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The Chevrolet Corvette delivers American sports car thrills for considerably less than its perennial European rivals like the Porsche 911. Better yet, with eight generations of ‘Vette, fans have plenty to choose from to suit their tastes and budget. Further, the fourth-generation Chevrolet Corvette, or C4, is the most affordable of all the nameplate’s iterations. However, even with an eye-watering average used car price, the C4 Corvette has a significant drawback: its dated interior.

The C4 Corvette might be an American sports car bargain, but it has its drawbacks

A set of C4 Chevrolet Corvette dials next to 
C5 dials in an American sports car comparison.
A set of C4 and C5 dials | Cars & Bids

The fourth-generation Chevrolet Corvette is a bona fide classic sports car bargain. However, not even the first generation of fuel-injected V8s could save fans from the car’s glaring issue. That’s right; like so many reality television stars, the handsome exterior conceals flaws within. 

The first thing drivers will notice upon slipping into the C4’s cockpit is the general layout. A cacophony of harsh geometric shapes comes together to create a dated landscape of rectangles and clumsy arches. Further, early C4 models incorporate digital displays akin to KITT from “Knight Rider.” In fact, Car and Driver said that the only manner in which the C4 “defers to the bizarre” is with its “video-game instrument panel” upon first testing the American sports car in 1984. 

Dave McLellan, a chief engineer in the fourth-gen Corvette program, admits that the team was “having a little fun with the instrument panel.” It’s apparent, and while it may appeal to a cyberpunk crowd, the displays lack the conventional attractiveness of its successor’s dials. Furthermore, later iterations still failed to receive a clean bill of health from Car and Driver; in 1988, reviews called the interior materials “plasticky” and cited a noisy overall driving experience. 

Despite the C4 Corvette’s dated interior, the wedge-shaped American sports car is a steal

A blue and white C4 Corvette Grand Sport from the 1996 model year drives around a corner.
1996 Chevy Corvette Grand Sport | General Motors

Sure, the interior is on the unconventional side. However, the C4 Corvette is in a category all its own when it comes to affordable classic American sports cars. The early models, with Cross-Fire Injected V8s, were potent enough for spirited driving without the temperament of a carbureted mill. 

Furthermore, post-1992 models incorporated the beloved Gen-II LT family of small-block Chevrolet motors, a welcome improvement over the outgoing engines. Moreover, with average prices at $15,000 or less for decent examples, the C4 remains the cheapest generation of Corvette overall. 

Not all hope is lost for the C4’s interior, with aftermarket options

An early C4 shows off its interior.
An early C4 shows off its interior | Cars & Bids

Fortunately, the aftermarket comes to the C4 Corvette’s rescue. With plug-and-play gauge cluster replacements, owners can replace the drab digital displays with analog dials. Moreover, updated stereos and head units can add modern functionality to the Corvette’s controls. 

It’s a prudent move, considering some C4 owners report issues pertaining to washed-out digital displays becoming illegible. Of course, with the cost of upgrades, fans might be better off searching for a fifth-generation model

With a dismal cockpit, is the C4 Corvette a worthwhile sports car in 2023?  

Even with less-than-desirable interior aesthetics, the C4 Corvette is a unique bargain among classic American sports cars. With a fuel-injected V8 up front, a manual transmission in the middle, and open-air roof options, the C4 is an excellent bet for budget-minded ‘Vette fans.

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