If you were to ask 90% of the GM-faithful what their least favorite Corvette generation would be, you would more than likely get a unanimous answer; the C4. The reasons for this include the fact that they’re underpowered for a “modern-era” Corvette, being typically outgunned by Turbo Buicks, lightly modified Fox-body Mustangs and F-bodies. They’re also severely overshadowed by their successors, and while we can relate to that, we must first dig a little deeper to further understand the car.
When the fourth-generation Corvette (C4) was first unleashed in 1984, it was a clean slate design over the archaic C3 that it replaced, dating back to the ’60s. It arrived to the party with a Cross-Fire injected 5.7L V8 that carried over from the 1982 model, and was only good for 205 hp and 290 lb-ft of torque. If you wanted serious performance, you had a serious hill to climb from an enthusiast standpoint as a new Corvette owner. While the aftermarket had helped to a certain degree, it still wasn’t enough to get the most-hardcore gearhead to embrace the fresh ‘Vette.
Luckily, Chevrolet was quick to answer the call for the C4’s second year of production, with the brand new 350 ci. TPI L98 V8. After receiving a 25 hp and 40 lb-ft shot of adrenaline, the output jumped to 230 hp and torque had been increased to 330, respectively. Performance had improved significantly as a result, proving the Corvette was adamant about its place in the performance world.
After already having tested the ’84 Corvette just a year earlier, our colleagues at MotorWeek had to get their hands on a 1985 Corvette to test out the update drivetrain. They actually took it a step further, and performed a side-by-side comparison of a base automatic car, against a 5-speed Z51-equipped version. While their findings between the two weren’t entirely shocking to this author, we were pleased and quite impressed, with their findings.
The automatic-equipped car had actually eclipsed the 14-second barrier, with a 13.9 at 95 mph while the manual Z51 pulled a 14.2 at 93 mph. MotorWeek cited the reason for this was the longer throws of the manual and the automatic’s quicker, crisper shifts aided in its victory. MotorWeek also liked the more comfortable, reworked suspension and updated instrument cluster, citing the 1984 models’ gauges were too dim and hard to read.
While we don;’t know for sure if the Corvette will ever find its place in the collector car market, we do know that they still offer an incredible bang-for-the-buck platform to build upon for high-levels of performance. Get them now, while they’re still cheap!
Rick Seitz is the owner and founder of GMEFI Magazine, and has a true love and passion for all vehicles. When he isn’t tuning, testing, or competing with the brand’s current crop of project vehicles, he’s busy tinkering and planning the next modifications for his own cars.