In 1971, just 12 people ticked the box for the Corvette’s ZR2 option, which cost an eye-watering $1,747.00 more than the base price of just $5,496.00. The kicker is that for the 31-percent increase, you got less, a lot less. No power windows, no rear-window defroster, no air conditioning, no power steering, no deluxe wheel covers, no alarm system, and no radio. You did however get the heavy-duty M22 close ratio manual four-speed transmission, heavy-duty power brakes, heavy-duty battery, special springs, shocks, and stabilizer bars, all to handle the power produced by the LS6 454 producing 425 horsepower. This was as close to a race car in 1971 as Corvette produced, and only race car drivers could order the ZR2.
One such person was Anatoly “Toly” Arutunoff. He walked into his local Chevrolet dealership in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and ordered this particular ZR2 Coupe. Toly was an “amateur” race car driver, but a good one. He started racing back in 1958 and will still race now if given half a chance, although it now needs to be an automatic after he lost the lower part of his leg in 2011.
Caught in a snowstorm while headed to an SCCA convention in Las Vegas, he stopped to help a stranded motorist on the interstate outside Amarillo, Texas. A passing car lost control and side-swiped the pair, injuring Arutunoff’s right leg. By the time help arrived, frostbite had taken the limb.
Toly bought the 1971 ZR2 coupe to race in the 1971 Targa Florio. The Targa Florio is an 11-lap race on the Isle of Sicily over a 45-mile circuit made up of the local roads. Toly entered the car for the race, and all was good until the local scrutineers decided the car couldn’t be raced because it didn’t have a rollbar fitted. Toly sold the car in Italy to his co-driver for the race, Charles Lucas, an Englishman who manufactured Titan Formula race cars from 1967 to 1976. Charles had the head gasket blow on the ZR2 whilst still in the “toe” of Italy after one of the freeze plugs fell out of the LS6 along with most of the coolant!
Charles Lucas lived in the North East of England and, having limped the car home from Italy, kept the ZR2 until about 1975, when he sold it to Malcolm Bishop, a Classic Car Dealer in Sheffield, England. Mal Bishop sold the car to a North Sea diver who worked on the oil rigs in 1977. Mal always thought the car was special and decided to try and buy it back again. In 1987, he found out through a friend that the car was located in Leicester and still belonged to the diver, so he set off to the address he had been given by his friend, who had spotted the car. He knocked on the door to find out if it would be possible to buy the car back again. The deal was done, and the ZR2 returned back to Mal Bishop and stayed with him until he died earlier in 2022.
Mal’s two daughters and his mechanic, Paul – who has known the car since 1975 – agreed to bring the ZR2 to the Classic Corvette Club UK second annual “Corvettes at the Lakes” event on the banks of Ullswater in the Lake District, England, to give the UK Corvette owners the opportunity to see the car before it headed over to the USA.
The car is scheduled to cross the block at Bonhams Auction in Scottsdale, AZ, on the 26th of January, 2023. Given its rarity, we expect this treasure to hit some big numbers on the auction block.