Solved On Sunday: Electrifying news about the ’83 Corvette

(Editor’s note: In conjunction with Road Ready Inspections, we offer this space each week so you can ask questions about your classic car or about the hobby in general. Submit your questions in the comments below and we’ll do our best to answer them!)

QUESTION

I may not be an authority on Corvettes but I do know they have building them since 1953. But now this guy at the car show is telling me that there was a year when no Corvettes were built. I doubt that. How could that be possible since they have been building them since 1953. Seems like that would be a big deal and everyone would know that. —Henry J.

ANSWER

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1983 Corvette | Larry Edsall Photo

Henry, I am shocked and racked with despair to learn this! I am beside myself. Could this be true? I mean, could there be a single person on the planet that doesn’t love and adore Corvette so much they know every last detail of the beloved Corvette? I am crushed, heartbroken, devasted.

I remember I felt this very same way 32 years ago in 1983 when GM DID NOT BUILD A 1983 CORVETTE! I am having a total relapse at the thought of that. Oh, it’s true Henry…sort of.

In the early 1980s’GM and Corvette knew they needed a new body style and new fresh performance face for Corvette. It was time for the“shark”body style to go. Corvette would introduce the new Corvette as a 1983 model as a whole new body package and performance machine.

For years they had designed and engineered and developed and built and tested and redeveloped. And they were so proud of themselves. The new 1983 Corvette was spectacular. Toward the end of 1982, Corvette built 43 1983 Corvettes. All of the cars were divided up between tooling mules for the production plants, testing and development, and marketing for promotional use.

In building an all new performance machine, Corvette had extended its technology capability so far that it was difficult to get it also down pat on the production line. So it was decided to delay the launch of the 1983 from October 1982 until January 1983.

Meanwhile, California revamped its emissions standards. The new Corvette would not meet those regulation so  the Corvette was reworked and introduced as a 1984 model.

Of the 43 1983 Corvettes built, GM destroyed all of them except one, which had been hidden by factory workers to avoid the crusher. That surviving 1983 Corvette resides in the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

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QUESTION

What is up with my electrical system? The turn signal honks the horn and everything turns off when I turn on the headlights. Seems like everything electrical is always broken on my classic cars and fixing things never seems to be easy or cheap. What’s the easiest way to get everything right and working on my cars without spending a fortune? How do you figure out what’s wrong and fix it? —Steve S.

ANSWER

wiresThat’s sounds just like my first four wives. They never worked the way I thought they would too. Worse yet, there was no figuring them out. Turns out the solution was way more simple than I ever thought possible.  Who knew?

Classic car electrical systems are just like that. The solution is always much more simple than you thought. The problem is that we love working on classic cars but we make some things too hard.

Classic cars were simple machines. They had very little technology and almost every electrical system ran on just two wires. Pick any electrical part of your car and I will show you just two wires that make that operate, sometimes just one. As a guy who spent five years as an electrician in a Chevrolet dealership in Houston, let me give you a few pointers that will sort out 99 percent of your classic car electrical problems.

1)      When you look under your dash and see a huge ball of colored wires and think, Holy Moly, look at all those wires, you have lost the battle already. Instead, look under the dash at all those wires and ignore them all except the one wire that works the system you are trying to fix. All those wires are color coded and you just want those one or two wires that powers or grounds the system you need to fix. Staring at all those other wires won’t help you. Ignore them.

2)    Old wires break. New ones not so much. Old cars come with old wires and old wires come with lots of cuts and splices and worn spots and bad terminal ends. When I have a car that has had so many wiring modifications for stereo changes, gauges added and the like, sometimes it is easier to just call up your favorite wiring harness supplier and order a whole new setup for your car. They are shockingly cheap and you will have an entirely new wiring system just like original. You also can buy sub-harnesses.

3)     There are always lots of electrical parts available for you. Everything from new clocks to gauges and switches to motors can be purchased these days online and will make your world much easier.

4)    Classic cars and bad grounds: It is amazing how many times that I find the reason for an electrical system not functioning properly is a bad ground on the light or instrument that I am trying to fix. Each of your classic cars electrical systems needs power and ground to operate. Old cars have a tendency to corrode within electrical connections and bulb sockets. This prevents the light or instrument from being grounded properly. Just as you check to make sure the system you are trying to fix has power, make sure it has a ground as well. Next time you turn on your headlights or other system and discover all sorts of weirdness happening everywhere else, it’s a bad ground. Save yourself and spend some time just going over your car and cleaning all the electrical ground points you can find. Every part of your electrical system will last longer and work better. Don’t forget that your instrument panel wiring harness will have ground wires as well.

 

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