The fourth generation Chevrolet Corvette C4 was introduced at the close of 1982 production as a 1984 model and ended in 1996, meaning that there's no such thing as a 1983 Corvette (though 44 prototype 1983s were built, of which #23 surivives today and is housed at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green).
The 1984 C4 was a complete and total redesigned Corvette except for its engine, and the emphasis was on handling with the introduction of the front transverse composite leaf spring. This handling focus came with the penalty of a harsh, uncompromising ride in the 1984 model.
Instead of fiberglass, the C4 was made from reaction injected molding plastics, a sheet molding compound. The C4 coupe was also the first Corvette to have a glass hatchback (except for the 1982 Collector's Edition) for better storage access, along with all new brakes with aluminum calipers.
The C4 came standard with an electronic dashboard with digital liquid crystal displays for speed and RPM - nice touches, but the emphasis was on handling. At launch, it was proclaimed as the best handling car ever.
L83 350ci Crossfire
This first year C4 carried over the 350 cu in L83 V8 engine from the 3rd generation Corvette. The L83 had a unique fuel delivery method dubbed "Crossfire": a dual throttle-body injection system.
With the first major body, chassis and suspension change since 1963, the new C4 coupe incorporated a rear glass hatch for much improved cargo access, all new brakes with aluminum calipers, an all aluminum suspension for weight savings and rigidity, and the first one piece targa top with no center reinforcement. It came standard with an electronic dashboard with digital liquid crystal displays for the speedometer and tachometer.
1988 Corvette Convertible
From 1984 through 1988, the Corvette was available with a Doug Nash "4+3" transmission - a 4-speed manual coupled to an automatic overdrive on the top three gears. This unusual transmission was a synergy that allowed corvette to keep a stout 4 speed, but add an overdrive.
As technology progressed, it was replaced by a modern ZF 6-speed manual. However, the C4 performance was hampered by its L98 250 hp (186 kW) engine until 1992, when the second-generation LT1 was installed, markedly improving the C4s performance. 1996 was a high point of small block Chevrolet development and the 330 hp (246 kW) LT4 was installed in all manual transmission cars.
The 1986 Corvette is notable for being the first car with an electronic anti-theft system. GM had created the Pass Key I, where each key contained a special pellet that could be detected and identifed by the car's computer system by detecting electrical resistance. Being early in the rollout of this new technology, there were only 15 different resistance values available.
1984 through 1988 Corvettes utilized a "4+3" transmission—a 4-speed manual coupled to an automatic overdrive on the top three gears. It was designed to help the Corvette meet U.S. fuel economy standards.
The transmission was problematic and was replaced by a modern ZF 6-speed manual gearbox in 1989. Beginning in 1985, the 230 horsepower (170 kW) L98 engine with tuned port fuel injection was the standard engine. In 1986 the 2nd Corvette Indy Pace Car was released. It was the first convertible Corvette since 1975. It was also the first pace car fast enough in stock form to pace the Indianapolis 500.
A Center High Mounted Signal Light (CHMSL, a third center brake light) was added in 1986 to comply with federal law. All 1986 convertibles had an Indy 500 emblem mounted on the console making any color a pace car edition. The color of the actual pace car (used in the race) was yellow.
In 1987, the B2K twin-turbo option became available from the factory. The Callaway Corvette was a Regular Production Option (RPO B2K). The B2K option coexisted from 1990 to 1991 with the ZR-1 option, which then replaced it. Early B2Ks produced 345 hp (257 kW) and 450 ft·lbf (610 N·m) of torque; later versions boasted 450 hp (336 kW) and 613 ft·lbf (831 Nm). 1988 saw the 35th Anniversary Edition. Each of these featured a special badge with an identification number mounted next to the gear selector. These Corvettes were easily identified with their white exterior, wheels and interior.
In 1991, all Corvettes received updates to the body, interior, and wheels. The convex rear fascia that set the 1990 ZR-1 apart from the base model was now included on L98 Corvettes, making the styling of the expensive ZR-1 even closer to that of the base cars. The most obvious difference remaining between the base and ZR-1 models besides the wider rear wheels was the location of the CHMSL (center high mounted stop lamp), which was integrated into the new rear fascia used on the base model, but remained at the top of the rear-hatch on the ZR-1's.
For the 1992 model year, the 300 horsepower (220 kW) LT1 engine was introduced, an increase of 50 hp (37 kW) over 1991's L98 engine. Also new for 1992 was Acceleration Slip Regulation (ASR), a form of traction control which utilized the Corvette's brakes, spark retard and throttle close-down to prevent excessive rear wheel spin and possible loss of control. The traction control device could be switched off if desired.
1993 Corvette Coupe
1993 saw a special 40th Anniversary Edition featuring a commemorative Ruby Red color, 40th anniversary badges and embroidered seat backs. The 1993 Corvette also marked the introduction of the Passive Keyless Entry System, the first GM car to feature it. Production of the ZR-1 ended in 1995, after 6,939 cars had been built.
1996 was the final year of C4 production, and featured special models and options, including the Grand Sport and Collector Edition, OBD II (On-Board Diagnostics), run flat tires, and the LT4 engine. The 330 hp (246 kW) LT4 V8 was available only with a manual transmission, while all 300 hp (224 kW) LT1 Corvettes used automatic transmissions.
Chevrolet released the Grand Sport (GS) version in 1996 to mark the end of production of the C4 Corvette. The Grand Sport moniker is a nod to the original Grand Sport model produced in 1963. A total of 1,000 GS Corvettes were produced, 810 as coupes and 190 as convertibles. The 1996 GS came with the high-performance LT4 V8 engine, producing 330 hp (246 kW) and 340 lb·ft (461 N·m) of torque. The Grand Sport came only in Admiral Blue with a white stripe down the middle, and black wheels and two red stripes on the front left wheel arch added to its distinctive look.
The unit-body frame used in the C4 means early examples are prone to rattles and squeaks due to minimal sound deadening. Also due to the external unit-body frame, the door sills were quite deep and entry and exit have been likened to a "fall in and climb out" experience. The emergency brake was relocated in 1988 for easier entry and exit.