Loaded ZR1: 1991 Chevy Corvette

The Corvette ZRI remains one of the most under-appreciated modern classics on the market, and is still incredibly cheap for the level of performance it offers. This 1991 example is loaded to the gunwales with all the right equipment, including factory premium wheels with gunmetal insets. Between the six-speed manual and the power key, this car is likely tons of fun. Find it here on craigslist listed for $14,000.

Thanks to Barn Finds reader Rocco B. for the find. Mileage is low at just 41,000. The seller notes it features strong cosmetics, and that it’s been garage-kept for many years. It’s also said to be accident-free, not always possible in a car with this much temptation. The classic Corvette shape is never lost, but the performance offered by the ZR1 far outshines its lesser siblings.

Leather bucket seats are said to remain in good shape, as you’d expect for a car with such low mileage. Note the un-modified door panels and clean carpets; it would seem this ZR1 was in the hands of a mature owner. This is a good thing, as a car with a power switch on the dash could invite loads of abuse from younger owners or drag strip warriors.

It’s entertaining to read about the dyno pulls ZR1 owners perform to see the difference between normal and power modes, as the stock horsepower number is typically shockingly average, but that rating climbs significantly with the power key turned to on. Fun and games aside, I believe a day is coming when these will be hard to buy for under $20K, so get in while you can.

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Comments

  1. RayT Member

    One slight correction, Jeff: the “power” key — also sometimes called the “valet” key — was there to reduce output in cases where the owner was forced to let, shall we say, lesser beings such as parking-lot attendants or offspring drive his or her ZR1. If I remember correctly, the power loss when it was turned down was pretty substantial.

    But only the curious ever bothered.

    8
    • Ralph

      It closed half the intake runners bringing the power down to 210hp, which is still more than most 1991 cars had using 100% of their power.

      6
      • RayT Member

        I tried the ZR1 “valet key.” Once. It might still have had more power than almost everything else on the road back then, but the wet-noodle effect after giving the car full leg with all intake runners wide open was, to say the least, demoralizing. So I guess it was successful.

        I admit I can’t understand why these are so undervalued, especially considering how many ‘Vette fans are out there. Wouldn’t you rather have one of these instead of a rusted-out 356 that doesn’t run? I would!

        12
  2. poseur Member

    seems like a LOT of car for the asking price.
    i’d love to have a polo green with saddle ZR1 with super low miles.
    they show up time to time but thankfully so far not when i have extra cash sitting around.
    borderline criminal how cheap these are and it’s likely this is the model that we all say we wouldacouldashoulda bought

    11
  3. Ralph

    “This 1991 example is loaded to the gunwales with all the right equipment, including factory premium wheels with gunmetal insets”

    There is no such option, it never existed, they just powder coated or painted the wheels, why do the authors here feel the need to editorialize and add info they don’t know anything about?

    There was no “premium” wheel option for the ZR1, they only came with one wheel, the seller doesn’t state that those are premium wheels there is a shot of the window sticker for the car that doesn’t show any premium wheel option, yet the author feels free to just make this fantasy option up out of thin air?

    13
    • Otis

      “This 1991 example is loaded to the gunwales with all the right equipment, including factory premium wheels with gunmetal insets”

      I don’t see where the author is saying this is an option, but rather calls them factory wheels. Sounds like he does know what he is talking about.

      Still a nice car at a very reasonable price.

      4
      • Dusty Rider

        “Factory premium wheels” seems to me to state that these wheels are a factory option, a step above the standard wheels.

        3
      • Frank Sumatra

        Wheels are not original. And there were no ZR-1 side badges until later , maybe 1993?. Minor quibbles, granted, but quibble we must! We are BF’ers!!

        5
  4. wuzjeepnowsaab

    This seems like a lot of fun for small money. Never really a fan of this generation but this one ticks all the boxes

    3
  5. jf85tr99

    Lots of car/significance/power and many other things for your money here. Always one of the dream cars of my youth. In 2002 If you told me an original low mile loaded black black ZR-1 6 speed was selling for less than 20k let alone 15k in 2019 I wouldn’t have ever believed it. I probably wouldn’t have believed they would make a mid engine configuration either though…. I’d drive the wheels off this beast.

    Jay

    8
    • canadainmarkseh Member

      Why is it necessary to drive the wheels off of this car? It’s in nice condition and with continued care it will last for many years to come. That statement made here often makes no sense. “ I’m going to go beat the crap out of a classic survivor “ da…!

      • Mr.BZ

        Some of us can drive the wheels off w/o beating the crap out of a car. Just sayin.

