After the 15-year C3 production run, no one expected the C4 to roll on for 13 seasons. Considering where the Corvette was in 1982, the C4 was a true performance success. To wrap up the C4 production run, two special editions were offered: the $1,250 Collector Edition and the $3,250 Grand Sport. Hearkening back to the '78 25th Anniversary Edition, the Collector Edition consisted strictly of paint and minor trim changes. The Sebring Silver paint was coordinated with silver-painted, ZR-1 five-spoke wheels and dedicated badges. Brake calipers were black with silver "Corvette" lettering. The interior was available in black, red, or gray, with embroidery on the headrests of the perforated sport seats. There were no power enhancements to the 300hp LT1, but the optional LT4 (manual only) had an extra 30 hp thanks to an assortment of hot-rod tricks. A loaded coupe cost around $44,300, and a loaded convertible went for just more than $53,200. A total of 5,412 units were produced.
But the big dog for 1996 was the Grand Sport. This package was available for $3,250 on the coupe and $2,880 on the roadster. Production was limited to just 1,000 units-810 coupes and 190 roadsters. This was the first time Chevrolet officially used the moniker "Grand Sport" on a Corvette, and with its limited production, the car caused quite a stir. The Grand Sport was loaded with every performance option available on a C4. The Admiral Blue paint, white stripe, red fender hash marks, and black ZL-1 wheels created a beautiful-yet-purposeful look. Under the hood was the 330-horse LT4, topped with a powdercoated red intake and crammed with every performance trick Corvette engineers could stuff into a production Vette. To put the extra power to the ground, the Grand Sport was shod with ZR-1 315/35ZR17 tires that necessitated the use of the little-known export rear fender flares. (Since the roadster didn't have the same chassis rigidity, regular size tires were used on that model.) The interior was available in either all black or black with red trim. The perforated sport seats and floor mats had Grand Sport embroidery. To complete the package, all Grand Sports had separate serial-number sequences. A loaded Grand Sport cost almost $45,000.
The C5 was arguably the most complete "new" Corvette to ever hit the market. Between the arrival of the Z06 in 2001 and the racing success of the C5-Rs, suddenly it was 1970 all over again. Anticipation of the 50th Anniversary Vette was as high as it was for the '78 Pace Car, and many were disappointed that the car wasn't more performance oriented. But with the C6 already in development, the 50th Anniversary car was destined to be a trim-and-accessories package. The $5,000 option boasted every creature comfort Chevy had on the shelf, including Head Up Display, power telescoping steering column, electrochromic mirrors, memory package, twilight sentinel, and F55 Magnetic Selective Ride Control. The car was painted with Anniversary Red "Xirallic Crystal" paint and dressed up with unique emblems. The five-spoke aluminum wheels were painted champagne. The Shale interior had light gray-beige seats and carpeting, with darker gray-beige on the console, instrument panel, and door panels. The seats and floor mats were embroidered with the 50th Anniversary logo. Unfortunately for performance fans, the package was not offered on the Z06.
The logistics of modern automobile manufacturing are a mind-numbing enterprise. And coordinating special-edition versions is no small feat. Fortunately, Corvettes inspire designers, product planners, and line workers to build special versions of an already special car.
For this and previous "Designer Series" articles, go to www.IllustratedCorvetteSeries.com.