1989 was the last year before a mid-cycle refresh for the Chevrolet Corvette, and while the high-performance four-cam ZR-1 was heavily promoted, it would not actually arrive until 1990. That said, the 1989 Corvette was not without its advancements.
A ZF 6-speed manual replaced the quirky Doug Nash 4+3 transmission, but the ZF unit was not without its quirks. It featured a Computer Aided Gear Selection (CAGS) 1-to-4 lockout that, if under light acceleration, would lock out second and third gears and force a shift from first to fourth. Under hard acceleration, though, all gears were available. This, of course, was for fuel economy purposes, and high-performance GM cars have since used the system on other manual transmissions. Thankfully, it can be defeated with a few bucks and a few minutes under the transmission. In general, the ZF 6-speed was a major improvement over the old 4+3, and manual transmission cars tend to command a price premium over automatics.
The Z52 package that was optional on previous model years of the Corvette became standard equipment for 1989. That meant all ’89 Corvette’s received the upgraded 17-inch wheels, tighter-ratio steering, Delco-Bilstein shocks and front-end reinforcements. Models with the optional Z51 performance package were also available with upgraded leather seats.
For 1989, Corvette began to introduce the FX3 Selective Ride Control system as an option. Only available with models optioned with the Z51 package, the FX3 system allowed the driver to adjust the firmness of the suspension system. 1989 would also mark the last year for the SCCA’s Corvette Challenge. 60 cars were built, and their engines were swapped out with higher-performance units.
For convertible models, a bolt-on hardtop was available, providing more protection from the elements. Chevrolet sold 26,412 Corvettes for the 1989 model year. 69 were the Callaway Twin-Turbo Corvettes and 1,573 Corvette convertibles featured the bolt-on top.