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2023-06-14 19:30:55

C4 Corvette - 2023 BUYER'S GUIDE (Values, Gas Mileage, Yearly Changes 1984-1996)

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So you're interested in the four Gen C four Corvette that is super rad , but with so many permutations over its 12 year lifespan , it can be hard to figure out what year or options are right for you .

So in this video , I'm shining some light on this subject with the concisely edited C four buyers guide that covers everything that matters .

I'll show you the highlights of what changed over the C fours run reliability concerns at different years and options .

The truth about their fuel economy and how much C four S are really worth today .

Welcome to retro cars forever .

My name is Brad here once again to talk about my favorite subject .

The C four Corvette , the C four model years ran from 1984 all the way to 1996 during that run , almost nothing remained the same beyond the basic frame and some odds and ends .

So before I go through what changed , let's start with what all C four S have in common .

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Every C four was assembled in Bowling Green , Kentucky , all of them rear wheel drive two seaters built on a perimeter frame with a body made of molded plastic with a fully independent suspension made of aluminum pieces .

Instead of traditional coil springs at each corner , each end of the car is suspended by a single leaf spring mounted sideways , weird , but it works .

And with so little actual metal used in Ac force construction rust is thankfully not much of an issue .

All C fours have this awesome clamshell hood that opens for amazing access to their engine base even though there were many different V eight s used throughout the years that I'll cover shortly , they all had the same displacement 5.7 liters equivalent to 350 cubic inches .

And all C four engines were mounted behind the front wheels .

So technically , C fours are front mid engine for better weight distribution .

So that means the C eight wasn't the first mid engine Corvette after all , what was all that hubbub about ?

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Now , I'm going to highlight the changes and specific problem areas of each model year focusing on differences that might be big enough to sway you to choose one year over another .

And by the way , I'm not covering special editions like the Z R one or the Grand sport or even my 1996 collector edition as I already covered all 13 of those in this special edition video here .

So turn back your clocks to 1984 .

A new Chevrolet Corvette like never before .

The C four's debut model year was the only one to feature , the crossfire V eight , which was mostly a carryover from the C three .

This engine is sometimes dubbed the Cease Fire because it's a funky hybrid between fuel injection and carbo operation that can be difficult to tune when working correctly .

It produced 205 horsepower , the lowest of any C four but around corners , it was a rocket that could embarrass exotics of the day .

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Thanks to its ultra stiff suspension , especially if you ordered the rock hard Z 51 sports package .

1984 introduced some features that would stick around a while such as this hilarious foam padded block that function as a primitive passenger side airbag , which Corvette fans call the bread box .

Gee I wonder how it got that name .

The fully digital displays of these early cars are amazingly rad but they're known to dim over time .

And by now many owners have switched over to brighter L CD bulbs .

The manual transmission option was known as the Doug Nash four plus three because it was a weird four speed manual with three extra electrons overdrives .

This was a complex and somewhat fragile transmission that many found difficult to master and it was actually a bit slower in instrumented testing compared to the automatic .

For all those reasons , most buyers chose the four speed automatic over the manual outside .

We got this famous turbine wheel design .

Notice how the directional spokes curve forward .

Trust me .

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When I say other Corvette owners are going to point out if you get your wheel directions wrong .

So I'm going to go over that here with all the different wheel designs to avoid confusion and embarrassment .

For 1985 the crossfire was fired and in its place was the L 98 which I always thought it looked like the face hugger from alien .

The L 98 had a more advanced tuned port fuel injection system , which meant it was not only more fuel efficient but also more powerful .

230 horsepower was good enough for a top speed of 150 .

1 of the fastest cars you could buy at the time that rock hard suspension was mercifully softened .

About 25% .

Even Chevy admitted they overdid it the previous year for 1986 .

A convertible version became available .

These convertibles have tops that are manually operated and fold down into this well behind the seats that also functions as the trunk be warned that there's not much space back there in the convertibles , especially with the top folded away .

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So if you want more room for stuff like I needed with my daily stick with the relatively roomy hatchback design of the C four coup 86 also introduced standard anti lock brakes making the Corvette one of the very first cars on the market with this advanced safety feature .

