C4 Corvette ZR-1 Was Definitely Worth Twice the Price of the Entry Car

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1995 Corvette ZR-1

Even after ‘regular’ Corvettes got the LT1 engine in 1992, the ZR-1 was well worth its exorbitant price premium. 

It’s no surprise that we love the C4 ZR1 around here. It was a significant technological step forward for the C4 chassis, and was the first time in a long time that the Corvette was taken seriously when compared to contemporary international sports cars. This was the ‘Vette that brought the fight to Ferrari, and set the stage for massive improvements in the Corvette’s image over the last twenty years or more.

Forum user “Ifweonlyknew” started a thread incredulously wondering why anyone ponied up the cash for a ZR-1 in its heyday. In 1992 the price difference between a standard LT1 car and the ZR-1’s special LT4 was a whopping $33,000, and it only made 75 more horsepower. With similar 0-60  and 1/4 mile times, what was all the fuss about?

It only took a handful of posts before bb62 jumped into the thread to offer a complete shutdown of that line of thinking. Here’s what he had to say:

Is the ZR-1 worth it? Some points:

– I love how people point to the 75HP difference that existed only in 1992 as a reason to think the ZR-1 is not worth the cost bump. Put another way, it is a 25% HP bump – AT WORST.
1990 – 125HP – 50% HP jump
1991 – 125HP – 50% HP jumpt
1992 – 75HP – 25% HP jump
1993 – 105HP – 35% HP jump
1994 – 105HP – 35% HP jump
1995 – 105HP – 35% HP jump

Any other vehicle back then or today that would have that percentage of HP bump over a base model would EASILY drive a $30K price tag increase

Other factors:
– The LT5 is easily the best looking Corvette engine ever made (and I also have 67 435HP couple). Open up the hood of the ZR-1 to show the LT5 is almost guaranteed to bring more onlookers than any other Corvette – even the C2s.
– The ZR-1 with the wider read end and more aggressive tires looks meaner than the base LT1 ( which has something of a squeezed look when you place the two side by side – but that is just personal opinion)
– The ZR-1 is by one measure still the fastest production car ever made
– The LT5 engine durability far exceeds anything from its time (including the SBC which had quality issues that the LT5 never experienced)
– Most every guide to the most significant Corvettes ever made includes the ZR-1 – and usually in second place after the 63 SWC.
– The sound and feel of the LT5 at 7000 is almost worth the price of admission by itself. By comparison, the L98 and even the LT1 run out of breath way to soon.
– The ZR-1 re-introduced the motoring world to a true high performance no compromises sports car with the Corvette nameplate (last seen in 1971 with the solid lifter big block LS6). It is the basis for the wonderful set of follow on high performance Corvettes like the C5 Z06, the C6 Z06 and ZR1, the C7 Z06 and the upcoming the C7 ZR1. The C4 ZR-1 laid that groundwork and deserves its place as a significant historical Corvette – something the L98 or LT1 C4s could never lay claim to.
– The real world performance potential is not realized for most vehicles on the road today – but the thrill of that long onramp with the LT5 is one that when experienced will want to be repeated over and over. In other words, there are plenty of real world opportunities to use what the LT5 has to offer.

There are plenty of ways to rationalize not wanting to buy a ZR-1. But do not pretend that the objective and subjective differences of the ZR-1 to the LT1 or L98 cars is not significant enough to justify both its price differential and its place in Corvette history.

Perhaps most importantly, forum user billschroeder5842 has a ZR1 and his cat Boris likes it. Case closed, ZR-1s rule.

Cat on LT-5

Sound off with your thoughts on the forum>>

Bradley Brownell is a regular contributor to Corvette Forum and 6SpeedOnline, among other auto sites.

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