HomePick of the DayAmerican exotic '90 Corvette ZR-1

American exotic ’90 Corvette ZR-1


Performance sports cars of the 1990s have become a huge deal in today’s collector car market. Top-of-the-heap cars from Porsche and Ferrari have increased in value as much as 200 percent in the past few years.

You might think you missed the boat, but there is one hyper-performance car from this era that somehow costs about the same as a used Honda Accord, and that’s the Corvette ZR-1 coupe.

The Pick of the Day is from the first year of the limited-edition hot rod, a 1990 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1 in Bright Red with just 23,000 miles traveled since new.

The Corvette retains both of its removable tops

Chevrolet pulled all the stops in creating the high-performance Corvette ZR-1. First and foremost was the brand-new all-aluminum, 32-valve SOHC 5.7-liter V8 that powered the fiberglass missile. Replacing the standard iron-block pushrod V8, the ZR-1 engine was designed with help from Lotus and hand-built by Mercury Marine, due to the company’s expertise in working with all-aluminum engines.

The engine, called the LT5, had a few other interesting features to boost its performance, including a two-phase induction system that allows the car to switch on the fly between its primary and secondary induction ports.

In normal driving, the engine uses only the primary ports, which allow it to deliver fuel mileage as high as 28 mpg. Mash the accelerator pedal and all the ports open and the engine delivers its full 380 horsepower,  getting the car to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds and providing a top speed in excess of 180 mph. Pretty impressive stuff and not equaled until the release of the C5 Z06 in 2001.

ZR-1 is powered by a Lotus-designed, 380-horsepower V8

The suspension engineers at the Corvette factory were not sitting on their hands, and they delivered a revolutionary system. Called the FX3 package, it utilized Bilstein gas-over-oil shock absorbers with a hollow center shaft that contains an adjustable passage that allows vary­ing amounts of shock oil to be added or removed from around the piston, thus providing six different levels of damping. It does this over three, separate suspension settings: Touring, Sport, and Performance.

These settings, which range from 1970s Cadillac cushy to full ox-cart hard, are governed by how fast the car is traveling. This technology came right from F1 racing and even now is featured only on higher-end performance cars. In 1990, it was a revolution, especially for a Corvette.

Despite all of these firsts, as well as a total ZR-1 production run of just 6,937 examples from 1990-1995, these cars have never hit the value stratosphere, for whatever reason.

The asking price is affordable for such a highly advanced sports car

This example has both its removable tops, one made of solid-red fiberglass and the other transparent with a Bronze tint, and both are in excellent condition, according to the Springfield, Missouri, dealer advertising the car on ClassicCars.com.

In 1990, the ZR-1 had a sticker price of more than $60,000, but today you can buy this low-mileage car for an asking price of $22,900, or just about one dollar per mile driven.

ZR-1 Corvettes are not going to stay this cheap forever, and I would not be surprised to see them increase in price over the next 12 months. Those with low miles such as this one recently have sold in the $40k range, making this car look like a great deal.

To view this listing on ClassicCars.com, see Pick of the Day.




Andy Reid
Andy Reid
Andy Reid's first car, purchased at age 15, was a 1968 Fiat 124 coupe. His second, obtained by spending his college savings fund, was a 1966 Ferrari 330 GT 2+2. Since then, he has owned more than 150 cars—none of them normal or reasonable—as well as numerous classic motorcycles and scooters. A veteran of film, television, advertising and helping to launch a few Internet-based companies, Reid was a columnist for Classic Motorsports magazine for 12 years and has written for several other publications. He is considered an expert in European sports and luxury cars and is a respected concours judge. He lives in Canton, Connecticut.


  1. You know I had one of these and I can attest to two things: Number one – believe it or not the ZR1 gets better gas mileage on a highway trip than a Ford Escort of the same vintage. I used to blast back and forth to Virginia from NH and would get an average of 34 to 38 mpg at about 80 mph. If I drove by the "instant mileage readout" on the display I could cruise at 85 and get close to 40 mpg. The second thing: The multi way adjustable seats were the most comfortable seat I have every seen and the ZR1 was the most comfortable road car ever. Just a gorgeous highway burner. Great car.


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