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Corvette C4 conversions - Intake to Carb 1984-1991

By Rob

One of the worst things an owner can do to their vehicle is to not drive it. For cars that are daily drivers this is seldom an issue. But vehicles for weekend joy rides, days at the track, or even vehicles purchased as a collectors item, inactivity can be a real concern. And if the vehicle in question is older, has a drivability issue or needs some impossible to find part to be fun again, this likelihood of staying parked approaches certainty. The C4 Corvette is no exception. Over the past two decades I have had countless conversations with owners of C4 Corvettes covering nearly every topic that can be addressed. By far, it seems, the most visited is whether or not they should keep their stock fuel injection system or change it to something else. The culprits of this sentiment tends to be a recurring engine problem that cannot be resolved, and the subsequent dumping of money into the pit, or the desire for a engine upgrade that the owner feels the factory induction system could not adequately support. My first suggestion for the former has been to bring the car to us or, if not local, to find a Corvette shop in their area. (If you are hitting a wall with some aspect of your car feel free to contact me via email and I will do my best to get you back on the road, or at least pointed in the right direction.) As far as I know, these problems were successfully identified and addressed. Regardless, a customer may feel discouraged or reluctant to spend money (or more money) on an engine fuel system they see as antiquated, overly complicated or disregarded by the mechanics in their area. If you happen to find yourself in this predicament do not despair. There are some very affordable options available for both the customer simply trying to find a reliable driver and the performance enthusiast seeking to move to another level of fun, if your emission laws permit it. If they dont, well. For this month let us focus on the carb swap. I will address other options in next months issue. To those C4 drivers who are concerned with degrading the value of their car, please keep in mind the modifications I will be discussing are completely reversible. Furthermore, you will do more harm to your car by letting it sit than by making some bolt on modifications which result in it being driven. By far the easiest engine conversion for the C4 induction system is to install a carburetor. Not to discredit my previous statement, I should clarify that installing a carb set-up is easiest. But, to do it properly, several factors must be considered. The following suggestions are based on my experience of what has worked. There may be other combinations that I have not tried which may work perfectly fine. If you have a working combination not mentioned below please feel free to let me know.

Obviously, a carb conversion will require the replacement of the intake manifold. I have only found two that function well and provide enough clearance under the stock hood. The Performer (p/n 2101) (not the EPS, Performer RPM, nor any of the Air-Gaps) or the Torker II both do the job. If you are running essentially a stock engine I would stick with the Performer. The Torker II would be better for a modded car with a cam, heads, exhaust, gears or a combination of these components.


For this project my carburetor of choice is a Holley square bore. I have not used Edelbrocks or Q-jets for this application. They may work with a Performer intake. I have found success with the Holleys. Consider their Avenger series carbs. The 80xxx line-up have vacuum secondaries and electric choke which is an ideal configuration for the street. For those with a stock motor and not looking to increase the performance factor later look at the Holley 80570. With a stock motor but later adding some headers, a cam or other performance parts, or for those with an already modified motor an 80670 is a better option. Extensive motor work or even an engine swap may require the 80770. If you havent figured it out, the last three digits of the carb number refer to the air flow capacity (in CFM) of the carb. If you decide on an Avenger series or other square bore carb and want to use the Performer intake you must use a flange adapter (adds about 1/8 to height). The Torker II is a square bore only.

Fuel Pressure Regulator and plumbing

Fuel pressure is another area of consideration. For the Holley carburetors listed the ideal fuel pressure is between 5-7 pounds. By using an adjustable fuel pressure regulator we can use the stock in-tank fuel pump and reduce this pressure to what we require. I recommend a return style regulator (such as Mallory 4309) with a gauge port and outlet ports to match the number of fuel inlets (one or two) on the carb. The carbs mentioned above have two fuel inlets. There are so many plumbing possibilities I will not go into this aspect but a few things to keep in mind. The heater hose outlet at the passenger side front of the intake can present an obstacle to the routing, especially if using a hard line dual feed set-up. Also, remember the hood clearance concern. Using a drop down air filter base will impede on the amount of room you have to use for mounting the regulator.

The next item we need to replace is the distributor. The distributor on the 1984-91 is a computer controlled unit and since the computer is not longer in the picture we need to find a distributor that does not require a computer. And this part is probably the easiest yet. Just about any GM HEI with vacuum advance will do the job. The coil and tach wires will plug right up and you can even reuse your plug wires.

