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Chevrolet Corvette C4

Published: 26th Apr 2011 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Chevrolet Corvette C4
The style may change but the C4 still looks like a Corvette should! The style may change but the C4 still looks like a Corvette should!
Rugged V8 has power aplenty but needs proper TLC Rugged V8 has power aplenty but needs proper TLC
Awkward cockit access can mean tatty interiors and they can be dear to rectify Awkward cockit access can mean tatty interiors and they can be dear to rectify
Forward-hinged bonnet; A1 access Forward-hinged bonnet; A1 access
Fibreglass body is tough but watch for stress cracks Fibreglass body is tough but watch for stress cracks

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What is a Chevrolet Corvette C4?

The fourth generation Corvette in a long line of America’s quintessential sports car introduced in 1984. The C4 featured an all new chassis design and bodyshell which replaced its venerable predecessor the C3 having remained largely unchanged, several facelifts excepting from 1968 through to 1982. Though 43 pre-production C4’s were built in 1983 (only one of these is known to exist and displayed at the National Corvette Museum, Kentucky) the car actually went on sale to the public in 1984, the first designated year of production. Though radically revamped, the C4 still bore the original design hallmarks of a separate chassis with two-seater plastic body though was much more refined than anything that had gone before.


Corvette chief engineer and Chevrolet stylist Jerry Palmer were onto another winner with the C4 which remained in production until 1996 when it was superseded by the C5 model, but not before 358,180 cars had rolled off the Bowling Green, Kentucky, production line. The Corvette’s previous and by now somewhat archaic massive steel ladder frame chassis was replaced with a back bone-type frame, that supported the drivetrain from the engine to the differential as a rigid component joined by an aluminium C-section beam. This was integrated with a ‘bird cage’ structure to which the body panels were bonded. This created a very stiff structure which helped to reduce body rattles. In a weight saving exercise many components were made from aluminium, such as suspension arms, propeller and drive shafts. Even the mono-leaf front springs were made from GFRP as was the transverse rear mono-leaf spring, a design feature carried over from the C3.

Offered initially as a Coupe, with a convertible arriving in 1986, the body styling had a very slippery drag coefficient of .34 and the windscreen was steeply raked at an angle 64 degrees. Powered by the L83 350ci V8 Cross-Fire injection engine rate dat 205bhp, transmission options were either a four-speed automatic or the Doug Nash-built ‘4+3’ four-speed manual which in effect offered an overdrive facility in the top three gears.

A novel new feature on the C4 was its coloured digital dashboard instruments. The L83 engine was superseded in 1985 by the more efficient L98 350ci TPI Tuned Port Injection engine rated at 230bhp. As the years rolled by, development work on the C4 continued and in 1989 the six-speed ZF manual transmission was introduced, as was the FX-3 selective ride control system which could be adjusted from the cockpit.

A year later in 1990 the Lotus developed ZR-1 model arrived with its aluminium LT5 V8 (built by Mercury Marine of Stillwater, Oklahoma) producing a most credible 375bhp making the C4 really fly, the fastest Vette yet. However, it came at a cost of $58,995, which was a whopping $27,016 more than a standard coupe! Some 6939 ZR-1’s were built between 1990-1995. The LT5 engine was further developed to produce even more power in 1993, now rated at 405bhp. This offered the C4 with an impressive performance of 13.1 seconds at 109.6mph over the quarter mile and a 0 60mph hit of 4.9 seconds.

The same year a 40th anniversary model was offered featuring a special Ruby Red paintwork and interior. Other go faster Corvettes were available from other sources such as Lingenfelter and Callaway with their twin-turbo option, The C4’s small block LT1 V8 engine rated at 300bhp with 340lb ft torque at 3600rpm became available 1992, the same year that the millionth Corvette was built on July 2. Some of the last C4’s produced included a Grand Sports and Collectors Edition in Sebring Silver and Admiral Blue with Arctic White racing stripes, with the last car rolling off the production line on June 20 1996.


