Dirk de Jager ©2018, courtesy of RM Auctions
  • Offered from the Youngtimer Collection
  • One of 448 1995 Corvette ZR-1s produced
  • One of 49 Competition Yellow ’95 ZR-1s
  • 5.7-liter, 405-hp LT5 V8
  • Sold new through Uftring Chevrolet-Oldsmobile in Washington, IL
  • Odometer displays fewer than 1,000 miles
  • Includes factory build sheet, window sticker and owner’s kit
  • Includes mileage log and ownership notes from original owner
  • Believed to be the second-to-last ZR-1 produced

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1995 Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1
Years Produced:1990–95
Number Produced:6,922
Original List Price:$68,043
SCM Valuation:$31,000
Tune Up Cost:$500 (estimated)
Chassis Number Location:Plate at base of windshield
Engine Number Location:Side of block, near bellhousing
Alternatives:1972 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28, 1993 Ford Mustang SVT Cobra, 2001 Dodge Viper GTS
Investment Grade:C

This car, Lot 1018, sold for $47,300, including buyer’s premium, at the RM Auctions sale in Fort Lauderdale, FL, on March 29, 2019.

Not long after its 1984 debut, the long-awaited fourth-generation (C4) Corvette had turned dated. GM came up with a bold plan to slide a Lotus-engineered, U.S.-built 4-cam, 32-valve aluminum LT5 engine into the C4 platform. This begat the second coming of the ZR-1.

The intention was to one-up 6-cylinder Porsches, head-butt BMW and Mercedes-Benz, match Ferrari’s 308 and 328 V8s, and outdo the swiftly advancing Japanese coupes such as Toyota’s Supra Turbo.

King for a day

For a time, the ZR-1 lived up to its nickname, “King of the Hill,” delivering the most performance available in a contemporary production Corvette — but at a significant 85% premium in price over pushrod C4 Corvettes.

The ZR-1 commanded respect on the street and on the track, eligible as it was for both IMSA and SCCA competition and setting a 24-hour closed-course speed record of nearly 175 mph.

But then the bottom dropped out. Although more than 3,000 ZR-1s were sold in 1990, the numbers slumped, ultimately plummeting to just 448 units annually from 1993 through 1995.

Making matters worse, the exotic engineering of the LT5 mill flummoxed traditional pushrod ’Vette owners and mechanics. That, coupled with the high purchase price, further hamstrung the car’s wholesale success.

Ultimately, the last straw was steadily improving pushrod V8 performance that approached the Z’s power.

Fast and furloughed

And so in a period of just six years, the boldest Corvette ever produced rushed in, burned brightly, and then faded out. Following suit, prices on the used-car market slumped.

With over a quarter-century now gone since the launch of C4 ZR-1, the model still hasn’t caught on with key collectors. One reason may be that the cars are relatively plentiful, with 6,922 produced from 1990 to ’95. And among other bellwethers, the ACC Pocket Price Guide lists them as only a “C” investment, with prices ranging from $18,500 for a 1994 ZR-1 to $31,000 for the last 1995 C4 version.

Special car, spectacular price

Enter the final-year 1995 unit shown here, sold by RM Auctions in Florida for $47,300. This sale represents an impressive 53% spike over the price guide’s median value, for good reason: The car shows under 1,000 miles on its odometer and is configured in desirable Competition Yellow (the third-rarest 1995 Corvette color) with a black leather interior.

This is basically a new 1995 ZR-1. As such, in my estimation, the price paid — a huge bump over typical market values for ZR-1s — was well justified.

Certainly, other low- or no-mileage ZR-1s are out there, as a bunch of optimistic collectors bought and parked their cars instantly, expecting future premium collector status. While this has not played out in major terms, this auction result, along with a growing average price in 2019 compared to 2018, suggests the ZR-1 market is slowly awakening.

Plenty of car

At the beginning of my tenure at GM’s Corvette Quarterly magazine, I met Indycar driver Johnny Unser at Spring Mountain Motorsports Ranch in Nevada to compare the final and best C4 ZR-1 model (a 1995 like this auction lot) with the then-new C5 Z51. The ZR-1 lapped within a whisker of the times for the much newer platform. Today, track days are more popular than ever, and the C4 ZR-1 is still plenty of car for most drivers.

For kids of the ’80s and ’90s who are now coming into money in their careers, the ZR-1 should become a target collectible the same way other high-profile special cars of the era have. While the design of the Z may have been underwhelming at the time thanks to only subtle design differences over the base Corvette, these all have a unique, sharp 1990s look, and ZR-1s like this one are the undisputed top of the heap for these cars.

In this case, since there are only so many ZR-1s of this caliber, and this was new Chevy Tahoe money, I think the new owner made a wise purchase.

This may never play out mathematically, of course — the future owes no one anything — but this one was the right color, had the right condition, and was optioned right for prime interest. Other ZR-1s are starting to bring more as well, as younger buyers have begun hunting down the icons they wanted as kids. With that in mind, call this one well bought.

(Introductory description courtesy of RM Auctions.)

Comments are closed.