Collection of Three Corvette ZR1s Could Cost up to $430,000 (2024)

I have interviewed well over 100 people in the automotive industry during my career as a motoring journalist. I've had things to learn from each one of them. Naturally, some have had a more profound effect on me than others.

One of the people that inspired me the most in recent years was Jim Mero. We talked so much that I split my interview with him into four acts. Just think of it this way: he has driven between 40,000 and 50,000 laps around various racetracks in different Corvettes over 20 years. 4,000 to 5,000 of those happened on the Nurburgring Nordschleife, adding to almost 62,000 miles (around 100,000 km) around the Green Hell.

Most drivers I know haven't driven for that much in standard cars, on regular roads, in their entire lives. I've always cherished Vipers and Corvettes over Mustangs and Camaros. After my interview with Mister Mero, my attraction towards Chevrolet's flagship sports car grew even more. In November 2022, we ran a special Corvette Month here on autoevolution, anticipating the model's 70th anniversary. That's eight generations of one of the most excellent sports cars ever made.

Although Chevrolet first used the ZR1 moniker in the '70s for the C3, that was just a special engine package. Fast forward to the beginning of the '90s, the C4 ZR-1 emerged as the "King of the Hill." But I'll get to it in a minute, so bear with me. I recently researched what building the ultimate '90s JDM garage would cost. You'd need a budget of about $1.2 million if going for the most expensive ones.

What if you set out to buy a collection of three of the most exciting Corvettes ever made? I'd have to go for the C4 ZR-1, the C6 ZR1, and the C7 ZR1. Some of you may choose differently, and that's perfectly fine. I'll be sure to look into the line-up of Z06s for a future story.

C4 ZR-1 Analysis

Photo: BaT/User ZR-1

Building the world's fastest production car was a challenging task for Chevrolet. So, the company turned to Lotus for help, and thus, the LT5 was born. The 5.7-liter V8 was good enough for 375 hp, which was not to be taken lightly in 1990. After all, Ferrari's 3.4-liter V8, out of its 348, only had an output of 296 hp. Performance levels increased to 405 hp in 1993, and I'll bet you that this car is just as exciting today.

Chevrolet built just under 7,000 units between 1990 and 1995, with sales declining from 3,032 vehicles in the first year to just 448 in the final. Bright Red was the most popular color: 2,380 clients opted for it. Dark Purple Metallic is the rarest ZR-1 color you'll find: 25 came from the factory, but who knows how many are still around today?

For this analysis, I've studied BaT auction history for the past 12 months. 34 out of 48 auctions ended with a sale. Surprisingly, the cheapest C4 ZR-1 went for just $14,555. Naturally, it was a 1990 Bright Red model with 165,000 miles (265,541 km) on its odometer. That's about 65,000 miles (104,607 km) more than I have on my 1991 Mazda RX-7. This ZR-1 wasn't perfect by any standards, and I'd expect the new owner to invest at least an extra $5,000 to $10,000 to make it look great.

Most C4 ZR-1 sold for less than $50,000, but four exceeded the $60,000 mark. Two featured rarer colors (Bright Aqua Metallic and Dark Red Metallic - owned by the same seller). But the latter had one extra trick: 89 miles (143 km) on its odometer. That translates to an average of less than three miles per year. It still had the window sticker, revealing the price of $60,690 (about $143,212 in today's money).

It traded hands last year for $68,000, which isn't ideal if you're the seller. After excluding the cheapest and most expensive C4 ZR-1 on this list, I calculated the average price for the remaining 32 vehicles: $37,336. That's about what you'd expect to pay for an entry-level Camaro or 55% of the starting price of a new C8 Stingray.

C6 ZR1 Analysis

Photo: BaT/User Rwestman

Chevrolet didn't come up with a ZR1 variation for the fifth-generation Corvette. But the Z06 was advanced enough to outrun its predecessor in most battles. The sixth-gen Corvette arrived in 2005, but it wasn't until 2007 that it became clear the ZR1 was making a comeback. This time, the decision was to bring a supercharger into the equation.

