Corvette Evolution

Corvette Evolution, Part 5: C4 - The First With a Modern Look

Even today the C4 (1983-1996) looks like a fresh and modern sportscar.

In the Corvette's rich literary history, and it's probably competing with the Porsche 911 as the most documented car ever, you won't find a 1983 model year. After C3 production ceased at the end of 1982, the new C4 came out only in April 1983. The Chevrolet boss at the time decided, as is allowed by U.S. regulators, to jump straight into the 1984 model year. The Corvette C4 was the first modern day Corvette with a slick and sophisticated look.

When it is driven nowadays among modern day cars it still won't look entirely look out of place. The chrome fenders on the C3 were replaced by modern bumpers painted either in black or the body color. For the first time in the Corvette's history (not including the 1982 Collector's Edition), there was a rear canopy. It was the largest glass piece in the American auto industry at the time. The canopy was sloped backward as much as possible, leaving a lot of space for light luggage inside the car. The car was designed by Jerry Palmer who used wind tunnel testing.

Drag coefficient was reduced to 0.34 and it was one of the best aerodynamic specifications of the era, thanks also to the flat windshield with a rake angle of 64 degrees. The C4 Corvette also turned out half a size smaller than its predecessor. Compared to the last C3 from 1982, the '84 Corvette shrank 6.3 inches to a total length of 176.4 inches, and with a height of just 46.9 inches, it hugged close to the road like none of its predecessors. After a hiatus of exactly ten years, 1986 saw the reintroduction of a convertible, with the roof disappearing elegantly under a flat cover.

Although the open-top Corvette now cost more (by around $5,000) than the coupe for the first time, the convertible was an immediate hit, making up one third of Corvette sales in 1987. In order to further improve the handling and weight distribution, C4 designers shifted the engine further toward the center of the vehicle. The wider transmission tunnel gave the body greater torsional stiffness. Active safety was enhanced by ABS (1987) and traction control (1992). A new six-speed manual gearbox from ZF (1989) also reduced fuel consumption.

The C4 was available only with 350 CID V8 engines, the L98 debuting in 1985 with a new Bosch fuel injection system that included air flow meters. Despite the horsepower increase from 205 to 230hp, it brought about a fuel economy gain of 11 percent. Chassis components like the front upper and lower transverse links, the generator mount and power steering parts as well as the air conditioning compressor were all made of aluminum. The drive shaft was likewise made of forged aluminum. The hood was a sandwich composite part. The cooler had aluminum fins and a plastic reservoir; in 1985, Chevrolet also introduced synthetic material for the power brakes housing.

Aluminum was also introduced for the cylinder heads in 1986. For many fans, this was the Corvette of their youth. Those who were born in the early 1980s didn't see a new Corvette until 1997 when they already well into their teenage years.

Related Cars

Read Next

SEE MORE ARTICLES