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A Brief History Video From 1984 To ZR1

Let’s face it: almost everyone that reads this site would love to own a Chevrolet Corvette, if they don’t already. And while most people would like to own a new mid-engined C8, or classic split window C2, the fact is these kind of vehicles are out of reach for most people. But luckily, some Corvette generations have hit the sweet spot in the market as being affordable collector cars. And the C4-generation Chevrolet Corvette might just embody that market position the most. Hemmings recently made a video covering the history of the C4 Corvette, so here’s a brief overview of the 80s and 90s sports car from Chevrolet.

The C4 Corvette replaced the aging C3 as a truly all-new vehicle in 1984. But even though everything else about the car was new, the 205 hp V8 engine was a carryover from before. Luckily, a new L98 V8 came just a year later in 1995, and pushed out 230 hp. It saw a 5 hp boost in 1986 with the arrival of a convertible model. 1987 brought another 5 horsepower, up to 240 hp total. 1988 C4 Corvette models got bigger updates in the form of new suspension, brakes and exhaust. The 1988 model year got a much improved ZF 6-speed manual, which replaced the aging 4.3 transmission of previous variants.

C4 Corvette ZR1 ZR-1 LT5 DOHC V8 Mercury Marine Lotus Engineering GM Engines
Image via Chevrolet

In 1989, we saw the first separate model in the C4 Chevrolet Corvette lineup, and it was the best of them all in the form of the ZR1. It got a Lotus-designed LT5 V8 (not to be confused with this LT5 V8) good for 375 hp, which was later upgraded to 405 hp in 1993. The C4 Corvette ZR1 also had a widened, more aggressive exterior, huge rear tires, and the necessary suspension and brake upgrades to handle the extra power.

The 1990s saw more improvements to the regular C4 Chevrolet Corvette. It got a new instrument cluster and another 5 hp bump in 1990, a facelift to the exterior in 1991. But 1992 brought bigger changes, in the shape of the new LT1 small block V8 under the hood (not to be confused with this LT1 engine). Gone were the incremental 5 hp bumps of other model years, as the LT1 produced 300 hp.

C4 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport
1996 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport. Photo via Chevrolet

Finally, 1996 was the last year for the C4 Chevrolet Corvette, and it got a fitting sendoff. Regular models could get an optional LT4 engine (not to be confused with this LT4 engine) with 330 hp, but the big news was the C4 Corvette Grand Sport. The Grand Sport got the LT4 engine with a manual transmission, and coupes featured the same massive tire setup as the ZR1. And of course, you could only get it in that glorious blue, white and red color scheme. Only 1,000 C4 Corvette Grand Sport coupes and convertibles were ever made, and it’s unknown how many still survive today.

The aftermarket also had a ball with the C4 Corvette. Especially Callaway Cars, whom created the one-of-one Sledgehammer, which is still the fastest street legal Corvette ever built, topping at 254 mph. That record is unlikely to break anytime soon.

Check out Hemmings video below for some more detail on the C4 Corvette, and where current pricing stands. Considering you can pick up a nice one for the high teens or low $20,000 mark, it could be the Corvette for everyone.


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