As with just about anything else in life, knowledge is power when it comes to working on a Corvette. Whether due to economic necessity, the satisfaction that comes with fixing something yourself, or the simple desire to get one's hands dirty, many choose to turn their own wrenches. But these days, especially with the advent of computer-controlled engines, you gotta know what you're doing. As a relatively new C4 owner, I feel more than a little trepidation about attempting repairs that go much beyond "remove and replace" on my car. Troubleshooting? Diagnosis? Help! There was definitely room for me to improve my Corvette knowledge, and as you know, we here at Team VETTE seek out professional help when we need it!
If you want to learn about everything C4, Gordon Killebrew is certainly the man to see. Killebrew currently serves fourth-gen enthusiasts through his phone consulting and troubleshooting service, For Your Car Inc., and through Gordon's School, which he established in 1997. For those of you who aren't familiar with Mr. Killebrew, I'll give you a short bio: Gordon was one of the original members of the Corvette Action Center, which was started by then Chief Engineer Dave McLellan during the C4 years. The Action Center fielded questions from GM's Tech Center, Chevrolet dealers, and private Corvette owners regarding any and all problems they couldn't fix. Before working in the Action Center, Gordon was a mechanic at the end of the assembly line, where he handled electrical and air condition repairs on the new Corvettes as they came off the line. And if all that's not enough, Gordon was also a proof editor for Service and Owner's Manuals.
Gordon Killebrew spends about...
Gordon Killebrew spends about half his instruction time in the classroom. Among many other things (notice the '85 dash and harness in the background), he goes over ways to keep a C4's headlight door working properly.
This experience was very much in evidence throughout the weekend. Suffice it to say that Gordon has an encyclopedic knowledge of fourth-generation Corvettes. "I'm no different than anyone else," he contends. "I just worked on them every day. I'm very seldom asked a new question. I took 50-60 calls a week, and was the mechanic at the end of the line. I saw more in a week than a dealer saw in a year." When asked why he's chosen to spend his retirement teaching others about Corvettes, two things are evident: he feels it's important (and who can argue with that?), and he enjoys it. "My main reason for doing this is that there's such a lack of knowledge (about C4s)," according to Gordon. "No one seems to know the right answer, even the dealer. The dealer's not bad, but Corvettes are a small part of their business, and they don't receive that much training on them. And it's doing something I like to do. I like to be around Corvettes, working on them and teaching about them."
Gordon offers four classes. Corvette 101 is a one-day session that presents an "overview of how the Corvette functions," and is recommended for "Want-to-be Owners, Future Buyers, and New Owners." Corvette 102 is also a one-day class, offering "more in-depth instructing for owners who want to do their own troubleshooting and repairs." Corvette 103 lasts for two days, and is recommended for "graduates of Corvette 101 and 102, Advanced Owners, Dealer Technicians, Independent Shop Technicians, and Shop Owners." The fourth class is Corvette ZR-1, which spends two days covering, "advanced operational and troubleshooting, covering all aspects of the '90-95 ZR-1 Corvettes."
The other half of the instruction...
The other half of the instruction time is spent in hands-on work. Among the areas Gordon covered was hood alignment nd keeping an '84s radiator clear of air-blocking debris.
I elected to sign up for Corvette 103. I may have been giving myself too much credit, but one advantage of being the only student in a class is that Gordon could (and did) tailor the class to my level. "We didn't get into detail," he told me afterwards, "but we covered the most common things...preventative stuff to do. When dealing with shop techs, I'll get more detailed. But with owners, I work to their level. I try to show the simplest way to do something...there's so much to cover in two days." All of which sounded good to me.