Rare Corvette Engineering Prototype Goes ON THE BLOCK at Mecum Kissimmee 2018 Auction, January 5 – 14 – Lot 165
Car auctions are a lot of fun because you never know how much or how little any given car is going to sell for.The exception being rare Ferraris, Cobras, and anything owned by Steve McQueen – they always sell for A LOT! Corvettes are especially unpredictable. Several years ago the John Greenwood Sebring ’74 IMSA Corvette (the Batmobile) was a NO SALE. In 2016 the very first C7 2017 Grand Sport Corvette to roll off the assemble line sold for only $170,000. Many, including me, thought that the car would go for a lot more, as previous “first off the assembly line” Corvettes have sold for big bucks. A lot of it has to do with the mood of the economy. So, we never know and predictions are often way off.
Next month at the Mecum Kissimmee Auction, January 5 – 14, a truly rare ZR-1 Corvette will hit the auction block.The Lot Number is, S165. When the ZR-1 finally came out as a 1990 Corvette is was a very big deal. This was truly an exotic Corvette with its Lotus DOHC all-aluminum engine and wide body. Tommy Morrison’s race-prepared, but stock, ZR-1 shattered speed endurance records, thus legitimately giving the ZR-1 the nickname, “King of the Hill.”
Engineering prototypes and mule Corvettes are typically stripped of their good parts and then sent to the crusher; a terrible fate. But sometimes, a few are saved. According to Mecum, the ZR-1 that will be auctioned off next month is one-of-two “known” C4 ZR-1 prototypes; 25 prototypes were build in July 1987. Continue reading “
Own a Piece of Corvette History! 1988 ZR-1 Corvette Prototype Up For Auction!” →
1990 ZR-1 Corvette – Finally! A Dedicated “Performance” Model Corvette
Dateline: 8.11.17 – Photos: GM Archives, Michael Beal, Illustrations: K. Scott Teeters –There’s an unwritten, unofficial “Law of the Jungle” that basically states, “If you are at the top of the food chain, you might not be there for long.” Such was the case for the C4 ZR-1 Corvette, for a little while. The C4 ZR-1 had a six-year production run with only 7,018 units produced. The ZR-1’s head-exploding price was the biggest limiting factor. The crummy economy in the early ‘90s didn’t help, and the much-rumored, all-new C5 no doubt was a drag on the ZR-1’s sales. And then there was also that pesky Dodge Viper. The 427 Cobra’s “Marley’s Ghost” was obvious, only this time disguised as a Dodge, While armchair quarterbacking is easy and hindsight is 20/20, it is worth asking the question, why wasn’t such an awesome car more successful? “Timing” aside, the ZR-1’s aesthetics was a big factor. Stated simply: When viewed by itself, the C4 ZR-1s look like “regular” Corvettes. As an illustrator and stylist, I find it astonishing that Chevrolet would have done this, after all the engineering work that went into the ZR-1. The body panels from the doors all the way back to the rear bumper cover, are unique to the ZR-1 – made wider to cover the widest tires put under a factory-built Corvette body, to that point. This means that the panels had to be redesigned. But rather than make them visually unique, the Corvette stylists were commanded to imitate the basic design of the standard Corvette, with one exception Continue reading “
The Story of the ZR-1 Corvette – C4 1990-1991 ZR-1 Corvette: Part 2 of 4″ →
A Salute to Chevy’s “King of the Hill” the ZR-1 and ZR1
(Check out the BIG versions of the ZR1 Tribute print on the right, at the bottom of this post.)
When the ZR-1 Corvette first arrived in 1970 almost the only people that noticed were the Corvette racers and a few magazine gearheads. That’s because RPO ZR1 was the latest of Zora Arkus-Duntov’s “racer kits.” The ZR-1 was an LT-1 version of the ‘67-’69 L-88 racer kit package that Duntov deliberately designed to be a “track-only” car. There were no creature comforts – no radio and even no heater. The suspension was completely heavy duty and could jar your molars out on normal streets. Plus, the lack of a proper radiator shroud made driving the car in stop-and-go traffic an engine killer.
Consequently, from ‘70 to ‘72, only 53 official ZR-1 Corvettes were built. After the end of ‘72, the Corvette market began to move away from performance to a boulevard car. It took 18 years for the ZR-1 to surface again, but this time as a world-class Grand Touring road machine. Packed to the gills with creature comforts and powered by the all-aluminum, double-overhead-cam, Lotus-designed, Mercury marine-built LT-5 engine, this was no “off raod use only” machine. When the clamshell hood of the press preview ‘89 ZR-1 was opened, jaws dropped and grizzled automotive journalists gasped at the sight of the LT-5.
