1,268 Mile Survivor: 1990 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1

This 1990 Corvette ZR-1 is effectively a 29-year-old new car. With only 1,268 miles under its belt, this is about as close as you could possibly get to owning a new 1990 model today, and naturally, the condition of the car is nothing short of immaculate. The Corvette is located in Wilmington, North Carolina, and is listed for sale here on eBay. Bidding has currently hit $20,800, and it appears that the reserve has been met. This means that someone is set to become the proud owner of this amazing car.

It’s always going to be difficult to find faults in a car with mileage as low as this, so it is no surprise to find little to criticize here. The Bright Red paint looks flawless, while everything else looks to be in as-new condition. The C4 Corvette was an interesting car for Chevrolet because while it wasn’t a complete sales disaster for the company, it also didn’t create the sort of sales rush that Chevrolet had hoped for.

When it was introduced in 1984, sales hit a C4-high of 51,500 cars. By the time our ZR-1 rolled off the line, sales had dropped to around 23,600 cars. You have to wonder whether the 50% sales drop during this period was influenced at all by the 50% price rise that the Corvette experienced between 1984 and 1990. Of course, the “Black Monday” stock market crash of 1987 didn’t do the car any favors, as people were forced to tighten their belts to ride out the hard financial times. Car sales were one of the first victims during this period.

When compared to the engines of its predecessors, the LT5 engine in the ZR-1 really is an engineering work of art. Chevrolet really pushed the boat out on this one and delved into some previously uncharted waters as a manufacturer. The term “unchartered waters” is probably appropriate for the LT5, as Chevrolet utilized Mercury Marine to assemble the engines for them. Chevrolet chose Mercury due to their considerable experience in working with alloy engine components, of which the LT5 had plenty.

The engine was designed by Group Lotus in the UK and features an aluminum block, quad camshafts, 4-valves per cylinder, and fuel injection. This resulted in an engine that produced an easy 350hp. although Mercury Marine was able to prove that extracting considerably more power from the engine was not difficult. The LT5 in our feature car is backed by a 6-speed ZF manual transmission, while it isn’t surprising to discover that Chevrolet felt that 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS were a worthy addition to the package. The owner doesn’t mention how well the car runs and drives, but he does supply this YouTube video of that wonderful engine running.

The factory plastic covers that can be seen around the interior of the ZR-1 are another indication of the general lack of work that the car has done during its lifetime. The interior is spotless, and it is loaded with all of the goodies that you would hope for in a prestige performance car.

From a safety perspective, you get a driver’s airbag. Add to this a premium stereo with both a cassette and CD player, air conditioning, cruise control, power operation for the windows, locks and the leather seats, and life is always going to be quite pleasant in the ZR-1.

Now is when we get to the difficult part of this story. I know that opinion on this car is going to be pretty divided across our readers. Some of you will be questioning why someone would buy a car like this and not drive it. Some of you will also question whether driving it now would be viable, as this could negatively impact the long-term value of the car. Some of you will also say that they’d just get into it and enjoy it in the way that Chevrolet originally intended.

To put this car into perspective, I have found another car that is on the market at present, and it has less than 150 miles on the clock. That one is being offered at $49,800, which is just about the dearest example that you will find at the moment. I also find the fact that it appears that the reserve was low on this one a fair indicator of the current owner’s expectations for the car. Personally, I don’t think that I could resist taking it for a spin.

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Comments

  1. BRAKTRCR

    Yep, drive it cautiously for a short time, get new tires on it, and yes take it out and burn some rubber.
    What a bargain in my opinion

    Like 6
  2. Will Fox

    I remember driving one of these that year. It’s a monster that is very hard to keep in your lane!! Ferocious torque that’ll scare most drivers. I can see why it got mothballed. These are definitely Corvette legends.

    Like 9
  3. Bakyrdhero

    Enjoy it on the weekends, out maybe 1,500 miles a year on it and it still has less than 20k in ten years and I’ll bet you get a return on your investment, not to mention the smiles per mile are priceless. Beautiful car.

    Like 7
    • Steve R

      Probably not. A friend bought one of the later ZR-1’s new, It has well under 30,000 miles. He put it up with a no reserve auction about a year ago with a starting bid of $19,995. There were no bids, he didn’t even have anyone contact him to ask question about the car. These are dead players, really nice 7-10 year old Z06’s are selling for significantly less than this cars BIN, that’s where the market has moved to since they are much better cars.

  4. Brian K

    I owned this exact same car in 1998 except it had a red interior, 1994 ZR1 wheels with borla cat back exhaust. I drove it across from Boston to LA and it was the best roadtrip I ever had. The car was 375HP (not 350) and it was underrated for 1990. The thing I didn’t like is some smoke would pass through and a coat of oil would be on my bumper. I believe it was normal due the engine design until fixed around ’91 or ’92. The factory wheels shown were prone to cracking so I’d change them out with later ZR-1 wheels. The problem with this car would be a shortage of parts of anybody makes them for this engine. Water pump, ect.. Overall, at 20k this would be a low risk investment.

    Like 6
  5. JSB Member

    Part of the low sales problem was that dealers were marking them up to $100,000. Some people would pay that but most people didn’t want to, we sold them in Santa Monica to rock stars and such, mere mortals couldn’t afford them.

