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Unique 1969 Corvette ZL-1 sold at auction



Legendary cars always come with notebooks full of documents or piles of myths. This year 1969 Chevrolet Corvette The ZL-1 was not only the first, it was one of two such Corvettes built. For that year of manufacture, Chevy offers 21 different engine choices and three transmissions for the birth of America sport car. The star at the top of the engine tree is a 427-inch V8 with the Regular Production Order (RPO) code ZL-1. Created as a street-legal specialty for rickshaws and racers, order now double the price of a base Corvette to $10,771 in 1969, or $88,827 in today’s dollars. It also offers incentives for escort ship with courage quarter-run in 11.2 seconds at 127 mph. And this Monaco orange example with a black vinyl interior will cross the block at the RM Sotheby’s Arizona auction on January 26. Pre-sale estimate is $2,600,000 to $3,000,000.

The ZL-1 V8 looks like the standard L88 large displacement V8 that can be fitted to the C3 Corvette. The ZL-1 swapped out a block of aluminum, saving 100 pounds. Upgrades include a redesigned crankshaft, enhanced camshaft, larger connecting rod, aluminum head with four additional bolts, larger exhaust valve and sturdier bearing. A later version approved in 1969 would have an open chamber design has a slightly larger combustion chamberbut this car is too early to get that engine. GM rate this V8 at the same level 430 horsepower like the block-iron L88, which underestimates the actual output of both engines. The actual figure for the ZL1 is said to be between 500 and 585 hp, RM Sotheby’s pegs the figure at 560 hp.

That’s still a good amount of power 50 years later, so in 1969 GM asked for a bunch of extra options to make the ZL-1 drivable on the street. These include F41 suspension, Positraction rear axle, heavy duty brake with front disc and semiconductor igniter. GM also omitted some features, air conditioning and radio not found on the ZL-1.

A drag racer named John Mayer bought this car in late 1968, equipped with a four-speed automatic transmission. He raced so hard that he blew up the engine, which Chevy replaced under guarantee. (Another ZL-1 owner started the racing engine and it was also replaced.) Maher asked Bill Andrejko to restore the convertible in 1989, then continued to race and display the car until he sold it in 2007. That owner did sent the car to Kevin Mackay for full nut restoration, and have owned it until now.

The most expensive Corvette sold at auction to be a 1967 L88 coupe achieved $3.85 million in 2014, just before a 1967 L88 convertible sold for $3.424 million in 2013. Many doubt this car can break the $3 million threshold. Given that it is rarer than any L88, that this is the first time it has been publicly offered, and that the price of everything is out of control, it is possible that a new record will be set in less than four weeks.

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