Another Reason To Fear Flood-Totaled Cars: 91' ZR1 Corvette Revival Could Be a Lost Cause

1991 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 12 photos
Photo: YouTube Screenshot/Samcrac
1991 Chevrolet Corvette ZR11991 Chevrolet Corvette ZR11991 Chevrolet Corvette ZR11991 Chevrolet Corvette ZR11991 Chevrolet Corvette ZR11991 ZR1 Corvette1991 ZR1 Corvette1991 ZR1 Corvette1991 ZR1 Corvette1991 ZR1 Corvette1991 ZR1 Corvette
Most people think car buffs who spend their time around salvage yards and cheap car auctions are out to self-sabotage. There's some truth to this school of thought. Buying a cheap goner and spending thousands of dollars trying to get it running like new could be detrimental to your health. Nine times out of ten, it's a fruitless money pit pursuit, but the one time it works, the returns are redeemable beyond words.
Sam of Samcrac YouTube channel is one of those motorheads who've dedicated their lives to restoring problem cars on a budget and flipping them for profit. It's never a rainbows and butterflies affair, but on the flip side, his audience on the platform learns how to repair their vehicles on a budget.

Sam stumbled upon a classic performance gem at a flooded car auction two months ago. He got it for $8,000. Running versions of the same model go for about $20,000 on online auction sites like Bring a Trailer.

The 1991 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 has to deal with the devastating effects of hurricanes that led to floods in some regions in the United States of America. The unit looked pristine from the exterior, with minimal damage to the interior (no mold, odor, or water-damaged fittings).

However, the biggest problem with water-damaged vehicles isn't on the exterior or interior fittings but on the electrical and drivetrain.

No crank due to fuel hose issue

1991 ZR1 Corvette
Photo: YouTube Screenshot/Samcrac
Fortunately, the salt-water damage wasn't too far gone, and Sam was able to get the time capsule up and running – but not without a couple of issues.

During the previous upload, Sam experienced a no-crank situation. On his most recent upload on the platform, he discovered a loose fuel line on the fuel pump assembly inside the C4 Corvette ZR1's fuel tank.

It was a cheap fix that only required a fuel hose clamp replacement. The classic gem roared to life after that simple hack, but as Sam noted – he wasn't getting the full effect of the '91 C4 Corvette's 350 cubic-inch 5.7-liter LT5 V8.

"Before we had our fuel issue, we clearly had a problem with the power delivery. When the car warms up, it just isn't accelerating right," Sam disclosed after a test drive.

More error codes on the C4 Corvette ZR1

1991 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
Photo: YouTube Screenshot/Samcrac
As he admits, with salvaged cars like this, making repairs is always a cat-and-mouse game. The engine threw a code. He had code 31 (Cam position sensor) and 43 (knock sensor).

The knock sensor's job is to record knocking noises (listens out for structure-borne vibrations) during engine operation to help prevent damage. When this sensor is faulty, a check engine light will be triggered; the driver will also notice a decline in engine performance and increased fuel consumption.

Sam was in a dilemma about replacing the knock sensor on the 1991 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. He figured the code could have been due to fuel deficiency in the engine due to the loose fuel hose.

A vehicle's knock sensor could fail if there are internal short circuits, wiring issues, breaks in the wiring system, and corrosion.

However, after considering the location of the knock sensor on the C4 ZR1 (everything around it was submerged in salt water), it would be cheap of him not to replace it and rule it out.

91' ZR1 Corvette not out of the woods yet

1991 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
Photo: YouTube Screenshot/Samcrac
Fortunately, replacing the sensors wasn't anything that would break the bank.

That little fix didn't fix the meager power delivery issue but eliminated the error codes. Also, Sam noticed a new problem: a lot of smoke was coming from the suitcase portion of the muffler.

It's not the first time Sam was experiencing the smoke leak issue on the 1991 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. When he initially took the car, he noticed it leaked an oily murky mess from the exhaust pipes. His diagnosis was the gem's exhaust system was plugged up, and the resolution was to get a complete aftermarket replacement (Stainless Works long tube header back exhaust system).

Unfortunately, this wasn't the final fix. Sam noticed the C4 ZR1's engine overheat during one of the tests. He also noticed that the vehicle's voltage was low at the same time. This meant he had a cooling system problem (radiator) and also needed to get the charging system inspected.

"I have already begun tearing everything back down so that we can tackle our newfound issues and a few old ones I might have ignored. The new parts have been ordered, and while I am ready to move on to something new, I still feel like there's something really special about this car," Sam confessed about the progress of the 1991 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 repairs.

Getting this 1991 C4 Corvette to run has been like a game of whack-a-mole. Whenever he got close to solving a problem, another one sprang out of nowhere. Working on cheap salvage cars with zero maintenance history or records is always arduous – sometimes taking years to solve completely.

Do you think Sam's pursuits are a lost cause? Let us know what you think in the comments section below. We also recommend watching the video for insights on working on water-damaged cars. There's a lot to learn from his troubles.

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About the author: Humphrey Bwayo
Humphrey Bwayo profile photo

Humphrey is a car enthusiast whose love and passion for automobiles extended into collecting, writing, driving, and working on cars. He got his passion for cars from his Dad, who spent thousands of hours working on his old junky 1970 E20 Toyota Corolla. Years later, he would end up doing the same with a series of lemons he’s owned throughout his adult life.
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