Roger Judski’s SUPER RARE 1969 ZL-1 Corvette
Dateline: 10.11.14 – Twenty-three years ago today, October 11, 1991, at of all places, The Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Roger Judski, owner of Judski’s Corvette Center in Maitland, Florida became the owner of what is arguably the rarest of all high performance Corvettes, a 1969 ZL-1 Corvette. When this car was announced to the world in the fall of 1968 as an option on the ’69 Corvette, it became an instant legend for numerous reasons. Judski paid what was then considered a stunningly HUGE amount of money for the ZL-1, $300,000! Roger had been trying to buy the ZL-1 for 12 years.
The stratosphericly expensive, all-aluminum 427 big-block ZL-1 option cost a whopping $3,000 back in 1969. But wait, there’s more! On top of that, there were four other “required” options that totaled up to $63 LESS that the cost of the base Corvette, tallying up to $4,719. Those other required options were; K66 – transistor ignition, F41 – special front and rear suspension, J56 – heavy duty brakes, and G81 – posi-traction rear.
Not until the arrival of the ’09 ZR1 did an option on a Corvette cost more that the base model. At least with the C6 ZR1, it was a complete package. The C4 ZR-1 comes in second place in the expensive Corvette options race costing $27,016 on the $31,979 ’90 Corvette and later $31,258 on the $36,185 ’94 Corvette.
So, what was the big deal on the ’69 ZL-1? Well, here was the big deal. Unlike the C4 ZR-1 and the C6 ZR1, the ’69 ZL-1 was designed to be Zora Arkus-Duntov’s ultimate “racer kit” option. An all-aluminum engine for the Corvette had been one of Duntov’s big goals since 1957 when an all-aluminum 283 small-block was part of the still-born proposal for the transaxle equipped Q-Corvette. He came close to achieving that goal in ’62 when a series of aluminum test engines were cast but proved to be too problematic and unreliable. Several were built in a 377-CID configuration and used in three of the Grand Sports that raced at the 1963 Nassau Speed Week race that was referred to in Corvette lore as “The Nassau Invasion.” One of those engines now resides at the Simeone Museum in Philadelphia.
When the Mark IV big-block came along in ’65, Zora immediately started pushing for an all-aluminum version. First came the aluminum heads in the infamous L88 “racer kit” option in ’67. Make no bones about it, this was an all-out, not for the street, collection of parts and when applied to road racing and drag racing, made a formidable machine. The Mark IV engine was more adaptable to aluminum than the small-block – it was just a beefier design and since aluminum is inherently not as strong as cast iron, the extra material around bosses and wall thicknesses made all the difference.
So the mega-buck ZL-1 was in truth an extension of the L88 program. While there were only two “official” assembly line produced ZL-1 Corvette, there’s a third that questionable and “maybe” 10 or so built for magazine tests and evaluation. Marty Schorr, while editor of CARS Magazine tested a blue ZL-1 that not one of the two official ZL-1s. However, Chevrolet sold stacks of ZL-1 engines that brought lots of racing gold to Corvettes and Chevy-powered race cars. John Greenwood Corvettes, the McLaren Can-Am cars, Grumpy Jenkins Camaros, and many other racers successfully used ZL-1 engines. Even one Top Fuel dragster campaigned by Jim Butcher briefly held the NHRA Top Fuel ET record!
What’s ironic is that ever since ’97 when the all-aluminum LS series of GM engines came out in the Corvette, “all-aluminum” is really no big deal! Hardly anyone is now using cast iron.
But back to Roger Judski’s ZL-1. As a road-worthy car, the ZL-1 didn’t win any big praises. Marty Schorr, editor of Hi-performance CARS magazine road tested one of the prototype ’69 ZL-1s and was frankly underwhelmed with the car as a street machine. It was a nasty-ass L88 with an additional $3,000 added to the price to save 100-pounds off the front end, that was hardly noticeable on the street. Although not “official,” the two ZL-1s were more like homologation cars.
Here are a few quick comparisons of Judski’s 1969 ZL-1 and a 2014 Corvette:
ZL-1 cost new – $10,771 / 2015 Z06 Corvette – $78,995
ZL-1 horsepower – 550-HP (gross) / 2015 Z06 horsepower – 650-HP (net)
ZL-1 ¼-miles – low 13s / 2015 Z06 ¼-mile 10.95-seconds / 0-60 – 2.95-seconds
Roger Judski’s ZL-1 is a legendary Corvette and has been well storied. – Scott
PS – Be sure to check this out at FineArtAmerica.com! –>>> corvette art
Photos Courtesy of: RogersCorvette.com
Below are a few links you’ll enjoy!
All of the below ZL-1 Corvette art prints are available HERE.
All of the above ZL-1 Corvette art prints are available HERE.