Corvette C4 – 1984-1996 Part I

Corvette C4 – Part I 1984-1989

If someone every tries to sell you a 1983 Corvette…BUY IT! It would be the most RARE Corvette ever! NOT true! Hey, what happened to 1983? The drastic change from the previous-generation Corvette to the new one was so radical that it took a while to get the Bowling Green plant up and running. So while fourty-three preproduction “1983” C4 Corvettes were built, none of these was ever sold to the general public and only one of them survives today.

In March of ’83, Chevrolet began selling the 1984 Corvette and it was the most dramatically different looking 1984 Chevrolet CorvetteCorvette since the 1963 Stingray. This new machine rode on a 96.2-inch wheelbase and used a cast aluminum suspension components and featured a larger interior with fully digital instrumentation. 1984 Corvette even came with a higher performing 350 cubic V8 engine now producing 205 horse power.

Gone were the old coupe’s T-tops in favor of a single fiberglass section that could be removed using a wrench, but many of the C3 styling themes continued, though more conservatively expressed. The hideaway headlights were now single square units on rotating mounts, and the hood itself was a giant clamshell piece that made access to the engine easy but appalled insurance companies that had to cover its enormous replacement cost.

A Significantly Better Corvette

Everything mechanical about the C4 Corvette was significantly better than before. The new suspension system used composite transverse leaf springs both fore and aft, the steering was by rack-and-pinion for the first time, the brakes were oversized discs, the frame itself featured a large aluminum C-section beam that made for a stiffer structure and the tires were enormous (for the time) Goodyear P255/50VR16 unidirectional “Gatorbacks” on 16-inch wheels. About the only thing that carried over was the small-block 350 V8, again equipped with Cross-Fire throttle-body fuel injection and now rated at 205 hp.

At the beginning of the 1984 model run, the only transmission available was the 700R4 four-speed automatic, but by January of 1984 a new Doug Nash “4+3” manual transmission was offered that featured an electronically engaged overdrive on the top three gears. Although intriguing, it was a balky and completely crummy excuse for a transmission.

Record Sales Despite Major Criticisms

The major criticisms of the ’84 Corvette were its incredibly stiff ride, particularly when equipped with the Z51 performance suspension package, the still-lackluster engine and the obnoxious dash graphics. Despite that, however, the ’84 Corvette quickly established itself as the dominant car in showroom stock racing and Chevrolet sold a stunning 53,877 of them during the extended model year.

Messing with success where needed, the Corvette was treated to the new Tuned Port Injected (TPI) version of the 350-cubic-inch (now more commonly referred to as a 5.7-liter) small-block for 1985. This vastly more efficient induction system bumped output of the V8 to 230 hp with a thick and friendly torque curve. The better “L98” engine was combined with a retuned, more comfortable suspension to produce a significantly better Corvette than the previous year.

Yeah, Convertible Is Back!

A convertible returned to the Corvette lineup for 1986 and a bright yellow version was used to pace that year’s Indianapolis 500: the second time a Corvette had had the honor. Another significant advance was the fitment of Bosch antilock brakes for the first time, making for a safer everyday machine. Every Corvette coupe also got a third brake light over its rear hatch, while the convertible’s was integrated into the rear fascia. Chevy sold 27,794 ’86 Corvette coupes and 7,315 convertibles.

The fitment of hydraulic roller lifters to the L98’s valvetrain boosted its output to 240 hp for 1987, but the car was1987 Chevrolet Corvette Convertible virtually unchanged otherwise. Two interesting additions to the options list were a new Z-52 suspension system for higher performance without the complete sacrifice of comfort, and new electronic tire-pressure monitors.

New 17-inch wheels inside P275/40ZR17 tires were added to the 1988 Corvette options list, while new aluminum cylinder heads and a revised camshaft boosted the L98 to 245 hp with even better torque characteristics. This was also the last year Chevy would foist the dreadful 4+3 transmission off as the shift-it-yourself choice. A 35th anniversary model, done in a white-on-white scheme, marked this milestone.

The new manual transmission for 1989 was a ZF six-speed that was a joy to shift as long as you didn’t mind using some muscle. And as long as you didn’t resent the “skip shift” feature that forced a shift from 1st to 4th gear under part-throttle conditions to improve fuel economy.

1989 Chevrolet Corvette

1989 Chevrolet Corvette

Other changes to the lineup included a new FX3 selective ride control system for the Z51-equipped coupes and a new optional fiberglass hardtop for the convertible. Every enthusiast knew, however, that much bigger, much brawnier news was coming to the Corvette for 1990.

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