Detroit has always excelled at delivering a lot of horsepower per dollar. Ferrari-style performance for less than $50,000 is the promise and careful market positioning of cars such as the Ford Mustang, Dodge Challenger, and Chevrolet Corvette.
With a 650-horsepower engine, the car is considered by Road & Track to be a “screaming deal” at less than $80,000. In a way, it’s relatively cheap. The Ferrari FF, which is a hair more powerful, starts at almost $300,000. The Mercedes SLS Coupe, with an engine that’s 10 percent weaker, starts at $221,580.
Chevy has been slowly raising the prices on its fastest Corvettes. The company made the souped-up Z06 three times in the past—once in 1963 and twice since 2000. The first version was a $1,818 option that could be tacked onto the base model, which cost $4,252. In today’s dollars, the first Z06 cost $47,262, 40 percent less than the new version. Granted, it wasn’t nearly as powerful, but a half century ago the Z06 could still out-drag most other cars.
The next Z06 came in 2001 with a sticker price of $48,500 ($65,246 in today’s dollars). The 2006 version was more expensive yet. Here’s how the cars stack up in 2014 dollars:
There’s more than one explanation for the accelerating prices. Carbon fiber, which is laced through the 2015 model, isn’t cheap in any decade. Technology is pricey as well. The new Chevy has a lot of it, from an engine that shuts down cylinders when cruising, to heads-up instrument displays, to a “performance data recorder” that syncs high-definition video with the car’s navigation system.
The Corvette is also trying to be more than than just a big engine. In 1963, the car industry was far less global; there wasn’t a Porsche in every blue-blood Michigan neighborhood. To compete today, Corvette has improved its interiors and added more bells and whistles.
The petrolheads who bought the 1963 Corvette Z06, however, get the last laugh. A cherry version of that car is now worth about $428,000, according to Hagerty Insurance, a classic car underwriter. A lucky owner of that machine could flip it and buy five of the new ‘Vettes.