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By now, everyone has heard of the legendary ZR-1 Corvette, and the details of its creation are the stuff of legend. Although it was outrageously expensive at the time, close to double the price of a standard Corvette, it delivered supercar performance for a fraction of the price of a Ferrari or Lamborghini. And today, we can look back at it as the origin of all the supercars prowling our streets today, including the fabulous new supercharged ZR1 (note: no hyphen), and probably even cars like the Dodge Viper and the new Shelby GT500. It showed the automakers that there was definitely a market for expensive performance cars if they truly delivered the goods.

The ZR-1 delivered and in a big way. Today they remain important milestone cars that signaled the beginning of a new era of performance, and none are as significant as the very first ZR-1s in 1990.

This 1990 ZR-1 shows just 180 original miles no, that's not a misprint. Factory fresh in every measurable way, including the plastic on the seats, it comes with the original MSO as part of its documentation package. Equipped with every available option, including dual tops, it is an investment-grade Corvette that even Sports Car Market magazine puts on their “Buy” list.

Bright Red is the quintessential Corvette color, and the finish on this one is 100% factory original, perfectly preserved and lovingly maintained since new by a dedicated collector. From the early-style nose to the widened quarter panels housing 11-inch rear wheels, the bodywork is untouched and wonderfully original. $60,000 was just about the most expensive car in the GM stable in 1990, and for your money you got decent paint and build quality, thanks to the specialized assembly line in Bowling Green that still treats all Corvettes as if they're special. If anything, this car may even be better than new, thanks to two decades of rubbing and buffing of the paint, and fastidious maintenance in a climate-controlled environment. This car has never seen rain and certainly no snow, and the lights in our photo booth are probably harsher than anything else to which it has been exposed. If you like your Corvettes factory original, they don't get more authentic than this.

The ZR-1 is easy to identify with its high-mounted stoplight atop the rear hatch and slightly squared-off taillights, although the LT1 Corvettes quickly adopted these, making the ZR-1 even more anonymous. The hatch is perfect, with the embedded defroster strips undamaged. The ZR-1 windshield is coated with a special UV-filtering coating. Because of the size of the LT5 engine, they had to use a smaller AC system than that found on a standard C4, and to compensate, GM used the special windshield in order to block out the suns UV rays. This coating gives the windshield its distinctive bluish cast, and like all ZR-1s of this vintage, this one is showing some slight delamination at the very top edge, which only enhances this cars originality and survivor status.

The LT5 under the hood is a modern work of art. Originally intended to simply be a set of 16-valve cylinder heads atop a basic small block, the Lotus engineers assigned to the project quickly realized that there was no way to cost-effectively build such a beast. Instead, they designed an all-aluminum V8 which shared some basic dimensions with the standard small block, but with which exactly zero components were interchangeable. With 32 valves and four cams, a trick dual-path induction system, the LT5 belted out 375 horsepower in 1990, which is in contrast to the stock L98’s 250 horsepower rating, all without forced induction. The engine was built by Mercury Marine, whose specialization in aluminum casting won them the contract, and when fitted under the Corvettes clamshell hood, it's a technological knock-out. There's no mistaking the unique intake manifold and sculpted cam covers emblazoned with the Corvette logo. More beautifully finished than any engine since the 1930s, the LT5 in this ZR-1 is preserved in showroom fresh condition. Operated enough to keep everything healthy, every single component under the hood, save for the battery, is original. The fluids have been changed, but the plugs, wires, belts, and hoses remain factory issue and in fine condition. If preservation class judging is your thing, this car will deliver the trophies.

The chassis is equally well preserved, including the ZF 6-speed manual transmission and its infuriating “skip-shift” feature. Out back, the ZR-1 uses 3.42 gears with a limited slip on a slightly beefed-up version of the stock Corvette 5-link suspension. By 1990, the Corvette had matured into more than just a street-legal racer with a flinty ride, and the ZR-1’s FX3 adjustable suspension made it more than capable of comfortable long-distance cruising. This one still wears its original brakes and even the original brake pads are in place, with the rotor surfaces bright and shiny. The wheels on the ZR-1 were similar to the standard Corvette, but were special 17x9.5 up front and a massive 17x11 in back. In 1990, the top performance tire was the Goodyear ZR “Gatorback” and the ZR-1 wore 275/40/17 front and 315/35/17 rear tires, and the originals are still in place on this amazing car.

The Flame Red leather interior of the ZR-1 is a technophiles dream come true. With an advanced digital and analog dashboard, deeply bolstered bucket seats that were highly adjustable, and every electronic accessory GM could dream up, the ZR-1 delivers on its promise of high technology. The cockpit embraces the driver, angling all the controls towards him, including the HVAC and entertainment systems. At the base of the console, you'll find what GM called the “valet key” which shut down half of the LT5’s fuel injectors and intake runners, effectively limiting its performance. A clever, if gimmicky, idea that works as advertised forget to switch it to “FULL” and you'll find that perhaps 150 horses have suddenly gone missing from your ZR-1’s corral. The interior of this time capsule car is immaculately preserved, with absolutely no wear on the seats, carpets, or any other soft parts. The original protective plastic on the seats was only removed for our photo shoot, and is included with the car. The trunk is also flawless, and neatly stows one of the two removable tops when not in use.

Documentation is what you would expect of a car like this. We not only have that MSO I mentioned earlier, but also the original window sticker, dealer invoice from DeFouw Chevrolet in Lafayette, Indiana, the Commitment to Excellent checklist, ABS warning tags. The car also comes with the original ZR-1 owner's manual box, which includes the owner's manual, sample music cassette, and other informational booklet, all bound in a nice leather binder. Nobody can claim that GM didn't know how to make an owner feel special when he took his new ZR-1 home.

This is surely one of the lowest mileage early ZR-1s in existence. The market is moving up on these cars after many years of depreciation, but factory-fresh examples have always been exempt from the vagaries of the used car market. In all reality, this car will never be driven again, because after 21 years of being preserved as an artifact, its value lies in its absolute originality. Every component save for the battery is factory original, and the preservation of the entire car speaks to collectors now and in the future. If you've been looking for an investment-grade ZR-1 to complete your collection, this is perhaps the best there is. Call today!

This vehicle has been sold. Fill out the form below to be contacted by RK Motors when a similar vehicle is available!

$299.00 Dealer Administrative Charge is not included in advertised price. All prices and offers are before state, city and county tax, tag, title and license fees. Out of state buyers are responsible for all state, county, city taxes and fees, as well as title/registration fees in the state that the vehicle will be registered. Dealer not responsible for errors and omissions; all offers subject to change without notice, please confirm listings with dealer.

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1990 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1

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