        2
      • jf85tr99

        I’m sorry you misinterpreted my statement and got emotional/angry, I would by no means advocate beating on a well preserved example like this. I simply meant drive it as it was meant to be: fast, with the power key turned on!

        That’s what I was thinking BZ.

        Jay

  6. Keith

    Super price! Nice Vette won’t last long.

    2
  7. Bob

    I once owned a 90 thinking it would have to appreciate. Boy was I wrong. But it defies reason as to why not because this was/is only vette without a Chevrolet motor ever produced. Engine was very well built to very exacting tolerances. But that said, Chevrolet spent too much on development, never made money on this car. Then the viper came on the scene. End of story. But with the right exhaust and other improvements, this was a scorcher.

    2
    • Ralph

      Eh, more like the 300hp and then 350hp regular Corvettes came to be and end of story. the Viper was a blip on the Corvettes radar.

      1
  8. irocrobb

    I have a old old trader in the garage from about 1991 and remember there being a ZR1 for sale by a dealer for 99 grand. Mind you ,thats in Canada. But the dealers tacked on a huge premium over list price. A bad investment if you bought one and stuck it away and not driving it.

    3
  9. brian scott

    Hmmm. I’d like to hear from the guys who lambasted me on this site about two years ago when I said you could find nice ZR1s for under twenty grand (because I track auctions for a living). I thought that was low tide. Nope.

    3
    • Frank Sumatra

      I would like to hear from someone who actually owns and drives one of these regarding changing over the injectors to run ethanol-based fuel and what is the plan if the engine needs any type of service beyond routine maintenance? There just aren’t that many shops in the USA qualified to work on these gems.

      4
      • RayT Member

        If I were going to buy — and this is one of the few ‘Vettes I have had a yen for since I first saw one — I’d check out the ‘Vette club forums right away. I’m sure others have had issues with fuel and parts/service availability.

        If it’s any consolation, that would likely be true for almost any 1991 car you might want to collect. And many other cars would have far fewer enthusiasts getting involved. In fact, I’d guess the ZR1 would be an easier car to own and keep maintained than all the other rides of my wish list!

        2
      • Ralph

        Don’t run ethanol if you can help it?

        It seems that non ethanol gas is getting easier and easier to find, at least in FL .

        3
      • On and On On and On Member

        Here in Wisconsin too, Ralph. We have a chain called KwikTrip that sells high quality premium ethanol free fuel. I use it in my boats, motorcycles, John Deere mower. Really good $h*t……….and about $3.40/gallon.

        4
  10. Arthell64 Member

    C4’s don’t get a lot of respect.

    2
  11. Tom Bell

    Tell me if I’m missing something obvious, but why does the window sticker call out a 4-speed auto when the ar appears to be a 6-speed manual?

    • RayT Member

      I think — not a Corvette expert at all — that the “standard equipment” listing is the same for all C4s of that year. The base transmission for the 5.7 pushrod engine was an automatic.

      To the best of my knowledge, the ZR1 package was not offered with an auto. None I saw were ever so equipped. All had the six-speed.

      1
  12. bobhess Member

    Interesting comparison with a 356 and this car. The 356s represent our history. The ZR1 represents today. Nothing historical about this car, especially in the condition it’s in. I love history but I would not substitute mashing the gas on this baby for anything. Great car.

  13. Dylan Lafrain

    Aren’t these the 4 valve per cylinder Lotus co-designed engine built by mercury marine in Kentucky?

    2
    • Dean

      At one time, they were built in Stillwater OK

      3
  14. 86_Vette_Convertible

    AFAIK all C4 ZR1’s were 6 speed, no automatics. The LT5 Mercury engine was a very special engine but from what I’ve heard finding those unique parts along with someone knowledgeable enough to work on is difficult to locate in most of the country.
    I’ve had a chance to look multiple C4 ZR1s over though I’ve not driven one. If you can get around the potential availability issues, seems like a great deal to me.

    1
  15. Danger Dan

    I owned one and am sad to say I let it go
    to a collector. I installed the rc engineering injectors and the car was a rocket. These had good build quality and excellent wheel feel. The giant meats out back held the road like a slot car. There is no downside
    to this story. These are the unsung heroes of the day. I’d wayyy rather have this than a grand national-

    4
  16. JimmyJ

    I’m not a Chevy guy or a vette guy but I remember when these came out they were a big deal!
    If I had the cash it’d be in my driveway, if you continue to maintain it and don’t trash it I don’t know how you could lose a penny on it.
    I remember when you could get an Acura nsx for around this money now people are getting 100k for em.
    Just don’t blow the motor!

    1

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