The Corvette team was a very different group from the late ‘60s. One thing Dave McLellan and his team were determined to do was make sure their new world-class Vette was NOT launched prematurely. The team intended to release the ZR-1 as an ‘89 Corvette, but smartly chose to postpone production a year to make sure the car was right. The only downside to the entire enterprise was a small matter of the BIG price. At $27,016 on top of the $31,979 base price, this wasn’t just an engine option. No, no. everything from the flywheel back to the tires was bigger, more stout, and heavy duty. And rather than just add flares to the fenders to cover the oversized tires (ala the C3 L-88 fender flares), the entire back end of the car was widened. Unfortunately, the change was only noticeable to those with a keen Corvette eye or if the ZR-1 was next to a regular C4 Corvette. But, we won’t pick, as it was a magnificent car. Continue reading “A Salute to the Amazing ZR-1 and ZR1 Corvette”→
Everything has a beginning, right. For me, it goes back to 1965 when my Dad bought me “The Visible V8” model kit. What a wonderful way for young boys to understand the basic operational principals of an internal combustion engine. If you carefully put the parts together and didn’t get glue in places you shouldn’t and wired everything right, your got to see the pistons go up and down, rocker arms actuate, the fan spin, the camshaft rotate, AND the red grain-of-wheat lightbulb spark plugs light up at top-dead-center. Of course, it sounded all “WHEEEEEE” Because the battery-opperated starter motor was driving everything. “Sorry kids! No VROOM! VROOM!”
But, it was a lot of fun and started my lifelong passion for engines. But engines didn’t become “art” for my until I got into drag racing and those wonderful supercharged hemi engines. And the first Corvette engine that wowed me was the 1967 L71 427/435 big-block. While 3-deuces Continue reading “The Art of the C4 ZR-1 LT-5 Corvette Engine”→
Dateline: 7.19.11 Chevrolet didn’t make a C4 ZR-1 Roadster, but Metalcrafters of California got the job done and today, Michael Beal of Connecticut is still enjoying this unique high-performance Corvette!
For most Corvette fans, there was “that day” when a Vette stole your heart. For Michael Beal, it was the jewel-like LT-5 engine that powered the C4 ZR-1 Corvette. The beautiful LT5 engine may well be one of the most underdeveloped engines in Corvette history. While the numbers don’t look impressive by today’s standards, when the first 375-horsepower ‘90 ZR-1 was finally unleashed, heads spun faster that the rear tires of the new beast. By ‘93, Corvette engineers tweaked here and there and bumped the LT-5’s power output to 405-horsepower. It is worth reminding readers that in March 1990, a race-prepared, Morrison Motorsports ZR-1 shattered records at the 7.71-mile Bridgestone Tire test track in Texas with an AVERAGE 24-hour speed of 175.885-MPH!!!
And least you think this was a stripped down, lightweight ZR-1 – no, no. FIA rules mandated that the car carry spare parts incase of a breakdown. Consequently, the ZR-1 was carrying an additional 300-pounds of gear! And, to add a little “sauce for the goose” for the story, the track was just three lanes wide and had no guard rails! One of the team drivers was the famous Kim Baker. You’ll get to learn a little of what Kim is up to these days in the below story. There’s also some insight as to how much red meat Chevy engineers left inside the LT-5.
Too bad the ZL-1/LT-5 didn’t arrive two or three years sooner. Too bad Chevrolet didn’t make a roadster ZR-1. Apparently, ZR-1 fans asked the same question, and a few did something about it! Below is Michael Beal’s delightful story of how he came to own one of the few ZR-1 Roadsters, and his meeting with Corvette legend, Kim Baker. Here’s Michael.Continue reading “Michael Beal’s 1991 ZR-1 Roadster!”→
“Collector’s Originality Guide: Corvette C4 1984 – 1996” by Tom Falconer & Photography by James Mann
The introduction of the C4 Corvette in the Fall of ‘83 was a much anticipated automotive event. Times were tough through the ‘70s and no one anticipated in ‘68 that the new Mako Shark-inspired car would have a 15-model-year production run. And when you consider that the car was riding on a chassis designed in ‘60-’61 for the C2 Sting Ray, it’s all the more amazing that the late C3 cars set all-time sales records.
Just like all Corvettes from the beginning, the C4 was a car that was in constant evolution. Every year, Corvette Chief Engineer, Dave McLellan and his devoted crew of engineers and stylists made small improvements, with an occasional big leap forward. Little did we know when the C4 was first shown at the end of ‘83 that this Corvette generation would last almost as long as the C3 generation – 13 model years. Continue reading “Tom Falconer & James Mann C4 Corvette Book Review”→