Courtesy of Mecum Auctions
  • 638-hp supercharged LS9 engine
  • 6-speed transmission, twin-disc clutch
  • Selective Magnetic Ride Control
  • Aluminum chassis, 3,324-lb curb weight
  • Carbon-fiber hood, front fenders, roof panel, rocker moldings and front splitter
  • Brembo four-wheel disc brakes
  • Chrome 19-inch front and 20-inch rear wheels
  • Blade Silver with black leather interior
  • Bose seven-speaker sound system
  • Keyless entry and remote start
  • Heated mirrors and seats
  • First year for the ZR1 since 1995
  • One of 69 Blade Silver 2009 Corvette ZR1s produced
  • 3ZR Premium Equipment Group
  • 2,675 miles

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:2009 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1
Years Produced:2009–13
Number Produced:4,684
Original List Price:$103,300
SCM Valuation:Median to date, $76,900; high sale, $91,800
Tune Up Cost:$250
Chassis Number Location:Plate at base of windshield
Engine Number Location:Right-front cylinder-head deck
Club Info:National Corvette Restorers Society
Alternatives:1965 Corvette 327/350 L79 coupe, 1996 Corvette Grand Sport convertible, 2015 Corvette Stingray coupe
Investment Grade:B

This car, Lot F171, sold for $82,500, including buyer’s premium, at Mecum’s Original Spring Classic auction in Indianapolis, IN, on May 20, 2016.

Z details

In Corvette history, the letter “Z” carries very special significance. It started with Zora Arkus-Duntov’s incalculable influence over Corvette’s performance mission, carried on with the first Z06 racing package on the C2 mid-year in 1963, continued in 1969 with the C3 one-off ZL1 aluminum big block — a true “unicorn” ’Vette. Then, of course, came the exotic C4 1990–95 DOHC 32-valve ZR-1, the C4 and C5’s Z51 handling package, and the supercharged 2009–13 ZR1 based on the C6 platform.

Even back in ’09, due to ongoing concerns over global warming and CAFE standards, some felt that this 638-horsepower ZR1 would stand as the last truly monstrous performance car. Of course, that prediction didn’t play out, as the C7 generation’s Z06 supercharged LT4 engine makes 650 horsepower.

All of this is meant to frame that the ZR1 sold at Mecum Indy, Lot F171, enjoys a solid position within the upper echelons of production Corvettes. Just 1,415 ZR1s were built for 2009, along with another 3,269 built for 2010–13 — a total of 4,684. That is 68% of the 6,922 total C4 ZR-1s built over a year-longer production run from 1990–95. So loosely figuring, the C6 ZR1 is one-third rarer than the earlier 32-valve model.

Strength in engineering

The 2009 ZR1 was based on the aluminum-framed C6 Corvette Z06, with an aggressive edge. The body was festooned with scoops, vents and aero downforce aids, and the wide carbon-fiber fenders hid huge 19-inch front and 20-inch rear multi-spoke forged wheels — suitably chromed in this case for added bling. The piece de resistance was a transparent polycarbonate window in the carbon-fiber hood that showed off the unique Eaton-supercharged LS9 engine.

And what an engine it was, belting out the most power of any production Corvette up until that time. Performance was a claimed 3.4 seconds to 60 mph — nearly superbike-level ferocity — and a top speed of 205 mph. Clearly, it was way more car than anyone needed for the street, but then “nothing succeeds like excess,” eh, Mr. Wilde?

Suspension was via GM’s brilliant Selective Magnetic Ride Control, nicknamed “MR” for its trick computer-controlled magnetorheological dampers, which could adjust damping rates from zero to full in milliseconds; quicker than you can understand road nuances, the system would interpret and adjust for them. This gave the ZR1 — and other GM products with the technology — the track manners of a Le Mans car and the ride of an Eldorado Biarritz.

Perfect presentation

As evidenced by numerous 2005–06 Ford GT resales in recent years, the highest earners at auction are examples with the best color combinations, the best options, and the lowest mileage. This ZR1 ticked all three boxes here, with the Blade Silver paint over black interior making a strong, elegant presentation.

Furthermore, options included the 3ZR package, a $10,000 addition to the car’s $103,300 base price that was only available on the ZR1. However, it’s worth mentioning that since most ZR1s were equipped with the 3ZR group, a better way to describe the option would be to say, “If you’re buying a ZR1, make sure it has this.” The 3ZR package has a seven-speaker Bose audio system and navigation, along with numerous other features.

Perhaps the greatest plus for this ’09 ZR1, though, was its 2,675 original miles. Scarcely broken in, this registers the car as still virtually brand new in condition but it also leaves the room open for some careful use without hurting value. Once there are a couple thousand miles on the clock, a few hundred more won’t hurt, and at least the new owner can get some enjoyment out of his investment while waiting to see what the future holds.

638-hp ZR1 or 650-hp Z06

Back to that 2009-era debate about whether the 638-hp ZR1 would be the last unfettered, non-hybrid, hyper-performance Corvette. Well, it only took the C7 two years to surpass it with the 650-horse 2015 Z06.

If future-generation Corvettes rely on turbocharged V6s or electric assists to deliver the C6 ZR1 and C7 Z06’s kind of power, this could prove that they were indeed the last of their breed. But until then, we’re left with a question: Why has the ZR1 shown here dropped in value?

This example lost 27% of its original price over seven years, while Ford GTs, of which over 4,000 were produced, have doubled or tripled in value. However, this is not unexpected, as this car sold within the median and high-sale range as published in the 2016 ACC Pocket Price Guide.

Here are some possible reasons. Primarily, astonishing as it is, the ZR1 is among nearly 200,000 C6 Corvettes built in numerous configurations, whereas the Ford GT was a standalone product and a terrific legacy to FoMoCo’s 1966–69 Le Mans triumphs. Second, with the better part of 5,000 examples built, the ZR1 is not rare when compared with a ’63 Z06 or a ’67–69 L88. And finally, there’s the C7 Z06 itself — all 650 direct-injected horsepower of it.

While mathematically, the C6 ZR1 has not yet proven to be a great investment, fortunately, the new owner of this one can rest easy for two important reasons: the primary depreciation has already occurred on someone else’s watch; and the car has all the right specs and desirably low mileage.

What comes next is up to the crystal ball. But I call it cloudy with a chance of C7 Z06s.

(Introductory description courtesy of Mecum Auctions.)

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