1992 represented a milestone year in the life of America's sports car. The one-millionth Corvette was built, ground was broken for the National Corvette Museum, and Corvette made its performance comeback with the introduction of the LT1 as the base engine.
While from the outside, all of the 1984-1996 C4 Corvettes looked very similar, connoisseurs know that 'Vettes from '92 on are the ones to have.
Successfully overcoming the challenges of federal emission standards, fuel economy and safety regulations, the 350-cubic-inch, 300-hp LT1 was heralded as the second coming of the Chevrolet small-block V8, which first saw light in 1955 as the 265. The LT1 offered a 50-horsepower, 20% increase in power over its predecessor, and had the highest net output for any production small block in Chevrolet history.
Other upgrades in 1992 included computer-controlled ignition timing, a low-restriction exhaust, higher compression ratio, new camshaft and free-flow cylinder heads. Chevrolet's innovative "reverse direction" cooling system was also introduced with the LT1, which routed coolant to the heads first rather than from the water pump through the block and ultimately to the heads. This updated cooling strategy permitted higher bore temperatures and reduced ring friction as it improved cooling around valve seats and spark plug bosses.
Bosch's sophisticated traction-control system-Acceleration Slip Regulation (ASR)-tweaked the car's existing anti-lock brakes to improve acceleration and stability in all weather conditions. Every 1992 Corvette rode on Goodyear's new state-of-the-art Eagle GS-C tires. Their unidirectional, asymmetric tread offered superior wet and dry handling on the high-performance map.
Further, as engineers discovered that engines equipped with Mobil 1 synthetic oil performed better without an oil cooler than engines with an oil cooler using petroleum-based oil, the synthetic oil became standard on all LT1s ('92-forward Corvettes do not have an oil cooler).
Some problems did arise, most notably with the car's Opti-spark distributor, which was eventually recalled due to a faulty drainage design.
Another potential issue involves the optional, three-way-adjustable FX3 suspension. This complex system requires that shocks be replaced individually and expensively, to the tune of approximately $200 each. Some owners opt instead for aftermarket shock replacements, which typically cost as much for an entire set of four as just one of the FX3 shocks. Additionally, if the main actuator control happens to fail, the set-up reverts back to stock settings, eliminating the system's fundamental adjustment feature. This actuator has also been discontinued and, therefore, cannot be replaced.
The built-in engine diagnostics can prove troublesome, as the on-board computer may throw an incorrect code as the result of a related component's malfunction, leading to costly and unnecessary parts repairs.
When looking for a '92 LT1 convertible, pay particular attention to the condition of the soft top, as replacing one can cost as much as $1,000. There are many Corvettes to choose from, so don't buy one with an undocumented ownership chain or evidence of slipshod repairs. Note the condition of the tires, as they can cost upwards of $800-$1,000 to replace, and warped brake rotors are not uncommon.
Six-speed cars bring at least a 10% premium over automatics, and were originally sold in far fewer numbers.
Cars in good colors like red and black, with under 50,000 miles and no surprises, can be found in the $18,000-$20,000 range, are a terrific value and, if properly kept, should depreciate little in the years ahead.