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1990 Corvette ZR-1: King of the Hill


A few days ago, we featured a very similar (right down the color combination) low-mileage Corvette. As many of you pointed out, there were some key shortcomings: the lack of the manual transmission and  being a standard issue LT1, not the more desirable ZR-1 package. Well, this 1990 Corvette ZR-1 here on eBay addresses both of those shortcomings and has under 10,000 original miles. The asking price is pretty fair, too: $23,950 or best offer.


It’s hard to believe we would find another torch red interior Corvette in the same week, but I don’t think it’s a bad thing! The sport seats in the C4 always look fantastic to me, but really what’s most appealing is the row-it-yourself shifter in the console. News to me: the Vette’s six-speed had a nifty feature called CAGS, or (Computer Aided Gear Se­lection) that automatically short-shifts from first to fourth under light throttle, as noted by Road & Track in their 1990 review.


The ZR-1’s LT5 engine featured a unique 2-stage induction system that gave the car two personalities, if you will: comfortable, torque-rich V8 cruiser around town and 380 b.h.p. monster on the track or interstate. Coupled with the clever six-speed, the FX3 adjustable suspension, the huge Goodyear Gatorback tires and the LT5’s enhanced cooling system, the ZR-1 was an impressive assortment of innovation and performance, and for a far lower price than its rivals from Porsche and BMW.


Of course, as has often been the case, the ZR-1 and the Corvette in general didn’t do much to sway buyers of 911s and Esprits to jump over to a GM-branded product. Their loss, I suppose, as this wasn’t just a Chevy affair: the LT5 was co-developed with Lotus and assembled by Mercury Marine (yes, the boat people). All that said, I don’t think the typical seller hyperbole in the ad is far off – the ZR-1 will likely become a pricey classic in the future, so buying one that’s new-in-the-wrapper at this price is a compelling opportunity if you have the scratch.


  1. Avatar photo RayT

    I’m certain the price will jump substantially when bids start coming in. Anyone who has driven a ZR-1 — especially if they have driven other C4s — is likely to be ready to give up crazy money for this.

    When the ZR-1 was first introduced, I drove several. For its day, this was a monumental achievement for the engineers: a supercar that was also a comfortable touring machine. I don’t remember many 1990 cars that could be hot-lapped on a race track (at speeds many cars wearing numbers couldn’t match) and immediately driven hundreds of miles on a public highway without wearing out the driver. I wanted one then, want one now.

    My only question would be about the availability of ZR-1-specific replacement parts. That probably wouldn’t mean much to whoever buys this one, but I could not resist racking up the miles, even though doing so would put a torpedo right through its resale value. These were meant to be driven…and hard.

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  2. Avatar photo Toast54

    I believe the engines were built in Stillwater, OK

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    • Avatar photo Geebee

      I believe that is correct. I know for certain Mercury had/has a plant there.

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  3. Avatar photo JoeW
    • Avatar photo Mike

      “Selling for a friend”. Right… Don’t they saw to avoid ads like this?

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    • Avatar photo Jeff Staff

      Sweet MARIA that is a deal.

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  4. Avatar photo jim s

    the nifty feature called CAGS is a pain which i hope has an override to turn it off. the rest of the car is great and i too would drive it. i wonder, why the seller did not replace the aftermarket oil filter before taking photos, why the seller did not provide a free vehicle history report, and why it is not sold already. great find.

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    • Avatar photo MM

      The override is connected to your right leg…

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  5. Avatar photo Donnie

    I like the way the engine looks you can se it .It is not hidden by a big plastic cover

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  6. Avatar photo PaulG

    Speaking from experience (I currently own a ’91 w/ 33K miles, same color combo) these are well balanced cars that like to be out on the open road. The CAGS works only if you’re trying to shift from 1st to 2nd at 19mph or less.
    I love to drive mine, but can’t imagine anyone using a C-4 Corvette as a DD.
    I’m not sure the pic of my window sticker will come through, but the price of the Corvette doubled with the ZR-1 option.
    The craigslist car from Thousand Oaks is a bargain, and if I didn’t already own one…

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  7. Avatar photo John F

    Gran Turismo 1

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  8. Avatar photo randy

    I was also thinking this was VERY cheap for a nice ZR1, someone needs to jump on the buy it now before the flippers get to it.