Thermostat Housing and Radiator hose

Due to all the accessories on the front of both the L83 (1984) and L98 (1985-91) engines, replacing the thermostat housing and upper radiator hose takes more consideration than on most vehicles. The 1984 upper radiator hose routes over the alternator behind the power steering reservoir to the outlet. With the Performer intake this outlet is moved back and to the center, but you can reuse the outlet. To reach the new outlet location and keep the hose in its proper position the hose must be extended using a 1-1/4 x 3 radiator hose splice. I would put the splice in the hose where it passes behind the air pump. The 1985 to 91 Corvettes require a little more effort. We can reuse the hose but because of the unique style and angle of the outlet it must be replaced. Find a 90* swivel outlet. If the outlet size is for a 1-1/4 then get a short length of 1-1/4 radiator hose and see the above procedure for the 84 regarding adding a hose splice to extend the reach of the hose. I would place the splice not far from the thermostat outlet. If you can only find or want a 1-1/2 outlet, we need to add a reducer (call me) and a short length of 1-1/2 hose. For almost all applications I recommend a 180* thermostat.

Throttle bracket
The throttle bracket that will work for both manual and automatic cars is the Holley 20-95. For the manual cars that do not have the kickdown cable the lower position will not be used. For the automatics using the cable bracket with adapter (20-121), the alignment of the throttle valve cable will be correct, but still need to be properly adjusted. The

accelerator cable on the 84 is a bit long but can be routed to work and for the remaining years the cable is much shorter but again, it will work. Use throttle return springs (20-89). For those 85-91 drivers with C68 (electronic A/C) who are interested in keeping their A/C working give me a call. It can be done but there is a bit involved. For 84 and 85-91 drivers with C60 (manual A/C) who want to keep the A/C we need to install a solenoid bracket (Holley 20-9), nut (26-57) and solenoid (46-74). Use a wire tap (blue) on the green wire going to the A/C compressor and run it to the fast idle solenoid. (For 85-91 C60 cars there is one more step for the fans in the next section.) When the compressor cycles on, the idle speed will be bumped up. This will need to be adjusted after idle speed and fueling are adjusted.

Electrical / Torque Converter (A/T) or O/D (M/T)

There are four areas where some electrical adaptation may be needed for this project. They are transmission, fuel pump, electric choke and cooling fans (except 84). For those not comfortable with electrical work I would not make this your first electrical project. There are many capable folks who can and the work is not complicated. If you do the work yourself I suggest, if you do not re-pin the various connectors that are involved, that you use simple wire splice connectors as these allow the work to later be reversed with no harm, and be sure to tape your splices with electrical tape. Re-pinning connectors essentially entails building adapter harnesses, which is what I do on all my work, even my own vehicles, and I strongly recommend soldering and heat shrink. While you are doing this electrical work, make a schematic of what is being done so this as-built documentation can be on hand later on if needed. Also, I recommend the ECM be removed from the vehicle for safe keeping. The 84 drivers again luck out. Your cooling fans are controlled by a low pressure switch on the A/C side and a coolant temperature switch on the engine. Your temperature switch closes (turns the fans on) at about 235* and off at about 200*. So, if you are running a stock 195* thermostat smile and skip this section. If you want to run a 180* thermostat (recommended) then you should replace your temperature switch. I suggest an on at 205-210 and off at 185-190 switch. Be sure to match up the thread size and connector type. Call me if you need help. For the TPI drivers there is more involved. A coolant temperature switch matched to whatever thermostat rating you have chosen will be needed and there are several locations to install it. The cylinder head is optimal but the crossover at the front of the intake is fine. For those C60 cars keeping the A/C you will need to find the A/C cooling fan switch on the A/C line at the back of the engine compartment. This switch has a green wire and black wire running to it. You need to use a blue wire splice to tap the green wire and carefully route it over to the cooling fan relay. The coolant temperature switch you installed will also need to be routed to the same location. The primary cooling fan relay for the 85-89 cars are located near the brake master cylinder and have four wire connected to it (green/white, blue, black/red, red). Tie both wires (C60 cars),or coolant temperature wire (C68 cars), to the green/white wire. For the 90-91 cars your primary fan relay is located on the left side of the radiator shroud. It is the front-most relay and with four wires connected to it (light blue/black, black/red, red, pink/black). Tie your wire(s) to the light blue/black wire. Fuel pump relay control is used to minimize start time. You do not need to do anything if you do not mind the longer crank time for the oil pressure switch to close. If you are interested in using the relay for start-up/priming then call me. For automatic cars the issue of torque converter lock-up will need to be addressed. I find there is no more effective way to resolve this than to get a torque converter lock-up kit from TCI or B&M. Make sure the kit has a vacuum switch and follow the directions exactly. This will involve pulling the transmission pan and replacing one or more solenoids. If you have issues call me, call the manufacturer of your kit or your local transmission shop. It is not as drastic as it may sound. However, if you do not want to open the pan, there is a way we can integrate the above mentioned kit to work with the stock transmission configuration. In addition to the kit it requires another relay. Contact me if the second option is preferred.

