Here's Why the Chevrolet Corvette C4 Is Now Worth a Fortune
Chevrolet's C4 Corvette has skyrocketed in value recently, as people come to realize how important this car is, and how it could crush a Ferrari.
By Henry Kelsall on Febrary 17, 2023
The Chevrolet Corvette has gone through multiple generations over the years. But one generation that, for the last couple of decades, hasn't quite had the same recognition is the Corvette C4. The C4 is typical of the 1980s and 1990s with sleek styling, pop up headlights and even more coolness. It reinvented the wheel for the Corvette, but it has only ever felt like it was actually respected and not loved. Now though, prices have shot up with the C4 going from around $5,000 at one point to up to $30,000.
That is one hell of a leap, for a car that's often been underappreciated. But there are very good reasons as to why that's changed. These range from recognition of its status as a modern Corvette blueprint, to the big progress that Chevrolet made engine wise with the C4.
The C4 Corvette Engine Saw Major Advancements From Chevrolet
When the C4 was first introduced, the Corvette passed through a bit of a rough patch. Nothing was particularly wrong with the C2 and C3, but the manufacturer had to take things to the next level after the long-run for the C3. One way in which it did that was with the return to big, high-performance and brutal engines. The debut model in 1984 featured the iconic “Cross-fire injection” V8 with 205 hp. While every model of the C4 from 1984 to 1996 featured a 5.7-liter V8 under the hood. The LT4 boasted 300 hp.
Chevrolet took it one step further, with the mighty ZR-1 featuring 405 hp from its V8 engine. Perhaps the biggest step for Chevrolet was the introduction of the L98 engine in 1985, that featured the tuned-point fuel injection. This was more typical of the Pontiac Firebirds and Chevrolet Camaros of the time. This meant that Chevrolet could wave goodbye to the L83 V8 engine that for some time had proven so controversial. But there was so much more to the C4 Corvette than simply a big, brutal V8 engine. Because Chevrolet set the standard for American sports cars with its new C4.
The C4 Is Now Recognized As The Blueprint For The Modern Day Corvette
Something that is easy to forget that the underrated C4 actually set the blueprint for the Corvettes that we know and love of today. In fact, enthusiasts actually refer to the C4 Corvette as the first of the “Corvettes of Now.” Chevrolet came out with a striking, sleek design. They were though able to retain iconic features such as the fender flares of previous generations. Changing the overall shape not only boosted the looks, but it also boosted the cabin space. Molding plastics made the C4's body tougher as well.
It's little wonder that it is often called the first modern Corvette as well. The styling was much more in line with the likes of the Porsche 944 and Ferrari 308, plus the very latest editions of the Lotus Esprit. The C4 looked much more like a fully-fledged supercar than it did a sports car, like today's C8 Z06 does. Thanks to its chassis designed and completed fully in-house by Chevrolet. They were able to create a car that handled better than earlier Corvettes. Lightweight suspension and a new electronic engine-management system contributed to that improved driving feel.
Manual Transmission Ensured The C4 Corvette Was Still A True Driver's Car
The C4 Corvette was actually offered with an automatic transmission. But a few years after its introduction, Chevrolet realized there was still a market for stick-shift Corvettes. So in came a six-speed manual Corvette from 1989. While the automatic was often more reliable, the manual ensured the C4 could still be a true driver's car. Add into the equation the rather cool electronic dashboard, and driving the C3 is a lot of fun.
Dashboards like the C4 were quite revolutionary at the time. So it was something else that allowed the C4 Corvette to stand out. It was a massive improvement over the C3, giving the C4 a modern and very technical feel inside the cabin. We can now appreciate how cool those graphics are too.
The C4's Ferrari-Killing Performance Helps To Drive Up Its Value Today
With a top speed of 179 mph, the C4 Corvette was faster than the 144 mph Porsche 944 and the 157 mph Ferrari 308. A top speed of 179 mph, recorded in the 1996 version, truly gave the C4 Corvette Ferrari killing performance. In fact, that level of speed is still hugely respectable in 2023. Some sports cars can't quite get to that level. In some ways, the C4 Corvette was a little ahead of its time, yet it's remarkable that it was never hugely appreciated. Judging by its rising value, that is changing, and fast.