One of the rarest Corvette ZR-1 units ever built just sold for $75,000, which seems cheap considering its story.
The 1984 model-year Corvette was a clean-sheet redesign, aesthetically speaking. It still carried the Cross Fire Injection 350 from the 1982 Corvette, which yielded 205 horsepower. In 1985, the Corvette received a performance upgrade in the form of the Tuned Port Injection L98 which churned out 230 ponies. As the years progressed, the L98 would see incremental power increases, but all the while there was something evil being developed. As so often happens with special Corvettes, the development of the new King of the Hill model was not a well-kept secret.
This “Super Vette” was stuffed with a brand new, all-aluminum, overhead quad cam engine. It still displaced 5.7 liters, but it had 32 valves, 16 intake runners, hemi combustion chambers, 11:1 compression, and revved to 7,200 rpm. The engine was developed by Lotus, and Mercury Marine in Stillwater, OK, handled the assembly. The Corvette ZR-1’s LT5 produced a monstrous for the time 375 horsepower versus the base Vette’s 245.
The 4+3 Doug Nash manual that had come in fourth-gen Corvettes since 1984 was ditched by Corvettes in 1990 in favor of a new six-speed box from ZF. The Corvette ZR-1 came with Bilstein’s FX3 adjustable ride suspension, which was also developed with Lotus. The bodywork was wider from the doors back in order to cover the then massive 11-inch wide rear wheels shod in 315/35R17 steamroller Goodyear meats.
This was NOT your average Corvette. The Corvette ZR-1 laid down a zero-60 time in the mid-four second range, and blitzed the quarter mile in just 12.8 seconds, going on to a top speed around 180 mph. Pretty heady stuff when the stock Corvette coupe, which was no slouch in the performance department, was running mid-fives in the 0-60 dash, just over 14 seconds in the quarter. The 1990 Corvette ZR-1 was faster 0-60 than that year’s Ferrari Testarossa and quicker through the quarter mile than the Lamborghini Diablo.
Though the Corvette ZR-1 did not go on sale in the U.S. until the 1990 model year, it was in development for quite some time before. Twenty-five test mules were built in the years before the Corvette Zr-1’s release to test all the new componentry. Some of those were shipped to Europe for extensive testing. After testing was completed, GM ordered the test mules be destroyed, and 23 of the 25 were.
Our subject car, Pilot Line car #048 built in July of 1987, nearly was. After being used by Lotus for development, it sat in a salvage yard in the UK for some time. They attempted to crush the Corvette ZR-1 mule by using a front loader to smash it from front to rear. All of the bodywork and the windshield frame were crushed, but the chassis and much of the componentry survived. There are markings throughout the car on the prototype parts. The Goodyear tires were experimental, and have “NOT FOR SALE” molded into them. The rear panel still wears the velcro-attached “camouflage” cover.
NOS and pre-production parts were used in the car’s reassembly. Many of the parts are prototype examples not available anywhere. Done to a high standard, the restoration is NCRS American Heritage Award qualified. The car is accompanied by GM documentation from meetings between Lotus and GM, including the original books from the Go Ahead Meeting in Feb 88. Finished in Medium Blue Metallic over blue leather, it shows only 59,000 miles on the clock. This pre-production Corvette ZR-1 is one of only two in existence. This could be the rarest Corvette ZR-1 ever, and it just sold for $75,000, which seems like bargain money for such a historically significant Corvette.