Many of our most recent entrants on this countdown have been significant because they were the last Corvette with something special. With our second place ‘Vette of the ’80s though, America’s Sports Car continued its crawl out of the malaise era and was now gaining back options, performance, quality, and the respect that it deserved. Ladies and Gentlemen, we submit the 1986 Corvette as our silver medal winner from the 1980s.
1986 Corvettes had many notable enhancements that we will get into later but the one that landed it on this list was the return of the convertible to the line-up for the first time since 1975. For the staggering sum of $5,005.00, and a total of $32,032.00 (just four years after the Corvette crested $20k!), customers got a droptop that was only 50 pounds heavier than its coupe counterpart. This weight was caused by the addition of structural reinforcements that actually made the ‘Vette ‘Vert the more ridged of the two models. The roadster’s price ultimately proved to be cost prohibitive to the average customer and just 7,315 were sold (vs. 27,794 coupes).
A yellow 1986 Convertible also became the second Corvette to pace the Indy 500. There was no pace car special edition sold to the public this time but the real version was “piloted” by the first man to ever break the sound barrier, Chuck Yeager during the race.
After a shocking 7% of first and second year C4s wound up stolen (more than 6,000 had been pinched in 1984 and 1985), Chevrolet introduced a new Vehicle Anti-Theft System, or VATS, for short, as a standard feature on all 1986 Corvettes. VATS was simple but ingenious; it added a small metal piece to ignition key that would give off a specific electrical signal that had to be read and matched by a hidden receiver in the car before the car would roar to life. Anyone attempting to use the wrong “key” would end up with a shut down the starter relay and the fuel pump. The system helped reduce thefts to under 1% in 1986 and very close to 0% once word started to get out a year later.
The L98 V8 received aluminum heads in place of the old cast-iron ones in 1986. This removed a significant 125 pounds from the nose of the car, resulting in the first sub-3,000-pound curb weight that a ‘Vette had seen in years. It also added five ponies to the ’86’s spec sheet for a new total of 235 (once some early issues with the aluminum heads were worked out).
1986 also scored the Corvette its first anti-lock brakes and a limited edition that was actually very limited. The Malcolm Konner Special Edition brought back the silver-beige paint from the 1982 Collector Edition and mixed in the two-tone look from the ’78 Pace car as a tribute to the famed New Jersey dealership’s founder. Just 50 were built; 20 manuals and 30 automatics.
Other, very minor, changes could be found all around, inside, and underneath the car, including a new, federally mandated center brake light at the top of the rear-hatch glass which was one of the easiest ways to tell that you were looking at the latest and greatest, third-year C4.
We are going to hand it over to the legendary Brock Yates who summed up the 1986 Corvette when he said, “There is also little question that General Motors is devoutly committed to making its plastic Chevy the equal of any car on earth in terms of performance and engineering excellence. In this sense the Corvette with Bosch ABS is a marriage made in fast-driver heaven. And America’s favorite sports car, already superb, is for 1986 even better.” And simply, by saying the new ‘Vette was “Better than ever.”
So, with the 1986 off the board, which Corvette will end up taking home bragging rights as the best ‘Vette of the ’80s? Check in later this week for your answer.
Check out all of our Best Corvettes of Each Decade features:
- The Best Corvettes of the 1950s: No.3 – The 1953 Corvette
- The Best Corvettes of the 1950s: No.2 – The 1959 Corvette
- The Best Corvettes of the 1950s: No.1 – The 1957 Corvette
- The Best Corvettes of the 1960s: No.3 – The 1965 Corvette
- The Best Corvettes of the 1960s: No.2 – The 1963 Corvette
- The Best Corvettes of the 1960s: No.1 – The 1967 Corvette
- The Best Corvettes of the 1970s: No.3 – The 1978 Corvette
- The Best Corvettes of the 1970s: No.2 – The 1970 Corvette
- The Best Corvettes of the 1970s: No.1 – The 1971 Corvette
- The Best Corvettes of the 1980s: No.3 – The 1982 Corvette
- The Best Corvettes of the 1980s: No.2 – The 1986 Corvette
- The Best Corvettes of the 1980s: No.1 – The 1984 Corvette
- The Best Corvettes of the 1990s: No.3 – The 1996 LT4 Corvette
- The Best Corvettes of the 1990s: No.2 – The 1999 Corvette FRC
- The Best Corvettes of the 1990s: No.1 – The C4 Corvette ZR-1
- The Best Corvettes of the 2000s: No.3 – The C5 Corvette Z06
- The Best Corvettes of the 2000s: No.2 – The C6 Corvette Z06
- The Best Corvettes of the 2000s: No.1 – 2009 Corvette ZR1
- The Best Corvettes of the 2010s: No.3 – The C7’s Z07 Ultimate Performance Package
- The Best Corvettes of the 2010s: No.2 – The C6’s Z07 Ultimate Performance Package
- The Best Corvettes of the 2010s: No.1 – The 2019 Corvette ZR1