Whether you choose a car with automatic or manual transmission the C4 offers excellent performance and handling, streets ahead of its predecessor and well up to European tastes. With high performance tyres the GM engineers tested the C4 and pulled 1g on the skidpan. With the ZF sixspeed manual transmission fuel economy is a very reasonable 22mpg, though most folk will go for the silky smooth four-speed automatic ‘box. Late 1980’s cars had a top speed of 155mph and 0-60mph time of 5.3 seconds which satisfies most enthusiast’s requirements. Comfortable figure hugging seats are very supportive and there’s a reasonable amount of storage space behind the seats for weekend away luggage. With the T-Tops removed it can be quite noisy inside the car, though there is a kit available to keep the rear window slightly ajar for improved airflow. With the heavy duty suspension option the C4 can give a pretty harsh ride on poorly surfaced back roads.


It’s possible to purchase a C4 for as little as £4500 but don’t expect too much for that sort of money! You’ll need to shell out £6000 - £8000 for a car in good condition, and nearer £9000 - £10,000 for a late 1980’s car in excellent order. The ZR-1 model will be much dearer at around £18,000 - £20,000.

What To Look For

  • The C4 was a well built car and they shouldn’t really show any signs of serious rot or corrosion on the backbone chassis, but its important to ensure that there’s no accident damage that could have led to any twisting of the frame. These chassis aren’t quite as resilient as the previous model!
  • Uneven tyre wear (pulling?) could also be a tell tale sign that the car has sustained a knock, or that the steering and suspension geometry needs resetting.
  • Glassfibre bodies can’t rust, but instead they do suffer from micro blistering, stress cracks and ‘crows feet’ cracking, so take your time and have a good look at the bodywork, and at the same time watch for any poor repair work. Repairs to GFRP bodied cars are normally best left to a specialist so check for any signs of bodging.
  • The C4 has a huge frontal area and sits low to the ground and can be susceptible to damage here. If a car has dodgy paintwork, and a full respray is necessary, ideally all paint should be stripped back to the gel coat to do the job properly and that’s going to work out to be expensive.
  • While the C3 Corvette suffered from water leaks, the C4 was much better sealed against water ingress into the cockpit, but it’s worth making sure that the rubbers aren’t perished all the same.
  • Interiors don’t always wear too well, and with the high entry sill, it’s easy for the carpets and to get scuffed very quickly. However, everything is still available should you require an interior retrim but it’s not cheap.
  • Ensure that all features on the digital dashboard work correctly. Replacements are available on an exchange basis. At the same time it’s worth making sure that other electrical equipment is all serviceable and that includes the air conditioning. Replacement of the front driving lamps entails removing the whole rubber section from car, and it’s quite a lengthy job.
  • With its clam-shell hood, access to the V8 engine and front suspension components is superb. Engines are very reliable (early ones came with steel cylinder heads, later ones are aluminium) as are the transmissions, but with computer controlled electronics, any engine management problems are best left to a garage with specialist diagnostic equipment to rectify. However, with a scanner and the correct software it’s possible to plug into the port under the dashboard and identify engine problems via its onboard computer.
  • These engines are not really suitable for further home tuning and heavy modification is best left to a specialist. Oil pressure at hot idle should be around 20-30psi for a stock engine and higher for a performance tuned car.


A worthy successor to this American model with cult status, eminently affordable offering superb styling and powerful performance. Not yet as collectable as previous Corvettes (ZR-1 excepting) and many enthusiasts use their C4’s as daily drivers. A late 1980’s or early 1990’s car would be the most desirable to go for. A service history would be advantageous, and the more options fitted the better, too. It would be wise to consider cars only in excellent condition, because prices for the later C5 model now slot below £20,000. As it is an even better driving car, it would not make good sense spending lots of money restoring a ropey C4 model when there is a better alternative.

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