By 1987 the L 98 engine got aluminum cylinder heads and hydraulic roller lifters for a bump of 10 horsepower .

Now at 2 40 for 1988 Chevy took lessons learned out on the racetrack and applied them directly to the street car that meant new suspension geometry for better handling and beefier brakes to help fit these upgrades .

Two new wheel designs were introduced .

These 16 inch razor style wheels were standard equipment and once again , the spokes pointed forward car spotters take note , these were only available in 1988 .

The optional 17 inch wheel design is dubbed the salad shooter , which also points that away in 1989 .

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A slick new Z F six speed manual transmission replaced the complex and unloved doug nash four plus three .

I've driven both and I find the more conventional Z F six speed to be a massive improvement in feel in operation .

However , one negative of the Z F six speed is the 1 to 4 skip shift system which thankfully can be eliminated with a simple kit .

Check out my C four K video for more info , how that skip shift system operates .

A new option for the convertible was the £64 removable hardtop .

You can install a hard top on an earlier car but note that it takes some special modifications of the brackets to fit this year .

Also introduced selective ride control .

When this system worked , it was a great way to change how firm or soft you wanted your Corvette to ride the problem is these systems will eventually and finding a replacement shock with a new actuator can easily cost $750 combined .

Just for one corner .

That's seven times more than what a conventional Corvette shock goes for .

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1989 introduced another potentially troublesome option that you'll want to avoid in future model years as well .

The low tire pressure warning system bands attached to the wheels would monitor tire pressures and single a warning light if they sense that any of the tires were too low .

A nice idea .

But in practice , these sensors are very finicky .

If you ever get your tires changed , the bands are easily broken or switched around to the wrong wheel .

That's probably why every C four I've ever been in with this feature had at least one of these two annoying warning lights permanently lit .

In my humble opinion , it's easiest just to skip this feature and use a good old tire pressure gauge .

Instead 1990 debuted a brand new interior which featured a more rounded cockpit like form with an instrument cluster that was a mix of central digital display flanked by analog gauges .

The steering wheel also got an airbag for the first time .

1991 saw styling changes that updated the angular eighties look to a more rounded nineties design .

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1991 also introduced these iconic so blade style wheels , the blades point towards the rear of the car and that's important because they actually function to suck hot air out of the brakes .

The big change in 1992 was the introduction of a new engine gone was the L 98 in with the much stronger 300 horsepower L T one , the downside of the L T one was the fragile opti spark distributor system which is mounted low right below the water pump and could easily short out when moisture built up inside .

But more on this later to help harness that extra power , trash control became standard called A S R for acceleration slip regulation , which is thankfully defeat with the push of this button to help with refinement .

The suspension was softened once again and insulation was added to the interior to cut down on road noise .

93 marked the 40th anniversary of the Corvette .

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So all Corvettes ordered with leather seats , got this special headrest badge , no badge .

If you ordered the standard cloth seats , incidentally 93 was the last year you could order cloth , they sold fewer and fewer cloth seats with each year of the C four .

And after this point , leather became standard .

93 .

Also introduced pass key , a very handy keyless entry system .

I covered exactly how this works in my C four course video , but I'll just say that pass key makes daily driving my later C four A breeze .

So many great improvements arrived in 1994 such as a new electronic control module , electrical issues .

For C fours made before this year can be troublesome .

As early Corvettes were pioneers in controlling many of their systems through computers that were laughably antiquated by today's standards .

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But by 1994 the computerized brain had finally caught up to a point where it could run the car smoothly and make diagnosing any issues much easier to pinpoint a passenger side airbag arrived and the steering wheel was changed from the old four spoke look to this new two spoke design .

Well , it's not the prettiest , it's a big upgrade in functionality with the upper spokes removed .

There's now space for your hands to fully grip the wheel at the correct nine and three o'clock performance driving positions .

The bigger opening made it easier to see the gauges behind as well .

The seats were redesigned to have less restrictive of bolsters .

So if you're say broad in the beam , you'll fit a lot better in these later chairs .

And if you order the optional sport seats , like what my corvette has , you can still adjust the bolsters inward for performance driving the best of both worlds .

The convertible swapped out the plastic rear window for a much nicer glass design with built in the froster for 94 .