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  9. Avatar photo Mike R

    I’ve driven these, and at triple digit speeds they really hold their own.

    Personally, if someone’s looking for a bargain, I’d go for a newer C5 Z06, similar price and performance, and easier to maintain than these…

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  10. Avatar photo Gnrdude

    Awesome CAR, Definitely the Stand out Collectors Car From the C-4 Generation. However I would be Afraid to OWN that Car as I’d want to Get in it and DRIVE IT! Cause in it’s Current condition it’s a Low-Mileage Preserved GEM.

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  11. Avatar photo Dolphin Member

    Engine was designed in part I think by Lotus Engineering, which GM owned at that time. IIRC the engines were assembled by Mercury Marine, which is probably the outfit that toast54 has referring to in Stillwater, OK.

    OK, I just looked some more up….
    Wikipedia gives Lotus credit for the engine (“with input from GM”). Eight of the intake valves could be deactivated at part-throttle for fuel savings. Lotus also upgraded the brakes and steering systems. Not a bad source if you’re interested in making a car handle.

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  12. Avatar photo grant

    I’ve never heard of CAGS or “skip shift” being described as “nifty.”

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  13. Avatar photo JimmyinTEXAS

    This vehicle has a incomplete recall…

    Looks like the seller has taken care of the fuel delivery recalls and the oil filter recall, but left the seat belt anchorage recall open….

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    • Avatar photo 365Lusso

      Jimmy, the link isn’t working for me. Working for others?

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  14. Avatar photo HeadMaster1

    Somebody buy it and enjoy it. The one JoeW posted is a better deal (if its in good shape). Paying a premium for low miles isn’t worth it. There are ZR1s with less than 500 miles on the clock for $35k if you want a showpiece. Buy one that’s been driven some as they tend to have fewer problems. I was out enjoying my 90ZR1 yesterday, and showed my taillights to a mustang club on Ortega Hwy…..Goodtimes ;-)

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  15. Avatar photo Keith

    Well my 1992 LT1 corvette may not be a ZR1 but it rates up there with the “Fun Factor” when driving it. A V8 with a six speed manual is the way to go! My Corvette has only 13,391 miles, paid 14k for it.

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  16. Avatar photo Graham Lloyd

    Skip shift is the first thing that should be disabled. Drove a vette with this irritation and hated it.

    When I ordered my 96 Formula it also came with it. Dealer I got it from wouldn’t disable it for me. So first stop was to a dealer who would. Service guy looked at me real funny when I answered his question about how many miles were on the car. My answer was 12

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  17. Avatar photo Keith

    They sell a plug that disables the CAGS for around 25 to 40 dollars, easy fix.

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    • Avatar photo jim s

      thanks, that is what i wanted to know.

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    • Avatar photo PRA4SNW

      Yep, I did this on my 99 Z/28 when it was a week old. Skip Shift sucks.

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  18. Avatar photo randy

    Hey Bill, tell us how you really feel!!

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  19. Avatar photo Keith

    Another C4 hater……?

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  20. Avatar photo dj

    When these cars came out, they were the King of the Hill. Each Chevy dealer had to have one tech who went for training just on these cars. I was that tech for ours. You got all this crap when you finished. A coat, hat, books and on.

    A guy was buying one, through a friend, at our dealer, The guy picked the car up to play with it through the weekend before the owner got it. Wrecked it killing him and his passenger. GM came and got the car, read data and said he was doing 140 when he hit the tree. Needless to say, the owner got whatever he wanted.

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  21. Avatar photo PRA4SNW

    Last year, I sold my ’70 Vette 350 manual convertible, both tops, clean and stock, for about what the ask is in this auction.

    I would have gladly traded straight up for this and feel like I got the better deal.
    My next Vette will be a C4 – great value right now.

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  22. Avatar photo Joel S

    Last weekend I picked up a 1990 ZR-1 with 11557 miles for a song, VIN 00277 and built in October of 89. Black / Black and what a beautiful car. Plan to enjoy it for a while as I have loved these since they were supposed to come out in 1989.

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  23. Avatar photo Dt 1

    That’s a great deal

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