In late-2008, Chevrolet stunned the automotive world by unleashing a supercar-killing ZR1 version of its sixth-generation Corvette. During development, the car was nicknamed the "Blue Devil" after General Motors' then-CEO Rick Wagoner's alma mater, Duke University. At a time when Ferrari's most potent F430, the Scuderia, boasted 503 horsepower, the first factory supercharged Corvette cranked out a whopping 638 horsepower.
Nowadays, we're lucky to live in an era where massive horsepower numbers and crazy performance are the norm, but fifteen years ago, the ZR1 delivered an unbelievable amount of power, not just for the price, but for any car. In fact, Jeremy Clarkson called it his car of the year, gushing that it "manages to be both docile and extraordinarily savage all at the same time — an epic car that seemingly came out of nowhere." But should you consider spending your hard-earned dollars on one today, especially since the current Corvette, the C8, is such a fantastic machine?
Let's check out why the C6 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 still makes a strong case for itself because it is still one of the best 'Vettes on the roads today. You may have your doubts now, considering that the new 2024 Corvette E-Ray will have a reported combined horsepower rating of 655, but keep reading and find out for yourself.
Updated April 28, 2023: With all the news floating around about the new Corvettes coming out in the upcoming years, some of the older models have been pushed into the back of our minds, which is a shame. The new models may be great, but the older versions will always offer something that the new hybrid and electric versions can't: raw power fueled by a fire-breathing internal combustion engine.
The New Corvette Can Run Over $100,000, While The C6 ZR1 Is Around $80,000
Chevrolet had been teasing a mid-engine or rear-engine Corvette literally since the 1960s, so enthusiasts were floored when the company finally delivered the goods for 2020 with the eighth-generation C8 Corvette. Besides the exciting new engine placement, the C8 offers a better interior, ride comfort, and more technology than prior generations.
Between adding a few options to the base car and the extra fees for scarcity, a reasonably basic C8 suddenly turned into a $100,000-plus car. On the other hand, the classic C6 ZR1 Corvette can be picked up for around $80,000 in good shape, cheaper if you like a project.
The 2023 Chevrolet Corvette C8 Still Has Intermittent Supply Issues
For the most part, the supply issues that the world faced during the height of the pandemic are long gone. However, there are still a few issues that industries across the nations have to deal with. Most of the shutdowns within the car industry, such as the ones that have fallen upon the Corvette* a few times, are only for a couple of weeks at a time.
Eventually, supply will fully catch up with demand, and C8 Corvettes may even depreciate as standard cars do. In contrast, the venerable C6 ZR1 has already weathered the bulk of its depreciation — unless you're talking about an undriven barn find, of course.
The Corvette C6 ZR1 Is More Accessible Thanks To The New C8
The newer-is-better mindset among most Corvette buyers has made the original supercar-killer, the C6 ZR1, more accessible. In a nutshell, Chevy's C6 Corvette represents a moment in time when power, electronic controls, and driving dynamics struck a balance.
It was lighter and more compact than its successors. Even the styling was no-frills and unassuming. It didn't need an aggressive grill to impress the world and was the last Vette to feature the classic round taillights.
Carbon Fiber Construction Is What The C6 Corvette ZR1 Is All About
Besides the unique powertrain, carbon fiber was used extensively in the ZR1's construction, including the roof, hood, fenders, front splitter, and more. The carbon fiber on the hood and fenders is painted body color, but the roof and front splitter are only clear-coated, retaining their original black color and distinctive weave pattern.
The hood has a polycarbonate window smack dab in the center for better viewing of the LS9 engine's intercooler. The wheels were the largest ever placed on a production Corvette at the time and covered carbon-ceramic brakes with blue painted calipers.
The Market For A Chevrolet C6 ZR1 Is Good
As per the auction-site aggregator Classic.com, the current average selling price for C6 ZR1s is approximately $87,000. That figure has been remarkably stable, neither appreciating nor depreciating much since 2018, which is as far back as the data goes. That said, higher mileage cars sell in the $50,000-60,000 range.
Note that what is considered "high mileage" on these cars is perhaps 30,000-40,000 miles, not 200k miles like you would expect from a daily beater. On the other end of the spectrum, later-year vehicles, which are more scarce and/or rare colors, can easily sell for more than $100,000.
The Chevy C6 ZR1 Corvette Came In Some Awesome Colors
Besides having lower production numbers, the 2012-2013 cars are also desirable because the seats are considerably improved and more comfortable than in earlier years. Another fun fact is that 2013 marked the 60th anniversary of the Corvette. Accordingly, Chevrolet produced 138 ZR1s that year with a special 60th Anniversary Design Package, all of which were finished in Arctic White over Diamond Blue leather upholstery.
The C6 ZR1 Was The 100th Year
The 100th year of production for any carmaker is a huge milestone. For Chevrolet, that point in history was reached in 2012, which is another great reason to own a C6 ZR1 Corvette. In 2012 GM decided to commemorate its achievement by producing a limited run of a Corvette Centennial Edition* that came in Carbon Flash Metallic with satin-black graphics. The interior is custom leather wrapped in a choice of a few unique colors and has embroidered ZR1 logos. Not a design that you will find in any other model year.
The Chevrolet C6 Corvette ZR1 Was A Racer Only At Heart
Today's main Chevrolet contribution to the racing world is the Chevrolet Camaro, at least on the NASCAR and other stockcar racing circuits nationwide. The Corvette is used in racing circuits that demand more from the car. For instance, the race at Le Mans since the Corvette is a sports car designed for all intents and purposes for street tracks.
The C6 ZR1 was never built to race on the track, even though it could take on the best of the best. The company did have a few modifications to compete against Porsche and Ferrari, but the base level ZR1 was never officially entered into competition.
The New Corvette Does Not Come With A Manual Transmission
For the classic sports car lovers that enjoy pushing the RPMs to the redline limits, nothing is better than shifting from one gear to another through the use of a smooth manual shifting gearbox. As you may have noticed, however, the new generation of buyers prefers a Corvette that uses an automatic transmission, so the new C8 lineup will not even be offered with a manual tranny.
You may still be able to find a C7 with a manual, but not many were sold throughout the model year. However, you can be rest assured that the C6 generation still had plenty of stick shifts ordered when purchased
The C6 ZR1 Is A Corvette Built For The True Driver
Today cars and trucks are expected to have every type of innovative technology on the market installed within their cockpits, but if you travel back a few years, that was not the case. Some cars, such as the C6 Corvette ZR1, still offered a sports car designed for true drivers. This means you could take two exact cars, line them up on a quarter-mile track, and have one outperform the other by a substantial margin. The better driver you are, the better performance you will get out of the ZR1, making it one of the coolest Corvettes you can buy.