Chevrolet Corvette (C4)

Chevrolet Corvette (C4)
1996 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe.jpg
1996 Chevrolet Corvette Coupe
Manufacturer Chevrolet Division
of General Motors
Production 1983-1996
Model years 1984-1996
Assembly Bowling Green, Kentucky, United States
Predecessor Chevrolet Corvette (C3)
Successor Chevrolet Corvette (C5)
Class Sports car
Body style 2-door coupe
2-door convertible (1986–1996)
Layout FMR layout
Platform Y-body
Engine 5.7 L (350 cu in) L83 V8 (1984)
5.7 L (350 cu in) L98 V8 (1985-1991)
5.7 L (350 cu in) LT1 V8 (1992-1996)
5.7 L (350 cu in) LT4 V8 (1996)
5.7 L (350 cu in) LT5 V8 (1990-1995) (ZR-1)
Transmission 4-speed auto.
4+3 Doug Nash (overdrive) manual (1984-1988)
ZF 6-speed manual (1989-1996)
Wheelbase 96.2 in (2,440 mm)
Length 176.5 in (4,480 mm) (1984–1989)
Width 71.0 in (1,800 mm) (1984–1992)
Height Coupe: 46.7 in (1,190 mm) (1984–1992)
Convertible: 46.4 in (1,180 mm)
Curb weight 3,239 lb (1,469 kg)
Related Callaway Sledgehammer Corvette
Callaway Speedster
Callaway SuperNatural 450 Grand Sport
Callaway SuperNatural Corvette
Callaway Twin Turbo Corvette

The Chevrolet Corvette (C4) is a sports car produced by the Chevrolet division of General Motors for the 1984 through 1996 model years. The editors of Consumer Guide stated: "The first fully redesigned Corvette in 15 years was more sophisticated and more practical than the beloved Shark. And like previous generations, the new C4 only got better in time."[1] The convertible returned, as did higher performing engines, exemplified by the 405 hp (302 kW) LT5 found in the ZR-1. In early March 1990, The ZR-1 would set a new record for the highest 24 hour-5,000 mile land-speed by going over 175 mph (282 km/h).[2] Though prices rose even as sales declined, the fourth generation Corvette won its own loyal following as one of the world's most desirable sports cars. The last C4 was produced on June 20, 1996.[3]



The C4 Corvette was known for its evolved, sleek and modern look. In a departure from the fiberglass panels of its forebearers, the c4's rear bumpers and panels were made from molding plastics, a sheet molding compound. The C4 coupe was the first general production Corvette to have a glass hatchback (the limited edition 1982 Collector Edition being the first Corvette equipped with this feature) for better storage access. It also had all new brakes with aluminum calipers. The Corvette C4 came standard with an electronic dashboard with a digital liquid crystal display dash, with graphics for speed and RPM and digital displays for other important engine functions.

1984 Corvette Coupe

The C4 represented a clean break with the previous generation of Corvette. Since emissions regulations were still changing and electronic engine management was in its infancy, horsepower was, compared to earlier generations, comparatively low. Therefore the primary design emphasis, at least for the launch, was on handling. The price of this no-holds-barred emphasis on handling was ride comfort, especially with the Z51 performance handling package. The unit-body frame used in the C4 was prone to rattles and squeaks due to minimal sound deadening. Also due to the external unit-body frame, the door sills were quite deep, with entry and exit likened by contemporary auto journals to a "fall in and climb out" experience. The emergency brake, located between the door sill and the drivers seat, was moved lower and toward the rear of the car in 1988 for easier entry and exit.

From 1984 through 1988, the Corvette was available with a Doug Nash "4+3" transmission - a 4-speed manual coupled to an automatic overdrive on the top three gears. This unusual transmission was a synergy that allowed Corvette to keep a stout 4 speed, but add an overdrive. As technology progressed, it was replaced by a modern ZF 6-speed manual. However, the C4 performance was hampered by its L98 250 hp (186 kW) engine until 1992, when the second-generation Chevy small block, LT1, was introduced, markedly improving the C4s performance. 1996 was a high point of small block Chevrolet development and the 330 hp (246 kW) LT4 was introduced in all manual transmission cars.