For ZF-6 cars nothing need be done. Your 1 to 4 upshift is controlled by the ecm and is therefore disabled. The light on the dash will no longer indicate for this upshift either. Now, for the 84 4+3 cars, make sure the ECM is removed. At the ECM on the harness locate the light blue wire in connector 451 position 22 and using a splice connector jump it to the tan/black wire on the same in position 19. With this configuration your overdrive will act as a fifth gear as it will only function if the manual gearbox is in fourth gear and the overdrive selector switch, that you control, is closed. Other configurations are available so call me is the set-up described here does not suit you. For 85 4+3 vehicles some additional steps are needed. Make sure the ECM is removed. If the O/D selector switch is in the console then it should be a normal toggle switch. To confirm this go the ECM harness and do a continuity test to ground at the light blue wire on connector 1 position 7. With each change in the switch position the test should show the circuit opening and closing to ground indicating a standard toggle switch. If the meter shows continuity to ground and immediately, with no further change in switch position, opens again, then you have a momentary switch and would need to jump to the 86-88 procedure further down (this condition should only exist in late 85 which, like the 86-88, has the switch in the shifter not the console). For console switches indicating a standard toggle use splice connectors to jump a wire from the light blue wire to the tan/black wire in connector 2 position A7. In this configuration you will directly control overdrive in any gear. I recommend that you use it only when the manual transmission is in 4 th gear, essentially as a fifth gear like the 84. For the 86 to 88 cars, and 85 cars with the momentary switch the easiest remedy is to replace the momentary switch with a push on/push off switch such as the one offered by RadioShack (p/n 275-1555). I can not locate the part I used previously but I believe this will fit (if not please let me know). One terminal of this switch will be connected to ground and the other routed to the tan/black wire on connector 2 position A7. With this modification you can directly control your overdrive. As I mentioned above, I recommend using the overdrive as a fifth gear (only when the manual transmission is in 4th gear). The final electrical component that needs integration is the electric choke. Since the intake manifolds in this project do not have EGR valve provisions, the EGR valve solenoid is of no use. Using another splice connector run a wire from the pink/black wire on the connector to the positive terminal of the choke.

Vacuum lines
Vacuum lines of appropriate size will be needed for the brake booster, HVAC , PCV and distributor vacuum advance. On the Holley carb suggested above there are provisions available for each of these systems, although the PCV and HVAC ports are pointing to the passenger side.

Air cleaner assembly

An air cleaner assembly will be needed obviously. I unfortunately do not have the exact combinations of drop bases and filter heights that have worked for me. If memory serves a 1 drop with a 2 filter element gave me the clearance while allowing the filter lid to clear the air horn on the carb. I will update this information if I can find it.

I think that pretty much covers the parts and the areas of the install that need to be addressed. I did not deal with stuff like heater hoses, etc. since it seems pretty straight forward already but I will do my best to help with any issues you may encounter.

If you are interested in the above conversion but having trouble getting parts, or prefer the convenience of having the parts available as a complete kit, contact me and I will try to help you out. Also, for those who are not interested in a carb conversion but do want more performance from their C4 motors, you may find next months article of interest as I discuss my bolt on fuel injection system upgrade in which we swap out your TPI/Crossfire for a bolt on Edelbrock Pro Flo XT system. Best Regards, Rob