Five C4s To Watch At The Mecum Chicago Auction This Month

We’ve held for some time that if you want to pick up a good, reasonable “collector” car at auction, then you would do well to visit a local Mecum auction in your area. Whereas other auctions have gone the route of “see and be seen” affairs, Mecum, at least to us anyways, has focused more on providing a broad spectrum of car offerings than where attendees might park their jets.

Enthusiasts can watch the bell-ringers at Mecum auctions, but we’ve always gravitated to the everyday cars that glide over the auction block when the lights aren’t quite so bright. There is perhaps no better value in Corvettes right now than with the broad offerings within the C4 era. While a search of the Mecum Chicago 2018 catalog brought out 48 Corvettes of various generations listed to go across the block, we decided to point out four examples of the C4 era that caught our eye for a variety of reasons.

The One That Started It All

While this may not be the first one on many folks’ list, we quickly noted this ’84 Corvette that appears to be quite original. THIS is where it all started folks, and THIS is what took the world by storm back in ’83. Sure, it’s got the one-year carry-over CrossFire engine and a suspension that could be described as “jarring”, but when it came to carving out some serious “Gs”, these cars set the mark.

This one appears to be a driver (which we don’t mind), and appears to have some updates to the A/C and cooling system. For you originalists, note that the factory scissors hood prop is still there and working. The rims appear original (and are installed correctly) and the PRNDL shifter means you won’t have to worry about the 4+3 working properly.

Originality spiced with a bit of wear is expected. We would not be surprised to find the A/C filled with R-134a instead of R-12, but for the most part, those dusty parts are all original in appearance.

We couldn’t tell if this might be an early production car or not, but it appears that whoever owned this car since new has taken pretty good care of it while they were enjoying it. If you’re looking for one of the earliest examples of C4 to enjoy, this might be your ticket.

From Ho-Hum To Humdinger

On the completely opposite side of the C4 spectrum is this low-miles 1990 ZR-1. Arrest-Me Red exterior and that high-revving LT5 engine makes this a highly-desirable car. The fact that its listed mileage is only 357 means that someone held on to this Corvette, hoping for a retirement program. The original high cost of the RPO and the ensuing frenzy couldn’t hold the resale value as these cars rolled over the calendar. We think they’ve long-since passed on that idea, but these cars can be had for a fair value today.

The LT5 looks very original and well cared for over those short 357 miles it has traveled. At least it appears to have had an oil change since it left the factory.

The fact that there are some low-mileage examples that come available means that the second owner can have a “like-new” car without the original buy-in. Of course, low mileage does mean a premium, but it’s not like it was back in the ‘90s!

Thanks to its low mileage, this car is very original and clean. It has everything, right down to its red "LT5" plug wires and that windshield tint with the little (radar detector) cut-out.

This particular car appears to agree with its low-mileage report and looks to be in great shape. Originality is as you would expect with low-mileage and there doesn’t seem to be much, if any wear on interior/exterior components. If you want a ZR-1 just as it rolled out of Bowling Green, this may be your chance!

Mileage Mystery

It may be said that the C4 generation was the first truly “drivable” Corvette. While there are folks who have always driven their C1-C3s, the C4s have really enjoyed the open road. That makes low-mileage examples pretty special, as many other examples are successfully ratcheting over 100,000 miles by now.

We'd say there's more than 100 miles of wear on this car, but it has a lot of potential. There's a lot of fun still to be had with this car and it could turn out to be the value buy of the event. We'll see!

This 1991 Coupe kind of stumped us, and we think it’s simply a typo. Reading the listing, it states, “Believed to be 100 miles.” We don’t think so for several reasons. First, the car has picked up a LOT of stickers on the console in those 100 miles, and we don’t believe that the alternator and A.I.R. pump would have needed to be removed in that short amount of travel either. And, while Chevrolet is now shrouding the exhaust manifolds to keep heat down, I don’t think they were toying with installing heat-wrapped headers. We don’t know of too many shops that will install headers and heat-wrap within 100 miles of the Assembly Plant.

There are some nice add-ons that the next owner won't need to purchase. Will they add to the car's price?

We’re not saying that anything nefarious is going on here, but it’s apparent that someone has enjoyed this Corvette for what we think, is approximately 100,000 miles. That doesn’t scare us, and we think that the actual mileage may help make this a steal at the event. Let’s face it, if you’re looking for a “100” mile car, you’ll look elsewhere, but if you’re looking for a fun C4 that you can modify and have loads of fun with, then this car may have your name on it next.

Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing

This one snuck up on us. At first we read the listing and thought this was simply an early ‘90s C4, but look closer. It’s got some pretty wide rims on the rear. Remember what we said about the previous ZR-1, well this is the same car with just more road experience.

Definitely a ZR-1, this car has the Power Key and the appropriate build, right down to the ZR-1 badging. We're not sure why it didn't get mentioned.

Marketed as a “90 Coupe”, it has the upgraded dash and a really nice combination of Dark Red Metallic and Saddle interior makes this a really nice, non-Arrest-Me Red car. Sure, it’s got more miles on it than the previously-mentioned one, but we DO think that the one RPO code that effectively doubled the cost of the car is at least worth mentioning.

While not as stunning as a Red/Red combo, we think the Dark Red Metallic and Saddle mix is quite classy! Seats are likely re-skinned, but that's one less thing we'd need to do to enjoy the car!

If this one slides under the radar all the way through the auction block, you may have a new, incredible story to share on those online forums.

Last Year In Grand Fashion

This 1996 Grand Sport appears to be very “as advertised”, in that it has low-ish mileage, but not so low that it forgot how to handle the highway. It also comes with “documentation” and comes with a window sticker. Represented as number 21 of the 1,000 1996 Grand Sports built the last year of C4 production, this car comes with the requisite Admiral Blue and White stripe paint scheme. It also has eye-blazing Red seats.

The contrast is striking, and will help the price of this one-of-1,000 Corvette.

Under the hood, the 330-horsepower LT4 engine appears to be quite original, as you would expect with just over 27,000 miles. All in all, this car makes no grander statement than it’s RPO code, but what it does say is spot-on and pretty well documented.

These cars are highly regarded within the C4 era and being the last year of production meant that Chevy worked most of the bugs out. The fact that it was second in horsepower only to the high-revving LT5 means that you could do much worse in the performance department.

The LT4 is what most enthusiasts were looking for if not a ZR-1. Not all LT4-equipped Corvettes are Grand Sports, but all LT4s got the Grand Sport plate atop the throttle body. Not a bad looking little engine, if we may say so.

Whether you’re searching for a C4 or a prize-winning example from a previous era, the Mecum Chicago auction may have a Corvette that is just right for you. Check out their website, and check back with us after the event and we’ll take a look at what some of these cars went for when the hammer dropped. Til’ then, happy bidding!

About the author

Andy Bolig

Andy has been intrigued by mechanical things all of his life and enjoys tinkering with cars of all makes and ages. Finding value in style points, he can appreciate cars of all power and performance levels. Andy is an avid railfan and gets his “high” by flying radio-controlled model airplanes when time permits. He keeps his feet firmly grounded by working on his two street rods and his supercharged C4 Corvette. Whether planes, trains, motorcycles, or automobiles, Andy has immersed himself in a world driven by internal combustion.
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