The 1986 Corvette saw the reintroduction of the convertible and was named as the Pace Car for the Indianapolis 500. GM had created the Pass Key I, wherein each key contained a special pellet that could be detected and identified by the car's computer system by detecting electrical resistance. Being early in the rollout of this new technology, there were only 15 different resistance values available, which, once thieves discovered this weakness, markedly reduced the value of this early system.

44 Corvettes were manufactured with a 1983 Vehicle Identification Number (VIN), but none were released to the public as official production vehicles. All were destroyed except one, VIN 1G1AY0783D5100023 (white with medium blue interior), L83 350 cu in (5.7 L), 250 hp (186 kW) V8, 4-speed automatic transmission and was retired to the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky. (MY1984 Corvettes were produced for 17 months.)

ZR-1 (1990-95)

1990 Corvette ZR-1
5.7 L (350 cu in) LT5 V8 in a C4 ZR-1

During 1986, General Motors acquired Group Lotus, the UK based engineering consulting and performance car manufacturing firm. The Corvette division approached Lotus with the idea of developing the world's fastest production car, to be based on the C4 generation Corvette. With input from GM, Lotus designed a new engine to fit in place of the L98 V8[citation needed] that was powering the standard C4. The result was what GM dubbed the LT5, an aluminum-block V-8 with the same bore centers as the L98, but with four overhead camshafts, 32 valves. Lotus also designed a unique air management system for the engine to provide a wider power band by shutting off 8 of the 16 intake runners and fuel injectors when the engine was at part-throttle, while still giving the ZR-1 375 hp (280 kW) when at wide open throttle. In addition to the engine, Lotus helped GM design the ZR-1's upgraded braking and steering systems[citation needed], and helped them pick the settings for the standard "FX3" adjustable active ride control that Chevrolet was fitting to the car[citation needed], helping to ensure that the vehicle was more than just a modern-day muscle car with a big engine and no real capability on the track.

GM found that the engine required special assembly, and that neither the Corvette plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky nor any of their normal production facilities could handle the workload, so Mercury Marine corporation of Stillwater, Oklahoma was contracted to assemble the engines and ship them to the Corvette factory in Bowling Green where the ZR-1s were being assembled.

The vehicle went on sale in 1990 and was available only as a coupe. It was distinguishable from other Corvette coupes by its wider tail section, 11" wide rear wheels and its new convex rear fascia with four square shaped taillights and a CHMSL (center high mounted stop lamp) attached to the top of the hatch glass instead of between the taillights.

The ZR-1 displayed stunning ability both in terms of acceleration and handling capabilities, but carried with it an astonishingly high price. MSRP for the ZR-1 in 1990 was $58,995, almost twice the cost of a non-ZR-1, and had ballooned to $66,278 by 1995; some dealers successfully marked units as high as $100,000. Even at base MSRP, this meant that the ZR-1 was competing in the same price bracket as cars like the Porsche 964, making it a hard sell for GM dealers.

1992 Corvette ZR1

In 1991, the ZR-1 and base model received updates to body work, interior, and wheels. The rear convex fascia that set the 1990 ZR-1 apart from the base model found its way to all models, making the high-priced ZR-1 even less distinguishable. Further changes were made in 1992, including extra ZR-1 badges on the fenders and the introduction of Acceleration Slip Regulation (ASR) or traction control. For model year 1993, Lotus design modifications were made to the cylinder heads, exhaust system and valvetrain of the LT5, bringing horsepower up to 405. In addition, a new exhaust gas recirculation system improved emissions control. The model remained nearly unchanged into the 1995 model year, after which the ZR-1 was discontinued as the result of waning interest, development of the LS series engines, cost and the coming of the C5 generation. A total of 6,939 ZR-1s were manufactured over the six year period. Not until the debut of the C5 platform Z06 would Chevrolet have another production Corvette capable of matching the ZR-1's performance.

