Problem: Everyday stress. Solution: Corvette.
That's one thing Frank Erbio has used his '96 coupe for since he bought it. As he explains, "I get in the car, turn the key, and…take the car out, just to hear the exhaust, feel the suspension and the power in the car, just to take my mind off of work."
1 Erbio's put about around...
1 Erbio's put about around 23,000 miles on the car since he bought it in 1999, including trips to shows, cruises, and club events.
There's plenty of power, thanks to the LT4 version of the venerable iron-block SBC V-8, which appeared in '96 wearing high-flow heads stuffed with bigger valves, a more aggressive hydraulic roller camshaft, higher compression, and other updates that boosted its factory-rated output to 330 horsepower--30 more than the base LT1.
And, aside from the K&N air filter and Corsa exhaust, it's as stock as the day it rolled out of Bowling Green Assembly.
As with many Corvette enthusiasts, Erbio's Corvette love affair started early. "When I was 12, one of my father's friends pulled up to our house in a new Stingray, and I was blown away by it," Erbio recalls. "Since then, I've been mesmerized by Corvettes."
It wasn't until 1999 that Erbio took action and put a Corvette in his garage. "I said to myself, ‘You're not getting any younger--if you want one, you might as well go look for one,'" he says. "With the permission of my wife, Diana, I started looking. I knew that I wanted a '96, because it was the last year of the C4, and the C4's always been my favorite."
2 Erbio's Vette was a clean...
2 Erbio's Vette was a clean one-owner car when he bought it, and he's kept it that way. The finish shows no external signs of age.
Instead of across the country, his search took him from his home in St. James, New York, to Ramp Chevrolet in nearby Port Jefferson. Back then, the since-closed dealer had a separate Corvette showroom. "There was this green one sitting on the showroom floor," Erbio says. "I knew I wanted the LT4 engine, because it was sort of a limited-edition/end-of-production-for-the-C4 engine."
That car was also equipped with a ZF six-speed gearbox--required with the LT4--and Preferred Equipment Group 1, which included a Delco AM/FM/cassette sound system and electronic climate control. In addition, the 15,000-mile C4 had an important clue to its past under the driver seat: A business card from the man who had leased the Vette when it was new. Erbio called him and asked about the '96. "He loved the car, and he wanted to keep it," he says. "But he'd just bought a house, and he couldn't afford to."
Armed with the history that former lessee provided, plus a clean Carfax report, Erbio bought the Polo Green Metallic coupe and drove it home.
Since then, Erbio has performed regular maintenance on the car, and he regularly drives it to events and cruises (that is, when he isn't driving his other '96 Corvette coupe, Grand Sport #917, which has just 5,500 miles on it). He's also joined a local Corvette owners' club--the Royal Order of Smithtown Corvette Owners (R.O.S.C.O.), whose members include at least two NCRS Master Judges--as well as the Metro Long Island chapter of the NCRS, where he serves as treasurer.
"It's just a great atmosphere, a great group of guys," he says of his club memberships. "We do trips, and we do a bunch of things throughout the summer to enjoy the cars. It's kind of a lifestyle." He adds that R.O.S.C.O. members meet each Thursday at night, at one member's home, to do work on their Corvettes ranging from oil changes to pulling engines for rebuilds. "This is an additional stress reliever for me," Erbio adds.
If it's a lifestyle you want to be a part of, and you want a fourth-generation Vette, Erbio has this advice: "Get a car that's as original as possible," he says. "Now that the cars are 16 years old or more, you should bring somebody with you who has some experience with [C4s], like maybe an NCRS judge."
With luck, you might find another of the 6,359 '96 Corvettes optioned with the LT4 engine and six-speed transmission--maybe even one in well-preserved condition like Erbio's, that can make the daily stresses of life melt away as soon as you fire it up.
3 Yes, it says "Grand Sport."...
3 Yes, it says "Grand Sport." No, it's not a factory foul-up--all LT4s got this lettering.
4 The '96-only LT4 was rated...
4 The '96-only LT4 was rated at 330 hp but probably made even more. Better-breathing heads, 1.6-ratio roller rockers, and an extra 0.4 point of compression are the primary contributors.
5 Beige was one of two '96...
5 Beige was one of two '96 interior color choices with Polo Green Metallic paint.
6 By 1996, the "Tokyo by...
6 By 1996, the "Tokyo by night" dash display of the early C4s was just a memory.
7 All LT4 C4s were equipped...
7 All LT4 C4s were equipped with the ZF six-speed manual trans. Note that this car lacks switchgear for the optional power passenger's seat and F45 adjustable suspension.
8 Base aluminum wheels conceal...
8 Base aluminum wheels conceal ZR-1–spec J55 brakes, which became standard issue on all C4s starting in '95.
||Frank Erbio; St. James, NY
||Stock LT4 iron
||Stock LT4 aluminum
||Stock 2.00 intake/1.55 hollow-stem exhaust
||Stock LT4 hydraulic roller
||Stock hypereutectic aluminum/silicon alloy
||Stock LT4 iron with undercut and rolled fillets
||Stock LT4 powdered metal
||Stock LT4 aluminum
||Stock electronic sequential port
||Stock OptiSpark electronic
||Stock exhaust manifolds and catalytic converters, Corsa converter-back system
||Stock ZF six-speed manual
||Stock transverse leaf springs (front and rear)
||Stock J55 disc with 13-in front and 12-in rear rotors
||Stock '96 aluminum; 17x8.5 (front), 17x9.5 (rear)
||Goodyear Eagle GS-C; 255/45ZR17 (front), 285/40ZR17 (rear)