    Like 6
  6. Bob Minnis

    I owned a moderately modified 90 with ported headers and plenum. This car was beat pretty hard by previous owner and therefore up on blocks often. But when it ran, (4:10 rear) it really flew. Exhaust sound (flow master) was that of a Ferrari. Miss that car. But it,they refuse to appreciate in value. Kinda like the V-rod. But fun fun to drive. Only corvette to not have a GM engine (Lotus).

    Like 2
    • Ralph

      Lotus designed the heads and Mercury Marine did the block machine work, but this is still very much a “GM engine”.

      Most of the engines in actual Lotus’ aren’t even “Lotus Engines”……

      Like 3
      • TONY MILO

        Ralph is correct,GM had a piece of Lotus back in the day.I wouldn’t kick one of the driveway,but I chose a 40th Aniv,drop top,6spd this time around.My 8th Vette I owned thruout my 66 years.

  7. Colby

    Radio doesn’t work. Deal breaker for me. I bet that’s why they stopped driving it. :)

    Like 7
  8. Guardstang

    The ZR1 pkg was a $31,000 option on top of the base price of a Vette-and you had to be a fanboy to know what you were looking at. I remember only the crazy rich bought them and then sales slid. I wonder is GM has any replacement engines left?

    • Sandy Claws

      Makes no sense, the base Vette by then was a fine high performance well balanced car, what more did you need except the bragging rights of this? Was this more fun? Sure, but 30K more fun? Today these would sell great, as we have a wealthy class with far more money then even then, of course they would buy it, but 29 years ago we had at least a little more economic equality. I feel that is a big chunk of the bottom line as to why these cars were poor sellers.

      Like 3
  9. 427vette

    This Z is a smoking deal! It’s unfortunate they haven’t and probably will never increase value wise due to the shortage of parts and exotic drivetrains, because they are incredible road cars. I owned a red/red 91 and used it as a daily for two years just because it was so much fun. It was like being on vacation twice a day, riding to the office, riding home from the office. I even recall having to pry the keys out my wife’s hands because she liked racing all the other cars that would challenge her everytime she drove it😁. If I had the time or space I would buy this and wander all over America racking up as many miles as possible, then sell it to the next owner to enjoy.

    Like 7
  10. Ralph

    Rip the package open and start playing with it!

    Like 7
  11. Superdessucke

    Terrifically bad investment for the original owner but a nice deal if the price stays below 30k. I’d be concerned about finding parts but this is about as good as it gets for a ZR1 and C4.

    Like 3
  12. 86_Vette_Convertible

    Had a chance to look one over at the dealer lot we had a charity car show at last summer. The had moved it from the dealership lot to their ‘Bargain’ lot from what I was told because it had sat there so long with no takers on it. Not bad condition and not bad a price at the time for a ZR1. As had been noted that engine is a total orphan today, impossible to find parts for let alone someone knowledgeable on how to work on them.
    This one looks great, right up to the time something goes wrong with it then I’m afraid it will become a planter due to the parts availability issue.

    Like 2
  13. The Chucker

    C4 Corvette-the worst ingress/egress of any car I’ve ever owned.

    Like 2
  14. TimM

    I’m surprised to see how many people like this car!! Was not under any circumstances a favorite of mine!! I hated the back window design!! However it sure was spunky for the 80’s. when car design was not the best in my opinion!! Good luck to the new owner!!!

    Like 1
  15. Frank Sumatra

    Smart seller and a happy buyer- A marriage made in Corvette heaven. First order of business will be to change the injectors out as they were not designed for ethanol blends. Second order of business would be to drive the everloving snot out of it cause it will never be worth more than it is today and the LT5 is bulletproof.

    Like 1
  16. PaulG

    Owned a ’91 for about 3 years. Picked it up in 2011; paid 20k and sold it for 20k.
    Flew from Phx. to DFW and drove it home.
    Easily went 150 on 1-20 before we spotted a car on our side of the freeway.
    Really wanted to see 170, it sure felt like it was able.
    BUT, ingress / egress sux, plasticky GM interior quality, and cowl shake with the targa top removed.
    The sound of the engine pulling through the 6 speed makes all that seem trivial.

    Like 6
  17. leiniedude leiniedude Member

    Ended: May 09, 2019 , 12:11PM
    Winning bid:US $26,601.00
    [ 28 bids ]

    Like 4
  18. Joel S

    I bought a 90 black on black ZR-1 with 115XX miles in the teens. What a deal for a car that sold new for $70k after the ADM. Who cars if it does not appreciate a whole lot, what other cars have 375hp, get mid 20s mpg and have an engine that looks this cool? These cars are under appreciated and parts are not that hard to get. I know of several with over 200k miles.

    As for what someone said incorrectly in the comments, Lotus engineering designed the entire engine and Mercury Marine did most of the machining and assembly.

    Like 1
  19. DayDreamBeliever Member

    60 MPH in second gear……
    Or very nearly that, anyway.

    Eons ago a guy out of the Chicago area autocrossed one because he had physical limitations which made changing gears difficult. Most events were laid out tight enough that a change to third was not required for his car, and the torque was plenty enough to take off without using first. He was fast, many wins.

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