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40th Anniversary Chevy Corvette ZR1 - 40 The Fast Way

For One Man, The American Dream Is Spelled "Z-R-1."

Apr 22, 2010
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Corvette sightings aren't all that common in South America. You might be lucky if you see just one. But that's the cool thing about America's Favorite Sports Car-it only takes one to make a lasting impression. This was certainly the case with Robert Johnson of Victorville, California. As a young man growing up in Ecuador, Johnson "drooled" over the Corvette (he thinks it was a '62) driven by the local millionaire. But even in those youthful fantasies, he confesses that "I never dreamed I'd come to America, get married, make a life, and have a Corvette." Sometimes even the dreams you don't have come true, and that's exactly what happened in Johnson's case.

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The grandson of an American railroad worker, Johnson left Ecuador as a foreign exchange student at the age of 14, and became an American citizen in the mid '80s. He got married, made a life (including his business, Johnson Landscape Service), and then, of course, he got himself a Corvette. That first love was an eye-catching Polo Green '90 with a black interior (a rare combination). Johnson brought that car up to better-than-new standards, and made the concours rounds with it.

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At this point, Johnson admits "I needed another car like I needed a hole in the head." That point became moot, however, on the day Johnson made the drive to Mark Christopher Chevrolet in Ontario, California, to check out what was new in the showroom. When Johnson walked through the doors and laid eyes on this 40th Anniversary Chevy Corvette ZR1, co-owner Chris Leggio shouted, "Open the doors and get the keys, I know what this guy wants!" Indeed he did. Johnson has bought somewhere around 16 vehicles for work and personal use, including the '90, from Mark Christopher, and this one was an easy call.

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Johnson took the '93 for a test drive-Leggio even tossed him the ZR-1-only "power" key...something dealers with America's Hottest Sports Car rarely, if ever, did. That, as they say, was that. After convincing his wife Sharon that this was the move to make, Johnson traded in the '90 to buy the 40th Anniversary, the price of which was an unheard of $300 over dealer cost! Of course, there was the matter of those heftier monthly payments. Johnson's answer? When asked what made this his must-have car, his response comes with an incredulous laugh. "Are you kidding? The best Corvette every built? I had to have that car...would do anything...I just had to mow more lawns."

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And what a car it is. RPOs Z25 (the 40th Anniversary commemorative package) and ZR-1 (we don't need to define this one, do we?) were brought together in a mere 245 units, and the combination makes for a Corvette that's hard to beat. This model year saw refinement to the C4 package as a whole, most notably with the passive keyless entry (PKE) system, which locked and unlocked the doors and armed or disarmed the alarm based on the proximity of the transmitter in the key fob. Then there was the 40th Anniversary package, which featured luscious Ruby Red paint, matching leather sport seats with embroidered emblems, color-matched wheel centers, and special emblems. Fortieth anniversary cars with the ZR-1 package had their own unique emblems on the fenders.

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Speaking of the ZR-1 option...Going this route, of course, already meant that the buyer was getting a fully-loaded Vette with tons of go-fast capability. But 1993 marked the year that the LT5 powerplant's output jumped from 375 to 405 hp. Chevrolet's press release states that the improvements to the cylinder heads amounted to "porting and polishing." More specifically, the valves were blended and three-angle valve inserts were utilized to allow the beast to take deeper breaths. New four-bolt main bearings made future power increases a possiblity, but given that some testers got almost 180 mph out of the stock package, this ended up being an upgrade for those who took the ZR-1 racing.

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Not that Robert Johnson does a lot of racing in his jewel-though not for lack of opportunity. "Everybody wants to go race," he laments. "But why? I know what it can do." (He does admit to "getting on it" occasionally, which we saw evidence of during certain heavier-footed parts of our cover shoot.) Johnson has what he wants, and admits to being "fussy" and "babying" it. And why not? It's not for sale anyhow anyway, even though he's had many "name your price" offers. This is a car he wants "to keep forever." That's the advantage to buying the best-it stands the test of time.



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