Although the ZR-1 was extremely quick (0-60 mph in 4.4 seconds, and onto 180+ mph), the huge performance of the LT5 engine was matched by its robustness. As evidence of this, a stock ZR-1 set a number of international and world records at a test track in Fort Stockton, Texas on March 1, 1990, verified by the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile), including seven new international records:

  • 100 miles (160 km) at 175.600 mph (282.601 km/h)
  • 500 miles (800 km) at 175.503 mph (282.445 km/h)
  • 1,000 miles (1,600 km) at 174.428 mph (280.715 km/h)
  • 5,000 km (3,100 mi) at 175.710 mph (282.778 km/h) (World Record)[citation needed]
  • 5,000 miles (8,000 km) at 173.791 mph (279.690 km/h) (World Record)
  • 12 Hours Endurance at 175.523 mph (282.477 km/h)
  • 24 Hours Endurance at 175.885 mph (283.059 km/h) for 4,221.256 miles (6,793.453 km) (World Record)[citation needed]

ZR-1 Active Suspension prototype (1990)

It was based on ZR-1, but it includes active hydraulic suspension found in GTP Corvette race car. It was developed as a prototype for a limited edition run in the 1990 model year.[4]

25 active suspension vehicles were built at the Bowling Green Plant.[5]

A prototype was sold in 2009 Barrett-Jackson Palm Beach auction for $60000 (before buyer premium).[6][7]

B2K Callaway Twin-Turbo

In 1987, the factory B2K option appeared at dealers. The option's price was almost equal to the base price of the Corvette.

The Callaway Corvette was a Regular Production Option (RPO) B2K, the only time in Chevrolet's history a specialist manufacturer was entrusted with a technically advanced high performance RPO. The B2K option was critical in bringing a select few Corvettes to a higher performance level. Although often compared with Chevrolet's ZR-1 option, they were simply two different approaches to solving the issue of bringing a higher performance Corvette to market. The early B2K's produced 345 hp (257 kW) and 450 lb·ft (610 N·m) of torque. [4] The later B2K's produced 450 hp (336 kW) and 613 lb·ft (831 N·m) of torque. [5]

A derivative of the Twin Turbo Corvette, the 880 hp (656 kW) Callaway SledgeHammer, recorded a speed of 254.76 mph (410.00 km/h) on Ohio's Transportation Research Center track making it the fastest road-going car at the time.

Special editions

Pace Car Convertible

A yellow convertible was the pace car for the 1986 Indianapolis 500 race. This marked the return of the convertible body style, absent from the Corvette lineup since 1975. All 7,315 1986 convertible Corvettes (all exterior colors) had "Indy 500 Pace Car" console identification.

35th Anniversary

The 1988 35th Anniversary edition, also known as the "Triple White Corvette" is a white coupe with white wheels and white interior (seats & steering wheel). It also features a removable black top and came equipped with everything, including special emblems. The 35th Anniversary car is the 2nd Serialized Corvette in Corvette History, with each car receiving a numbered plaque on the console. There were 2050 of these cars built and a quoted 180 of these were Manual Transmission cars, making this a rare Corvette and collectible Vette. In 2009, the Barrett-Jackson’s Palm Beach auction house offered an original, one owner Z01 optioned 35th Anniversary Corvette with only 682 miles (1,098 km). The 350/245 engine was coupled to a rare 4-speed manual transmission (MMF), an option chosen by only 19%. For 21 years this Corvette was stored in a climate controlled environment. The 35th Anniversary Corvette hammered home for $37,500 and with commission the final sales price was $41,250. This easily beats the high price for a 35th Anniversary edition of $32,100 at an RM Auction held in 1998 in Monterey as listed in the database.[8]

40th Anniversary

The 1993 40th Anniversary package was available on all models. It included Ruby Red metallic paint and Ruby Red leather sport seats, along with special trim and emblems. 6,749 were sold at an additional cost of $1,455.

