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The C4 Corvette as a Project Car: Build it or Forget it?

In case you haven’t been paying attention, in the last few years we’ve seen a big jump in both popularity and price of many sports cars from the 1980s and '90s.

Whether it's a BMW M3 or Toyota Supra, the cars from this era are enjoying a major renaissance, becoming as fashionable and desirable as they ever have been.

C4 Chevy Corvette Side View

The C4 Chevy Corvette though hasn’t followed suit. Long overlooked in the 'Vette linage, the C4 just hasn’t enjoyed the same status bump that other performance cars of the era have—even American offerings like the Ford 5.0 Mustang and Chevy's own IROC-Z.

C4 Corvette Convertible Blue

So what’s the deal? Is a C4 Corvette a great candidate for a project car or should they be avoided at all costs? Let’s take a look.

Reasons to Forget It

Initially, we'll discuss some of the negatives that surround the C4 Corvette. First up is horsepower. Quite simply, the C4 Corvette was a pretty lousy performer out of the box—especially the early ‘80s models that used the infamous Crossfire fuel injection setup.

C4 Corvette Cut Away Illustration

Performance improved significantly in the following years with the addition of the 5.7 TPI small block and later the LT1 V8, but again even these engines are modest in output when compared to the newer LS-powered Corvettes.

C4 Corvette TPI Small Block V8

Another strike against the C4 is build quality. GM cars of the 1980s weren’t known for their superior fit and finish and the C4 is no exception. However, if you can get past the rattles and low stock performance level, the C4 offers a lot for the enthusiast.

C4 Corvette Interior Red and Black

Reasons to Build It

First up is the price. C4 Corvettes are cheap, and for whatever reason they haven’t had a big rise in value like many other cars from the era.

C4 Corvette Rear View

For less than $10,000 you can pretty easily get a nice, newer model with the more desirable engines, and decent drivers can be had for $5,00, where projects can be had for a few grand or less.

C4 Corvette Blue

And one thing that you will get with the C4 is a distinct ‘80s vibe and a lot of old school flavor. The ‘80s-‘90s style might not be for everyone, but there’s no denying the C4 is one of the most recognizable cars of the era, and they’ve now aged into being bonafide “classics.”

C4 Corvette Gold Front View

What the C4 brings more than anything though, is potential. With the exception of high end models like the ZR1 its performance was pretty mediocre out of the box, but by modern standards the same can be said about pretty much any car from that era.

C4 Corvette Yellow Convertible

Its handling is decent even in original form and can be much better with aftermarket upgrades, and any variety of newer more powerful LS-based V8s can be swapped into a C4 with relatively little hassle, making any stock horsepower deficiency a moot point.

C4 Corvette Cut Away Photo

The strongest argument against the C4 Corvette as a project car might simply be the C5 Corvette, which offers superior performance, and in many people’s eyes, superior looks at a price that’s still affordable for many enthusiasts.

Chevy C4 Corvette Lineup

However, if you want to stand out from the crowd and embrace the ‘80s vibe and still have big performance potential with your next project, the older, cheaper C4 ‘Vette could be well worth a look.

  • How about another potential GM project from the same era? This one is a pickup truck.
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