Why The Chevrolet C4 Corvette ZR-1 Is Worth A Fortune Today
Chevrolet's C4 Corvette ZR-1 sported a Lotus developed V8 engine, making the sports car faster than a Porsche 964 turbo, and it's now worth a lot.
By Henry Kelsall on March 11, 2023
The C4 generation of the Chevrolet Corvette might be one of its very best. It's still a tad overlooked but the C4 is slowly going up and up in value. Top of the C4 tree is the mighty Corvette C4 ZR-1. With a big V8 engine under the hood, the ZR-1 offered supercar levels of performance despite the fact it was, technically, still a sports car. Even Lotus had a helping hand in the development of the car.
Like the C4 itself, the ZR-1 is now worth more than you might think. It's thanks to its Porsche beating speed and the advances Chevrolet made with it that it has become a classic Corvette. Potentially, the C4 ZR-1 is one of the greatest Corvettes of all time.
Lotus Helped Chevrolet Create The LT5 V8 Engine
One of the most surprising details about the C4 ZR-1 is that Lotus helped with the engine in the car. Marking the first time that Chevrolet went outside of General Motors to create an engine, Lotus designed the 5.7-liter V8 LT5 engine under the hood. This came after GM had acquired the British car brand in 1986. The LT5 replaced the LT98 V8 that was under the hood of the standard C4 Corvettes, and Lotus ensured the engine produced 375 hp. Lotus of course had V8 experience with the cool and fantastic Esprit. For the 1993–1995 models of the ZR-1, the engine was then tuned further to produce a pretty spectacular 405 hp.
Lotus had designed a unique air management system for the engine. This provided a wider power band, by shutting off 8 of the 16 intake runners and fuel injectors when the engine was at part throttle. This still allowed the engine to produce that 375 hp at full throttle. Lotus was also able to give the engine two fuel injectors per cylinder. One worked at a low rpm while the other worked at 3,500 rpm. The LT5 thus had great levels of performance across the rpm range. The power levels for the ZR-1 were impressive, but so too were the other performance figures.
The Corvette C4 ZR-1 Had Porsche Beating Speed
Given when the C4 ZR-1 came out in the beginning of the 1990s, it's little wonder the performance took people's breath away. And it is little wonder what with supercar levels of performance, that the C4 ZR-12 could take on the very best from the likes of Porsche. The 0-60 mph time for the ZR-1 was 4.5 seconds, while the top speed of the car was 180 mph. This was Porsche beating speed, with the 964 Porsche 911 Turbo, a car also holding its value well, actually slower than the ZR-1 at 174 mph. The 0-60 mph time was also slower at 4.7 seconds.
That incredible speed earned the ZR-1 the nickname of “The King”, with the achievement not easy against a hugely capable car. Remarkable, the Z4 ZR-1 would use its speed to break the 50-year-old 24 hour endurance speed record, averaging 175.885 mph. Officially the Corvette is a sports car, but these numbers do put it in supercar territory. When new, the ZR-1 cost $58,995 making it the most expensive Corvette ever at the time. Adjusted for inflation that is around $178,000 in today’s money. But you can pick up a C4 ZR-1 for a bit less than that.
How Much is The C4 ZR-1 Corvette Worth?
The Corvette C4 ZR-1 is now very much worth a fortune. And depending on the mileage you can get lucky, or pay quite a lot. The average value for now is quite stable, with classic.com putting it just above $34,000. However, the most a C4 ZR-1 has gone for according to them is $101,000. Cars Remember When have a stunning 1995 Corvette ZR-1 for sale at $79,000 with just 151 original miles. You may sometimes be able to pay less though. A 1990 example sold for $26,000 on Bring a Trailer recently with 40,000 miles on the clock.
The C4 ZR-1 Was One Of The Most Advanced Corvettes
The C4 ZR-1 was one of the most advanced Corvettes produced at the time. The unique air management system from Lotus was one piece of the puzzle. But so was the upgraded braking system that Lotus also played a hand in, as was the FX3 suspension system. This was from Bilstein, and was incredibly similar to that used in the Porsche 959. But it featured modifications from Lotus’s Formula 1 division. This was another area in which the Corvette C4 ZR-1 really excelled.
It sometimes flies under the radar but the C4 ZR-1 is one of the finest examples of the Corvette ever produced. It's fast, it's good-looking with its sleek 1990s styling, and hugely advanced. Plus, the price some go for shows the desirability behind the car. The C4 ZR-1 is a Corvette that everyone should consider buying. When it comes to all-time great Corvettes, the C4 ZR-1 is surely one of them.
Sources: Chevrolet, classic.com, Bring a Trailer, Cars Remember When, Mecum Auctions