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Weekend Edition – Two Little Red Corvette ZR-1s that will make you say “Baby, you’re much too fast!”

Jim Brennan December 2, 2012 For Sale, Weekend Edition 22 Comments

Welcome to the Sunday Edition of the Hooniverse Low Mileage Weekend. The Chevrolet C4 Corvette ZR-1 was Chevrolet’s first attempt to enhance the Corvette into supercar territory. It all started when GM acquired the Lotus Group in 1986, and they were tasked with the idea of developing the world’s fastest production car, based on the C4 generation Corvette. The resulting engine was what GM dubbed the LT5, an aluminum-block V-8 with the same bore centers as the L98, but with four overhead camshafts, 32 valves. There was also a unique air management system for the engine to provide a wider power band giving the ZR-1 375 hp when at wide open throttle, while still having the day to day drive-ability of the standard V-8. In addition to the engine, Lotus helped GM design the ZR-1’s upgraded braking and steering systems, and helped them pick the settings for the standard “FX3” adjustable active ride control that Chevrolet was fitting to the car.

The ZR-1 was produced between 1990 and 1995 with a price that was more than double of the standard Corvette C4. MSRP for the ZR-1 in 1990 was $58,995, and had ballooned to $66,278 by 1995. The engine builder of choice for this project was Mercury Marine Corporation of Stillwater, Oklahoma where they assembled the engines and then ship them to the Corvette factory in Bowling Green. They were special, but are they special enough for you to collect them now?

Here is a Little Red 1990 Corvette ZR-1 with only 5,100 on the odometer, and according to the listing:


With a little over one day to go, the Buy-It-Now price is $33,900, about half of the window sticker. I still think these cars have a little more depreciation to go, but will soon start to increase in value in a few years. So, are you the one who’s gonna try to tame this little red love machine? See the listing here:1990 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1

Here is a 1991 version of the ZR-1, and you can see there were subtle changes made when comparing it to the previous car. Wheels were changed, the front fascia was updated, as were the fake vents located on the front fenders. The interior still was awash in lurid red leather and orange instrumentation, with buttons galore distributed all over the dash panels. According to the listing:

1991 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1. Rare car with less than 6k original miles. 100% original; includes original window sticker. No paintwork, no stories. Glass top and body-color top included. Fresh service with all fluids and filters changed – just brought out of a private collection. I’ll spare you the “own a piece of history” or “rare opportunity” sales lines – if you’re looking at this listing you know what a ZR-1 is and their heritage. This is a very, very clean car with exceptionally low miles.

With a little over 12 daysto go until this listing closes, the Buy-It-Now price is $32,500 with only 5,950 miles showing on the odometer. Choosing between these two ZR-1s is almost like tossing a coin as they both have only 5,000 or so miles, and are priced within $1,500 of each other. Tell me if either of these cars will have you saying “Baby, have you got enough gas?” See the listing here:1991 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1

  • vetteman61

    My dad owned a GM dealership at the time and I remember he went to the Corvette plant for a GM meeting and they let the dealers go out for a test ride on the track. He said at the time it felt amazingly fast. I still have the plaque that hung on his wall from that instance. It hung there until GM decided to close us down, which is another story in itself.

  • Manic_King

    I remember reading that when C4 ZR-1 came out, some people were buying up these and selling for 100-120k a piece only weeks later in the US. I'd love to own one, but with non-red interior as that's just not my cup of tea.
    There's not much "unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt" -stigma in Europe and who cares about it anyway.

  • chrystlubitshi

    glass top option FTMFW….other than that….. LT5 is also the winner…

  • smalleyxb122

    Both of these are priced about right. Super low mileage ZR-1s aren't really that exceptional, since they were assumed to be instant collectibles, thus a lot of people put them away. About $30k has been the market for <10k mile ZR-1s for about the past decade. The prices just haven't moved.

    I prefer the looks of the '91, but the '90 might prove to have slightly better future collectibility.

  • Van_Sarockin

    These are significant cars, and may be very collectible in the future. To me this era is when GM got serious and the Corvette became a real car. Previously the Corvette always struck me as a styling exercise, and a place to stuff a big motor for stoplight drags. But I also think that the Corvette has continued to improve substantially from these cars, both in terms of performance and appearance. I'd be inclined to look for a more recent driver, and likely not with the largest HO motor or the most complicated suspension.

