Why the Corvette ZR-1 is the bargain buy of super C4s


The ZR-1 was once called the “Corvette from Hell” by Car and Driver. Its key points are now a well-worn legend: a Lotus-designed dual-overhead-cam V-8 built by Mercury Marine and pumping out 385 horsepower, acceleration times that bested the Porsche 911 Turbo and shamed the Ferrari 348, and a price almost double that of a standard Corvette.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.hagerty.com/articles-videos/articles/2019/03/08/c4-zr1-is-bargain-corvette

You need to do better research. The 1990 - 1992 ZR-1 was rated at 375 HP. There was NO downgrade from 385HP to 375 HP in 1991.

1990 - 1995 ZR-1s did not come with badges on the front fender. That was a trend started by the members of the original ZR-1 Registry. C4 ZR-1s did not come from the factory with emblems on the front bumper.

Again, you might want to do a little research before publishing an article:


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You’re right. We’ve updated the story to correct those mistakes.


The 92-95 ZR-1 came with fender badges from the factory. It maybe a trend for 90 & 91 ZR-1 owners.


Thanks for your article. I’ve owned a, 94 ZR-1 for almost 19 years. I work for GM and have had Corvettes as company cars including the last three generations. All wonderful cars. I could also have any one in my garage but I prefer the C4 ZR-1. The newer Vette’s are faster and have the advantage of new technologies that were not available when my car was in production but driving those newer Corvette’s just showed me how well sorted out the C4 ZR-1 was. My car is no slouch either. It;'s still pretty quick. What I really love is when you open that clam shell hood you can actually see the engine in all it;s glory. GM spent a lot of money on the aesthetics of the LT-5. When you pop the hood of the new cars there isn’t much to see. You have a big plastic cover (which I call the lawn mower cover) that pretty much hides the engine. Car guys like to look at the engine and show it off at local shows. Anyway, I’m a big fan of all Corvette’s but especially the C4 ZR-1. There was also a lot of buzz back in the eighties about the new King Of The Hill Corvette. When it was announced it didn’t disappoint and was a true milestone car.


I enjoyed reading the information about the ZR-1. I would like to add another Corvette that I think is sometimes overlooked. Last year I found a beautiful 1996 Corvette Collector Edition. It is Sebring Silver with Torch Red interior. Mine has the same LT4 engine and 6 speed manual transmission that is in the Grand Sport. I don’t have the driver adjustable suspension, but I do have the Z51 handling package. Mine was a one owner car, with 30,500 miles. Best part is I paid about half of what people are asking for the 96 Grand Sport.


The 96 CE was the highest produced model for that year, while a great car, sadly GM Marketing department woefully messed up using the “Collector’s Edition” tag and not limiting production like they did with the GS.


Do you mean highest produced special model, or off all 96 Corvettes made that year. I think they built about 22,000 Corvettes in 96 and around 2000 were Collector Editions.


Sorry about that, I rechecked the numbers and they built 5412 Collector Editions.


Which engine did they use in the ZR-1? Since you seem to have inside knowledge about Corvettes, I would like to pick your brain some more. In 1996 they used the LT-4 engine in the Collector Edition and it produced 330 HP. I understand they detuned this engine because the 1997 models only had 350 HP initially. I understand they did this by changing the cam and the intake gasket. Were there any other modifications? What would have been the HP of the LT-4 had they not reduced its power?


Not aware that GM took steps to reduce the HP of the LT-4 engine.


GM underrated the LT4, the 330hp rating was more like 350-360hp when comparing them to LT1 wheel dyno’s and 1/4 mile traps speeds.

I have never heard about GM detuning the LT4. I am not aware of any easy aftermarket mods to LT4 to unleash any hidden HP that indicated GM detuned it. The LT4 has (had at this point) a limited aftermarket, it is a one year only engine available with only MT with unique heads and intake.


I have seen and read articles regarding the detuning and later happened to find a Gasket kit for the LT4 in a Chevy parts catalog - part number 12528884. The description is, "“and is designed not to cover part of the cylinder head opening - as production gaskets do”. It could be inferred this head gasket was the original based on the stories. But I could not find a similar description for a cam in the catalog


The 1990 to 95 ZR1 had an LT5 engine. It had 4 overhead cams and 32 valves. Another interesting thing is that they were all built by Mercury Marine at their plant in Stillwater, Oklahoma. As the other person mentioned, the LT4 that is in my 96 Collector Edition was a one year only engine. They called later engines LT4’s, but they are totally different.


After dreaming corvettes for a long time, I had the luck to buy a '90 red-red C4 ZR1, with less than 20k miles in late 2015. I must say, I live in the mountains, it is not rocket-fast compared to modern performance (mainly due to too long stock gears), however I completely love it, for many reasons, and when I drive it, half of the people turn the head to see what car is it :slight_smile: (consider I am in Europe where Vettes are not that common to see).
I keep my ZR1 like a model car for kids, I hand wash and polish it after every ride, and I enjoy it so much the few times I drive it!
I am not rich to afford modern supercars, and with the time I matured more and more the belief that one should really buy cars to enjoy them, have fun and happyness when driving, not for investment - at least for those who don’t have so much money to not care how much they spend for a car. Buy cars as investment is too risky also for expert people, and the risk is that you buy some compromise car just because you believe it will gain more value, and then you wait and wait… without reaching the real reason of collectible cars… ENJOYMENT and HAPPYNESS!