Some segments of the collector car hobby don’t make any sense. There are cars that sell for tremendous amounts of money. While some good cars, and others that were nearly as good or even better sell for very little money. They set the world on fire at their release but are now forgotten.
The best example I can think of is the sports car that rewrote the book on performance cars built in America; the 1990-1995 Corvette ZR1.
The ZR1 was introduced in 1989 at the Geneva Motorshow and was initially visually different from the other 1990 Corvette models. It featured a wider tail section, 11-inch wide rear wheels and a new convex rear fascia with four square-shaped taillights along with a special red ZR-1 badge in between. All Corvettes from the 1991 model would receive the revised rear panel, which then made it harder for the high performance ZR1 to stand out from the standard Corvette coupe.
The real magic behind the ZR1 was under the skin. It was equipped with the magnificent LT5 V8. This was an all-aluminum double overhead cam V8 designed in conjunction with Lotus. It featured 5.7-liters of displacement and had a factory-rated 375bhp at 5800 rpm and 370 pound-feet of torque at 4800 rpm. It was coupled to a six-speed manual gearbox and allowed the ZR1 to cover 0-60 mph times of around 4.9 seconds, a ¼ mile time of 13.2 seconds and a top speed of 180 MPH. This was in 1991 and the only way to go faster was to get a Porsche 959 or a Ferrari F40.
Consider that the 1991 ZR1 cost $68,000 and the only way to go just a little faster was to spend between $300,000 and $400,000. At those prices, how isn’t the ZR1 amazing? Compare the price of the ZR1 to those European supercars and it seems like an unbelievable value. Let me tell you a secret. It is.
Not only does the ZR1 go fast in a straight line, it also handles amazingly well. In the April 1991 issue of Car & Driver the ZR1 beat the 1991 Porsche 911 in the magazine’s test. The best quote from that test about the car’s handling was, “The Vette’s behavior on twisting two-lane roads is every bit as exciting as what it does in a straight line. It goes where you aim it. Period. No feints, lurches, or false moves. It hangs on as if it had giant asphalt-piercing spikes in its tires.”
The O’Fallon, Illinois dealer offering this ZR1 describes it as having covered only 52,625 original miles. They state that the current owner has had the car since 1994 and has put less than 25,000 miles on it in over 27-years of ownership.
The pictures in the ad show a car that has been driven, but never modified or abused. It has some normal wear on the paint and surprisingly the interior looks to be in terrific shape. The entire car looks quite clean, and has been well taken care and enjoyed. The mileage shows that this car was used over the years and not left to sit immobile for decades and deteriorate in the garage. If you want a ZR1 to drive, this is the one to buy.
So, will the rest of the world ever wake up to the wonders of the ZR1 and realize that it’s possibly the most underpriced and underrated sports car of the last 30 plus years?
I quite honestly have no idea. I fully expected these cars to have doubled in price over the last three-years and they haven’t. Chevrolet only built a total of 6,939 of them during the six-years of production, making it a very rare car and an extremely rare Corvette. Sometimes the buyers in the collector car market just buy what everyone else does, and the fact that they are seemingly ignoring the ZR1 Corvette offers a great opportunity for the rest of us.
This specific car is being offered at only $22,000, or roughly the same price of a new Mazda CX-30. Now ask yourself what car would you rather have parked in your garage? I know what my answer would be.