1990 ZR-1 Corvette
King of the Hill
BY: Bob Kroupa of Vette-N-Vestments
This year the ZR-1 celebrated its tenth
anniversary. We think
it is appropriate to look back at the events that led to the
The rumors started approximately three years
prior to the actual introduction
of the 1990 ZR-1. Chevrolet was going to build a special high-
Soon the press was calling the special Corvette "King of the
The ZR-1 became a reality during 1988. Numerous prototypes
were built and extensively
tested. During 1988 and early 1989, the press was extremely
busy gathering any
and all information on the ZR-1, and "spy" photos soon
automotive magazines. Corvette enthusiasts were reminiscing
about the high performance
427's. Was Chevrolet going to build a special high performance
Absolutely, was the answer from Chevrolet.
Their market strategy was to build
the world's fastest production sports car. Many speculated on
the delivery of
the ZR-1 to be late in the 1989 production year. Price was
rumored to be in
the $50-52,000 range.
When the ZR-1 Corvette was formally
in Geneva in March, 1989, Chevrolet
described it as "a sophisticated two-seat sports car, serving
up the best
combination of performance and comfort ever offered to the
In the initial press material on the car,
Corvette chief engineer Dave
McLellan, described these four main objectives for the LT-5
Create a car that is second to none in
acceleration - nothing less than the
fastest production car in the world.
Achieve that kind of performance without
sacrificing driveability - not only
at the high end where you expect fast cars to drive well, but
at the low end,
Package all this leading-edge performance and
driveability into an engine that
could still deliver great guel economy.
And design this engine to fit between the
of the existing Corvette's
engine compartment - a brand new engine, but not one that
would require a totally
The press kept busy as official details
available. The ZR-1 Corvette
appeared on the cover of national magazines 31 times! Detroit
had gushing praise for the ZR-1 Corvette, calling it GM's high-
tech answer to
Porsche and Ferrari without their high price tags.
Finally, the long awaited ZR-1 was available
a 1990 model Coupe. Production
started during the week of August 14, 1989. During the month
of August, 120
ZR-1s were built and shipped.
The MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail
Price) was $58,995, plus $500 destination
charge for a delivered price of $59,495, plus applicable state
and local taxes.
Many options were standardized as part of the ZR-1 package.
Included were the
selective ride and handling package, leather adjustable sport
power seats, low tire pressure warning system and the new 200
amp Delco Bose
music system with CD player. Only two options were available:
at $180 and the glass roof panel at $615.
Numerous stories have surfaced about buying a
1990 ZR-1. Some dealers had been
noted to sell their ZR-1 on a fixed priced basis, which varied
price and $85,000. The Vette-N-Vestments Corvette Market
Letter offered their
subscribers an opportunity to purchase ZR-1s at the factory
list price. Their
dealer allocation on nine ZR-1s sold quickly with a required
We heard from one prospective buyer who
he had bought a ZR-1 at list
price from his local dealer. However, when the dealer called
with a delivery
date, he was told the price was $80,000. Upon checking his
deposit slip, the
prospective buyer found it was noted that the ZR-1 would be
sold to him at a
market value price.
Our market research indicated numerous 1990
1s were sold for prices ranging
from $70,000 to $115,000. The average asking price during the
first 60 days
of availability was $70,000.
Rumors on future availability of the ZR-1
continued to surface. Some indicated
a roadster version was to be available in 1991, others
indicated the ZR-1 would
be a one year production run.
The final production of the 1990 ZR-1 was
units. By the end of the production
year, initial demand was met and the average price dropped to
was below the original list price.
Today, the average price has dropped to
$26,800. However, we continue to find
"new" 1990 ZR-1s for sale with mileage under 1000 miles with
price in the $30-32,000 range.
And as so many initially thought, this was
modern day "427" Corvette.
Our experience with the 1990 ZR-1 was that of exceeding
We found the performance of the ZR-1 to exceed that of the C5
the 2001 Z06 Corvette brings back ZR-1 Corvette
As we have so often indicated, your dollar
a lot of performance with the
late model Corvettes. At a 50% reduction in cost, new versus
price, the 1990 ZR-1 is a good buy. We are finding many at
this price with under
30,000 miles, which is really low for a ten year old
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