The car that saved Corvette

The C4 Generation of legendary Corvette is possibly the most important model since the 1953 debut. Here is why...

The C4 Corvette (1984-1996) has its place in Corvette history as a very important model and a true modern classic. Not only it was the best selling generation but it helped save Corvette from declining market and poor sales of the final year models of C3 generation. Besides that, C4 was the first truly modern and new Corvette in years and one of the best sports cars of the late 20th century.

During the '70s, Corvette C3 sales were steady, but the car slowly became outdated and under powered. The European and Japanese sports cars took a big market share and Corvette couldn’t catch up, so in 1977, the decision was made to start the work on an all new model which was planned to be a state of the art sports car. Every component of the car was new, designers and engineers worked very hard in order to complete the first running prototypes. The C4 featured all new and very modern lightweight chassis that was so good that even the modern day C7 Corvette uses the same basic layout. The advanced suspension was developed as well, along with the very aerodynamic body and modern interior. One of the most interesting things about the C4 Corvette is its dashboard, as this car was the first with a fully digital dash which looks futuristic even today. The only old thing was the engine, a well-known small block V8, but for the Corvette C4, it had a new intake and fuel injection system.

Chevrolet wanted to introduce the C4 Corvette in 1983 to mark the 30th anniversary of the model, but production problems delayed the introduction. Such a new and modern car demanded a special production process and further testing of all systems and Corvette team simply couldn’t deliver on time. The C4 'Vette went on a sale as a ’84 model to eager buyers all over the world. The initial response from fans, motoring press and buyers was fantastic and everybody praised the advanced technology, design, road holding and general feel. It was a giant leap over the old C3 and Corvette team was rightfully proud of the new car. The first tests showed that the C4 is as good or even better than the best and more expensive sports cars from Europe like Ferrari or Porsche.

From initial 205 bhp, the power of C4 grew to 230 bhp in 1985 and then to 250 bhp two years later. The sales were very good and in 1986, Chevrolet introduced a convertible version, the first one in over 10 years. Beside sales wins, Corvette was winning on the race tracks and dominated the SCCA championship during the late '80s.

Engineers knew that C4 had big potential and started working on an ultimate version, named ZR1, which was introduced in 1990. It looked almost identical to the regular C4, but it had a wider track and fantastic new engine developed in cooperation with Lotus. Engine code name was LT4 and it had four camshafts,a special manifold, and injection, and it produced 375 bhp, and a year later a full 405 bhp, making it one of the fastest cars in the world at that moment. With revised suspension and gearbox, ZR1 Corvette had fantastic road holding and overall performance, but it was almost double the price of the regular C4 and only 6000 were made.

In 1992, C4 got a major redesign with new front and rear end, new interior and a new engine, the 300 bhp LT1 V8 as a standard power plant. The sales were steady, but the end was near and in 1996, the last Corvette C4 was produced after a 12-year production run and over 358.000 examples built. The legacy of the C4 is still strong with lots of its design incorporated into modern 'Vettes, which proves how good the basic design was. On the other hand, the C4 is very popular with buyers since it is a modern car but with a strong heritage and classic feel of the Corvette legend.

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Comments (5)

  • Small error in this.

    The ZR-1 engine was called the LT-5.

    The LT-4 was a revised LT-1 that made 330hp.

      4 years ago
  • As far, as I know, the Aston Martin Lagonda had a digital cockpit in 1976... 8 years earlier....

      2 years ago
  • Would love to have a replica of the ateam C4.

      4 years ago
  • C4's are great. Looking over the hood from the driver's seat is the best view, very sexy!

      4 years ago
  • I love that design! Clear, sharp - and still looking great!

      4 years ago