With good reason, Chevrolet took no chances. Not since 1968 had there been a complete rethink of the iconic Corvette. Designed and made in 1982, a new car was ready to roll off the production line by March 1983, but Chevrolet preferred to test the 50-odd prototypes to the limit before permitting sales of the C4 1984-designated model year. By October the look was right. It was leaner and more purposeful than its flamboyant predecessor.
It had a ‘birdcage’ unibody of galvanised steel with a one-piece removeable roof panel, rear hatch window, and a front-opening ‘clamshell’ hood. Shorter but wider, and still heavy despite all its lightweight components, the C4 was an enormous aerodynamic improvement on the past.
It looked race-ready, even if you were only going to the mall; but its thundering 5.7 litre V8 was constantly thwarted by General Motors’ temperamental new ‘Crossfire Injection’ fuel system, and the suspension (influenced by Britain’s Lotus, to make it feel more ‘European’) was in fact bruising on the school run. 1984 came good in 1985. The C4 Corvette now incorporated dozens of refinements to safety and comfort inspired by real-world ergonomics, particularly the ride.
The L83 engine was replaced with the much more technologically-advanced L98 as standard. Its tuned-port fuel injection, allied to a mass airflow sensor and new filters, delivered 10% more power for 10% better fuel economy. The Corvette was back, updated and reliable, ready to thrill another whole generation. Car and Driver magazine noted in 1985 that the C4 Corvette was now America’s ‘fastest production car’, with the best acceleration and (alongside the current Porsche) the tightest roadholding. Chevrolet merited the applause (and the sales). Once again, the Corvette was a thoroughly desirable, all-American sports car re-born to the siren song of the open highway.
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: USA
FIRST MANUFACTURED: 1984 (until 1996)
ENGINE: 5.7 I (350 cid) V8
PERFORMANCE: Top speed of 149 mph (240 km/h);0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 5.8 secs
YOU SHOULD KNOW: Rolling Thunderz designs otherwise street-legal race and drag-race cars. The company once modified a 1986 Corvette C4 that became a multiple race record holder in the American supercar Challenge Corvette and Viper drag race series. Naturally aspirated, the car had a top speed of 182 mph (293 km/h) and achieved 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 2.4 secs. Using nitrous oxide, it did 0-60 mph (97 km/h) in 1.7 secs.