HomePick of the DayPower, rarity and affordability: ’92 Corvette ZR1 still ‘King of the Hill’

Power, rarity and affordability: ’92 Corvette ZR1 still ‘King of the Hill’


After the unbelievable 15 year run of the C3 Corvette, which was built on the chassis of the C2 that went on sale in 1963, it was about time for something great. When the C4 Corvette was introduced in 1983 as an ‘84 model, it was nothing short of a revelation. Originally slated to be the landmark mid-engine Corvette, the project was changed and designers were told to continue making it a front-engine car.

The car they gave us was the best Corvette the world had ever seen. The car had new styling, a new interior with a cool video-game-like digital dashboard, a V8 engine under the hood and remarkable handling. The handling was so good that when introduced, the C4 Vette was the absolute best-handling car in the world, capable of 1.0 G on the skid pad.

The Pick of the Day was a special-edition performance model
The C4 was stylishly rendered

While the engine was adequate, it was basically the same one as the 1982 C3 Vette with 205 horsepower. This would change over the years as the engine would increase to 230 horsepower in 1985 and 240 in 1987.

But the real surprise was the launch of the ZR1 in 1990. The ZR1 used an all-aluminum 4-cam V8 developed by Lotus and hand assembled by Mercury Marine. This was the powerplant everyone was hoping for as it delivered 375 horsepower.

Because more is always better, the output increased in 1993 to 405 horsepower, making the ZR1 capable of 0-60 mph in 4.9 seconds, the quarter mile in 13.4 seconds and tested top speed of 178 mph.

The ZR1’s 4-cam V8 was designed by Lotus of England

Only three cars of the time were faster, the Ferrari F40, the Porsche 959 and the Ferrari Testarossa, which had a faster top speed but did not accelerate as quickly as the Vette. The best part was that the ZR1 sold for around $64,000, expensive for a Corvette but considerably cheaper than other exotic cars.

The ZR1 was an immediate hit to the point that the car was nicknamed “King of the Hill” by Chevy marketers. Finally, America had its own world-class supercar.

The Pick of the Day is a 1992 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 located in Turner, Oregon, with its original white paint and red-leather sports seats, and with just 38,876 miles from new, according to the dealer advertising the car on ClassicCars.com.

Th rear styling of the ZR1 differed from the standard Corvette

Many ZR1 Corvettes were squirreled away in private collections when new, with future appreciation in mind. But happily, just as many were used and enjoyed by their owners.

These cars for whatever reason seem to remain a bargain, considering their performance and rarity. Chevrolet’s Bowling Green, Kentucky, factory would turn out only 6,939 ZR1 cars from 1990-1995.

Part of the reason for the lagging collector car values is that that ZR1 looks not much different from regular C4 Corvettes, and the average Corvette buyer might be unwilling to pay the extra money for the “King of the Hill.”

The red-leather sport seats still look good

This example looks and sounds like a clean and well-cared-for original example. The pictures depict a car in nice shape that only really needs a new owner.

With an asking price of only $18,900, we would call it 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. Ahh, 80’s muscle; where even 300 hp seemed like the end of the world, let alone 400! Call me crazy but I’d still rather drive this all-analog machine that one can still make a connection with, and feel all the moving parts; than one of today’s 700-800+ hp all-electronic appliances that just feels dead in the hands.

    • Agreed James, and nothing sounds quiet is good as a traditional pushrod V8, particularly the later, lightweight aluminum LS versions. The true “King” of the pushrods was/is the 7 liter 427 LS7, it had the combination of high-rev capability, along with low-end grunt.

  2. Though admittedly not much of a Corvette fanboy, these are one of the all-time performance car bargains. Sub-$20k for a pseudo exotic is chump change. My only question is whether eventually others will see the situation similarly?

  3. Um, I have a LS1 in a 2004 GTO, and even before my trips to the aftermarket it was hilariously fun to run through the Tremec 6spd, pushrods & all.
    The featured ‘Vette is a DOHC modification by Lotus and produced by Mercury Marine at their "skunk works". There are no pushrods involved, but a lot of whirly bits and extra valves.
    My stepdad’s best friend was a ‘Vette guy, and allowed me to drive his ’94 while he rode shotgun (curses); I can’t speak to quarter mile times or top speed, but I recall that, while the engine revved like nothing I’d ever felt, and made a simply glorious noise ripping through the gears, the ‘Vette itself suffered all the quality and manufacturing issues common to any C4, creaking and groaning over bumps and heaves just like the earlier ‘Vettes.
    And that "video game" dash? Often hard to read in direct sunlight, and vastly less intuitive than even unindexed analog instruments.
    Perhaps the spotty build quality, coupled with the very subtle styling differences from the base C4s has a lot to do with their lack of value.
    I’d love to find one of those Mercury Marine masterpieces and use it to build a mid-engined late ’60’s Corvair, perhaps with a Mendeola or ZF manual transaxle. Less, and better distributed weight, and none of the commonality of the generic C4.
    Someone is gonna steal a great driver here though- I hope they use it as intended.

  4. I own a 1990 ZR-1, and she is a blast to drive. This machine still holds the 24 hour world speed endurance record for a mass produced production car, the 5000 mile and 5000 km records as well. This is a testament to the engineering of the C4 and the LT5.

  5. In 1992 the Lamborghini Diablo was also faster, but it cost a quarter million dollars (or a half million in today’s money). And so was the McLaren F1, but that car was and still is absolutely ludicrous.


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