Yeah, right!" I can hear it now--you've seen the lead photos, read the title and subtitle, and are figuring that the staff of VETTE Magazine has fallen on its collective cranium, yet again. ZR-1s are not ordinary. Turquoise Metallic (code 42) ZR-1s are rare, even in the rarified world of the original King of the Hill. The quantity of Doug Rippie-built ZR-1s probably numbers well under the sum of fingers and toes most of us possess. And in deference to the stunningly unique nature of Jeff and Michele Bruntz's '91 DRM500, we wrote that subtitle with tongue planted firmly in editorial cheek.
Two-thousand forty-four ZR-1s were built for model year 1991, following up on the 3,049 ZR-1s sold in the King's inaugural year. Sales plummeted to 502 in 1992 and just 448 ZR-1s were produced each year in the uber Vette's final three years of production. With a base price of $32,455 and an additional $31,683 tacked onto the MSRP for RPO ZR1, the "Special Performance Package" for coupes only, the '91 was priced way out of reach for most Corvette enthusiasts.
The heart of the ZR-1 was, of course, the fabulous 385 hp, all-aluminum 5.7L LT5, a techno marvel that had been engineered by then-GM subsidiary Lotus and hand assembled by Mercury Marine. In addition to the LT5 engine, RPO ZR1 also included unique and wider doors, rear quarter panels, and upper deck panels (to allow room for the 17x11 wheels and 315/35ZR-17 Goodyear Eagles),, power passenger and driver leather sport seats, electronic Selective Ride and Handling, Delco-Bose AM/FM audio system with a CD player, and low tire-pressure warning indicator. The ZF-manufactured six-speed manual gearbox was mandatory. Turquoise Metallic was offered only in 1990 and 1991, and was ordered on a total of 2,210 Corvettes. Just 94 of those were ZR-1s.
The history of this hyper-rare Corvette is somewhat murky. Jeff Bruntz bought it in August 2000 from Scotty B. White, an autocross instructor and road racer. According to Doug Rippie, who remembers this car very well because of its unusual color, White was not the original owner, although Rippie doesn't remember who the first owner was. Jeff first saw it at an autocross school he attended, where the chief instructor was one Scotty B. White. Jeff, who had owned four other Vettes in the past, fell so madly, stupidly in love with the turquoise DRM500 that he arranged to buy it without his wife's blessing, a deed that consigned him to the doghouse and cost him the silent treatment for several weeks. Eventually, Michele "got over it" (Jeff's words, not ours) and, while certainly not as passionate about the '91 as Jeff is, has turned out to be its second-greatest fan.
And while speaking of fans, Bruntz has replaced a few things around his. Using a Ron Davis aluminum radiator, Jeff slipped in the new cooling center and a fan programmed with a manual override into the shroud at the front of the engine. And aside from the C-beam plate mod so many ZR-1 owners are familiar with, Jeff has reprogrammed the computer using Doug Rippie Motorsports after picking out a 65mm throttle body, ported injector housings plugged with Rochester primary and secondary injectors, insulator plates, and a Samco Silicone air duct. The intake itself is a stock with an extruded honed plenum backed to an AO forced air kit breathing through a K&N filter. The gulps of air rammed through up front travel through a set of Watson headers after making their way through the LT5's internals. After being expelled from the engine, the air then travels out a Flowmaster series exhaust, complete with a homemade crossover pipe and relocated air-temp sensor, before exiting out a set of Force II System mufflers also by Flowmaster. And if you didn't think Jeff was handy enough by now, he's also taken the time to revamp the Bose/Delco factory amps and add an Exotic Muscle rollbar. Not bad for a home user, eh? And with all of these mods added up, the Vette makes a hefty 386 rwhp at 6,600 rpm, all equaling out to a quarter-mile best of 12.5 seconds at 116 mph. And hey, who says you can't take all this show and go on the road? Jeff's annual mileage is 5,000 with more than a few long road trips under his belt. And at a steady 22 mpg, he's still making great distances without feeling that financial gas pump ping a lot of modders do when he hits those local shows--like the Black Hills Corvette Classic where he walked off with a First Place in 2003 and 2004 in the '84-96 class.
So the next time you see an everyday, absolutely ordinary ZR-1 just sitting around, chances are it's not Jeff's--his will be the Green Monster passing you!