel pump with reliability in mind, and it can very easily be retrofitted into the car for a total of about $100. There are two seals that often let loose. The intake manifold and the rear seal in the engine. Both are fairly simple to replace, but very time consuming. The headlight motors go out sometimes, but are a relatively easy fix, but will cost you usually $80. The paint isn’t an overly excellent quality, and you’ll probably find many cars with sporty clear coat. Otherwise it is a very solidly built car.

You keep saying, “Do-it-Yourself”, can I really do it myself?
Yes! Even with minimal mechanical skills. The way the hood opens, in a clamshell opening to the front, it makes it very easy to work on every aspect of the car. It is very easy to jack the front of the car up to change the oil and transmission fluid. Otherwise, almost all engine work can be done without being under the car. The spark plugs only take about an hour to replace, the air filter is very accessible. The oil and filter are very, very easy to change. All other basic maintenance on the engine is very simple. The grease points are all in the open, except for the rear ones, which you’ll have to take the tires off for. One very inexpensive part that goes out is the power window, and power door lock switches. They are $5.75 a piece, and it only takes half an hour to change all four. Working on this car is almost too easy. The fuel injection, on the other hand, is not so easy, and I would rather leave it to the pros. Luckily, nothing really bad ever happens to the fuel injection. Problems are easy to diagnose, and are almost always as easy as replacing a sensor, or relay, which is cheap.

What do you dislike about the car the most?

I would have to say that I like almost everything about the car, I can’t think of anything I would really like to change, except for perhaps a smoother ride. But I certainly not want to give up the tight handling. I think it is perfect the way it is.

The 1987 Corvette would be a perfect choice for someone who wants a sports car, doesn't need mor than two seats, but needs it to be reliable and docile enough to use as a daily driver. That is what I do, and have had no really big problems yet.

Even being 14 years old, it will easily keep up with brand new sports cars, and at a fraction of the cost.

There is a reason the Corvette is the only sports car that matters. So, if you want the best, there just isn't a bette choice, get out your newspaper and start looking at those L98 Corvette's!

For more information, check out these websites:

http://www.corvetteforum.com When you are ready to start looking for your corvette, ask about each one on this website, you will be more informed and be able to stay away from possible problems.

http://www.madvet.com This is a Corvette parts catalog, you can get a good representation of what you can do to Corvette’s and at what cost.

http://www.ecklers.com Another catalog. There are hundreds of parts you can buy for the 1987 Corvette.

For more of a driver's perspective on the L98 Corvette, please read my other review on my 1985 Corvette that was hit and totalled:

I decided not to incorporate these opinions, as they both say something very unique about the car, in over 1,500 words per review.
Amount Paid (US$): 6,900
Condition: Used
Model Year: 1987
Model and Options: Auto, non-Z51, 2.59 rear
Product Rating: 5.0
Recommended: Yes 
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