I’m looking to buy a Corvette ZR-1. These are pretty rare as ‘vettes go (and even a ‘regular’ Corvette is rather rare by typical domestic car production numbers) and to be honest it’s rather a scary proposition.
On the one hand, we can afford the payments no problem and I have the full support of Hil, my fiance. On the other, we’re talking about spending 30-40 thousand dollars (Canadian) on what is essentially a ‘toy’. And not only that but one that we can only really use 7 or 8 months of the year here in Northern Ontario.
That’s a lot of money. In fact a significant percentage of what we paid for our house!
Hil is all for it and 100% behind me. She knows just how long I have dreamed of this and how much I want it. In fact she probably pushes me more to get one than I do myself, because I always feel ‘guilty or something.
Still, it worries me and all of those ‘doubt demons’ start jumping around inside my head, bouncing the the “what if’s”Â around in the space between my hairy ears.
I talk to Hil about it over and over. She must think I am a complete pain in the arse sometimes. She always soothes my troubled thoughts though and reassures me that it’s okay to go ahead.
There’s a 1995 ZR-1 for sale right here in Ontario! Amazing, the car of my dreams and the year I’d most like and it’s just three hours down the road from me.
But… (you know there was a but coming didn’t you?) the car has never been driven – zero kilometers (or miles) on the clock. The owner bought it and has had it stored away since ’95.
I don’t really understand that philosophy. A car is meant to be driven, used, not just looked at occassionally. Surely if a ZR-1 is anything, it’s meant to perform – not sit around gathering dust like it was made of glass.
That said, there are more serious issues other than personal opinion on the drive-or-admire debate. Having been sat around for ten years, the seals in the engine will have likley shrunk and gone brittle. Bearing surfices in the engine will not have recieved the lubrication needed to maintain them in good condition, quite likely it will be seized and quite possibly the gearbox will be in similar condition too.
FiringÂ up an engine like that would be fraught with danger. It would probably need stripping completely and a full rebuild. Essentially what was once the King of the Hill, is now reduce to a museum piece that will never do what it was designed to do.
The owner will likely never get his money back. He paid $86k Canadian back in ’95. He might now get around 70k perhaps. Even if he gets what he paid for it he’d still be losing a lot of money just due to inflation.
Somehow that doesn’t seem a good result for letting the King of Corvettes sit on a pedestal for eleven years.
The search for a Corvette can be a long and complex journey. The road to ‘vette ownership rarely seems to run straight, and although ‘vette owners generally like a few curves ( in all senses ), perhaps in this instance the enjoyment breaks down a little.
This goes double if your goal is a slightly unusual ‘vette or, as in my case, you’re looking for a rare edition like the ZR-1.
There are basically three main sources to check when it comes to acquiring a car – dealers, private sales (through ads or enthusiast clubs) and auction houses – some of which specialise in Corvettes.
This story starts over thirty years ago when, at the age of around seven, my parents bought me an assortment of ‘Matchbox’ cars. In among the typical boxy british stalwarts such as Minis and Ford Escorts, was a shape unlike any car I had seen in my then short life.
It was smooth and swoopy in appearance, with flared wheel arches and a sweeping back window. Painted in black and silver, it had a menacing – even threatening – anamalistic apearance. It was simultaneously, the car from Hell and the car of my dreams.
The vehicle in question turned out to be the Mako Shark II, which was the show car used by General Motors to promote the release of the new third generation Corvette. Inspired by an actual shark caught by then head ‘vette designer Bill Mitchell, the car was a massive styling tour de force, though many features proved completely impractical.
The release of the C3 Corvette unhappily coincided with a time of trouble for car owners generally, but especially owners of high performance cars like the ‘vette. With the fictitious ‘gas crisis’ looming and increasing safety legislation, the engineers scrambled to keep pace with fuel efficiency and safety standards. This led to the ‘sharks’ being progressively detuned & increasingly heavy, both on the scales and in looks as a variety of ‘soft bumpers’ gorged the once clean lines.
In 1984 came a new animal. The C4 Corvette did away with all the legacy technology that had hampered the earlier generation, much of which was 30 years old by the time the design was finally retired. The new car was sleek, nimble and looked like a car of the future, while still retaining a supple lithe quality that said unmistakably ‘Corvette’. Though the cars had no better engines than the late ’70s/early 80s models, that was about to change.
First came the L-98 small block in ’85. This delivered an honest 230hp, an increase of of 25 and 330lbs of torque! Almost on a par with the good old days of the muscle car era.
In 1990, the world-wide motoring press exploded with the arrival of the new ZR-1 ‘option’. This gave the Corvette an all-aluminium, quad overhead cam engine delivering 375bhp and 370lbs of torque. The biggest power increase since the introduction of the big block engine in 1965.
Not only that but with a new gearbox andÂ newly refined handling, the new ‘King of the Hill’ could take on, and beat, some of the best amd most exotic of its European rivals that costÂ three or four times as much. A true world-class supercar at a bargain price.
I was hooked.