Indy Pace Car

In 1995 a C4 convertible was again the pace car for the Indianapolis 500, and a special pace car edition was offered. 527 were built.

Grand Sport

1996 Grand Sport

Chevrolet released the Grand Sport (GS) version in 1996 to mark the end of production of the C4 Corvette. The Grand Sport moniker is a nod to the original Grand Sport model produced in 1963. A total of 1,000 GS Corvettes were produced, 810 as coupes and 190 as convertibles. The 1996 GS came with the high-performance LT4 V8 engine, producing 330 hp (246 kW) and 340 lb·ft (461 N·m) of torque. The Grand Sport came only in Admiral Blue with a white stripe down the middle, and black wheels and two red stripes on the front driver's side wheel arch added to its distinctive look.

Collector Edition

The 1996 Collector Edition was the last of the C4 Corvettes, just as the 1982 Collector Edition was the last of the C3s. It included Sebring Silver paint and special trim. Of the 5,412 built, 4,031 were coupes and 1,381 were convertibles. It cost $1,250 extra.

Production notes

Year Production Base Price Notes
1984 51,547 $21,800 C4 hatchback body is popular. Digital instrumentation is controversial. L83 engine continued from 1982.
1985 39,729 $24,891 More powerful and fuel efficient L98 engine introduced.
1986 35,109 $27,027 First convertible since 1975-all 7,315 have Indy 500 pace car console id plaque. New were Third brake light, antilock brakes, and key-code anti-theft system.
1987 36,632 $27,999 Callaway twin-turbo offered through dealers with GM warranty.
1988 22,789 $29,480 New wheel design. All white 35th Anniversary special edition coupe.
1989 26,412 $32,045 ZF 6-speed manual replaces Doug Nash 4+3.
1990 23,646 $32,479 ZR-1 is introduced with DOHC LT5 engine. Interior redesigned to incorporate drivers-side air bag.
1991 20,639 $33,005 Restyled exterior. Last year for the Callaway B2K twin turbo.
1992 20,479 $33,635 New LT1 engine replaces the L98. Traction control is standard.
1993 21,590 $34,595 Passive keyless entry is a new standard feature. 40th Anniversary special edition.
1994 23,330 $36,185 New interior including passenger airbag.
1995 20,742 $36,785 Last year of the ZR-1. Minor exterior restyling. Indy Pace Car special edition.
1996 21,536 $37,225 Optional LT4 engine with 330 hp (246 kW). Collectors Edition and Grand Sport special editions. First year with OBD II diagnostics.
Total 366,227


Engine Year Power Torque
5.7 L (350 cu in) L83 V8 1984 205 hp (153 kW) 295 lb·ft (400 N·m)
5.7 L (350 cu in) L98 V8 1985–1986 230 hp (172 kW) 330 lb·ft (447 N·m)
1987–1989 240 hp (179 kW) 345 lb·ft (468 N·m)
1987 (B2K Callaway) 345 hp (257 kW) 465 lb·ft (630 N·m)
1988–1989 (coupes with 3.07 rear) 245 hp (183 kW) 345 lb·ft (468 N·m)
1988–1989 (B2K Callaway) 382 hp (285 kW) 562 lb·ft (762 N·m)
1990–1991 245 hp (183 kW) 345 lb·ft (468 N·m)
1990–1991 (coupes with 3.07 rear) 250 hp (186 kW) 345 lb·ft (468 N·m)
1990–1991 (B2K Callaway) 403 hp (301 kW) 575 lb·ft (780 N·m)
5.7 L (350 cu in) LT5 V8 1990–1992 375 hp (280 kW) 370 lb·ft (502 N·m)
1993–1995 405 hp (302 kW) 385 lb·ft (522 N·m)
5.7 L (350 cu in) LT1 V8 1992 300 hp (224 kW) 330 lb·ft (447 N·m)
1993–1995 300 hp (224 kW) 340 lb·ft (461 N·m)
1996 300 hp (224 kW) 335 lb·ft (454 N·m)
5.7 L (350 cu in) LT4 V8 1996 330 hp (246 kW) 340 lb·ft (461 N·m)

