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Entry Level Supercar: 1990 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1

We’ve written about the value proposition a Corvette ZR-1 offers anyone looking for a supercar on a budget. The C4 chassis ZR-1 is a technological and performance marvel, and even today, it is still a very compelling performance vehicle despite the years that have passed since its introduction. The seller’s car has 44,000 miles on the clock which makes it more of a driver than most examples, and therefor it’s listed at an excellent price here on craigslist of just $24,500.

The red-on-red color combination is in your face loud, and that’s appropriate for a supercar as brash as the ZR-1. Now, the beauty of the mileage in this case is that it’s high enough to drive the price down but still quite low in the grand scheme of things. This means details like the interior are still in mint condition with those deeply sculpted bucket seats showing little in the signs of wear. The paintwork also appears to still be quite deep and lustrous with no obvious flaws.

The heart of the beast is a 5.7L V8 that made an impressive 375 horsepower and gave the Porsche 911 Turbo of the same generation a serious run for its money. While modern supercars may run neck and neck today, the early 90s was a different landscape. The basic C4 Corvette was barely a threat to any other sports car at the time and certainly not the likes of a turbocharged 911. The ZR-1 quickly leveled the playing field and put GM on the map as capable of building world-beating sports cars.

The ZR-1 was also slightly under the radar in terms of its outward appearance, which is another detail I’ve always loved. It looks like the standard C4, same for some minor differences that only diehard enthusiasts will notice. When you consider the straight-line speed, sharp handling courtesy of Lotus, and the ease of maintenance and replacement parts, the C4 ZR-1 makes good sense all the way around, especially at this price point.


  1. David Henneman

    The basic Corvette was indeed a threat for most sports cars. The base C4 was frequently compared to, and had similar performance to any Porsche 911without a turbo, 928s, and turbo 944s. It could also hang with Ferrari 328s, 348s, and non-turbo Lotus Esprits. Not to mention all of the Japanese entries such as the 300ZX turbo, Mitsubishi 3000GT VR4, and even the Acura NSX. Another thing to remember is that the base Corvette was significantly lower in price than most of the cars I listed, with the exception of maybe a few of the Japanese offerings. All that being said, the ZR-1 was truly the “King of tge Hill.”

    Like 11
  2. Jwzg

    With the advent of the LT1 in 1992, the Corvette finally grew some cajones and was quite formidable in both acceleration and top speed in addition to being a competent handler. Chassis flex and materials quality were barriers to greatness for the Corvette.

    Like 6
    • Jwzg

      That was just for the base model…

      Like 3
    • Jeff Van Allen

      Is that when the hp went from 375 to 405???

      Like 2
      • Frank Sumatra


        Like 1
      • Joel S.

        Also remember the 1990 was as fast as the higher HP ZR-1 (93-95) due to lower weight.

        Like 2
      • Frank Sumatra

        Joel S. Where did you hear that? The LT5 from 1993 on had modified cylinder heads and four-bolt main bearings plus some other tweaks. No significant difference in weight.1990- 3465lb, 1993- 3503 lb. 38 lbs difference. And 1990 1/4 mile- 13.4sec 108.5mph, 1993 13.1 110mph. Both versions top speed was around 180 mph

        ” The engine was initially rated at 375 hp and 370 lb-ft of torque, but a revised LT5 broke cover in 1993. Packing four-bolt main caps, improved heads, new pistons, revised cam timing, and new exhaust manifolds, that engine checked in at a gutsy 405 hp and 385 lb-ft of torque.”

        Like 1
  3. Davey Boy

    Very nice subtle supercar. The standard transmission is what puts it over the top for me. Looks like a blast to drive.

    Like 6
    • Hamish Gunn

      I bought one of these for my Honey after her story of an old boyfriend borrowed her 67’ 427 Vette for the weekend and when she went for her next service they asked her why she exchanged it for a 350 ( truck engine ) !!!
      She works 1500 yards from home and drove it about a week and said a six speed was too confusing and would prefer an auto ; forty years later
      I got the auto C5 ,but from the first time driving that 90 ZR1, I still feel like I’m strapping into an F15 and preparing for “ TAKE OFF ‘’ and four years later nothing’s changed ! From a Vette so so to LOVER !
      If I was younger I would buy them all up at these bargain prices for so many low mileage JETS !

      Like 0

    As a 30K option it was not a cheap car in 1990. But it was well worth it. I rue the day I got rid of mine. But life sometimes gets in the way.

    Like 7
  5. PRA4SNW


    Like 2
  6. Big Bear 🇺🇸

    Beautiful ZR-1 great price and low mileage… snatched up!! Lucky new owner!! 🐻🇺🇸

    Like 5
  7. wuzjeepnowsaab

    Buy these while they’re still cheap. Plain old C4’s will probably always be regarded as eh but these ZR-1’s are legit (for the times) muscle cars and will probably be the next Corvette to start attracting collector money

    Like 2
    • Frank Sumatra

      A “plain old” 1996 C4 with the 330 hp LT-4/ZF6 transmission will provide more excitement than any of us could probably handle.

      Like 4
    • PRA4SNW

      A later C4 passed me on the commute home today. Winding in and out of traffic with some nice speed, but still doing it safely. Interesting to see a car being driven with some spirit, and I was surprised to be reminded how low to the ground they are, especially compared to the majority of vehicles being driven these days, myself included.

      Like 3
      • Frank Sumatra

        The later C4’s (1990 to 1996) are great cars to drive. And they are low. Too bad almost every vehicle on the road today is some form of SUV or Urban Assault Vehicle with 747 Landing Lights for headlamps. I spend most of my night driving looking at the side of the road to avoid being blinded.

        Like 0
  8. drew

    I saw a C4 parked next to a Prius in a parking garage recently and was taken aback by the Vette having a lower roofline.

    Like 2
  9. Frank Sumatra

    The later C4’s (1990 to 1996) are great cars to drive. And they are low. Too bad almost every vehicle on the road today is some form of SUV or Urban Assault Vehicle with 747 Landing Lights for headlamps. I spend most of my night driving looking at the side of the road to avoid being blinded.

    Like 0
  10. Jeff Van Allen

    I have an old VHS tape from 1990 from C&D titled the “10 Top Exotic Cars” w/ Carrol Shelby. It features interviews with owners and their cars. The cars were a new NSX, 80’s Lambo Countach, 80’s Ferrari Testarossa, a 60’s GT40, 60’s Shelby 427SC, 80’s BMW M1, a new Ferrari F40, a Lotus turbo Espirit, Porsche 911 turbo & a new ZR1! One of the classic moments is where they ask Carrol what he thinks about the F40 hitting 200mph, he replies “shit, we was doing that in a Cobra at Daytona 25 years ago! lol

    Like 0
  11. Jeff Van Allen

    I have an old VHS tape by C&D titled “Top 10 exotics” dated 1990 w/ Carrol Shelby as a guest. It contained interviews with the car owners of a ’90 NSX, an 80’s Lambo Countach, 80’s Ferrari Testarossa, 80’s Lotus Espirit turbo, an 80’s BMW M1, a 60’s Ford GT40, 60’s Cobra, a new Ferrari F40, Porsche 911 turbo & a new ZR1. The interviewer asked Carrol what he thought about the F40 hitting 200mph, Carrol replied “Sh** we was doing that in a Cobra at Daytona 25 years ago”! lol ‘

    Like 0

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