Forty One Years of Classic Small-Block Chevy Success and Power!
When the Cadillac-derived Small-block Chevy engine first arrived in 1955, I’m certain that Ed Cole and his team of Chevrolet engineers never imagined that their efforts would have such a profound and long lasting impact on the automobile industry. The little 265-cubic-inch engine had just 162-horsepower. By 1970 the 350-cubic-inch LT-1 engine was packing 370 gross horsepower. Beginning in 1973 Gm started rating their engines in “net” figures making it look as if the legs had been cut out from under all of their motors. While it’s true that there were emissions restrictions and reduced compression, the “net” power ratings were in real-world terms, closer to reality. From ‘73 to ‘96 it was a long slow slog, but the last SBC to use the basic original design was the 330-horsepower LT4. So, what would be the ”gross” horsepower rating of a ‘96 LT4? That would be anyone’s guess, but somewhere close to or over 400-horsepower would be a good guess.
Since Spring ‘11 I have been asking the question in my Illustrated Corvette Series VETTE Magazine column, “What’s the best _____?” for each generation Corvette. ICS No. 174 takes a look at the 1996 LT4 Corvette and asks, is this “The Finished Classic SBC?” let’s get into the details. Talk about going out with a roar! Enjoy – Scott
Illustrated Corvette Series No. 174: 1996 LT4 Small-Block Chevy – “The Finished Classic SBC?”
The ‘97 C5 Corvette was introduced to the press in November ‘96 at Road Atlanta Raceway, in Georgia and went on sale at Chevrolet dealers on March 7, 1997. Not only was the body, interior, chassis, and suspension all-new, there was a totally new engine and transaxle. The splash the new C5 created, followed up with roadsters, Pace Cars, hardtops, race cars, and a Le Mans win in ‘01, was so huge that the highlights and achievements of the C4s quickly faded. While the jewel-like LT-5 that powered the exotic ZR-1 still stands as the high watermark of the C4 generation, there was a quieter high watermark that took place. Had the LT4 engine option arrived a few years before, there would have been another Chevy legend.
The C5 program was an on-and-off-and-on again project due to GM’s financial troubles in the early ‘90s. Initial sorties began in ‘88 with the intention of an all-new C5 a ‘93 model. Corvette chief engineer, Dave McLellan was given a budget of $250 million, but that number turned into a roller coaster ride with the C5 being pushed back year after year. GM’s miracle of the ‘90s was that there even was a C5 Corvette. All of this makes the LT4 even more amazing. Continue reading “1996 LT4 Small-Block Chevy – The Finished Classic SBC?”