    • Mr. Smee

      Well said, Corvette became a serious sports car with this model. I hope they don't become too collectable, unlike Mopars of late.

  • mnm4ever

    I love the C4 Vette, and this is the best C4 you can get. From what I read, there wasn't a faster Vette until the Z06 came out, and these still beat it in top speed if not acceleration. These prices are probably pretty good for ones with super low miles, but if you look at ones with 20-30k miles you can save over $10k, and not feel so bad driving it. They are not yet rare or collectible, they do not seem to sell fast, and there are lots of them available. I want a driver, not a show car, so I can find several for under $20k, cheaper than a C5 Z06 and much cheaper than a C6. To me, the C6 looks best, the C5 is more comfortable, but the ZR-1 has the potential to become more valuable, I doubt the others will. My biggest issue with a ZR-1 is that parts are harder to find, especially performance mods. You pretty much need to like it as it is. But the good part is almost all of these are owned by fanatics so they tend to be in perfect condition regardless of the miles.

  • gearz1

    Both fine cars,but no red cars for me. Dark Green with tan interior as long as we are dreaming.

    • mnm4ever

      Only small british cars should be green with tan interiors. Wasn't it once said that all Corvettes are red, the rest are mistakes?? 🙂

      The good news for you is that dark green was very popular during the C4 period, so there are lots of them for sale.

  • I forgot how good looking those engines are.

  • Rover1

    I guess Lotus survived their GM ownership better than SAAB.They are still with us.A shame this engine wasn't used in anything else, Lotus Carlton/Omega V8? Now that would have made a great Cadillac Catera.
    Also, has anyone put one in an Espirit?

    • Van_Sarockin

      Well, they did get a V8 into the Esprit eventually. I'd suspect the ZR1 motor would be a good bit larger. Maybe a tasteful little chassis stretch?

      • Rover1

        Excellent use of the word 'tasteful' , (also see below).

    • The V8 that landed in the Esprit was a mite more sophisticated than the ZR-1 unit and had to be detuned heavily to 350hp to actually be of any use when teamed with the liquorice gearbox that Lotus liked to use.

      Plus the Turbo 3.6 straight-six in the Carlton had 377hp anyway, which is MOAR.

      • Rover1

        But what if the V8 was tastefully turboed?

        • BlackIce_GTS

          ZR-1 B2K?
          C4 had a lot of special editions, most of them good.

  • James

    I dig the 90. It was totally unique among C4's, with the pre-facelift front end and the post-facelift rear end. That bubble butt was exclusive to the ZR-1 until 1992 I believe, which made it easier to tell it apart. The ZR-1 was my original car obsession when I was 12… that and the Lotus Europa. Then the MR2.

    • James

      Also, I prefer the 90's wheels and front end to the 91+. Picky me.

  • hwyengr

    The ZR-1 is a part of the Greatest Automotive Regret of my life. It was '02/'03, I was freshly out of college and freshly into a brand new Mustang GT. The neighborhood Chevy dealer had a green low-mile '94 ZR-1 on their lot, and it had been there for a while. '94 was the first year for the 405hp LT-5. I think they were asking $37k. Every so often I'd stop by to kick the tires and bullshit with the dealer. One day I go in, take the test drive, and low-ball them down to $26k, pending me somehow unloading the Mustang. I couldn't believe it, but they accepted the offer.

    Naturally, I was still $5k underwater on the Mustang, so there was no reasonable way for me to get rid of it and I had to walk away. I've never seen an under-100k '94+ for under $35k again.

    I've actually held a grudge against that Mustang ever since.

    • mnm4ever

      I never noticed the huge difference in prices between the '94 and earlier ZR-1s until you pointed it out. Was there any other differences between the earlier and later cars? From what I read, it isn't hard to upgrade the earlier 375hp engines to 405+hp.

  • dan1malk

    I learned how to drive stick in a '93 ZR-1. Ruby Red 40th.

    True (terrifying) story.

    My dad was a great teacher.

  • Alff

    I don’t dislike C4s in the way that many do and the ZR-1 is the one to get. However, these are $20K cars at best.