With a brand-new Corvette only a year away, Chevrolet marked the end of the C4 generation with two special 1996 Corvette models: The first of them was the Collectors Edition, which included Sebring Silver paint, 5-spoke matching alloy wheels, and special trim. The $1,250 option package, RPO Z15, was ordered on 5,412 coupes and convertibles.

The 1996 Corvette Grand Sport packed excitement with its LT4 V-8, Admiral Blue paint, and unique interior trim.
Of the two special option packages offered for the 1996 Corvette, the Grand Sport
packed more excitement with its included LT4 V-8, vivid Admiral Blue paint,
broad Sixties-style dorsal striping, and unique interior trim.

More exciting was the limited-edition Grand Sport. Priced at $3,250 for the coupe or $2,880 for the convertible, the package included exclusive Admiral Blue paint with a large white stripe and red accents to pay visual homage to the classic Corvette-based racer of the 1960s. The coupe used ZR-1 wheels and tires -- P275/40ZR17s in front and P315/35ZR17s in the rear -- while convertibles rode on P255/45ZR17s in the front and P285/40ZR17s at the back; rear fender flares were added to cover the wider back tires.

The only interior upholstery treatments offered were black or a vivid red/black combination, and the GS was available only with the six-speed manual transmission. Chevy built 1000 Grand Sports, each having a special sequential serial number.

Required on the GS and optional on manual-transmission-equipped coupes and convertibles (at an additional $1,450) was a taste of the next-generation Corvette: a revised 5.7 small-block V-8 called the LT4. The new powerplant came with newly designed aluminum heads, a new throttle body (shared with the '96 LT1), revised camshaft and roller rocker arms, and higher compression, now 10.8:1 compared to 10.4:1 for the LT1.

These and other improvements allowed the LT4 to produce 330 bhp, 30 more than the LT1. Since the new engine redlined at 6,300 rpm (700 more revs than the LT1), models equipped with the LT4 were fitted with 8,000-rpm tachometers instead of the standard 6,000-rpm gauges. When ordered with Grand Sport models, the engine was dressed up with bright red paint and red ignition wires.

Orders for the 1996 Corvette Grand Sport totaled exactly 1,000, with coupes most likely in the majority.
Orders for the 1996 Corvette Grand Sport totaled exactly 1,000,
with coupes most likely in the majority.

Reviewers, however, didn't find that the LT4 added noticeably to the Corvette equation for '96 (clocking similar 0-60 mph times as the LT1), and noted that the beefier tires and revised torque curve made the GS more difficult to launch quickly from a standing start. The tires were also cited for improving cornering abilities, but at the expense of excessive oversteer during extreme handling situations at speed. While the press did appreciate the new engine's higher-revving ability, they also noted that the LT4, lacking an engine oil cooler, tended to overheat at sustained top speeds of around 186 mph. And the GS's garish graphics, especially the optional bright-red upholstery, were considered excessive.

Elsewhere in the line, the standard four-speed automatic transmission was treated to a variety of minor revisions for 1996 -- implemented to further improve shift quality -- and new torque converters promised better durability.

Selective Real Time Damping, RPO F45, replaced the previous Selective Ride suspension option. Similarly priced as the former configuration at $1,695, the F45 suspension calculated the optimal damping mode for its custom shock absorbers to maintain ride and handling quality via data gathered from sensors at all four wheels. The system could alter each shock individually (the former unit governed all four shocks simultaneously) at a rate of once every 10 to 15 milliseconds, or about every foot of roadway traversed at a speed of 60 mph.

What's more, the Z51 Handling Package returned to the options list for coupes after a five-year absence, offering Bilstein shocks, unique front and rear springs, bushings and stabilizers, and 9.5-inch-wide 17-inch wheels with P275/40ZR17 tires. If the $350 package was ordered with the automatic transmission, a 3.07:1 axle ratio was specified. While journalists found that the Z51 package indeed boosted the car's grip and would be ideal for autocross racers, they also judged it to be much too harsh for daily driving, especially in potholed urban areas.

With not one, but two special editions to help bring buyers into dealers' showrooms, Corvette sales rose somewhat for 1996, totaling 21,536. Still, this was a far cry from the C4's 1984 introductory model year, when it racked up sales of more than 51,000 units. But then the Corvette's price had risen by over 70 percent during the C4's run, from $21,800 in 1984 to $37,225 in 1996, which certainly helped to maintain the car's profitability despite the lower volume.

In its 43-year history, the Corvette had evolved from its origins as a garish plastic-bodied toy in the early 1950s into a bona fide sports car in the '60s and '70s. In the '80s and '90s it would become a well-equipped and increasingly sophisticated -- and costly -- touring car epitomized by the final 1996 C4.

Learn about other Corvettes in this generation:

1984 Corvette
1985 Corvette
1986 Corvette
1987 Corvette
1988 Corvette
1989 Corvette
1990 Corvette1991 Corvette1992 Corvette
1993 Corvette1994 Corvette1995 Corvette
1996 Corvette

Looking for more information on Corvettes and other cars? See:

  • Corvettes: Learn about the history behind each model year and see Corvette photographs.
  • Corvette Specifications: Get key specifications, engine and transmission types, prices, and production totals.
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  • Corvette Pictures: Find pictures of the hottest classic and current-year Corvettes.
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  • Consumer Guide Corvette Reviews: Considering a Corvette purchase? See what Consumer Guide has to say.