|Rarest of the rare... Roger Judski's 1969 ZL-1 Corvette... one of only 2 factory built all aluminum 427 ZL-1's.|
|You can see this fine Corvette on display at Roger's Corvette Center in Orlando, Florida||Roger pursued this car for over 12 years! He finally secured it for his private collection from the US Marshall's Office a few years ago at a "bargain" price.|
|The fabulous 1969 ZL-1 Corvette|
The story behind Roger Judski's ZL-1 Corvette
(based on excerpts from an article written by Pat Stivers as originally published in the March/April 1985 issue of Corvette Fever magazine)
The next best thing to owning a one-of-a-kind Corvette is owning a two-of-a-kind Corvette. The ZL-1 option package was almost as though GM made a last grand stand salute to the big blocks before the emission controlled economy cars took over the highways of the 70's. Mandatory with the L88 special turbo jet 427 V8 package were the F41 special purpose suspension, a heavy duty transmission, positraction rear end, transistorized ignition, and a heavy duty brake system. The ZL-1 option consisted merely of an aluminum cylinder block.
The combined package added $4100 to the price of the car at the time. The L88 package was $1100 and the special ZL-1 aluminum cylinder and case were an additional $3000 making this combination a big, big ticket in 1969. Only two Corvettes had been factory assembled with this ZL-1 aluminum engine option package. That alone is enough to thrill a Corvette owner, but this car's history turned out to be truly unique.
The car was ordered originally as a company car by the Corvette plant resident engineer in St. Louis, George H. Heberling. His rationale in ordering it was that such a production vehicle would benefit from an evaluation in actual use by one of the plant's personnel. The car was ordered with all available options, resulting in a sticker price of $10,771.
The all aluminum 427 option took about 100 pounds off the engine resulting in an improved performance. When a previous owner (Wayne Walker of Zip Products) had this engine dyno tested the engine produced 523 horsepower at 7,000 rpm with all stock Chevrolet parts. According to Karl Ludvigsen's "Corvette: America's Star Spangled Sports Car." The cast iron L88 427s produced over 550 horsepower. That's a lot of power to be running on the street, but the street is just where Heberling drove the car for its' first (somewhere between) 1200 and 2000 miles. Then he was transferred from St. Louis and left the ZL-1 behind. His successor was not so taken by the big horse Corvette, and it was put up for sale through GM at the zone level.
The car eventually found its' way to Hechler's Chevrolet in Richmond, Virginia, possibly because Hechler's had become a volume dealer in high performance cars. The Corvette sat on Hechler's floor next to a ZL-1 Camaro (of which 69 were factory produced), and it sat there quite a while [likely because of the $10,773.65 price tag], from November 1969 to January 1970. John Zagos, a high school buddy of Wayne Walker's, eventually bought the car for $5000 plus a used 1967 Corvette convertible. John was primarily into drag boat racing and he bought the car so he could put the engine into one of his boats. But the night he bought the car he literally ran the hell out of it. He later reported that it was so powerful it would just melt the tires at will and was just the fastest vehicle he had ever ridden it.
That same night he dropped a valve resulting in a big explosion and a massive engine failure. Amazingly, a Tonawanda engineer reviewed the situation and after inspecting the engine, concluded that it had a failure that was covered under warranty and authorized replacement of the engine. When Zagos finally got the new engine, he put it in one of his drag boats. The car sat idle for a couple of years with a $3000 sale price because there was little interest in a car at that price without an engine. Eventually he put a 454 passenger car engine in the car and sold it back to the dealer. From there it went through a succession of owners.
Wayne Walker developed an interest in the car an eventually purchased it from a cabinet maker for $6000. From there, Walker spent several years plugging away at the body off restoration. The biggest challenge in the restoration was finding the right kind of engine for the car. Since the original had disappeared, he didn't even look for it and bought another all aluminum 427 for $4000 from Yenko Chevrolet in Pittsburgh. One night a fellow called Wayne and said, "Hey, I've got the original engine that came in that car." It had been through three or four hands in reaching him and someone had painted it red to conceal the aluminum block from the racing public, but he had the original engine back for another $2200.
The engine was extensively rebuilt (and blown again!) twice more before the final body off restoration was completed by Nabors Motors of Houston, Texas, just in time to win a Gold at Bloomington. The L-88s as Chevrolet produced them typically had over 500 hp right off the showroom. They were tested and ran in the 13 second elapsed time range of 112 mph with street tires on the quarter mile. With proper tires and open headers they would easily go into the 11 second range with no modifications to the engine whatsoever. So with the aluminum block you've got quite a potential if it's properly ratioed.
Since Wayne Walker owned the car, it eventually ended up in the hands of the US Marshall's Office, from which current owner Roger Judski (owner of Roger's Corvette Center in Orlando, Florida) purchased it for the princely sum of $300,000.
But that, my friends, is another story…
[Note: You can see this most unusual and extremely rare Corvette on display in the showroom at Roger's Corvette Center in Orlando, Florida.]
For more information about this or any of our other fine
vehicles, contact Roger's Corvette Center at (407) 628-8300.
Past Corvette Spotlight FeaturesFeb 98 - 1969 Yellow ZL-1 Coupe