10 Things Everyone Forgot about the C4 Corvette
Chevrolet has been producing its all-American sports car, the Corvette, for eight generations – let's take a close look at the fourth-gen, the C4.
By Nathan Lowman on March 26, 2023
Following the long but rather dull production run of the C3 Corvette, Chevrolet was ready for change. That change came in the form of the C4 Corvette, the perfect blend of '80s sports car styling and brutal muscle car performance. Tragically, many have forgotten the C4; overshadowed by its successors and looked over to its predecessors. Many would be surprised to learn the C4 Corvette is one of the most innovative in the marque's history, including a DOHC engine, digital instrument cluster, and one of the first to set an array of performance records.
So if you're a fan of the Corvette or want to learn more about your favorite '80s sports car, you're in the right place. Here are 10 things everyone forgot about the C4 Corvette.
10 There Was No Corvette For The 1983 Model Year
The 1982 Chevrolet Corvette was an embarrassment. The car only managed to make 200 horsepower and was long antiquated. Change was in order.
Designing the C4 took Chevrolet engineers quite a bit of time, so the car was not ready for the 1983 model year. As a result, Chevrolet missed the 30th anniversary of their dearly beloved sports car.
9 Totally New Chassis
As previously mentioned, the C3 Corvette was built upon the same basic framework as the 1963 Corvette. Chevrolet knew they needed to make serious adjustments, so they started from scratch.
The C4 was the first Corvette to be built from the ground up since its introduction in 1953, over 30 years prior. The new C4 made 240 horsepower and brought a fresh look to the Corvette name.
8 12-Year Production Run
The C4 Corvette managed to stay in production for 12 years. In that time, the Corvette underwent one face lift, five new engine offerings, and four new transmission options.
In 1996, Chevrolet built the Corvette Grand Sport to honor the C4 in its final model year. The C5 was introduced in 1997, bringing a completely new chassis and the now legendary LS V8.
7 The ZR1 Was Designed By Lotus
The ZR1 was the top of the line C4 Corvette built between 1990 and 1995. These special edition Corvettes featured stiffened suspension, bigger brakes, and the 375 horsepower DOHC LT5 V8.
GM owned Lotus at the time, and enlisted their help building the high-tech LT5. Lotus engineered the engine blocks and cylinder heads, and then sent the blueprints to Mercury Marine in Stillwater, Oklahoma for production.
6 Supercar Performance
The Chevrolet Corvette was always fast, but the C4 ZR1 took the Corvette to a new level thanks to the DOHC LT5 V8 and handling improvements.
Testing carried out in 1989 prior to the car's public release proved just how capable the ZR1 was. The C4 ZR1 achieved several long-standing endurance racing records, including the highest average speed at a 24-hour endurance run. The ZR1 was able to keep up an average speed of 175.885 mph.
5 Special Edition C4 Corvettes
The C4 Corvette was a popular chassis for boutique manufacturers to build their own supercars off. The most notable are some creations from Callaway, specifically the Sledgehammer. The Sledgehammer held the road-car speed record for decades, clocking in at 254.76 mph.
Bertone even built their own supercar based upon the C4. Dubbed the Ramarro, the car was mechanically identical to the C4 with a more exotic appearance. Unfortunately, the Ramarro has been mostly forgotten today.
4 Digital Gauges
Digital gauges are standard equipment today, and usually show more information than just RPM and speed. Digital gauges displaying speed, RPM, oil pressure, fuel mileage, and coolant temperature were high-tech for the mid-1980s, though.
This would be the first digital gauge cluster featured on a Corvette, and wouldn't be seen again until the C6 generation. Leave it to the C4 Corvette for innovations.
3 Raced At Le Mans In 1995
A Corvette at the 24 Hours of Le Mans seems rather common place, especially with the new C8R being all the rage in the sports car racing scene. That wasn't always the case, though.
The C4 Corvette was one of the first Corvettes to take on the famed French endurance race. The car managed a podium finish, but it wouldn't be until 2000 that the Corvette would become a serious contender at Le Mans.
2 Marked The 35th And 40th Anniversary Of The Corvette
During the 12-year production run of the C4 Corvette, the car marked the 35th and 40th anniversary of America's sports car. The 35th anniversary rolled around in 1988, and the 40th in 1993.
The 35th anniversary edition features a triple white paint scheme and the venerable L98 V8, good for 240 horsepower. The 40th anniversary edition saw a bump to 300 horsepower thanks to the new LT1 V8. Ruby red metallic was the only color offered.
1 A High Number Of C4 Corvettes Were Produced
Thanks to a 12-year production run between 1984 and 1996, an impressive 358,180 C4 Corvettes were produced. That puts the C4 just behind the C3 in terms of total production numbers.
Spare parts and cheap examples are pretty easy to find thanks to such a long production run. By 1996, the C4 Corvette was antiquated yet managed to keep up with newer cars like the Nissan Skyline GTR R-34 and Porsche 996.