Later this month, a rare Corvette will roll across the auction block at RM Sotheby’s Phoenix sale, and it may just set a new record in the process.
In 1969, Chevrolet offered RPO ZL1 on the Corvette line. For those race car drivers who wanted the ultimate, this was the ticket — an L88-spec 427-ci big block, but rather than cast in iron, The ZL1 was aluminum, shaving significant weight off the nose of the car.
Of course, there was more to it than just that. The engine itself was a variation on the Can Am 427s that Chevrolet was producing at the time, complete with shorter rods, a special crank and pistons, larger exhaust valves, a special cam, open-chamber aluminum heads and more. This was the top dog engine at Chevrolet — and ’69 was the first time you could get one in a Corvette. Just two were sold to retail customers, and just one of those was a convertible. That’s this car.
What’s more, as the open-chamber heads were still in the works, this car has the earlier closed chamber heads, which makes it even more unique. The price for all this was an additional $4,718 over the base price of a Corvette — effectively doubling the cost of the car — which partially explains why so few were built. But in the world of muscle cars and Corvettes, rarity is king, even if it usually highlights something about the car that was limiting in period.
The car comes with extensive documentation and has been fantastically restored by Kevin Mackay’s Corvette Repair Inc. In 2014, it achieved Bloomington Gold Certification and formal recognition as one of the two original ZL1 cars.
It goes without saying that this is a rare shot at a very rare Corvette, as no other documented ZL1 has come to public market in the past 30 years — nevermind the one convertible produced.
RM Sotheby’s expects the car to sell between $2,600,000 and $3,000,000 when it crosses the auction block on Thursday, January 26.
Images courtesy of RM Sotheby’s