As a result, the 6.2-liter V8 was capable of a massive 638 hp and 604 lb-ft (819 N⋅m), more than enough to make the old C4 ZR1 sound outdated. Weighing around 3,373 lb (1,530 kg), the C6 ZR1 could theoretically reach 205 mph (330 kph). Jim Mero lapped the Nurburgring Nordschleife in 7:19.63, making the C6 ZR1 faster than a 2009 Dodge Viper ACR.

It was also three seconds faster than the C6 Z06 and five seconds ahead of the Ferrari Enzo. It's rarer than its predecessor, with only 4,695 units making it out of the factory. Black and Cyber Gray were the most popular choices, with 1,043 and 949 clients each.

I've identified 19 C6 ZR1 that traded hands in the past 12 months on BaT. The cheapest one sold for $65,000, about as much as the most expensive C4 ZR-1. It was one of 206 cars with a Carbon Flash finish (Centennial Special Edition) but had 27,000 miles (43,452 km) on its odometer. The vehicle's MSRP was $130,460 ($307,850 in today's money), so this was no investment.

The most expensive C6 ZR1 on the list cost over twice as much at $136,000. It's what you'd expect from such a time capsule, as it has only added 108 miles (173 km) to the odometer in all these years. The Cyber Gray Metallic 'Vette had $13,700 options when it left the showroom floor for a total sticker price of $117,000. The average cost of a C6 ZR1 based on 17 auctions goes up to $88,588. That's not enough for a brand-new Z06, but it will get you that C8 without worrying about it.

C7 ZR1 Analysis

Photo: BaT/User FinestVehiclesTraded

It took Chevrolet almost 30 years to go from the C4 ZR-1 to the C7 ZR1. The American manufacturer improved upon the design of the sixth-generation Corvette, aiming to build one of the fastest, most spectacular machines in automotive history. Sure, the C7 ZR1 was a bit on the heavy side, weighing 3,560 lb (1,615 kg). But the 6.2-liter V8 now had a larger Eaton supercharger, resulting in an output of 755 hp and 715 lb-ft (969 N⋅m) of torque.

These figures may be complex if you've never experienced something like it. So, allow me to put things into perspective. I'll quote Mr. Mero: "The 6:57 segmented time indicated on my retirement poster was just from the Industrypool laps on Wednesday, April 18, 2018. That day, we were also scheduled to run for an official time after completing the Industry Pool."

"During our Industry Pool sessions that day, I also ran a 7:06 with traffic. We were confident the car would go under seven minutes during the fast lap session." Running a lap of the Green Hell in less than seven minutes is not something any driver or car can achieve. It's a similar performance to Porsche 918 Spyder and 991.2 GT3 RS. It's much faster than a McLaren 720S and even the Rimac Nevera. That adds to the excitement because Chevrolet only made less than 3,000 units of the C7 ZR1. You know what that means!

Twenty-seven of these found new homes in the past 12 months via BaT. The cheapest entry point was $133,000. Two cars had the same winning bid. One was a Watkins Glen Gray Metallic ZR1 with about 7,000 miles (11,265 km) on the odometer. The other was a Sebring Orange model with roughly 9,000 miles (14,484 km) on it. Money-no-issue, you could still end up paying $226,000 for a top-notch ZR1.

That's how much a 3,300-mile Sebring Range model sold for. Considering it had a sticker price of $144,285, the seller must be pretty happy with how things turned out for him. Excluding the cheapest and most expensive ZR1s on the list, we get an average price of $176,067. That's enough to buy a brand-new Stingray and an E-Ray! And it's slightly above the expected starting MSRP for the upcoming C8 ZR1.


Photo: BaT/User acemotorworks

Before coming to an end, there are still a few conclusions we should look at. Buying the three cheapest ZR1 around, judging by BaT auction results, will have cost around $212,000 in the past 12 months. If you were keen on getting ones that didn't suffer as much abuse, prices would have gone up to $430,000. Buying a C7 ZR1 could remain profitable over the next few years, but only time will tell how things will evolve for its predecessors.

If you're not a pro driver, the C6 ZR1 may already be a handful to drive, so you could get one of those for fun and the C7 as an investment. But I wouldn't ignore the C4 ZR-1 just yet, as its time may have yet to come. Either way, seeing the dealer markups on the new C8 ZR1 will be funny or highly stressful when it comes out.

Collection of Three Corvette ZR1s Could Cost up to $430,000 (2024)
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