For $11,500, This Could Be The ZR-1 For You

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C4 is a plastic explosive with a detonation velocity of 18,000 mph. Today, Nice Price or Crack Pipe has a C4 Corvette, and its Lotus designed LT-5 engine makes punching the gas pedal nearly as explosive.


There was something hinky going on with yesterday's 1999 Firehawk. The price seemed extremely low to everyone who didn't already hate the F-body for some past transgression, and the spamtacular ad got pulled before we had a chance to verify it was for real. Despite that, the 402-whp bird of prey would have feathered the nest of 60% of you, giving Nice Price a four-peat this week. Phew, there's got to be some cars out there that are saddled with a burdensome price tag! And perhaps today's car will be one of those.

When somebody at GM raised the idea of buying the British cottage industry poster child Lotus, he or she probably spun tales of Formula One victories and adding lightness. Well, the purchase did add lightness to GM's coffers, and when they went to appraise their new acquisition, what they found was a company still reeling from the time and investment put into the DeLorean seven years earlier- forcing Lotus to postpone development of their own products.

Despite that shock, and while the purchase was more a boon to Lotus - opening up GM's vast parts bins to the tiny car maker - the bigger company benefited as well. One of those benefits is the subject of today's rumination.

This 1991 Corvette ZR-1 represents from the second year of ZR-1 production, and carries the C4 refresh styling shared with all Vettes that year. What made the ZR-1 special was its Mercury Marine-built engine. The all-aluminum LT-5 shared bore centers with the iron block L-98, but nothing else. At 349 cubic inches, the LT-5 employed double overhead cams and a complicated intake system – both designed by Lotus – to make an astounding for the time 375-bhp. While that might not seem like much in a world of 300-hp V6 Camaros and 1001-hp Bugattis, it was enough back then to give the ZR-1 seven FIA speed records.

The ZR-1 wasn't just a straight line whore, as its suspension had also been breathed on by the magical handling elves at Lotus. With a white exterior and a gray cockpit, this ZR-1 has handled nearly 190,000 miles. The seller, who is also the car's original owner, lists a number of new parts, including a radiator and a set of Bilsteins, stuff you might expect in a car of this age and mileage. Other than that, he notes that the old school A/C does more damage to the environment than to cabin heat, so that would likely need to be repaired and upgraded, especially if sweat isn't a good look on you. There's also an oil leak (aluminum? Lotus? Go figure) but those are the only major issues it has or that he's willing to divulge.


The car does come with both tops, as well as the kind of crappy interior that only GM could have built in the nineties. Flimsy, oversized knobs and chicklet-sized buttons wobble around in poorly fitting surrounds that are all turning various shades of ass, and the panel gaps are wide enough to be Madonna's dental work. But twist the key and plant a foot and that'll all rattle into insignificance as the ZR-1 demonstrates why it was once the fastest car GM had ever produced. Zero to sixty times were in the four and a half second range, and the top speed's an honest to Zora Arkus-Duntov 180 miles per hour.

It was also the most expensive car GM had built, coming in at nearly double the cost of a base Corvette. Chalk that up to the hand-built nature of the exotic motor, and all the sub-contracted work. But, despite the nose-bleed original cost of entry, and the limited production numbers – this is one of 6,940 cars – this ZR-1 can be had for less than the cost of a Yaris. And unlike the Toyota, the Vette's acceleration is intended! Okay, that was a cheap shot, but still the seller is asking $11,500 for what was once the top of GM's entire U.S. line up.


So, what do you think? Is $11,500 a deal for an explosive C4? Or, do you think ZR-1 too many zeros in that price?

You decide!


San Diego Craigslist or go here if the ad disappears.

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Rob Emslie

Okay, since so many of you have called this an Auto-box car, let me clear something up- the 1991 ZR-1 only came with a ZF 6-speed manual and three pedals down where you put your Buster Browns.