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Affordable Supercar: 49k Mile 1991 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1

Let’s face it: the 1970s and 1980s were pretty miserable years if you were a performance car enthusiast. The horsepower of once potent vehicles dribbled out the exhaust, and the need to comply with evolving safety legislation added weight that transformed many from lean and mean into obese and serene. Detroit began clawing back lost ground during the late 1980s, courtesy of a developing understanding of engine management technology and the growing use of lightweight alloys and plastics in vehicle construction. The 1991 Corvette ZR-1 perfectly embodies this new thinking, and our feature car is a gem. It is a tidy driver with 49,000 miles on the clock and has been garage-kept its entire life. It needs a new home, with the seller listing it here on Craigslist on Staten Island, New York. The seller set their price at $26,500, and I must say a big thank you to Barn Finder Mitchell G. for spotting this muscular beauty.

Code 41 Black was a popular shade amongst 1991 Corvette buyers, with 3,909 people selecting that shade. It is unclear how many of the 2,044 ZR-1 buyers ticked that box on the Order Form, but this is one of those cars. It presents exceptionally well, with a deep shine and no significant flaws in the paint or panels. The car has been garage-kept since Day One, meaning the weather and UV rays haven’t taken a toll on its plastic. The seller doesn’t mention any existing or previous rust issues and the lack of visible corrosion in areas like the engine bay auger well for the structural integrity of this classic. The alloy wheels show no signs of stains or physical damage, and the glass is flawless.

The ZR-1 package was a visually subtle option, but tilting the hood forward revealed what the hype was all about. A regular production Corvette featured a 5.7-liter V8 producing 245hp and 345 ft/lbs of torque. Those numbers were considered respectable in 1991, allowing the car to cover the ¼-mile in 14.4 seconds. The engine powering the ZR-1 was the product of meticulous development and engineering by Chevrolet and Group Lotus. The engine block and cylinder heads were cast from aluminum alloy, with each cylinder head housing a pair of camshafts. With little experience within either company to assemble an engine of this caliber, Chevrolet enlisted Mercury Marine to complete the work. This new motor, dubbed the LT5, may have shared its capacity with the standard ‘Vette engine, but that was where the comparisons ended. This 5.7-liter brute produces an “official” 375hp and 370 ft/lbs of torque. The ¼-mile ET? That was slashed to 13.1 seconds. The standard Corvette ran out of breath at 157mph, but the ZR-1 would keep trucking to 180mph. Detroit had rediscovered its performance mojo! This car features its numbers-matching engine and six-speed manual transmission. It is in excellent mechanical health and has a genuine 49,000 miles on the clock. The seller doesn’t mention verifying evidence, but the comprehensive Service Records could be all that is required to confirm the claim. They hold a significant collection of original documentation tracing back to Day One. This includes the Window Sticker, Owner’s Manual, Dealership paperwork, and the unique ZR-1 Information Package and VCR tapes in their original box.

This Corvette’s interior isn’t perfect, but its condition is acceptable for a classic of this age and type. The outer seat bolsters show some slight wear and dirty marks, and some of the stitching looks ready to break. It would be worth handing the car to a leather specialist because they might be able to address the shortcomings for a fraction of the cost of new seatcovers. The remaining trim and carpet are highly presentable, and the plastic on the console and dash hasn’t succumbed to age. The new owner receives a car with no aftermarket additions but loaded with luxury appointments. They include a driver’s airbag, climate-controlled air conditioning, power windows, power locks, six-way power seats, side window defoggers, a rear window defogger, a leather-wrapped tilt wheel, and premium Delco Bose Gold Series stereo with an AM/FM radio, cassette player, and single CD.

This 1991 Corvette ZR-1 isn’t perfect, but that could be the main attraction for some potential buyers. Recent sales results have seen pristine low-mileage examples change hands for well over $40,000. This car doesn’t meet that standard, but its price reflects that. It is a tidy driver-grade vehicle that someone can enjoy without the fear that an errant stone might spoil perfection. Could you be that person?


  1. donald p mulligan

    I had a red on red 1991 Zr1 back in the mid 90’s It was such a cool car and so fun to drive and enjoy. Every mustang / Camaro and 3000GT wanted to try their luck against it. Being able to shift at high RPM’s and handle like it was on rails made it a fun ride. Interior build quality was typical 1990’s GM but i enjoyed it very much had it for 4 years and sold it for what i paid for it which makes for even fonder memories. The guy i bought it from paid over 60k for it which was a huge amount of money in 1991! I would love to own one again !

    Like 8
  2. BA

    IMHO this is the best bang for your buck classic car with all the creature comforts you could want with while modest now days horsepower all that you need to have that sports car, muscle car feel especially if you slapped the long tube headers & borla exhaust on it! Just don’t see any downside to this car.

    Like 3
    • Frank Sumatra

      @BA-The horsepower rating viewed from 2023 has nothing to do with the 90-95 ZR-1. The fact it got designed and built by GM/Lotus/Mercury Marine during the mid-to-late 1980’s makes the ZR-1 a significant part of superperformance car history. Remember that it held its own or outperformed against Porsche and Ferrari at a much lower entry fee and it could be serviced at a Chevy dealer. Most important, if you have ever had the chance to drive one, the sound of the LT5 engine at max RPM is unforgettable. Next time you see me, please kick my butt for not buying a one-owner 1990 ZR-1 for $18,000 in 1995.And you are correct, there is very little downside to this car especially if you reside near this car. There are ZR-1 specialists in the area.

      Like 1
  3. MotoWorld llc

    I drove 1990 #247 for 2 decades. It was the best car I ever owned!
    There are no downsides to ownership- no weak links- nothing.
    0-60 in 4 sec, 180mph is respectable today.
    Don’t be leary of any bad things you hear about these cars, rumours are started by people that never owned one. The only part you cant find is a crankshaft, GM’s answer was that no one in history has needed a crankshaft- =D Those engines were hand built at Mercury Marine in a constant temp of 70 some odd degrees for consistancy. Let me put it this way, valve cover gaskets are not required or used, the valve cover fits soo exact that it doesnt need one. How kool is that! =D

    Like 3
    • Frank Sumatra

      So true. I’m sure there are others, but few American engines were hand- built to the close tolerances the LT5 was. 250,000 mile ZR-1’s are out there being driven everyday. This is getting dangerous. I’m starting to talk myself into finishing my driving career with a ZR-1. Staten Island is a 6-hour drive from home. probably 12 hours with traffic.

      Like 0
  4. Steve

    Those aren’t 1991 rims

    Like 0
    • Smokey Smokerson

      That’s ok….asking price is insanely cheap. If you want to see true unbelievable pricing. Take look at what the kids are doing to the prices of the mid 90s Toyota Supras. $55k will buy you a NA, 200 ho engine with close to 100k miles. Put a turbo in, price goes over $80k, have one from the factory with a turbo, noth of $100k all day. The Supra, Toyotas answer for the Corvette, and it was a failure.

      Like 0

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