Concept cars


In June 1985, Chevrolet Chief Engineer Don Runkle and Lotus' Tony Rudd discuss creating a new show car to show off their engineering expertise. The project would become the CERV III (Corporate Engineering Research Vehicle III). It was first unveiled in Detroit Automobile Show in January 1986 as Corvette Indy prototype car.


Also called 'Big Doggie', it is a concept model build based on C4 Corvette, But with a much larger 454ci big block v8 OHV engine with multi-port fuel injection similar to the tuned port injection found on the 5.7L corvette from 85-91, 6-speed manual transmission,[9] and includes electronic fuel injection.[10]

The vehicle was built by Corvette Development Engineering as a development car to study the possibility of achieving ZR-1 performance while reducing cost by utilizing a big block engine. The engine was rated 400 hp.[11]

The prototype vehicle was sold in 2009 Barrett-Jackson Scottsdale auction for winning bid price of $65,000.[12]


Corvette GTP (IMSA)

As part of GM's initiative to promote the new C4 Corvette, they funded a program in the IMSA GT Championship to run a GTP-class prototype under the Corvette name, mostly run by Hendrick Motorsports. Although the Corvette GTP actually shared with the C4 Corvette, including the lack of a V8* engine in some races, it did use some styling cues. The project lasted until 1988 with mixed success.

Note*:- The final Corvette GTP built (HU8811.01) as raced by Peerless Racing under went extensive wind tunnel testing by GM with much of the 'aero' developmnets such as the short tail design was used in the later production C4's. The Peerless GTP Corvette also went back to the V-8 small block engine from the turbo V-6. This final GTP Corvette (Peerless) was driven by Hobbs, Baldwin, Villeneuve & Goodyear in IMSA before having the BBC based Eagle (10.2) engine installed to take to Le Mans in 1990.

See also


  1. ^ quoted from Corvette 50th Anniversary by the Editors of Consumer Guide p.239
  2. ^ "ZR-1 Net webpage (with copy of FiA record document)". Retrieved 9 July 2011. 
  3. ^ Editors of Consumer Guide (2003). Corvette 50th Anniversary Chapter 1984-2006. Linconwood, Illinois: Publications International, Ltd.. ISBN 0-7853-7987-8. 
  4. ^ "Harlan Charles Shows Us The C4 Corvette ZR1 Active Suspension Prototype". 2008-08-21. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  5. ^ "1990 Chevy Corvette ZR-1 Prototype - Back To The Future". Retrieved 2010-10-05. 
  6. ^ "Prototype Corvette ZR-1 Leads Day One Barrett-Jackson Bidding". 2009-01-14. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  7. ^ "Barrett-Jackson Lot: 676.1 - 1990 CHEVROLET CORVETTE ZR-1 "ACTIVE" PROTOTYPE". 2009-11-27. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  8. ^ "Auction Results: 1988 35th Anniversary Corvette Sells For Record High — Corvette: Sales, News & Lifestyle". Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  9. ^ "1989 Chevrolet Corvette ZR2 Roadster". Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  10. ^ "C4 Corvette Performance Rebuild - Why Ask Y?". Retrieved 2010-09-30. 
  11. ^ Re: TECH: GM Heritage Collection Sales at Barrett-Jackson
  12. ^ "1989 Corvette ZR-2 Sells at 2009 Barrett-Jackson". 2009-01-14. Retrieved 2010-09-30. 

Further reading

External links

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