Thursday, August 16, 2018

1984-1996 C4 Corvette history and memories. The secret's out!

When the “C4” Corvette debuted in 1984, I was certain that it was, without a doubt, the most amazing car I had ever seen in my life. At the time, it was state-of-the-art in every way. The suspension was like a work of art. The liquid crystal gauges were at the height of high-tech. Everything, from the unidirectional tires and wheels, to the shape of the optional lumbar adjustable leather seats, to the design of the air filter cover was just perfect. My dad brought a few of them home as company cars when they were new, and I thought riding in them was absolute heaven. I’m not the only one who has great memories of these cars, though. The fourth-generation Corvette, which was produced between 1984 and 1996, is becoming more popular all the time. Right now it’s one of the biggest bargains out there, but get it while you can. The secret's out, and they’ll never be worth any less than right now.

If you ask most Corvette fans, they will tell you that they never built Corvettes in 1983. That’s not exactly true. They actually built 44 of them, which were used for testing purposes. None of them were sold to the public, however, and 43 of the 44 were destroyed once they were no longer needed. One remains—car number 23. And here it is at the National Corvette Museum. I remember back in 1983, I had a Corvette catalog that featured a Corvette with these wheels on it. But again, they were never offered to the public. There are some other odd little quirks about this car, like the shape of some of the body panels seem a little different than a production model. If you ever get to Bowling Green, Ky., you should check this out—it’s a fascinating little piece of history.

I was 11-years-old when the “all-new” Corvette came out in 1984, and I really can’t describe how exciting it was. That digital dash was like something out of Star Wars! It had 16-inch tires, and they could only be mounted on the wheels in one direction! The headlights didn’t just pop up, they spun around! I must have read the catalog 5,000 times. For me, it was the single greatest car I had ever seen in my life. And even though better cars have come along, I’ve never felt that much excitement about any car ever again. I didn’t know or care about the much-maligned Crossfire Injection under that giant clamshell hood. I just knew it looked cool in there, and it seemed plenty fast to me. This was every bit as big of a deal as any new car debut today.

A new Tuned-Port Injection system came out in 1985, which proved to be more efficient and reliable, followed by an all-new convertible in 1986. It was the first factory Corvette convertible since 1975, so there was quite a bit of hype around it. All ’86 convertibles were considered Indy Pace Cars, although the one that actually paced the race was yellow. I owned a Nassau Blue 1987 Corvette convertible many years ago, and I felt just like pace car-driver Chuck Yeager leading the field to green at the Brickyard. Convertibles were considerably more expensive than coupes, to the tune of like $5,000, but they did come with a big X-brace under the car to stiffen things up.

The ZR1 is the ultimate Corvette today, but we’ve seen that designation before. Between 1990 and 1995, Chevrolet topped the already formidable Corvette line with the “King of the Hill” ZR-1. In place of the standard L98, the ZR-1 featured the exotic LT5, which was designed in collaboration with Lotus and Mercury Marine. With extra-wide rear wheels and bodywork, the ZR-1 could approach the 180-mph mark, which was huge in the day. When these came out in 1990, they were also the first of the line to feature the squircle-shaped taillights as opposed to the traditional round style. All Corvettes received the squared-off lights in 1991, and that styling cue carried to the end of the run.

Chevrolet has been good about commemorating Corvette anniversaries over the years. 1988 was the 35th year since its introduction, so they offered the Z01 package, consisting of white paint, white seats, white door panels, white steering wheel, white wheels, and a roof band that was painted—you guessed it—black. There was also a numbered plaque in the console and special fender emblems. They didn’t make many of these; only 2,050 total, and they cost a not insignificant $4,795 over a base Corvette coupe. I always thought they were really good looking, especially with all that white inside. The steering wheel had to be murder to keep clean, though. You see these at car shows once in a while, and I never get tired of them.

Five years later, Chevy celebrated the Corvette’s 40th anniversary with these Ruby Red ‘93s. This is actually my own personal car. There were a few more of these built than the ’88 version, 6,749 to be exact, split up among coupes, convertibles, and ZR-1s. For $1,455 you got the Ruby Red paint and matching leather interior, along with fender badges and color-keyed wheel center caps. The gimmick here was that the ruby is the traditional jewelry gift for a 40th anniversary, so that’s why they chose this color. People really seem to respond favorably to the color on this car. I’ve even watched people take their pictures by it at car shows. I really enjoy everything about owning this thing. It wasn’t very expensive, but the way it takes me back to my childhood is priceless.

The Grand Sport package is very popular on new Corvettes, but that name was used a few other times in the past. The Regular Production Option (RPO) code Z16 was used to designate a different special Corvette that carried the Grand Sport name in 1996. They only built a total of 1,000 Grand Sport coupes and convertibles that year. They were all Admiral Blue with a white stripe, and you could either get them with a black or red interior. These are by far my favorite iteration of the entire C4 line, especially with the red interior. Like all six-speed manual Corvettes in 1996, they were powered by the LT4 engine, which was good for 330-hp—a real monster in contemporary terms. Chevy also built 4,031 Sebring Silver Metallic Collector’s Edition models in 1996, thus closing out this generation of Corvette.

You can tell I dig these by looking at the photo album. There are more than 670 pictures that I’ve taken of C4 Corvettes at car shows, auctions, museums, and more. You’ll be able to see Callaway Corvettes, Corvette Challenge race cars, C4 promotional models, and much more. If you like these cars as much as I do you’ll definitely want to click this link for the entire photo album.

No comments:

Post a Comment