• 300-hp, 5.7-liter multi-port fuel-injected V8
  • 4-speed automatic transmission with overdrive
  • Z51 Performance Handling Package
  • Power steering
  • Power anti-lock disc brakes
  • Torch Red exterior
  • Light gray interior
  • Removable tinted roof panel
  • Power leather sport bucket seats
  • 55,337 miles showing

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1996 Chevrolet Corvette coupe
Years Produced:1984–96
Number Produced:17,167 (1996 coupe)
Original List Price:$37,225
SCM Valuation:$9,000
Tune Up Cost:$200
Chassis Number Location:VIN plate at base of windshield
Engine Number Location:Right-front cylinder-head deck
Club Info:1977 Corvette coupe, 1986 Corvette convertible, 1988–89
Investment Grade:D

This car, Lot FR0112, sold for $11,235, including buyer’s premium, at the Greensboro Auto Auction in Greensboro, NC, on July 26, 2019.

Eleven thousand dollars. That’s credit-card money.

I call it that because it’s the kind of coin that can buy a new roof for the house, a transmission and engine replacement in a daily driver, or cover a summer vacation or a medical bill — all occasional parts of normal life. That’s the long way of saying, if you like C4s, $11k for this pampered final-year model seems plenty fair to me.

Long road to refinement

The C4 was the second-longest-running generation in Corvette’s 66-year history, after the C3. The fourth-gen served from 1984 to 1996, during which Chevrolet launched the 32-valve ZR-1, the Z51 Performance Handling Package, the high-output LT4 engine, the Corvette Challenge racing series, and introduced turbocharging with the Callaway RPO B2K option from 1987 to ’91. Ultimately, all of this was an effort to combat the Europeans (notably Porsche) at their own game. And so you could say that the mission established by Chevrolet during the C4’s reign directly led to the just-launched mid-engine C8.

Among C4s, the early ’84 models were criticized for their poor ride quality, and there’s no telling how the Pinball Wizard instrument panels of the ’84–89 models will hold up over time. The top-spec aluminum-head, roller-rocker 1996 LT4 engine, which took over for the costly and complex aluminum DOHC LT5 during the final year of C4 production, was spot-on. It’s a well-worn bar joke that GM always nixed a model right after perfecting it, and that certainly applies to LT4-powered C4s. But that’s now almost a quarter-century in the past.

Entry level, then and now

That leads me to this car. Many who know Corvette C4s feel the ’96 model is the one to have because it is the most refined of the bunch — and because of options such as the LT4 and the wide-hip blue-and-white Grand Sport package.

The total production for 1996 Corvettes was 21,536 units, of which 17,167 were coupes and 4,369 were convertibles. Just 1,000 were Grand Sports, a one-year-only package.

The car reviewed here is thus the most plentiful of all 1996 Corvettes, and lowest on the pecking order. It incorporates only a modest mix of features, including the standard LT1 engine, the Z51 Performance Handling Package, a removable tinted roof panel, power-adjustable sport seats, and the upscale Delco-Bose audio system.

Compared to the 1996 convertible, Grand Sport and Collector Edition trims — and the widely lauded 330-hp LT4 motor option available at the time — this car is nothing special among Corvettes. Even the paint is mainstream, with Torch Red ultimately becoming the second-highest volume color behind Sebring Silver.

So what does it have? Condition, usability and value.

Hit the road

Clearly well cared for, this ’Vette racked up just over 55,000 miles over 23 years. The modest desirability of its original option mix and the middling mileage shown on the odometer, however, make this one beautifully suitable as a regular driver.

Use it a lot or use it a little, but use it. For the price paid, the new owner has nothing to lose and lots of fun to gain. Because, down the road, whether the car has 55,400 or 95,400 miles on the clock, its value will be more or less the same.

In the collector-car environment, where there’s near-constant hand-wringing over how much this car gained or that car lost, and whether an owner is ahead or upside-down in their purchase, it’s important to look at the larger context. In the case of this $11k Corvette, the purchase price was actually only a third to half as much as a three-year lease deal on a C7 Stingray, in which every cent invested vanishes during the lease term. Or to put it another way, the purchase price was less than the first year’s depreciation on a 2019 Stingray.

The 1990s are calling

In the coming age of nanny-state, autonomous driving, there’s something refreshing about a basic C4 Corvette — even an underachieving automatic-transmission model. And so, as cars are festooned with more and more aero aids, electronic controls, cameras and radar systems, let’s hear it for the C4s, which began their journey into time and space way back when Ronald Reagan was in office. And they do have an optimistic future, as the teens of the mid-1990s are now 40-ish, creating a built-in affinity for this model among nascent collectors.

Even though the sales price here was $2,000 more than listed in the ACC Pocket Price Guide — which, incidentally, grades the ’96 Corvette coupe as a “D” investment — this C4 Corvette’s new owner shouldn’t just be laughing all the way to the bank, but at the bank too, as they drive by. Fairly — and intelligently — bought.

(Introductory description courtesy of Greensboro Auto Auction.)

Comments are closed.