C4 Corvette (1984-1996) – The arrival of the fourth generation Corvette was pushed back so much that GM decided to completely skip the 1983 model year and instead launched the C4 as a 1984 model.
The move was met with some criticism, as many saw it as a missed opportunity for GM to celebrate the Corvette’s 30th anniversary with a special edition car.
But 1983 was not a completely barren year for the Corvette. Chevrolet built a number of prototypes and pilot cars in 1983 to test the fourth generation Corvette before it hit production. Of the 43 prototypes and pilot line cars, only one remains. This literally one of a kind Corvette and piece of automotive history is on permanent display at the National Corvette Museum.
However, in 1984, the waiting paid off. After 15 years of a C3 production run that was largely based on mechanical designs that had been originally implemented with the C2 Corvette, Chevrolet introduced the world to a completely original design from top to bottom: The C4 Corvette.
The 1984 Corvette was meant with much fanfare. It was named Motortrend’s Car of the Year with the editors saying it had the “highest excitement quotient of anything to come out of an American factory. Ever.”
Design criteria for the C4 Corvette included more ground clearance, but less overall height, a lower center of gravity and better front-to-rear weight distribution. Handling considerations were at the forefront of this new design.
The all-new Corvette has a drag coefficient of a 0.34 – 24% more aerodynamic than its predecessor. Top speed clocked over 150 MPH.
All 1984 Corvettes were designed with one-piece, lift-off roof panels and rear hatch windows. At the time, the rear window glass was the largest compound glass ever installed in an American automobile.
The interior also got a complete makeover. The C4 marked the first use of an all-digital display, replacing traditional analog gauges. For the first time, seats reclined.
High demand and an extended on-sale period merited the production of 51,547 1984 Corvettes.
In January 1985, Car and Driver Magazine pronounced the Corvette to be America’s fastest production car. Corvette also took honors in top-gear acceleration and tied with the Porsche for best road handling.
1986 saw the return of the Corvette convertible, the first since 1975. In 1988, Corvette offered a 35th anniversary edition. Available in coupe only, this special package included a two-toned exterior of white with black roof bow, white leather seats and steering wheel, special accents and emblems and a console mounted anniversary plaque. Sales totaled 2,050 units.
After much anticipation, the ZR-1 arrived in 1990. Driver side air bags became a standard feature.
In 1993, a 40th anniversary package was available with all models, including a Ruby Red metallic exterior and Ruby Red leather sport seats.
The C4 generation came to a conclusion in 1996 with two unique models – a Collector’s Edition and a Grand Sport.
Although hailed by fans and critics alike, the C4 Corvette experienced steady price increases during its 12-year run: $21,800 in 1984 to $37,225 in 1996, but sales sharply declined from 51,547 to 21,563.