Corvette C4 ZR-1: Still Great After All These Years

Categories Corvette, Test Drives, Torque Affair

The Corvette is like a Twinkie.  It elicits very strong reactions; people either love it or hate it.  There is no just “being ok” with a Twinkie.  No one will casually chew on one like they would do with a piece of Juicy Fruit gum.

If you’re a Twinkie lover, people will either stare at you with outright disgust for ever putting one in your mouth, or they will look at your Twinkie longingly wishing they were enjoying its sugary goodness just like you.

I’m probably in the minority because I don’t love or hate the Twinkie…just like the Corvette.  Actually, I really like the Corvette but it’s not something I feel a strong desire to own.  Say what you will about the Corvettes, one thing’s for sure.  There are far worse cars out there than the Corvette and if you put aside all stereotypes and judgments, you will realize that the Corvette is actually a tremendous value for the money.  Did you know know that you can actually own a 400 hp 2005 Corvette with 80K miles for around $20K?

I remember back in my high school days, I used to have a teacher who owned a C4 Corvette and gave me a ride once.  I loved it – that digital speedometer was amazing.

C4 Corvette

So when I was loitering around at Mosing Motorcars yet again (it’s like my second home), I came across this fine machine that transported me back in time.

It’s hard to believe that 20 years have passed since this car was built in 1995.  This particular C4 is of the ZR-1 variety and has a European flair about it.  The engine in it was designed by Lotus; it has a 5.8L V8 producing 375 hp which was over 100 hp more than the base C4.  375 hp may not seem like much today but 20 years ago that was a huge amount of power.

I have always liked the look and style of the C4 and this ZR-1 stood out even more with flared-out wheel wells.  It was so very red.  There were tons of plastic inside but that didn’t bother me because with the older Corvettes that’s just something you have to look past.

It’s like buying IKEA furniture – you’re getting something that looks good for a great value – I don’t think you would spend too much time dwelling over its shortcomings.

C4 interior

What I most enjoy about Corvettes is the low seating position where you’re comfortably situated behind the V8, peering out over the  long, curvy hood.  You almost feel like you’re piloting a jet – and of course given my extensive background in flying jet aircraft – I know exactly what that feels like.

Of course I’m joking – the only aircraft experience I’ve had has been in the middle seat shoved between two people with my face staring at the seatback which is inches away from my face thanks to the person in front of me reclining all the way.  What a miserable experience flying has become…Corvette zr1 buttons

There are lots of blocky buttons filling up the dash which instantly reveals the age of the car.  Because this car has so few miles on it and has hardly been driven, there is not a whole lot of wear and tear.

These cupholders reminded me of what you typically find in German cars in that they are basically useless.  The car existed during the pre-supersize big gulp era and so all you can fit in here is a small coffee cup. However, I will say that this was the perfect iPhone holder – the phone fit there perfectly just like a jigsaw piece in a puzzle.

I noticed the “normal” vs. the “full” engine power and ensured that I selected the “full” option.  Who wants to drive a Corvette in “normal” mode??  I wanted all 375 hp enabled for maximum enjoyment.

Speaking of maximum enjoyment, someone must have been having a lot of fun because as soon as I started the car up, I glanced at the dash to find out that the average gas mileage was at only 9 mpg!

For a 20 year old Corvette, this car was still so much fun.  The steering felt heavier than the C6 which I liked.  Interestingly, it still felt like the C5 and the C6 which wasn’t a bad thing – I wasn’t sure what to expect but realized that the C4-6 experience is largely the same (of course, I’m sure the C7 is a different story).

When you drive an older Corvette, there are two things that you’re primarily concerned about – acceleration and exhaust noise.

That’s it.

Those two things will keep you entertained enough to where you’ll forget about the quality of the interior, handling and other things you might expect from more expensive European sports cars.

C4 ZR-1

With a Corvette, just floor it…all the time.  Enjoy the immense torque and its ability to provide such a thrilling experience on regular roads.

So that is exactly what I did…enjoy the hell out of it.  I picked out some long, wide roads with high speed limits and floored it after each u-turn.  And after doing 100 of those, the engine started smoking and the tires were all gone.

No, I would never do that!

Corvette C4 ZR-1

I really like how this looks.  It’s wider than a standard C4 with humongous wheels in the rear.  The front tires were almost as wide.  20 years have gone by so the car does look dated but it’s still fantastic.

It’s rare to come across one of these C4 ZR-1s because not many were built.  I would personally go for a C5 Z06 because it’s newer and faster, but I’m sure for people that have owned a C4 back in the day, this car holds sentimental value.

After spending some time with this C4 ZR-1, I’m happy to report back that I increased the average mileage from 9 mpg to 11 mpg!  Success!


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