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The air conditioning system was switched over from R 12 to ozone friendly R 134 refrigerant .

I mention this because these days if your ac needs a recharge which is to be expected every few years , the R 12 found in earlier systems can now be tricky and expensive to buy .

Whereas R 134 is cheap and easy to find anywhere .

And converting an older Corvette to use R 134 is a job that can cost thousands .

So if you get a 1994 and up , you literally won't have to sweat .

The automatic transmission was given electronic control for better performance .

I can personally tell you that this newer automatic is a lot more fun and responsive than the older design outside .

A new five spoke wheel debuted called a molds for 1994 .

These were only available on the top dog Z R one edition , but they became available later on in a few special edition cars like my 1996 collector edition and they can face any way you want .

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Imagine that 1995 saw some long overdue improvements for the Corvette that addressed many critiques people had with their earlier model years .

Hey , better late than ever .

In fact , if you're looking for a reliable daily driver , that's easy to live with like I was , I highly recommend that you focus your search on Corvettes made in these last two model years and here's why remember the L T One's opti spark distributor that likes to short out if water gets inside .

Well , for 95 they installed an improved vented design , still not bulletproof , but it's a vast improvement over the earlier opti sparks .

Yet another common C four complaint you'll hear about is the squeaks and rattles that can plague the interior .

Chevy addressed that in 1995 by hiding a number of felt adhesive strips throughout key places inside .

It's a noticeable difference .

Earlier , C fours were prone to the side ulsters of the seats splitting along the edges , but in 1995 a more durable French seam helped keep it all together .

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If you're a child of the eighties and nineties like myself , you'll recall the searing pain of these metal G M seat buckles branding your skin after sitting out on a hot day .

Thankfully , these were swapped out for a more modern plastic style .

In 95 the fuel injection system was improved to better utilize ethanol in fuel .

So if you want the smoothest running C four with what comes right out of a modern day gas station you'll want in 1995 in Corvette .

And for you , car spotters , the side fender gills behind the front wheels were changed from the older stack design to a more organic look 1996 the last small year and the one that I own for a few more reasons specific to this year .

Top of that list was the 1996 only L T four engine .

The red L T four is a hot rodded and higher revving version of the L T one that made 30 more horsepower I adore my L T four revving a push rod V eight all the way up to a lofty 6300 R P A red line is nothing short of spine team .

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The L T four was only available if you ordered a stick all automatics got the good old LT one .

If like most buyers in 1996 you were foolish enough to pass up the L T four manual combo for the L T one with the automatic .

At least you got an improved automatic with an updated torque converter for better responsiveness and durability on all 1996 Corvettes , the onboard computer diagnostic was updated to full O D two capability .

This is incredibly helpful if you live in a state with tight emissions controls like I have here in California OD two allows you to better pinpoint and diagnose any issues that can spur a check engine light any off the shelf OD two reader like the one I have here can be connected for a quick and easy scan of all sorts of useful data .

Pretty cool .

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We go gas mileage probably isn't top priority when considering a corvette , but with gas prices as high as they are right now , I figured I'd at least touch on it from talking with other owners and from my own research , the EPA S updated highway mileage readings which is available on their website seem to be pretty accurate that works out to 20 MPG for the earliest cars all the way up to 24 on the later models , like mine across the board manuals , get around one mile per gallon better than automatics , whatever the transmission .

That's pretty good highway mileage for an older car with a big V eight .

The Corvette achieves this because it has ultra tall gearing that keeps the engine speed super low at 70 MPH in top gear .

My car's engine is barely running above idle speed but that reasonable Dr Jekyll highway mileage turns into Mister Hide in the city .

When you have actual stop and go traffic like we have here in L A , you'll get much lower numbers than what the EPA estimates you'll get in the city .

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10 to 13 MPG is about what you'll get depending on your year .

And in performance driving like on a canyon road or a race track .

I found 8 to 10 MPG is all you can hope for .

Now if you want cheap out by running regular gas instead of premium , think again , you can sort of get away with standard gas in the first few years .

But after that , Chevrolet specifically designed these V eight to run their best on 91 octane premium , you gotta pay to click .

