15-car collection of low-mileage C4s supports that all Corvettes are red
It’s easy to imagine that the simple, elegant angles of Chevrolet’s fourth-generation Corvette must have been quite a contrast to over a decade-and-a-half of curvy Coke-bottle C3 design.
Along with its new look, the 1984 Corvette utilized a brand-new chassis. The underpinnings came replete with a totally novel suspension that used a transverse leaf spring up front—a design trend that would remain through the next three generations of Corvette.
If you’ve got a spot in your collection for a C4, Mecum’s Kansas City sale—which runs December 1-3—offers a museum’s worth of low-mileage examples in any color you like … so long as it’s red.
This auction has a car for every year of fourth-generation Corvette made (from 1984–1996), including one from each year of ZR-1 production (1990–1995). The only thing that’s missing from this collection of C4 Corvettes is a 1996 Grand Sport. Since those were only available in Admiral Blue, and we’ve already established that All Corvettes Are Red, this collection seems rather complete.
Let’s take a look at the earliest and one of the later models from this group to see how far the Corvette C4 managed to evolve over its lifespan.
1984 Chevrolet Corvette
With just 17,500 miles on the odometer, this might be one of the better-preserved 1984 Corvettes you’ll ever come across. It’s powered by a 350-cubic-inch V-8 with Crossfire Injection and a four-speed manual with a planetary overdrive unit that could engage in second, third, or fourth gears.
Back then, the 4+3 transmission was a bit of a novelty, and so was the Crossfire Injection system. The two-piece intake manifold and twin throttle bodies, each with a single fuel injector, were carryovers from the 1982 Corvette. The setup was reminiscent of the Camaro Z/28’s legendary cross-ram intake. (Camaro used twin four-barrel carburetors, which fed the opposite bank of cylinders, and propelled the coupe to back-to-back Trans-Am championships.) Though, a giant angular air cleaner cover on the Corvette makes it difficult to actually see the similarity.
In the case of the 1980’s Crossfire induction, the camshaft, cylinder heads, intake manifold, and TBI units were built to deliver street performance and clean emissions The small block delivered 205 horsepower, which was respectable for the era, but hardly compared to some of the big-block-powered C3s.
Still, the Vette’s new chassis could put the ponies to great use. This car has a ton of personality and would serve nicely on back roads as well as starting conversations at your nearest car meet.
1995 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1
Introduced in 1990, the ZR-1 was the pinnacle of C4 Corvette performance. The package delivered a ZR-1-exclusive LT5 V-8 developed by Lotus Engineering. Then engine featured DOHC architecture and 32 valves and was mated to a six-speed manual transmission—no bizarre overdrives required this time.
Initially rated at 385 horsepower, the output of the Mercury-Marine-built V-8 swelled to 405 horsepower by 1993. It shared its 4.4-inch bore spacing and 350-cubic-inch displacement with the Corvette’s stalwart small-block V-8, but the similarities stopped there. The engine, from its high-tech, variable intake system down to its aluminum block, was unique to rest of the Corvette lineup. Even the bore and stroke were distinctive at 3.90 x 3.66 inches.
Not only did the ZR-1 bring more power, it also wore wider bodywork which covered some seriously fat rubber (275/40R17 in the front and 315/35R17 out back). 1995 marked the the last year of ZR-1 production and this example, one of just 448 made that year, has only 13,472 on the odometer. It’s hardly broken in!
The LT5’s 405-horsepower output was very impressive for the time. Though, it’s easy to assume that Chevrolet knew its pushrod Gen-III V-8 (developed for the upcoming C5 Corvette) would eclipse the high-tech DOHC wonder-block. It wasn’t until the 2022 Corvette Z06 that Chevrolet stuffed a DOHC V-8 back into its landmark sports car. If you want multiple cams in front of the coupe, a C4 ZR-1 is your only—and best—choice.
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I’ll take the ZR-1’s. Any of them. Love that engine.