Facts & History
The C4 (1984-96)
During the C3 years, the big-block engine and convertible had been left behind. After 15 years of the Shark design, Chevy completely redesigned the Corvette in 1984. Chief engineer David McLellan and designer Jerry Palmer collaborated to develop the C4. The car was introduced in March 1983 and because of its late release, Chevy decided to bypass the 1983 model designation. As compared to the 1982 Corvette, the new C4 Corvette was wider, the engine was moved towards the rear, the steering was rack-and-pinion, and there were newly designed brakes. There were no fiberglass seams on exposed panels, and the engine was a 5.7 liter small-block V-8 with 205hp. The hideaway headlights were now single square units on rotating mounts. Due to the long production run 51,547 coupes were produced, the second highest model year volume in the Corvette’s history.
The 1982 and 1984 Corvette engines had “Cross Fire Injection,” but for the first time in two decades, the 1985 Corvette had genuine fuel injection. This new “L-98” engine delivered 230hp. The suspension rates were lowered in 1985 as a result of the criticism of the 1984 Corvette’s harsh ride.
The first convertible since 1975 was introduced in 1986. All convertibles were designated as Indianapolis pace cars regardless of their color or options, and all included decal packages. The anti-lock brake system became standard in the 1986 Corvette. Horsepower was boosted to 240hp in 1987, and a new suspension system was offered as an option.
A 35th anniversary edition was offered in 1988 and available only in coupes. The car featured a white interior and exterior with special accents and emblems. In 1989, a new manual six-speed transmission was offered. Other changes included a new optional fiberglass hardtop for the convertible.
In 1990, the much anticipated ZR-1 was introduced. The ZR-1 had a new Lotus-Chevrolet designed 5.7 liter V8 engine (LT-5) with four overhead camshafts and 32 valves. It was made of aluminum and produced 375hp. The engines were assembled and manufactured by Mercury Marine in Stillwater, Oklahoma and then sent to the Corvette assembly plant in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The ZR-1 was nicknamed “King of the Hill.” All 1990 Corvettes had an improved dashboard and driver side airbags.
The rear exterior of the 1991 Corvette was restyled, and the front incorporated wraparound fog lights. The ZR-1 was continued and sold for $64,138 - the first GM automobile to carry a price above $60,000. The 1992 Corvette had minimal exterior changes, but the base engine was the LT1, a new generation small block which produced 300hp. The millionth Corvette, a white 1992 convertible, was built on July 2, 1992.
A 40th Anniversary Package was optional for all models in 1993. The package included a Ruby Red exterior and leather interior, a power driver seat, special wheel center trim and emblems. The ZR-1 boosted its horsepower from 375 to 405hp and an airbag was added for passengers in the 1994 Corvette. In 1995, the side grills were restyled. For the third time, Corvette paced the Indianapolis 500 race, and 527 dark purple and white convertible pace cars were produced to commemorate the event. 1995 was also the last year for production of the ZR-1.
In 1996, Chevy offered two unique editions to mark the end of the C4 production. The first was a "Collector's Edition" which was available as a coupe or a convertible and included special emblems, five-spoke wheels and Sebring Silver paint. The second unique edition was the Grand Sport which featured blue-with-white-stripe paint and the LT4 engine which produced 330hp. After 13 years, GM was ready to move on to the fifth generation Corvette.