The Corvette, despite all of the criticism leveled against it over the years, has always been a big favorite of mine. From the originals in the 1950s to the newest ZR-1, each is unique, yet also somehow the same. However, one of the ones that got a lot of criticism when it was new, the C4, did improve over its life, and the later models are becoming a serious bargain on the used-car market.
Let me make it clear that anyone looking for a C4 should avoid all of the ones built before 1989. The manual transmission was changed to a six-speed manual that year, and it greatly improved reliability and performance. The engine, while still the old V8 from 1986, isn’t necessarily powerful from the factory, but there are upgrades available for it. However, I most recommend the LT1 variant, which hit the highways in 1992. The LT-1 brought the word “performance” back to the standard ‘Vette that year, with 300HP, and anywhere from 320 to 350 lbs/ft of torque on tap. In addition, the Corvette got a final update in its last year of the C4–in 1996, the LT4 engine was dropped into its engine bay, which was exclusive to the manual trans and offered 320HP under the big pedal.
A quick look on the Internet revealed that one could purchase a six-speed LT-1 model for as little as around $8K, and one in fairly excellent condition for up to 16 thousand. I would say, for one that’s been enjoyed with plenty of life left in it, spend around 12-13 large and have a ball. The 1996 LT4 models tend to cost a bit more, usually up to 18 or 19 thousand. However, even a ZR-1 can be had for just less than 20 grand (usually the earliest models), which makes virtually any C4 a pretty darn good bargain buy.