The '96 production year was a tough one for Corvette sales. The fast-approaching C5 was on the horizon-threatening to steal potential buyers of '96 Corvettes who were coiled, ready to jump on the all-new '97 Corvettes as soon as they became available. Chevrolet knew it needed something to tickle the purse strings of Corvette shoppers and put a '96 on their must-have list. Not surprisingly, they went to the root of Corvette fanaticism: performance!
Bridging the gap between the LT5 and LS1 engine packages, GM devised another mighty-mouse powerhouse in the LT4. Similar to the LT1 dimensionally, the LT4 used upgrades to achieve a 30hp gain over the LT1 and top the dyno scales at 330 hp at 5,800 rpm and 340 lb-ft of torque at 4,500 rpm. Changes to the heads, intake, and camshaft were responsible for the increase. Slightly larger valves, more lift on a roller-chain-actuated camshaft, and roller rocker arms helped this engine spin up another 600 rpm over the LT1. While the LT4 was available in any Corvette, it was highlighted in the '96 Grand Sport package; and any LT4, whether in a Grand Sport or not, had the Grand Sport throttle-body tag. If you wanted an LT4 in your Corvette, you'd better like shifting gears because the only place GM was installing LT4s in Corvettes was in front of a six-speed manual transmission.
Checking the box for RPO Z16 would put in an order for one of the 1,000 Grand Sports produced for 1996-810 coupes and 190 convertibles. The option included the LT4 engine (with six-speed in tow), an Admiral Blue exterior with the Arctic White stripe, and your choice of either an all-black or black and red interior. All Grand Sports had the same '95 ZR-1 wheels, which were painted black. The coupes used P275/40ZR17 front tires with P315/35ZR17 rears (which required fender flares for the coupes only), and the convertibles used P255/45ZR17 front tires with P285/40ZR17 tires bringing up the rear (no flares, thank you).
Leo Lentz (coupe no. 487) and Brandt Kessler (convertible no. 468) own these two fine examples of Admiral Blue beauties. We corralled them together during a recent show at the National Corvette Museum and they were ready to show off their cars. In fact, Brandt has developed a Web site to help organize Grand Sport owners and provide information about these striped stunners. Visit www.96LT4.com for more info.
Some other Web sites for Grand Sport info: