Introducing the C4 Corvette (1984–1996)

A Good Starter Corvette

C4 Corvette Coupe
Olympian Michael Johnson poses alongside a C4 Coupe. Mike Powell / Getty Images

Produced from 1984 to 1996, the C4 is one of the most popular Corvettes ever made. Chevrolet made many C4s over the years, and their relatively low price made them a good entry-level, or starter, sports car.

The model did change over the decade-plus that it was in production, and some have held their value in the collectors' market better than others.

Introducing the C4 Corvette

Chevrolet designed an all-new Corvette in the early 1980s, but the prototypes—about 40 in all—produced for the 1983 model year had serious quality issues. Not only were those not sold to the public, but these quality issues also delayed the subsequent production of fourth-generation Corvettes until the 1984 model year.

Despite the setback, 1984 was the second-largest production run in Corvette history, with over 51,000 cars produced. Overall, C4 Corvettes make up the second-largest group after the C3, of which about 350,000 cars were built in that generation's 12-year period. All C4s were manufactured at Corvette's factory in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

The design of the new generation Corvette was distinctively different from previous models. Once you see a C4—with its futuristic, slightly squared off front and back-end—you'll never mistake this generation for any that came before or since.

Also worth noting is that the convertible Corvette returned in 1986 after an 11-year absence. Both major and minor changes were made to the C4 during its production run, and a few special editions were also produced.

Engine Power Increased

The standard engine power in the C4 Corvettes ranges from 205 horsepower in a 1984 model up to 230 horsepower in one built in 1985. A 1992 engine can put out 250 horsepower. Base Corvettes have a 300 horsepower LT1 engine. Certain special editions such as the Callaway twin-turbo models can generate up to 405 horsepower. These are naturally more expensive and hard to find.

Collectible Value

The 1984–1988 Corvettes are by far the lowest-priced 'Vettes on the market. As such, base-model C4 Corvettes are not generally considered collectible, and it's doubtful they ever will be. Essentially, a C4 from the '80s makes a good starting point for an enthusiast's ride, but it is a poor investment for resale.

1984 C4

The C4 body and frame debuted in 1984 after the quality issues of 1983 delayed the Corvette's release. The second-largest number of Corvettes produced in any year were produced in 1984—51,547 cars in total. This year's model sold for a base price of $21,800 and featured a V8 350 c.i engine with 205 horsepower.

1985 C4

The suspension for this year was softened 25 percent from 1984. This was also the first year that Bosch fuel injection was used. Total production for this year was 39,729. Buyers would shell out $24,403 for a base model featuring the V8 350 c.i. engine with 230 horsepower.

1986 C4

The Corvette convertible reappeared this year, after an 11-year absence. All 7,315 of these convertibles were built as Indy pace car replicas. An additional 27,794 cars were built as coupes that retailed for $27,027—the convertibles ran an extra $6,000. The engine and horsepower remained the same as the previous year.

1987 C4

Total production for this year was 30,632 cars, 10,625 of those convertibles. This is the first year for the coach-built Callaway 345 horsepower twin-turbo option, which sold for a $19,999 over base price, which was $27,999 for the coupes, $33,172 for the convertible. The V8 350 c.i base model engine was now putting out 240 horsepower.

1988 C4

To celebrate Chevrolet's 35th anniversary, a special anniversary edition of the C4 was produced in 1988, 22,789 in total, with about 7,500 as convertibles. No change was made to the engine or its horsepower.

1989 C4

The 6-speed manual transmission made its debut in the 1989 C4. Even though there were no changes to the engine or its power, Chevy still increased their prices. A coupe now set buyers back a little over a cool $31K.

1990 C4

This year marked the return of the ZR1 package in the 375 horsepower "King of the Hill" model at $27,016 over the base price of $32,000. Chevrolet also made ABS and driver's side airbag standard equipment in the 1990 model. Total production was 23,646, with 7,600 of those convertibles.

1991 C4

Only minor changes were made between 1990 and 1991. The "King of the Hill" V8 DOHC 350 c.i. engine was still available as an option, and prices jumped by about $1,000 per model.

1992 C4

The one-millionth Corvette was made in 1992 and the horsepower in the base V8 350 c.i. engine was bumped to 300. Total production was 20,479. A coupe set buyers back nearly $34,000, while the convertible option cost yet another $6,000.

1993 C4

The 40th-anniversary edition of the C4 is released, with 22,058 cars put into production at a base price of $34,595. Also, the ZR1 horsepower for the V8 DOHC 350 c.i ZR1 engine rose to an impressive 405.

1994 C4

Only minor changes were made this year, although the base price rose to $36,185.

1995 C4

This was the last year for the LC4 ZR1 option with the 405 horsepower, V8 DOHC 350 c.i engine. Prices remained relatively stable at about $500 over the previous year's.

1996 C4

The last year of the C4 is as significant as the first. In 1996, the Grand Sport designation returned for the first time since 1963, and the new LT4 engine put out 330 horsepower. A collector's edition was also made available as Chevrolet marked the final year of the C4 body and frame. A total of 21,536 of these cars were made, coupes as well as convertibles, with a base price of $37,225.