With the long-awaited debut of the all new fourth-generation Corvette in 1983, performance took quantum leaps forward, but while the ‘C4’ was capable of outperforming most of the best exotic cars from Europe, Corvette engineering chief Dave McLellan realized America’s Sports Car needed more – in terms of both performance and exotic specifications – to vault the model to the head of the pack. To accomplish this objective, McLellan’s team conceived a special new V8 engine based around a lightweight, all-alloy 350ci block sharing only bore spacing with the “regular” Chevy small block. Development was in collaboration with the UK’s Lotus and brought dual overhead cams per cylinder bank, 4 valves per cylinder, and a radical new dual-runner intake. The new engine, coded LT-5, was precision built by Mercury Marine in Stillwater, Oklahoma and initially delivered 375 bhp, with a broad and flat torque curve and exceptional drivability. Handling set a new standard at 1.0g lateral acceleration, thanks to Bilstein-designed Selective Ride Control and huge Goodyear “Gatorback” tires, necessitating updated rear bodywork and wider fenders, and braking was equally impressive with 13-inch discs and ABS. Designated ZR-1, the awesome new ‘Vette was released for sale as a 1990 model, priced a whopping $27k above the Corvette’s $32k starting price. Careful development brought additional power and the ZR-1 was offered through 1995, with only 6,922 units produced in all.
Part of a private auto museum collection and now offered for sale to thin the herd, this first year 1990 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 features excellent Red-on-Red paint/leather colors and comes to market with just 13,622 original miles. Semi-rare as 1 of 3,049 produced for the inaugural ZR-1, it comes with the always appreciated 6-speed manual transmission, 2 tops, and loaded with features and options including power steering, power brakes, air conditioning, power windows and locks, power seat, and more. As related by the seller, it’s in very nice condition inside and out, shows very well, and runs and drives great, while a clean Carfax is thankfully also included.
Dubbed “King of the Hill” by the motoring press, the original ZR-1 series solidified the Corvette’s legitimacy on the world stage and captured 7 international and world speed records, while it also serves as an important link in the Corvette’s eventual dominance of GT competition at the 24-Hours of Le Mans. Many were bought from the showroom and have been preserved, displayed, and used sparingly, but they are simply fabulous supercars by any standard and even by today’s sadly jaded ideals. According to Hagerty’s current price guide, the first year ZR-1 should bring $11,700 in #4 driver quality, $18,900 in good #3 condition, $28,500 in excellent #2 form, and $43k at #1 concours level, and we see comparable examples consistently sell at auction in the $25k range. Pricing is consistent with #2 quality, and with the limited mileage, collection care, and some informed negotiation, it just might be fair market. Hopefully the original “Pizza Box” of ZR-1 extras and memorabilia goes with it!