So what is AC four actually worth this is a tricky subject because traditional sources like Kelly Blue Book aren't very accurate for cars as old as these and the market has gotten a lot more pricey over the past few years alone .

So I'm gonna give you what I think is the most accurate pricing guide for today based on a variety of sources like recent auction sales , the Corvette magazine buyers guide Haggerty's valuation tool , plus what I see out there on the open market .

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And in Corvette groups , these prices are going to be for cars in good to excellent condition with an average amount of miles which I pay as between 30 and 90,000 .

Yes , believe it or not , 90,000 miles is actually pretty high for AC four .

They can last longer than that , but most C fours are pretty used up by around 140,000 miles .

They require quite a bit of work to keep going strong after that point .

And once again , I'm not covering the values of special editions because I already covered those in my C four special edition video .

The first thing to understand is that early cars are generally worth less than later ones for several reasons .

As you can see in the sales chart , they sold a lot more Corvettes in the first few years .

Those early cars also lack those meaningful improvements that were introduced later on .

Not to mention the extra effects that sheer age can have on reliability .

So let's start with the values of coops and then move on to convertibles , the least valuable version of any C four is a coup with an automatic transmission .

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The base values for good to excellent examples with 30 to 90,000 miles look alike this .

Now let's add some common options .

Many C four coups were sold with an optional , see through target top , add another 500 bucks .

If your coop has one in good shape , add a 1.5 grand premium .

If the car has a manual transmission , as only one out of four Corvettes were ordered with one and it's a desirable option for enthusiasts .

And that treasured 96 only L T four manual combo is worth an extra 2.5 grand alone .

Any sort of non adjustable performance suspension package like Z 51 or C 52 adds another 500 bucks as well .

And finally tack on another 2 to 4 grand .

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If the particular example that you are looking at has service records , the more complete , the service records are , the more value they add records are important because most C fours aren't driven much and many owners don't realize that even a perfect car that's just sitting around has consumables that need change every few years because of age , not just because of mileage .

Even without use , the multiple different fluids will break down over time , the rubber in the belts or the tires will crack and the battery will need replacing once at least every five years .

These are all important bits of preventative maintenance that most owners ignore and you can easily spend 2 to 4 grand extra to get a Corvette up to a baseline level even if nothing is actually broken .

So what you want is an organized folder , like what I have here with records that verify parts and services .

This 10 cent folder can actually add to the value of a Corvette .

Now , let's look at the values of convertibles which started in 1986 .

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Convertibles are worth a grand or two more than the coops .

That's because they're more rare .

Only around one out of three Corvettes in these years were convertibles .

The factor produced for movable hardtop adds a grand and a half to the price as they're hard to come by these days .

The same premium supply from the coops for manual transmissions , sports suspension packages and service records do a bit of math and there you go .

So those are the values of C force today .

But what about the future ?

Are values set to take flight or is there a bubble about to burst ?

While special editions like the grand sport might have spikes here and there .

I see base C four values going on the same trajectory they have for most years , a slow but steady rise .

This might seem surprising when compared to the skyrocketing values of the C four import competition of its day .

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But keeping find that those cars didn't sell nearly as well whereas Chevy sold a healthy total of 350,000 C four Corvettes over the years , those original new Corvette owners had a pretty high average age of somewhere in the upper fifties .

Whereas the original owners in the import crowd tended to be much younger and didn't take as good care of their cars .

So even fewer of those import cars have survived .

And today , most of the Corvette's competitors are nowhere near as easy to fix or to find parts for , for all those reasons .

There are way more clean C four S still on the road .

And even though C fours are gaining more appreciation these days , supply and demand are now about equal with inflation .

My fearless prediction for a nice C four is it will gain an added one grand in value with every year that passes .

Who says investments can't be fun ?

So there's my ultimate C four buyers guide .

If there's anything I need to cover that , you're curious about , leave a question or comment down below .

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I'm always happy to help spread the C four Joy and check out the other Corvette videos on my channel .

You might find what you're looking for on this playlist right here .

Don't forget to subscribe and hit the bell notification icon .

So you don't miss more retro cars forever coming to you soon .

Once again , thanks for watching .

See you next time .


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