“Collector’s Originality Guide: Corvette C4 1984 – 1996” by Tom Falconer & Photography by James Mann
The introduction of the C4 Corvette in the Fall of ‘83 was a much anticipated automotive event. Times were tough through the ‘70s and no one anticipated in ‘68 that the new Mako Shark-inspired car would have a 15-model-year production run. And when you consider that the car was riding on a chassis designed in ‘60-’61 for the C2 Sting Ray, it’s all the more amazing that the late C3 cars set all-time sales records.
Just like all Corvettes from the beginning, the C4 was a car that was in constant evolution. Every year, Corvette Chief Engineer, Dave McLellan and his devoted crew of engineers and stylists made small improvements, with an occasional big leap forward. Little did we know when the C4 was first shown at the end of ‘83 that this Corvette generation would last almost as long as the C3 generation – 13 model years.
If one reads some of the literature from Corvette insiders, it’s clear that there was a cabal of enthusiasts that were lobbying for the C5 as early as the late ‘80s. But a brief history reminder will underscore the fact that in the early ‘90s the nation was in what became known as “the recession no one was talking about.” GM was also in dire straits and upper management was in no mood to spend big bucks for a new Corvette. By the time the last C4 rolled off the assembly line, Chevrolet had sold just over 365,000 Corvettes.
While there was considerable angst to get the C5 started, the C4 cars just kept getting a little better every year and also provided an excellent stepping off position for the new C5, which turned out to be an awesome car. So much so that within a few years, prices for C4 cars began to plummet. Today, now that there we’re well into the C6 generation cars, some C4 cars can be bought for under $5,000, which sets up an interesting situation.
While relatively visually unchanged since its introduction in the Fall of ’83, the ’96 Corvette with the optional LT4 engine was like a totally different car!
With so many C4s available at rock bottom prices, the time has never been better to get into the Corvette hobby for not a lot of money. Of course, the ‘84 cars have the lowest prices and ‘96 Grand Sports are still commanding a good dollar. Almost everything else in between is up for grabs. With SO many C4s to pick and choose from, a comprehensive C4 guidebook is essential. Enter, “Collector’s Originality Guide: Corvette C4 1984 – 1996” by Tom Falconer & Photography by James Mann. I loved this book! The writing, photography, documentation, layout and design are first rate and the book follows a logical, progressive format.
There are 15 chapters in the book. Chapter 1 covers the C4 Corvette basics with a tight overview written by Tom Falconer that covers the entire fourth generation Corvettes. Chapters 2 through 14 cover each year Corvette, with Chapter 15 is for those interested in restoring their Corvette for NCRS judging. As one goes through each year’s chapter, the writing format is the same; An Introduction, followed by subsections covering, Wheels and tires, Uniframe, Body and trim, Engines, Transmissions, Differential, Cooling system, Interior, Instruments, Suspension and steering, and lastly Brakes.
Note the 4th car from the front on the top – it’s a ’96 Grand Sport!
The photography is stunning! I could not have done a more comprehensive documentation of each car myself. Every shot is beautifully composed and lit. James Mann provides the reader with every angle of view needed to fully comprehend the differences of each year. Photographs include; side views, front 3/4 views, rear 3/4 views, straight on front, straight on rear views, doors open and closed, hood up and hood down, engine shots from various angles, interior shots, dash detail shots, interior controls details, door, mirror, and vent detail shots, badge details, headlights, turn signals, brake lights, and side marker details.
Also included are statistic boxes for VIN numbers, production figures, Dimensions and weights, Engine codes, Options, Interior and exterior codes for color options.
Perhaps the neatest aspect of the C4 Corvettes is because there were so many produced and the car is basically the same from ‘84 to ‘96, even the earliest C4s can be bought for a song and updated with stout suspension parts, GM crate engines, and body kits from mild to wild. C4s can be seriously modified and no one will rap you for cutting up what could be construed as a future classic. Exceptions being or course the ZR-1 C4s, the Anniversary Editions, and the rare and much sought after Grand Sports. THOSE you’d best not cut up or you could get your Corvette enthusiasts license revoked! Anything else is fair game, so be creative and have at it!
The ’96 Collector Edition Corvette with the optional LT4 engine was a DEAL!
While the C5 and C6 Corvettes are truly awesome mass-produced performance cars, many C4s were quite fierce on the race track. C4 Corvettes totally dominated the SCCA Showroom Stock Series, so much so that they were banned and forced to race amongst themselves. Reeves Callaway worked his turbocharging magic with a streetable ‘88 model that was driven by drag racing legend, John Lingenfelter to a record speed of 254-mph! Plus, Tommy Morrison smashed a 50-year old 24-hour average speed record with an average speed of 175.885-mph in what was essentially a stock 1990 ZR-1, enhanced with just a roll cage and racing safety equipment. So, while C4s do stand in the long shadow of the C5 and C6 Corvettes, they were by no means, slouches!
“Collector’s Originality Guide: Corvette C4 1984 – 1996” is a book that could be consumed in a weekend or dished out in portions. But like eating a bag or potato chips, it’ll be hard to stop at just one chapter. A thorough reading of this book will leave you knowing more about C4 Vettes than most or your Corvette friends. If a C4 looks inviting as an entry Corvette or you’re looking for a project car to personalize, a good guidebook would be essential. The Falconer / Mann book would be a “must have!”
Author and Corvette expert, Tom Falconer.
Tom Falconer has also written books on C1, C2, and C3 Corvettes. And I sincerely hope that he’s working on C5 and C6 books. If and when he does, they WILL be part of my Corvette reference library.
Save the Wave! – Scott