Collection Time: Get All Four Corvette ZR1s Before the Bonkers Mid-Engine C8 Comes Out

Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 14 photos
Photo: Bring a Trailer
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The all-new C8 Chevy Corvette ZR1 (the fifth by its name) is probably just around the corner with a twin-turbo addition to the LT6 engine of the bonkers Z06, and prices won't be high or low – instead, they may be just about right.
The rumor mill talks about more than 800 horsepower that will freely gallop this summer under the rear mid-engine hood of the C8 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. The fifth iteration of the legendary moniker might come with prices of around $130k – but that's just the MSRP without destination and especially without the bonkers dealer upticks.

Most likely, at least during the first months or year of availability, it won't be without a miracle if customers can get below $200k. That's supercar territory, of course. However, no other moniker carries more performance heft than ZR1 when it comes to 'America's sports car.' When it appears, each iteration is the absolute peak of GM performance – the fastest, most powerful, and most exclusive Corvette of its age, plus a true exotic supercar killer.

However, out of the total of eight generations to date, just four of them were graced with the ZR1 moniker and honor. Initially, the ZR1 was more of a package, a special lightweight handling RPO indeed, which was allowed for acquisition only alongside the Corvette C3's iconic LT-1 small-block V8. Production lasted solely between 1970 and 1972, and very few examples were created, and even fewer survived to this present day.

Well, suppose you're going to build a collection of ZR1 Corvettes ahead of the summer launch of the fifth iteration that resets the entire paradigm from the classic front-engine RWD to a rear mid-engine setup. In that case, you need to start from there – and prepare your checkbooks for a massive battle. Yep, no worries, we have caught a glimpse of potential candidates for the collection, and we're going to show them one-by-one in the gallery along with the path to their acquisition.

So, let's start with the inaugural C3 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. Amazingly, the Mecum Auctions Indianapolis event set for Saturday, May 18, has not one but two examples up for grabs. We are talking about lots S48 and S260, which are a 1970 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Convertible and a 1972 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Coupe, respectively. Even more spectacularly, they are almost the same color, and their rarity is beyond most beliefs – the Convertible is one of just 25 produced with the LT1 350/370 HP V8 and four-speed transmission, a Bloomington Gold Certified unit, and the Coupe is one of just 20 made for the 1972 model year. It's also a Bloomington Gold Certified plus the carrier of the NCRS Duntov Mark of Excellence, but the Convertible might be more attractive simply because it's a no-reserve auction!

Almost two decades passed before GM and Chevrolet mustered the courage to bring out an all-new Corvette ZR1 to the market, but many will say it was time well spent because it's possible that the C4 iteration from 1990 to 1995 has firmly put America on the sports car performance map alongside models like the Dodge Viper. It came with the DOHC 32-valve LT5 and 375 hp (later it moved to 405 hp) and looked like a supercar because now it was a standalone model in the Corvette family and could be designed as such. An interesting example that easily stands out in any ZR1 crowd is hosted by Illinois Motors, and this unit comes with the perk of delivery miles (923 of them) for 'just' $89,800. It's called out as a rare opportunity – mainly because it's one of just 71 cars dressed in Quasar Blue Metallic over Black leather sport seats, and it even has the optional blue removable roof panel.

After another hiatus, in 2009 came the to life the C6 Chevy Corvette ZR1 – nicknamed 'Blue Devil' after CEO Rick Wagoner's alma mater, Duke University. It was certainly worthy of the moniker because it jumped the fence in terms of performance to the full song of 638 supercharged ponies coming from a 6.2-liter LS9 also rocking 604 lb-ft (819 Nm) of torque. While the official top speed was claimed to be above 200 mph, you would need nerves of steel and a proper venue to test that – it wasn't a gentleman's ride getting there. Alas, nobody doubted its supercar-killing features like the standard Magnetic Ride Control, carbon ceramic brakes (those were more likely available on a $659k Ferrari Enzo at the time, for example), loads of carbon fiber all over the place, and more. Records didn't fall – they were shattered all over the world. Now, if you want one, there's a 7k-mile 2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 finished in Velocity Yellow over Ebony leather on Bring a Trailer – the LS9 is paired with a six-speed manual transmission, and there's also the 3ZR Premium Equipment Group included with the purchase.

Last but not least comes the swansong of the front-engine Corvettes. Unbeknownst to many, General Motors allowed the C7 Chevrolet Corvette iteration to go out with a bang for the 2019 model year, the final of its production. That's when they introduced the C7 ZR1, initially revealed at the 2017 Dubai Motor Show, heavily using the Z06 as a template but with numerous modifications – including an all-new 6.2-liter pushrod LT5 V8 engine equipped with a 2.6-liter Eaton supercharger and churning out 755 hp and 715 lb-ft (969 Nm) of mind-twisting torque. It's the pinnacle of ZR1s up until now, as well as the peak of performance for the front-engine RWD Corvette series. After it, there won't be anything other than mid-engine Corvettes, most likely, but its legacy is ensured with the arrival of the C8 ZR1. In preparation for that arrival, wrap up your collection with another BaT – a sensational 965-mile 2019 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 Convertible rocking the eight-speed automatic and the 3ZR Premium Equipment Group. Yep, it's another orange supercar – this time around dressed in Sebring Orange Tintcoat over a Jet Black leather upholstery. Cool, right? Now, let's hope the C8 ZR1 will make everyone happy once again that Team Corvette switched to the new mid-engine setup!
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About the author: Aurel Niculescu
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Aurel has aimed high all his life (literally, at 16 he was flying gliders all by himself) so in 2006 he switched careers and got hired as a writer at his favorite magazine. Since then, his work has been published both by print and online outlets, most recently right here, on autoevolution.
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