Photos by Jerry Heasley
By 1996, the C4 Corvette was in its 13th and last year of production. During those 13 years, Chevrolet engineering took the Corvette on a yearly quest to improve quality and performance, and most would say they certainly succeeded. But by 1996, styling and engineering features were dated compared to the competition, and Chevrolet knew they needed something special to help close out the heritage of the C4. Chevy accomplished its task with two new specialty Corvettes.
Knowing that a completely new Corvette was in the wings, little was changed for the base Corvette. Externally and internally the Corvette continued to be, for the most part, a carryover from 1995. The LT1 engine, coupled with either a six-speed manual or automatic transmission, powered the base car. Buyers could order the car either as a convertible or coupe that featured a removable roof.
In the departed ZR-1’s place, two low-volume, specialty Corvettes were introduced for 1996: the Collector Edition, a resurrection of the 1982 Collector Edition, and the Corvette Grand Sport. The Collector Edition, available in Sebring Silver only, made silver the most popular color for the year, and it was the only year in which red was not the favorite color. MSRP for the option was a mere $1,250 over the base car. Outside, special “Collector Edition” emblems were displayed at four points on the body. The standard engine was Chevrolet’s LT1; however the LT4 was on the option list for an additional $1,450. Ordering the LT4 required the six-speed manual trans. Wheels on the Collector Edition were five-spoke painted aluminum similar to the ZR-1, but in a smaller width. Other external visuals included black brake calipers with raised bright aluminum “Corvette” lettering. Perforated leather seats–optional on base Corvettes–were standard on the Collector Edition and included “Collector Edition” embroidery.
Corvette’s high performance vehicle for 1996 was the Corvette Grand Sport. All Grand Sports were Admiral Blue Metallic in color, with a wide white stripe stretching from the front fascia to the rear fascia and twin red hash marks on the left front fender, reminiscent of the original Grand Sport racing cars built to fend off Carroll Shelby and his Cobras. The Grand Sport was available as a coupe or convertible. Production was limited to 1,000 units, and priced at an additional $2,880 for a convertible and $3,250 for a coupe.
Externally, the Grand Sport option included chromed “Corvette” emblems on the hood and fuel filler door, rear-wheel flares, and “Grand Sport” emblems on the front fenders. Special black five-spoke aluminum wheels and black brake calipers with raised bright aluminum “Corvette” lettering finished off the special effects.
Inside, specially designed perforated red/black or black leather seats with “Grand Sport” embroidery were standard equipment. Interior changes were limited to a new 8,000-rpm tachometer required on all LT4 Corvettes.
Chevrolet’s new LT4 was a powerhouse. While similar to the cast-iron block/aluminum head LT1, the LT4 made an additional 30 horsepower through the use of hot rod modifications. Larger valves and ports, a higher-lift camshaft, and 1.6-ratio roller rocker arms, plus larger fuel injectors that provided the additional fuel required. Redline was 6300 rpm, as opposed to the 5700 rpm redline of the LT1. All LT4s were backed up by a six-speed manual transmission.
By the end of the model year, 21,536 Corvettes were sold. Of that number 5,412 Collector Editions and 1,000 Grand Sports landed in the hands of new owners. They are among the rarest and the fastest of the factory C4s.
Special thanks to the owner of this month’s feature car: Norma Hart of Gainesville, TX.
Fuel For Thought
Final year for C4 production
All engines were built in Romulus, Michigan
All Grand Sports were given special serial numbers
LT4 was standard on the Grand Sport
Grand Sport convertibles received narrower rims and tires
Number built – 21,536 total, 5,412 Collector Editions, 1,000 Grand Sports
Construction – Cage-frame construction with fiberglass body
Engine – 350 cubic-inch V-8
Power/Torque – 350 cubic-inch V-8, 300 horsepower, 335 lb-ft torque (LT1), 350 cubic-inch V-8, 330 horsepower, 340 lb-ft torque (LT4)
Transmissions – Four-speed automatic, six-speed manual
Suspension front – Single fiberglass composite mono-leaf transverse spring with unequal-length aluminum control arms and stabilizer bar
Suspension rear – Fully independent five-link system with transverse fiberglass single-leaf springs, aluminum upper/lower trailing links, and strut-rod tie rod
Steering – Rack and pinion
Brakes – Four-wheel disc, 13-inch front, 12-inch rear
Length/width/height – 178.5/70.7/46.3 inches
Wheelbase – 96.2 inches
Weight – 3,360 lbs.
0-60mph/quarter mile – 5.1 seconds, 13.7 seconds at 104 mph (Car and Driver, January 1996)
Top speed – 168 mph
MPG – 12 - 21 mpg
Price – MSRP - $37,225; Today – $18,900 - $36,800
Engine – The LT4 engine included among other things four-bolt mains, a special nodular iron crankshaft, and 10.8:1 compression. The LT4 included hollow valve stems, higher-rate springs, and a high-lift camshaft.
Handling – Handling was outstanding. With its nearly 50/50 weight distribution and optional Z51 performance handling package, around .90g was available for the price of a slightly rougher ride.
1996 Dodge Viper RT/10
Number built – 721
0-60/quarter mile – 4.6 seconds, 12.9 seconds at 112 mph
Top speed – 170 mph est.
Price – MSRP - $58,500; Today – $23,900 - $39,000
1991-96 Porsche 911 Carrera Targa
Number built – N/A
0-60/quarter mile – 5.9 seconds, 14.3 seconds at 101 mph (1996)
Top speed – 161 mph
Price – MSRP - $75,245; Today – $13,525 - $21,900
Low production vehicle with incredible performance
Styling was dated
Handling, while very good, was not world class
Ride was considered rough
Most 1996 Corvettes are driven almost on a daily basis. The car features enough comfort features that there is no reason to leave it in the garage, but owners of rare Grand Sports may disagree.
Insurance cost is $519/year for a $24,800 1996 Corvette Grand Sport. This is based on 3,000 miles per year of pleasure driving.
*Based on a quote from Heacock Classic Car Insurance, www.heacockclassic.com
What To Pay
1996 CORVETTE GRAND SPORT
MSRP – $37,225
Low – $18,900
Average – $24,800
High – $36,800
*Based on prices from the Classic Cars and Parts Price Guide, fueled by NADA and available wherever Corvette & Chevy magazines are sold.
Front suspension rebuild kit $179.99
Dash pad (lower) $161.00
Outside mirror (L/S heated) $368.99
Rear spring $389.99
*Based on information from
Corvette America Inc.
Collector’s Originality Guide Corvette C4 1984-1996 by Tom Falconer
All Corvettes Are Red by James Schefter
Mike Yager’s Corvette Bible by Mike Yager
Corvette: Five Decades of Sports Car Speed by Tom Benford and Randy Leffingwell
The Complete Book of Corvette by Mike Mueller
The Corvette Grand Sport represents the refinement of a true American sports car. During its presence, the C4 Corvette brought style and function together, tightly wrapped around a high-performance car. Throughout the years, specialty versions gave owners the opportunity to purchase a unique vehicle that today is looked upon as a testament of American ingenuity.